DIG­I­TAL FASH­ION ILLUSTRATION

Ros­alba Caf­forio shares how the use of lay­ers helped her cre­ate her WIA-win­ning project

Computer Arts - - Contents - Ros­alba Caf­forio

WIA-win­ning il­lus­tra­tor Ros­alba Caf­forio shares tips for cre­at­ing dig­i­tal fash­ion illustration.

I spent my early, bo­hemian years in fash­ion de­sign amidst pen­cils, wa­ter­colours, mark­ers and pens. I kind of miss those days, but once I made the choice to move to the Cin­tiq 13HD, there was no go­ing back.

My ed­u­ca­tion started in an art in­sti­tute, we’re talk­ing ‘90s when all the in­ter­net was geek stuff, so my train­ing was ana­logue. Also, af­ter hav­ing ob­tained my fash­ion de­sign de­gree in the early 2000s, I got my first job in the fash­ion in­dus­try with­out know­ing any­thing about com­puter arts. Imag­ine a prim­i­tive wo­man look­ing at fire, that was me all those years look­ing at you Pho­to­shop wizards. The truth is that any­body can han­dle a ma­jor change if they have the will to do so. In early 2016, I be­gan shift­ing my ca­reer from fash­ion de­sign to vis­ual sto­ry­telling for ad­ver­tis­ing and editorial pur­poses, be­com­ing a dig­i­tal artist at the same time. Once I learned Pho­to­shop ba­sics such as lay­ers, swatches and brushes, tran­si­tion­ing to dig­i­tal was just a case of ap­ply­ing the num­ber one rule for il­lus­tra­tors: just draw, draw, draw.

DO YOUR RE­SEARCH

With­out an idea, prefer­ably a good one, no dig­i­tal nor ana­logue brush will help. My process is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to re­search. And as a fash­ion and beauty il­lus­tra­tor, this can­not be sep­a­rated from the zeit­geist. This re­search usu­ally gen­er­ates a mood­board in the form of filling my work­ing space with pic­tures from run­ways and Post-it notes, then the cre­ation of one or more char­ac­ters that I try to give a soul to, even be­fore cre­at­ing their phys­i­cal fea­tures. I al­ways try to tell an en­tire story in the sin­gle frame I have at my dis­posal, leav­ing the rest to the imag­i­na­tion of the viewer. Once I have my re­search and idea sorted, I get started on the more tech­ni­cal as­pects of dig­i­tal illustration.

SET YOUR SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS

Un­less oth­er­wise spec­i­fied by the client, I usu­ally start my projects by cre­at­ing an A1 can­vas at 300dpi, which means 7016x9933 pix­els. In terms of colour man­age­ment, sRGB colour pro­file is a good start­ing point for all pur­poses: your work will be web/mon­i­tor ready and gi­clée/lithog­ra­phy adapt­able. That’s

“You might think an illustration seems like a big job, but ac­tu­ally it’s just hun­dreds of small jobs”

be­cause an illustration may have sev­eral lives that can­not be fore­seen, as in the case of my award-win­ning piece Alice in Won­der­land. Born for In­sta­gram, it was sub­se­quently lith­o­graphed on a num­ber of mag­a­zines and on an art cat­a­logue, fine art printed for a signed edi­tion, re­pro­duced on lentic­u­lar pan­els, and so on.

START DRAW­ING

The first thing to do is avoid ‘white sheet panic’. How? I fill the back­ground layer with colour, usu­ally one picked out from the fash­ion pal­ette of the sea­son I’m work­ing on. That coloured back­ground will bet­ter bring out the black and white of my char­ac­ter’s com­plex­ion. Af­ter that, I select my favourite tools – the pres­sure and tilt sen­si­tive tools of Wa­com’s pens and Kyle T. Web­ster’s Pho­to­shop brushes are sim­ply in­cred­i­ble work­ing to­gether – then start to pen­cil sketch what I’ve got in mind, cut­ting and ad­just­ing it to best fit the shoot­ing an­gle.

One of the first huge ad­van­tages of dig­i­tal sketch­ing di­rectly on your Cin­tiq with the help of lay­ers is repo­si­tion­ing at will. When I’m happy with the com­po­si­tion, I can give the client a first vi­su­al­i­sa­tion of what is go­ing to be later highly re­fined. In min­utes. And this also leaves me a lot of room to manouevre in case of dis­agree­ment, with­out hav­ing to start from scratch.

USE LAY­ERS EF­FEC­TIVELY

You might think an illustration seems like a big job, but ac­tu­ally it’s just hun­dreds of small jobs. Each of my il­lus­tra­tions can con­tain sev­eral hun­dred lay­ers, depend­ing on its com­plex­ity. The only limit is the hard­ware used. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, work­ing at high-res­o­lu­tion, a ba­sic Ap­ple Mac Mini can eas­ily man­age a cou­ple of hun­dred lay­ers with­out slow­ing down.

My il­lus­tra­tions have a group of lay­ers for each el­e­ment of the illustration. The face, hair, arms, hands, eyes, neck, mouth, dress, ac­ces­sories, and so on, are all fold­ers con­tain­ing a bunch of lay­ers for the foun­da­tion, chiaroscuro (light and shade), and de­tails. Work­ing like this will al­low you to go in to your im­age sur­gi­cally

on de­mand. This is im­por­tant be­cause small mod­i­fi­ca­tions are al­ways around the cor­ner and a happy client is a reg­u­lar client.

FIFTY SHADES OF EV­ERY­THING

Ex­pe­ri­ence in fash­ion makes you re­alise how im­por­tant un­der­stand­ing, and pos­si­bly fore­cast­ing, colour trends is. You might want to learn about how colour fi­delity mat­ters for a com­mer­cial artist, and will ide­ally be­come good at vi­su­al­is­ing prod­ucts that cus­tomers will want.

It’s re­ally fun to mix ana­logue wa­ter­colours and other pig­ments, and this can be a good way to learn about colour. On the other hand, Pan­tone pal­ettes, reg­u­larly pub­lished in .ASE for­mat, are uni­ver­sally recog­nised as stan­dard colour re­pro­duc­tion sys­tems. In terms of rules about us­ing colour, re­mem­ber that noth­ing is set in stone. We live in the real world, not in a giant colour con­trol cabi­net that is ISO 3664 com­pli­ant. We are do­ing vis­ual sto­ry­telling here, not de­sign­ing a logo, and we’re not talk­ing to ma­chines af­ter all. Learn the way, then find your own way. I start with Pan­tone colours as a foun­da­tion, then add chiaroscuro and de­tails, gen­er­ally with Kyle T. Web­ster’s wa­ter­colours. But in the fi­nal stages of the project, some global colour fine-tun­ing to add my vi­sion of the nar­ra­tive is re­quired.

RE­SIST SHORT­CUTS

Now that I’m done, I’ll prob­a­bly want to make some small changes. For ex­am­ple, I don’t like the mouth be­cause it’s look­ing a lit­tle crooked. But I don’t use Liquify Fil­ter, I hide the mouth Lay­ers and draw it again. If I need to add shine to some jewels, I don’t even think of us­ing Ac­tions. I draw sparkles. There is noth­ing wrong with try­ing some Pho­to­shop short­cuts, es­pe­cially when deal­ing with tight dead­lines, but it is es­sen­tial to re­sist the temp­ta­tion of Pho­to­shop om­nipo­tence. Here’s the thing: get­ting lazy and cut­ting cor­ners won’t help you be­come the next Ser­gio Toppi. And this world al­ready has enough Pho­to­shop gu­rus. Just re­mem­ber the first rule for il­lus­tra­tors: draw, draw, draw.

Ros­alba Caf­forio’s stu­dio.

Caf­forio’s dig­i­tal work­ing space. Re­search on cur­rent fash­ion and colour trends is vi­tal be­foring start­ing a piece.

Af­ter the re­search stage, Caf­forio dig­i­tally sketches di­rectly on her Cin­tiq.

Each el­e­ment of the illustration is formed of a group of Lay­ers.

Us­ing her Cin­tiq, Caf­forio can tog­gle eas­ily between work-in-progress and mood­board screens when re­quired.

Caf­forio uses a white layer as a foun­da­tion for each fig­ure be­fore colour­ing. This cre­ates con­trast with the back­ground.

Pan­tone colours form the ba­sis of Caf­forio’s colour spec­trum, but fine-tunes the colours at the end of the piece to add her own nar­ra­tive.

Caf­forio tries to re­sist ‘Pho­to­shop ominipe­tence’, pre­fer­ring to make changes by delet­ing and re­draw­ing lay­ers.

Caf­forio re­po­si­tions lay­ers to find the best fit through­out her work­flow.

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