Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Abstract Tutorial--Step-by-Step

Tonight I would like to take you through the steps for making some interesting abstract designs, and by using a couple of really, really bad photographs to do it.  To start out, I want you to do something you will not understand at first.  I want you to take a couple photos of your hair, or the hair of someone else who will allow you to do so.  Now you can make this photo sharp and in focus, or only slightly focused.  In the case of this tutorial, it would be cool if you can photograph the hair against a colorful background such as a shirt.  

Okay, now stop laughing.  I'm serious here.  

In all honesty, hair has some really neat lines and colors that you don't notice unless you have taken a macro shot or otherwise close-up shot of it.  What we are going for tonight is the lines mixed with the backgrounds.  Take several shots.  You can always delete them later if you don't like the results.  

Here are the photos I am going to use tonight.

I warned you that the photos I would be using tonight were really bad.  My 12-year-old granddaughter was sitting on the arm of my chair watching TV when I just pulled out the camera and tried to get a good macro shot.  The only thing is, she kept fidgeting so the photos were blurred.  So, let's get started.

Okay, before we move on, let's talk software.  I am using Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X5.  So I may have different filters and effects than you have if you are using some other program.  There are lots of free programs out there as well.  I love this one because it is not so expensive, but does a lot of things.  But use whatever you have handy.  If you don't have any program as yet, just bookmark this page and come back to it once you have a program downloaded.  

I LOVE kaleidoscopes.  I loved them as a child and never really outgrew the appeal.  So I almost always start out creating a kaleidoscope design first.  I have found that often, if the photo will not do well with a kaleidoscope, it probably won't do well with other filters or effects either.  Unless there is a lot of color.  Then all kinds of things can happen with your software.

So, I set the effect for a kaleidoscope.  All of the settings were set to zero except for the number of petals, and the setting for "reflect" was checked.  This was the first result.

 Check it out on full screen by clicking on the picture.  See all those tiny lines?  Those are the hairs!!  Now you could stop here, but I didn't.  I just had a feeling I could come up with something more.  

For this next result, I kept the kaleidoscope and went to my effects filters and chose one from the group called "Fun House."  The one I chose is called "Sierpenski's Mirror."  Now within this filter there are various setting possibilities.  No two photos will ever turn out exactly the same unless you write down the settings you chose and keep very detailed notes.  I don't do that, so each of my designs remain totally unique.  It's up to you whether or not you want to do that for yourself.  I didn't like the result so much but I knew I could do something with it, so I added another filter on top.  This filter came from the "Simple" group and I chose the "Diamonds" filter.  But you can use whatever you like, and stop or continue on as long as you like.  You will eventually find that going on further does not make the design much better so you end up learning that there is a time to stop.

Here is the result.

 Now this almost looks like a piece of paper that has been folded many times.  Again, click the picture for a full screen look.  I chose this place to stop, for now.  I might end up going back at another place in time to change it more, but I doubt it.  You will understand more when I show you what happened with the second bad photo.

Now if you go back up and take a look at the two bad photos, you will see that the bulk of the hair is to the left on the top photo and to the right on the bottom photo.  The loose hairs spread out over the rest of the photo.  Also the stripe in the shirt has switched sides somewhat.  Will this make much of a difference?  Let's find out.

Once again I started out with the kaleidoscope effect using the same exact settings that I used the first time.  An interesting thing you will learn as you use your software often enough, is what kinds of quirks it has.  For instance, I've learned that this kaleidoscope setting pretty much takes the color that is toward the lower right/bottom of the photo and makes that the outside color of the photo.  I learned this when I found that I could create kaleidoscopes from scratch using the paint part of the program and use all kinds of colors, yet only a couple colors would show up in the results.  So learning where to place the colors you want to show in your results can be important.  Again, it's the strands of hair that form the lines of the design.

This time I decided to try a different effect, so while keeping the kaleidoscope, I went to the effect called "Artistic Effects" and chose one called "Glowing Edges."  While doing this tonight I think I learned something else about my software.  Normally this selection makes one of those black glowing pictures that you will see on red velvet type things.  But this time it turned blue!!  The only reason I can tell is that I had blue up in the paint color palette.  I do know that whatever color I have up as last used in the color palette can effect the colors of the filter chosen.  I had not seen this happen before, though.  It's always fun to find out new little tricks to play around with.  Having this come up in my favorite shades of blue wasn't bad either.  

This was one of those "ooooh!" moments I sometimes have when I am in the zone creating these abstracts.

After this I chose an effect from the group called "Distortion Effects" and chose the distortion called "Polar Coordinates."  Within that are two options plus other settings.  I almost always use the "Polar to Rectangular" rather than the "Rectangular to Polar."  Again, it is up to you what you choose.  The best way is to play around with the program to see what you like.  The more you like a setting, the more you will use it.  Something I like about this PaintShop Photo Pro program is that they have a setting where you can choose random settings with which you will never know what you are going to get until it happens.  That can be fun if you are looking for something different.  I suggest that if you do this, you keep notes of those settings you really like so you can find them again.

Okay, here is the polar coordinates result.

For awhile I was doing these with almost every design I played around with.  You can see more of these on my Flickr photostream.
But I did not want to stop with this one.  So I continued on thinking that maybe I might even be creating a wall grouping with these beautiful blues.   Next I again chose the "Simple" filter and this time I chose one called "Zoom Out and Flip."  (By the way, you can search the net for free downloadable filters for many of the programs available today.  That is how I got most of mine, although some come with the program.)

Here's the result of Zoom Out and Flip...

Once again I was pleasantly surprised.  Normally, this setting does some crazy flip-flopping of the photo.  This time it didn't and I think this was actually better than what I was expecting.

Finally, I went back to my favorite Kaleidoscope effect.  I guess I was thinking of bookends???  Who knows?  When I get into this, sometimes I get ideas that may or may not make sense.  But here is the final abstract I came up with.  

 There you go.  This is how I make most of my graphics.  There really are times when I don't use the kaleidoscope effect photo even though I almost always start out with them.  There are times when I use all sorts of other effects and end with the kaleidoscope.  Sometimes I never use the kaleidoscope.  But if you followed along here, and actually created your own abstract of your hair or someone else's hair, I am sure you came up with something spectacular.  If you enjoyed this tutorial, keep playing around with your software program and see what kinds of things you end up with.  

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please let me know.  Also, please share it with your social media groups.  I may add more tutorials if this one is popular enough.  Thanks for spending your time with me.  

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