I have always been a traditional illustrator at heart but over the years I have evolved into a designer and instructor. I still illustrate, but now I use Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop software to create my works of art. Even though I enjoy creating art with Adobe Creative Suite software, part of me still loves to pick up a pencil and sketch pad and just draw—no laptop, no mouse, no wires.
In the past, that meant either going completely unplugged from start to finish or merging my two skills by scanning a sketch into my computer. I would then paint using an input device and view my results on screen, which created a digital disconnect. I could never really capture the feeling of creating art directly on my screen. Now thanks to Adobe Touch Apps and Adobe Creative Cloud on my tablet, my creative process has changed.
Because I'm a Photoshop geek, at first I was only interested in Adobe Photoshop Touch. However now I find that I can reclaim that personal connection to my art using many of the Adobe Touch Apps. I use Adobe Debut to review layered Adobe Photoshop images, Adobe InDesign documents, or Adobe Illustrator files on my tablet, and I can make sketch notes right on screen. I use Adobe Collage to capture visual or inspirational thoughts while on location. But my favorite aspect of these apps is creating digital illustrations using a combination of Adobe Ideas and Adobe Photoshop Touch on my tablet.
For a recent illustration I created, I started by taking a snapshot of myself with my tablet device and importing it into Adobe Ideas. When you create a new document in Adobe Ideas using an existing photo, it automatically creates a Photo Layer and a Draw Layer. You can reduce the opacity of the Photo Layer to create a "ghosted image" that allows for easier sketching (see Figure 1). I love the instant Photo Layer/Sketch Layer option—similar to the template layer in Illustrator. The sketching aspect of Adobe Ideas is liberating; it feels like I'm using a traditional sketch pad and pen. The Adobe Ideas interface is simple—a drawing tool and an eraser that work great for sketching.
Next, I moved the Adobe Ideas file to Adobe Creative Cloud, which offers a few options. I can access the file on my home computer, share it with others, or use it as a backup copy. However, to use an Adobe Ideas file in Adobe Photoshop Touch, I have to convert it to a raster image because Photoshop Touch cannot read a native Adobe Ideas file. I used Illustrator to resize and convert the file to a format that Adobe Photoshop Touch recognizes. I then moved the new file back to Adobe Creative Cloud as a JPEG file.
You might be wondering why I just didn't do everything in Adobe Photoshop Touch. The answer is simple: I love the simplicity of Adobe Ideas. I have two layers automatically—one with my photo "ghosted back" and one with my sketch. The other benefit is that I end up with a vector file that I can use later in Illustrator. If I had started in Adobe Photoshop Touch, I would have ended up with a raster image that I would then have to re-create using Live Trace to achieve a vector file, and I would lose the ability to edit individual sketched lines.
On my tablet, I accessed the sketch using Adobe Photoshop Touch. The tools, menus, and layers are familiar to anyone who has used Photoshop. Working in Adobe Photoshop Touch really gives me a connection to my art. It feels like I am working with washes of paint from a brush and sketching with a pen. And I see the results right on screen as I make my strokes and sketches.
Adobe Photoshop Touch is great for adding detail and color using layers. I added multiple layers and modified them using various blend modes and opacity controls. The brush controls are simple to change: Just drag your finger on screen to change size and opacity. These controls gave me the detail I needed for the hair and the smaller regions of the painting (see Figure 2). Enlarging and panning the image with the multitouch gestures make navigating a snap—pinch to zoom and swipe to move.
Note: I did find that it was sometimes difficult to zoom in really close with my fingers when creating detailed work. If you have the same problem, consider using a stylus.
After I was finished with the initial color, I blended the image using the Smudge and Blur tools. Again, seeing the results on screen as I use these tools is extremely helpful. The Edge Aware feature kept my painting results contained to the existing art. Finally, I added the original photo as a photo layer and blended the background image by adding a layer with gradients.
Once my work was complete, I saved my Adobe Photoshop Touch file to Adobe Creative Cloud so I could access it in Adobe Creative Suite on my computer (see Figure 3).
Transferring was seamless, and I can even open the native file in Photoshop with all my layers intact, including their blending mode and opacity settings (see Figure 4).
One added bonus was the inherent compression from the Photoshop Touch file format. As a native PSDX file, my image was 5.6 MB. When I opened it in Photoshop, it enlarged to 58.9 MB. However, saving a copy as a traditional PSD file gave me a 12.3 MB file.
As I was working on my illustration, I experienced something I was not expecting. Not only was I pleased with the results, but the process of creating art on my tablet was very relaxing. It felt like traditional sketching and painting. It was natural.
How cool is it that new technology is bringing us full-circle back to traditional hand skills? Now I can create art freely without being constrained by a mouse or monitor. The digital disconnect is disappearing, and my tablet is no longer just a consumption device—it's a creative tool. It is my sketch pad and paint palette all in one place. The best part is that there's no mess to clean up afterward.
Watch this recent Adobe Inspire video to see some of these Adobe Touch Apps in action.
Kevin Stohlmeyer is an Adobe Certified Instructor, user group manager, and Adobe Community Professional based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has been teaching Adobe products since 2000, both in higher education and at C2 Graphics Productivity Solutions. He has been featured in Photoshop User Magazine (photoshopuser.com/photoshop-user-magazine) and is a NAPP member. You can find Kevin on Twitter @kstohl or on Facebook (facebook.com/kevin-stohlmeyer).