September 25, 2019

Changing Native American portrait

I used to airbrush a lot - the analogue type in which a real metal airbrush is hooked up to a compressor to spray real paint on a real surface. That started in the early 80's of the previous century and lasted until approximately 8 to 10 years ago. After that I became more interested in digital image creation and manipulation, also because the programs became better and allowed to approach the quality that traditional airbrushing did. Today, the quality of the digital image creation programs has surpassed the traditional way of working in the sense that it is able to create more accurate detail that, in addition, can be edited endlessly.

I used to mainly use CorelDRAW and Corel PhotoPaint for my personal projects and during the day worked professionally with the Adobe products in the office. Sometimes I used Illustrator and Photoshop for my personal projects as well, but I always found their programs way overpriced. Things got worse when they imposed their subscription model on their users after which I switched to Serif's Affinity Designer (vector drawing program) and Affinity Photo (pixel creating and editing program). I accidentally ran into these programs when aimlessly browsing the Internet.

I've truly fallen in love with the Affinity programs that both cost about 50 USD that give you ownership of the programs and 3 free updates.... That is a whole lot more affordable than the programs in the Adobe suit. Designer and Photo are developing well - bugs are continuously removed and functions are added - which causes them to almost be on par with AI and PS functions wise, while having surpassed them in a certain number of aspects. I may elaborate on this in a future blog entry. In addition Serif issued Affinity Publisher which is and InDesign competitor. Already now Publisher is sufficiently equipped with functions to do by far the most DTP work very well while only lacking compared to ID in very specialist areas like interactive digital publications for instance. But artists that work in that type of document creation are relatively small numbered.

OK, back to what I was going to express here. Sometimes when I get bored, I tinker with images in Affinity Photo. In the old days I used to airbrush a lot of portraits of Native American people. But when browsing the web, it occurred to me that many artists create portraits of the same people, simply because there weren't too many photographers to record faces of Native American people in the old days. In order to create a unique face one has to be created from scratch or an existing one has to be changed so that it looks nothing like the original, trying to preserve the ethnic facial traits of the subject. Gertrude Kasebier and Edward S. Curtis are two of the best known magnificent photographers who shot a large number of great Native American portraits. But in their day, it wasn't like everyone had a camera on their smartphone like people have these days. It is why a relatively small number of genuine photographs of Native Americans exist.

So when I find a photo of a Native American person that I potentially would like to airbrush, but I find elements in their facial traits that I would like to change, I load the photo into Affinity Photo and start tinkering. Some would say that this is historic fraud, which in fact is the case to a certain extent, but that could also be said of the paintings of the brilliant Howard Terpning who I am sure interprets some things according to his personal vision (which is what makes his art so awesome). Personally I enjoy watching Terpning's work. Perhaps a little more and focused on details than the average person, because I want to know where the beauty of art is hiding in the details.

Below you find a brief sequence of me changing a portrait that I found on the web. At the bottom is the original photo. Above that the alterations made in Affinity Photo - mainly using the Liquify Push Forward Tool in the Liquify Persona. The image above that shows more detailing done with the Paint Brush Tool (using a textured brush), The Blur Brush Tool and the Clone Brush Tool. I also used the Color Adjustment and Curve Adjustment filters to make the image more crisp and dramatic. Finally I placed the edited image in a frame in the 3D program Rhinoceros v5 as show in the image at the top. I enjoyed doing this piece of historic fraud that I think turned out quite well considering the original photo was small and of a low resolution (600 x 938 pixels), while damages were present both in the face and in the background.

Tip: click on one of the image and it will be displayed in Google's Lightbox. If you are on a PC (also possible on a Mac I presume) you can turn the scroll wheel of your mouse and flick through the images to compare them.



Placed the edited image in a virtual 3D frame




Image edited with Paint-, Blur- and Clone- Brush tools
to add detail and Colour and Curve Adjustment filters
to make the image more crisp and dramatic looking




Photo edited with the Liquify tool and
Blur tool to remove jagged edges on areas




Reference photo, which was small, low res,
damaged and jagged






September 9, 2019

Vector portrait of Emma Britten

Emma Hardinge Britten was a well known spiritualist who lived from May 2 1823 to October 2 1899. She was a writer, public speaker, musician and opera singer in her younger days to support her family after her father passed away when she was 11 years old. Her spiritual gifts brought her fame and she was frequently consulted by high ranking politicians and other important people of her day. It is an indication that elevated echelons of society value the spiritual reality that is intentionally kept hidden from common folk.

This portrait is a work in progress and is drawn in Affinity Designer. This program has all the functionality to create realistic vector portraits that can be edited afterwards relatively fast which is a pain to do with mesh-filled vector portraits. And since tinkering is almost a necessity for portrait artists Affinity Designer is their ideal tool to make 100% vector portraits that can be re-scaled to any size without loss of quality.

What makes vector portraits look realistic is that edges of shapes and lines can be blurred in a controlled way. In addition color fadings can be customized in any desired way (using different colours) as well as the transparency of objects (in a linear, radial, elliptical or conical fashion). The combination of these 3 functions allows artists to create works that are visually indistinguishable from pixel portraits, but - as stated before - can be produced in any desired dimension while retaining the original quality.


Ugly Adobe Illustrator attempt to
create a realistic vector portrait
no offence, b.t.w., this is caused
by Illustrator's limited functions


Outside of Affinity Designer only the magnificent free open source program Inkscape (which a difficult to learn UI) has similar features; CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator do not have object blur functions and are therefore not suited to create realistic vector portraits, other than with the hideously tedious mesh-fill tool. The result is very unrealitsic looking portraits with hard edges as is shown in the image above. Adobe's marketing department has tried to turn this into the standard for vector portraits (in which it obviously succeeded) by suggesting that the programs shortcomings are the standard tools to use. But from whichever angle one looks at the result, these are not realistic portraits of high quality. At best effects promoted by Adobe's marketing department can be achieved.



This is the custom vector brush
created to draw realistic strands
of hair. This can be imported in
your collection of brushes and
used for this specific purpose.



This is the custom made brush used
to paint skin pores. Mix dark strokes
and bright strokes combined, the latter
always on top in the layer panel.



Apply 3D and or Bevel / Emboss fx
to the textured brush strokes to
create a realistic skin pore texture
and fiddle with the brush properties
use custom colour and transparency
overlays and underlays, whatever it
takes to approach realism as much
as reasonably possible.




So below you see a realistic vector portrait created in Affinity Designer. Bear in mind that at this point (September 2019) you are looking at the early stages; it will become more realistic as more work is done to the image. Skin pores and detailed strands of hair in particular will be applied. For the hair texture I created a custom brush that allows to create realistic strands, both dark and bright. The oldest stage is at the bottom - more recent stages are placed above that. Click on one of the images and they will be shown in Google's Lightbox, which (on a PC anyway) allows to scroll through the various stages to quickly see and compare the changes. The original size of the portrait in which it was drawn, is 80 x 62 cm, approximately ten times larger than the images submitted to this site.





September 20 2019 00:09 virtually in 3D frame





September 20 2019 00:09




September 16 2019 stage 12
vector curves & Brush strokes
outline view (hugely helpful
in the process of drawing)





September 12 2019 11:50





September 11 2019 11:01





September 10 2019 17:20





September 9 2019 20:13





September 9 2019 16:43





September 9 2019 12:20





September 8 2019





September 8 2019




September 8 2019