SketchGuru: From Photo To Line Art To Comp

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A pencil sketch created from an image in SketchGuru.

 I have to admit that I am late to the imaging app party. I suspect what turned me off were a new class of creatives calling themselves iPhoneographers who would take a picture on their iPhone, slap an effect from an app on it ,post the image to Instagram and await the inevitable the praise and kudos from friends and family. Over the past year, though, the graphics pros starting taking over and the result was some pretty stunning work. They not only take the image but then carefully run it through a number of apps to realize their creative vision.

One of my favorite practitioners is Michael Clawson out of Greagle, California. He uses his iPhone as a creative tool and uses a variety of apps to create some amazing images that inevitably make their way into his web work through his company Big Fish Creations. To see what I am talking about check out his work on Flickr

Another is Sally Cox, a designer out of San Jose, California who runs a company called kreatable. She is an unrepentant iPhoneographer who not only explores what she can do with the photos she takes but also posts the results and the apps used to create them on Instagram.

In this “How To” I will walk you through how a simple street scene in Hong Kong can be turned into a sketch using an app called SketchGuru.

Why turn photos into sketches. The obvious answer is: your “Creative Muse”. Another would be using them in low fi design comps you may create. 

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Where To Find SketchGuru

SketchGuru is available through the Google Play Store or Apple's App store.

SketchGuru is available in both iOS and Android versions. In fact it can be used on both smartphones and tablets. The app is free and available through either Apple’s App Store () or Google’s Play Store

Quick note. This app does display ads. You can upgrade to an ad-free version for $3.99

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Getting Started

The splash screen is where you start.

When you launch the app – I am using my iPad- you are presented with three content choices- take a photo, access your image collection on your iOS or Android device or grab one from either your Instagram. Facebook or Flickr accounts found in the Cloud area. I selected a photo of a street cleaner I had taken during a recent trip to Hong Kong.  

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Crop The Image

Crop the image to get started.

 Your next screen will present you with a number of crop options at various aspect ratios. These are especially useful if you need to create poster frame for video or if the design uses a grid system. To accept a change, tap the green arrow.

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Adjust The Image

Adjust the image.

There are three image adjustment sliders: Saturation, Brightness and Hue. When you choose a slider and move it, the image instantly responds to the setting.  If you make a mistake you can always revert by clicking the red Revert button over on the right. Tap on the image to return to the interface.

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Choose An Effect

The effects are shown along the bottom of the interface.

 Along the bottom are a number of “filters” that range from simply “cheesy” to “pretty neat”. Just tap one and the effect is applied. If you change your mind simply tap another one or the “No Sketch” filter to return to the original image. 

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Creating The Sketch

Pencil Sketch is chosen.

In this case I wanted to turn the image into a Pencil Sketch. I selected PencilSketch. At the end of the filters is another named PencilSketch2. I found its result to be too light so I went with my original selection. 

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Refine The Sketch

The sketch is further refined.

I wanted a bit more contrast and detail. I selected the Adjustment sliders and, when it opened, the three choices changed to : Line Thickness, Contrast and Brightness. I made the lines a little thicker and adjusted the contrast.

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Saving Your Sketch

Your images can be saved to your device or a variety of social media sites.

You have a couple of choices. The first, in the upper right, saves the image to your device at the resolution chosen. This is really handy if the image is going to be used in a project destined for mobile use. The one to its left lets you post the image to Facebook, Twitter, Sina Weibo (A Chinese Social Media site), Instagram or email a copy to yourself.

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Finishing Up

Image appears in a comp prepared in Adobe Fireworks.

Once the image is saved you your device , add it to a comp like this one created in Adobe Fireworks.