Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

Adventures in Costuming: Whack’em Wacom Tablet Sketching

I have been taking some photoshop classes, people!!  This week, instead of a movie review, I thought I would present you with an easy tutorial on sketching costumes with photoshop, including some quick and clever tips.  The first thing: get yourself a Wacom tablet.  That’s pronounced Whack’em.  They are available at computer stores and online – I bought mine at Fry’s for about $80.  You do NOT need a big one.  The drawing surface on mine is about 4″ x 6″, and that is all you really need if you are working on a laptop.  The picture above is what the Wacom tablet looks like, once out of the box.  The Wacom tablet comes with an installation disc and a tutorial that runs when you set it up – it is a quick and easy way to learn how to physically use the stylus (pen) to draw freehand on your computer!!

I am going to show you how to do a quick sketch step-by step here.  I am using extremely low-resolution images because it is faster for me and probably clearer for you.  It’s going to look a little bit pixillated, but you will get the idea.  So here we go!!

First, for the tricks – drawing people is difficult for some.  Here is an easy way to pretty much get it right the first time, using the magic of Photoshop.

1) Find a picture online, or use a picture of your own, of a person wearing either close-fitting clothing or a swimsuit.  You are going to TRACE the figure.  Here is the picture I used to trace:

I like this picture because the background is totally white, and it makes tracing much easier.  The figure is clear, and it’s pretty straighforward.  NB: you can find some great pics like this in online catalogs (like Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus, etc) in their swimsuit section.

2)  Open the swimsuit picture in Photoshop.

This is your Background image.

3) Add a layer, by clicking on the folded-paper icon at the bottom right of the Layers palette.  In this new layer, use your pencil tool to trace over the swimsuit picture, making sure to connect all the lines in the shapes. If you do not close shapes, you can not fill them with color – they are like a leaky bucket.

Tracing the figure is going to be the BASE for the costume sketch, so make sure that your lines are as close as you can get them to the swimsuit picture.  You can see now that your sketch is showing up as its own layer – the traced image of the swimsuit model.

4) Once you have traced the figure and closed all the lines in the sketch, HIDE the background layer. You can HIDE the layer by clicking on the eyeball icon in the palette menu next to the BACKGROUND layer.  In the photo below, you can see that I have hidden the background layer.  When you click the eyeball to hide the layer, the eyeball disappears.

Now you can see just your tracing of the swimsuit model!  This will be the layer we use for sketching the costume.

5) Using the pencil tool, sketch a costume on the body shape. I chose to sketch a dress, something easy, as an example.  I gave her some jewelry and shoes, too.

6) Using the ERASE tool, erase the lines of her legs that you can see “through” the skirt.

Now your sketch is ready for some color!

7) Using your palette, find a nice skin tone.  Using your paint bucket tool, dump the skin tone paint into the areas of exposed skin on the sketch.

It’s summertime, so I gave her a tan.  Remember, if you have INCOMPLETE LINES in your sketch, the paint will spill out and cause the entire sketch to be covered in paint.  Hit COMMAND-Z to go back and then fix the hole in your sketch.

-8-) Some areas of your sketch may be harder to paint with paint bucket, especially if they are narrow.  In this case, ZOOM IN to the sketch and use the paint bucket or paint brush tool.

I used the pencil tool to draw some detail into her hair, to give it some depth.  As long as it is a closed space, I can separate each little area with different colors of paint.

9)  Using the paint bucket tool, fill in the areas of hair with complementary colors, chosen from the same color palette.

10) Using the paint bucket tool, dump color into the areas of clothing.  To get detail into areas with draping, select a slightly darker color on the palette, and (using the paint brush tool) add the look of folds, wrinkles and/or draping.

11)  Using the paint bucket tool, add color to the remainder of the clothing and accessory areas, remembering to zoom in when paint-fill areas are small or narrow.

12)  Using the pencil tool, draw lines in the background of the figure to separate the background into three segments (my example only; you can do as you like).  Using the paint bucket tool, fill in the three areas with color to create a background for the figure.

13)  To change the color of the dress, create a COPY of the original sketch layer, by clicking COMMAND-J.  In this new layer, you can change the color of the dress to something new.  I chose white.

14) Using the paintbrush tool with a very small width, I drew a Hawaiian-flower print, and colored the shapes in with the paint bucket tool.

I also changed to color of her shoes, glasses and jewelry simply by clicking the paint bucket tool (with a new color) on the old area – the sunglasses, for example.  In the first version, the glasses were green.  I selected YELLOW on the palette, and, using the paint bucket tool, clicked on the sunglasses, instantly changing them to yellow.

15) And so here we have it.  You can save this sketch as a PhotoShop Document (file extension PSD) and continue working on it at another time, or print it out. Just remember to hide the layers that you do not want shown in the printed illustration!!

There is so much to know in Photoshop; this is really just the most basic overview.  I encourage all of you involved in costumes to take a class to learn this program – it is pretty amazing, and a powerful tool for all of us.  When you can make changes to sketches in the click of a mouse, think about all the time it saves.  You don’t have to paint or mark up another sketch.  You can use the same sketch you have saved in your computer.  It’s really fabulous.

If you like, instead of tracing a figure from an online photo, you can scan in a base sketch from your own hand.  It works much the same way, starting with step #4 from these instructions.  But again, you have to make sure that all of your lines are closed in order to use the paint bucket tool.

I am now learning how to create patterns (like fabric), and how to apply them to a sketch, warping them around folds and gathers in the fabric.  That is a trip.  I don’t know that I will be able to post a tutorial on all of that just yet, but I wanted to give you frocktalkers an opportunity to see what was available to us, even at the most basic level.  Think about how you might use this in your own work!  It’s really awesome.

Have a great week, everyone!

— KMB

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