Blending digital and traditional artwork
Blending digital and traditional artwork – Finding one’s style in Photoshop is something that every digital artist does, but learning to develop and evolve your style is something altogether more challenging.
With her Little Red Boubou project, a children’s book based on the fairy tale of Red Riding Hood, Typhaine Le Gallo took her original creative process and then adapted it for the needs of the project. The subsequent illustrations have been featured in Behance’s Photoshop and Illustration galleries as a result, proving that often the very best work comes from innovation.
We caught up with Typhaine to ask about her creative process, her influences, and how she made these beautiful illustrations.
Have you always been interested in art, Typhaine?
I initially studied mathematics and computer programming; I worked for around 10 years as a graphic programmer in the video game industry. But I have always enjoyed drawing and four years ago I decided to go back to university to take illustration classes and study for a graphic design baccalaureate. This is where I discovered Photoshop.
As a graphic programmer, was it easy to get to grips with Photoshop when you first used it?
Yes, I found it to be mathematics applied on pixels. The layers, masks and post-effects work are very intuitive for me as I developed similar features in video games. I chose to take a professional photography class to learn how to edit pictures, as to start with I simply wanted to create illustrations with traditional materials and enhance them in Photoshop.
Who would you say are your biggest artistic influences?
My biggest artistic influence is Rebecca Dautremer, a wonderful French children’s book illustrator. I think she uses Photoshop almost exactly for the same steps than my own process: to improve a sketch, to test colours before applying traditional mediums, and to enhance the final scanned picture. A few years ago I discovered another big influence: the work of Victo Ngai, an editorial illustrator. For the first time I discovered a process almost entirely done in Photoshop, which was truly resonating with me, and it was the one I decided to use for the Little Red Boubou project.
So was the Little Red Boubou project completed entirely in the Photoshop software?
Well, for Little Red Boubou I wanted to push my use of Photoshop, but still use my usual watercolour pencil textures. To do so, I drew lines with black ink on paper, scanned the drawings and a lot of textures created with traditional mediums, and assembled the whole thing in Photoshop. I always start with a sketch on paper, then I move and distort the objects and characters a lot in Photoshop until I’m happy with the composition.
What are your favourite tools to use in Photoshop?
Mainly the tools I use are the Magic Wand Tool in conjunction with the Refine Edge option. I also love using certain adjustment layers, specifically Selective Color, Hue/ Saturation and Brightness/Contrast. For the Little Red Boubou project, I created the illustrations by selecting areas between the black lines and using masks to apply my scanned textures to the selected areas and to the lines. Then for every area, I modified the colour of the applied texture to get the exact colour that I had in mind. Finally I added shadows and highlights by darkening or lightening the colours of my lines and textures on specific areas.
This creative process is slightly different to your usual, then. What made you head in a new direction for this project?
The style I used for the Little Red Boubou project differs a little bit from my usual illustrations, even if they are still similar. There are two reasons for that: first I had a very short amount of time to finish the illustrations for this book, secondly as I wanted heavily contrasted black-and-white drawings to be able to select the areas easily, I used black ink and continuous lines. As a result my lines are a little bit stronger and the look is more ‘naive’ and colourful than usual, which was not a problem for me as I thought it was a good match to represent an African adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood.
Nothing is better than to work on a whole project of at least 10 illustrations by applying the same Photoshop recipe on all the illustrations. This recipe should be compatible with what you like to do with traditional mediums: for example, for me it was essential to keep the textures of watercolour pencils. I learnt a lot during the Little Red Boubou project. I only really mastered the software after spending a lot of time on these 32 pages of illustrations in Photoshop. Before that I was mainly trying to edit my pictures to fix the loss of colours and contrast due to the scan. Since then I am still using traditional techniques, but now Photoshop is an essential part of my process to get the final atmosphere and palette of colours that I have in mind.