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Reinvent clip art by adding custom textures

Added on Sunday 27th of February 2005 12:27 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Over the years, many designers have turned away from clip art and opted to use stock photography instead. Part of this stems from the lack of high-quality clip art to choose from and the large volume of stock art now readily available. However, there are times when a design calls for a more illustrative feel, and clip art is a quick, easy, and affordable means to achieve such a look. The only problem with using clip art is that it usually looks like clip art. The colors aren’t always very appealing and the image is flat. But, with a little help from Photoshop, you can turn a plain piece of clip art into a unique work of art, to create a one-of-a-kind illustration.


From boring to boisterous

In this article, we’ll show you how to take a basic clip art image and turn it into something much more interesting, as shown in Figure A. We’ll begin by breaking our image into separate pieces by color. Then, we’ll apply a blur to it to soften the edges. Next, we’ll enhance the colors of our image to add brightness and vibrancy. And finally, we’ll add a texture to our color fills to make the image look as if it were hand-colored.


Figure A

Transform ordinary clip art into something uniquely your own using Photoshop.


Break it up

To begin, open a piece of clip art in Photoshop. If necessary, rasterize the image and convert it to RGB mode. Next, you need to separate the main components of the image into layers. When using clip art or illustrations, this is usually quite easy as most of these designs are composed of large areas of color. To divide our image, use the Magic Wand magic wand tool to select an area, copy it, and then paste it into a new layer. As shown in Figure B, we did this with the five main components of the image and named each layer to match: Blue Background, Skin, Hair, Bass, and Dress. Now that the image is broken down into layers, it’s much easier to apply different textures.


Figure B

Separate all the elements of your image into their own layers for easy access.


Soften the look

You can create texture in many different ways. One technique that might not immediately come to mind is to use blurring to create textural interest in your image. For example, we wanted the bass violin to stand out in our final image, so we applied Gaussian Blur (Filter > Gaussian Blur) to the Hair, Skin, and Dress layers to create a more natural look for our figure. Not only does it soften the image, but it also creates a visual focus on the bass and makes it appear as if the woman is receding into the back...