I’m working on a program that will require a lot of flat styled vectored images. I’m very comfortable with Photoshop but fall short in the artistic department. I’ve been practicing and am happy with many of my results, but the designs take me days to complete. The issue I keep running into is “seeing” the highlights and shadows on objects while still seeing the big picture at the same time.
I’m looking for a way to get the image as close as possible to the desired final result in Photoshop before working on vectoring the entire design so I can have a reference for the shadows, highlights, and color changes. I’ve tried using the Cutout filter to achieve this but it usually just adds to the struggle when vectoring.
How can I edit an image in Photoshop so that I can quickly create a vector from it?
For example, here’s an image I used for practice and the final vectored result.
Alright I’ll give it a quick whirl. I’m using https://unsplash.com/photos/VGpp0LcHZT4 as the image
I’ll start by Duplicating that layer a few times so I’ve got some copies of it and then I’m going to use the Median Filter. Median Filter is a great tool to find the average color of a region giving it almost a paint like quality. This first pass I’m looking at the overall image only:
Now I’ll use one of those handy duplicates looking at the eye and other detail areas.
Hold Alt, click mask, paint in the details. I did the eye and a little bit of the beak:
Alright now I’m going to Stamp Layer Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E which will give me a new copy of everything as one layer. Then I’ll Posterize that layer:
Going to Duplicate this Posterize layer. On the bottom (original Poster layer) I’ll change blend mode to Soft Light. On this new one I’m going to do Filter > Find Edges:
Then I’ll use Hue/Saturation to desaturate the lines then change their mode to Darken and adjust the Opacity to your needs:
Then as a final step in the prep you can add a layer between the lines and the image with a solid tone (some shade of gray) and lighten its opacity to help you see the line work:
I would then bring this into Illustrator to draw these segments. Start with the largest shapes first. Keep the PSD open in Photoshop so you can reference the different layers as you go. And since you mention struggling to see lights and darks you can always create Luminosity Masks or create a Palette in the HSL or LAB color space if it helps you.
Hope this helps you. The other thing that will get you illustrating quicker is a lot of practice and making sure you’re using the Pen tool well.