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Computer ArtsTutorial

Graffiti-style Flash

French graffiti artist turned graphic designer Nicolas Dhennin reveals how to create distinctive layered graffiti-style imagery using Photoshop and Flash's under-used, and much undervalued, bitmap capabilities.

Whether you're a web designer who uses Flash routinely or a graphic designer looking for a brand new style, getting to know Flash's bitmap tools could be really worth your while.

The Trace Bitmap function, which enables you to convert bitmap images into vectors, has been available in Flash since the earliest versions, but few of us use it. The secret is in the preparatory work in Photoshop, which enables you to use the threshold function to turn a portrait photo into a vector illustration.

As with any work of this type, however, the final result is only as good as the source material. You need punchy contrast images to work with, so take your photographs in good light and get into the habit of shooting subjects against a clear blue sky or a solid backdrop to make cut-outs easier.

There are a million ways to cut out an image, from the quick and dirty to the painstaking and precise. For this kind of image, a fairly rough approach is not only necessary but actually adds to the effect. By using the Pen tool or the Lasso, you can sharpen edges later using the Bezier tool.

The Threshold tool is the key to creating illustrations from your photographs. It converts images to 1-bit black-and-white, so there are no mid tones, just highlights and shadows. Because that middle ground is missing, you have to work hard to get the right level of detail in the image, but when it's done well it can create a dramatic effect.

The best thing about vector illustrations is that they can be scaled to any size - from stickers to posters. Graffiti artwork often uses just a simple black-and-white stencil overlaid on to a colourful background - just like the image featured here.

Download the support files here.

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