Creating Comic Books with Halftone (Grade 4)

Who doesn’t love a comic book? Maybe I should rephrase . . . What kid doesn’t love a comic book? Well, the answer is probably a fair few, so let’s try one more time. What kid doesn’t love creating a comic book? Ah, now the answer is much higher. Probably most kids, I would think. Judging by my students, there was a lot of fun to be had in this project. I also think it’s important to pitch it at the right age. Grade 4 for this project (that’s 9-10 year olds) is the perfect age. They are young enough to love the idea, but literate enough to craft a cohesive story.

So, the project was this. I told the students to go out and think of a photo story. Around 10-12 images photos would be ideal. Think of what the story is, and what photos you need to take to tell the story. That was a whole session in itself.

From there I modeled how to use Halftone (actually Halftone 2 is what we used). We also had a discussion on what elements make up a comic page. This page on Wikipedia was ideal in helping me to prepare for this. I showed how to create pages, find templates for the panels, insert speech bubbles and captions. Most importantly, I showed them the edit tool and what you could do. From there they went about creating their own comic book.

The kids had a great deal of fun with this. The app was a little challenging to them the first time they used it, but once they got into it, they flew through the process.

When saving their work, there is the option to save each page as an image, or the whole thing as a PDF, but it actually works really well as a video!

Here is a video that models the app – and again, apologies for the sound quality. That’s what you get for recording when you’re out of the country!

Here is one particular example I really enjoyed.

Drawing Emojis in Illustrator CC (Grade 4)

For this project, I needed to seriously brush up on my Illustrator skills. I’ll be the first to admit that Illustrator is not my preferred tool for the reason that I CAN’T DRAW. So, I looked for guidance.

I found an excellent series of videos by a YouTuber named Danksy who I relied heavily on to learn how to draw the first three emojis I was going to teach the class. My idea is that I would create an Illustrator file with four empty artboards. Each week, the students would learn how to create one kind of emoji (I had happy, sad and angry) and in the fourth week – now they had some skills and experience under their belts – they would have a go and making their own in the fourth artboard.

To say the students were excited about doing this, is an understatement. They were practically ripping the door down before each class to come in. They absolutely loved it!!! It was, however, a lot of hard work. Each lesson had me give the students a couple of instructions before they ran back to their computers to do them. Many, many times! But there was a lot of energy in what we were doing, and there were some great skills to learn here, like using the pen tool, the arc tool, pathfinder -> divide and cut out, a lot of copying and pasting, nudging both in size and movement, and using exact colours based on hex codes.

I did not make videos in how to do these, since Dansky explains it very well. I made a few small concessions in my teaching, so I didn’t do it absolutely exactly the same, but it was pretty close, so I need to give him complete credit.

 

As far as the kids went with their own artwork, I was really blown away with what some of them came up with. The only rule I had was that it needed to be a face emoji. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I teach the skills, but the ideas that come from them is where the real joy of my job lies.

Here are some highlights:

 

 

Crafting Animal Composites with Photoshop CC (Grade 3)

This is my first big regret of the year. Not that the idea behind the project wasn’t a good one, but that the expectation was perhaps too great for my Grade 3 students, who are still very new to Photoshop.

The genesis of this project started with a conversation with the teachers in the Grade 3 team. Something I do regularly is to check in with the teams to see what they are covering in the upcoming term to see if I can those themes to my lessons. In this case, they told me that the students would soon be doing a unit on animal adaptations. They further told me that in the past they have done a fun engagement activity with the kids where they can design their own animal, using different animal bodyparts. I got the impression this was usually done as a sketch. Could this be done in Photoshop they asked?

The answer, of course, is yes – it can. The more important question is, are the students up for it? That, I was not so sure about. It usually takes some practise with a variety of tools (such as the quick selection tool, the magic wand, quick mask, etc) to make a good selection that you can then remove a background.

I planned this lesson to come right after the one they did on selecting and removing the background from superhero pictures (which is covered in a post last year here). In that case, the images were chosen by me, and had varying levels of difficulty in selecting the background correctly.

In this activity, students were to choose three animals. They were to find the pictures on Google and save them to import into Photoshop. But – there were some guidelines first. Each animal needed to be facing the same direction to make it easier. I wanted the students to visualise how they wanted the creature to look in their heads, before they finalised which pictures they were going to use. Most students followed this, but some still had some problematic choices. It says something about the kind of teacher I am, in that there were cases where I let the students choose difficult pictures so they could see where the problems would lie when they brought them into Photoshop.

In any case, the project was simple enough in concept. Bring in three pictures to Photoshop – each on a seperate layer. Choose one animal for the head, one for the body (including legs) and one for the tail. Cut out the background as best you can, and make any transformations needed to put together the animal.

The results were fairly mixed, it’s fair to say. This is perhaps one for a Grade 4 class who have a little more experience in using Photoshop. Nevertheless, the students were all pretty happy with how their menagerie came out.

Below is a video describing the workflow in Photoshop, and under that are some student examples.

Colouring in your photos using Colorscape (Grade 2)

A simple app for a simple project. The Grade 2 students were shown how to use an app called Colorscape. Basically, this app takes a photo (either directly from camera or saved on the camera roll) and turns it into a black and white line drawing like a colouring page. Students can then paint in colours however they like. There are a huge range of colours to choose from, including Palette Colours – which are a palette of colours taken directly from the original photo itself.

I got my trusty box of toys out that I normally use for stop motion videos, and had the students use them to photograph and to colour. When they had finished this first task, I then let them take photos of whatever they wanted. I did have a small caveat, and that was that if they were taking a photo of someone else, they needed to ask their permission first. Knowing the kids, they would have some fun with it!

Some students took it a little more seriously than others. The best works were those that were done carefully and patiently, with some thought into what colours they wanted to use.

The students really enjoyed it, and as an aside – my own 5 year old daughter loves using the app too.

Here below is a quick video in how to use the app, and below that some student examples.

Harnessing the Power of the Creative Cloud (Grade 4)

I had in my head for a long time an idea to have a project that starts from a photo, worked on with an iPad, and finished off using a desktop computer – and using a variety of Adobe tools to show the power of the Creative Cloud.

The lynchpin to all of this is the app Adobe Capture. This recent app is an amalgamation of various Adobe mobile apps like Adobe Color, Adobe Brush, Adobe Hue and Adobe Shape. Essentially it’s a way to capture a photo and create a shape, a pattern, colours or even a look (essentially a colour graded filter) to apply to other images.

Ok, so here’s what I asked the kids to do. I told them to go out and take two photos. One photo that you will use to create your own custom brush, and one photo to create their own custom pattern. Although I had showed them what a custom brush and pattern looked like before they went out, I saved showing them how to do it on the app until they all came back in. By the end of the first session, they had all saved their brushes in a creative cloud library on the iPad.

The second session was using the app Adobe Sketch and choosing their custom brush from the creative cloud library. Using that brush, they were free to draw whatever picture they wanted. Those pictures were then saved into their creative cloud libraries.

The third session they got on the computers in Photoshop to open up a template I created. The template (see below) basically has a transparent background and a lower third on top with some text to write over with their names. They needed to access the creative cloud library and bring in their sketch and then their pattern and put that as their background. Finally, they needed to put their names on the lower third.

So, you can see, plenty of fun to be had, and lots of creative choices along the way. I should say, there are a couple of issues using creative cloud libraries. Let’s go through them and what I did about them.

1) You need to have an Adobe ID to login to creative cloud, and you need to be 13 years or over to have one.

Ok, so my kids are younger than that. So I do what every other teacher does, and that’s create class accounts. I have 13 iPads and 13 computers. Each computer and iPad (say # 1) are linked to the same account. So you can create an Adobe account like yourschool+1@gmail.com and link the iPad and computer to that. Not 100% kosher, but not illegal by any means. I know plenty of educators that do this for their classes.

2) You need to have a license at your school that supports Creative Cloud libraries.

Check to see what your license includes, because many do not allow connections to the creative cloud.

Having said that, this was a fantastic project and I loved what the kids came up with. Below are three videos (one for each session) that goes into the workflow, and below that are a few examples from the students.

** Apologies for the sound. I wasn’t at my usual recording locations **

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Honing Skills Using Adobe Sketch (Grades 2 & 6)

The mobile apps Adobe Draw and Adobe Sketch are almost identical. Both are drawing programs, both have the same interface and the same layering functionality. The difference mainly lies in what they are meant to be used for. Adobe Draw is supposed to be for creating vector artwork. The kind of artwork that can be scaled up and down without degrading the quality.

Adobe Sketch offers the same kind of tools but with the idea of – as it says – sketching artwork with built in or custom brushes. I touched on Adobe Sketch when the grade 4s did their project using Adobe Capture, Adobe Sketch and Photoshop. In that activity, the students created custom brushes out of photos they took using Adobe Capture.

Here I used this app with two year levels. The grade 2s were asked to sketch two objects – a living thing and a non-living thing. This related to their inquiry unit in their classroom. To do this, I allowed them to search for images on Google. What I wanted was for them to try and sketch an object they see in front of them, not one from a picture in their head. I wanted them to pay attention to the little details, and try and get proportions right. Some students chose something challenging like a horse or a tiger, and some went for something quite basic like a tree. I was quite strict with students choosing something “easy”, they had to get all the details right. For instance, when doing the non-living thing, two students wanted to do a soccer ball. The first time they came to me, it was just a circle. I sent them back saying I need to be able to tell it’s a soccer ball, not just a circle.

Really, that line was something I repeated again and again to the students. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to look something like what you have in front of you to sketch. If I’m confused by what you’ve done, maybe have a go at something easier. Many students reevaluated what they needed to do and looked for other pictures.

Once they were done, I collected the pictures, and made them into posters in Photoshop, labeling living and non-living things. Here are some examples:

With the Grade 6s, we went back to the idea of tracing artwork like I did last year with the Grade 1-2s, but gave these older students a challenge in trying to sketch Manga characters. In this case, I gave them some images in a library to choose from and gave them a couple of sessions to get it done. I chose Manga images because of the difference in style. One way of learning how to draw in this way is to follow and copy an example. The eyes are a big element of the style, as is the exaggerated expressions. I had some boys and girls in my library of examples, as well as a few Manga creatures (yes, I did get Pikachu). This proved to be a very popular lesson and produced some lovely work. Unfortunately, even with a couple of lessons, not everyone got to finish.

Here are some of my favourites:

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The process of bringing an image into Adobe Sketch and using it as a background to trace over is practically the same as using Adobe Draw. You can find the post on that process here on my lesson on tracing with Adobe Draw.

 

Faking Depth of Field in Photoshop CC (Grade 6)

Since all year levels from Grade 3-Grade 6 last year did my Photography 101, I thought that I would get the older students ready for Photography 102. Now they know a little bit about how Photoshop works, I wanted to teach them the principals of depth of field and how it’s used.

Simply, the depth of field in a photo is the area that is in focus. A shallow depth of field means a small amount in focus, a wide (or deep) depth of field has most of the area in focus. I explain to the students that a camera lens can only focus on one single point. The area that stretches in front and behind that focus is the depth of field.

We look at some portraiture examples of how a shallow depth of field can help bring the subject to sharp focus. We look at examples of macro photography that does the same thing.

Now a camera in automatic mode will likely try to bring the photo into as much focus as possible. When you want to play around with that, on a SLR camera, you could be adjusting the focal length of your lens or adjusting the size of your aperture, which is measured in f-stops. The wider the aperture, the smaller the f-stop value. This greatly depends on the lens of your camera.

Now, remember, we are currently using iPads to take photos, so unless you use a specialised app, you can’t play with the aperture. Even with those apps, it’s essentially faking the effect. I would rather discuss aperture when we eventually get some SLRs in, so what we are doing is faking the effect inside Photoshop.

The workflow is pretty easy to understand. Load up a photo in Photoshop, select the background, and soften the focus. For our purposes, that’s all there is to it. Of course, professionals would go to great pains to make the effect look as natural as possible by perhaps feathering the effect, and so on. But the students are really only looking at blurring out the background.

So we go back to the techniques we learned last year about selecting an area in a photo using the quick selection tool and brushing a selection using the Quick Mask tool. Those two are the best ways, but I also showed them the lasso tool as a way to start of making a selection and then refining it with the tools they know.

Here is a before and after of the image of my daughter that I used for the example.

The students had to go out and quickly take their portrait shots. Each pair partnered up with another and their partner group took a photo of them. The photo of themselves is what they used for the work. I told them that they needed a photo that had some distance behind them otherwise it wouldn’t be as effective.

The lesson was understood very easily, but students are still at varying degrees of getting their selections perfect. But for this project, accuracy wasn’t so important, as we wanted it to look more or less like a realistic area not an absolute exact measured out area. In other words, we were trying to make it look imperfect so you can’t tell it’s photoshopped.

Here is the video where I explain the techniques in creating the effect inside Photoshop:

And here are a few of the students’ examples:

Tilt Shift Photography (Grade 5)

Tilt Shift photography is a cool effect where you blur the top and bottom of an photo that is taken from a fair distance away. As your brain is used to seeing backgrounds blurred when looking at a close up macro photo, it tricks your brain into thinking that what you are seeing is a scale model. Here are some cool examples of the technique.

There are attachments you can buy for an SLR camera that makes your lens a little flexible and lets you physically tilt the lens to create the effect in camera. Otherwise, you can just fake it using Photoshop.

So, I started by showing my students some examples and how the technique works. I then took them step by (small) step to achieve the same result in Photoshop by first converting to a smart object, and then applying the Tilt Shift Blur filter in the Blur Gallery.

From there, the students learned how to paint in the layer mask to reveal or conceal the tilt shift blur as they needed. Please watch my video tutorial below.

Here are some of the better examples my students came up with.

Textured Word Art (Grade 5)

This is a simple little project students can do to start learning how layer masks in Photoshop work.

Essentially, the project asks them to take a photo of textured material and to create a new file in Photoshop, type in the name of that texture “ie: Bricks” and have the photo of the bricks come through the text.

This is made possible by putting a layer mask on the type layer that has “BRICKS” written on it, and pasting the photo of the bricks on to the layer mask itself.

This is not typically the way we use layer masks. Usually, as you will see later in the post on the Tilt Shift effect in Photoshop, a layer mask is used to paint in (or paint away) an adjustment, effect or filter. Layer masking allows you to hide or use as much of any one layer as you like. It is a black and white image that cuts out a layer, allowing it to show though wherever the pixels are white, and holds out or hides a layer wherever the mask is black. The common adage to layer masking is that “white reveals, black conceals”. This will be more evident when watching my video tutorial below:

So – quite a simple little project. I started off by sending them out of the classroom for 5-10 minutes to photograph on the iPads a texture they want to use. They then uploaded the photo to the class’ Google Drive folder. Once the project was completed in Photoshop, I asked them to substitute the black background for another image that another group used that was in start contrast to the texture they had used for their type. I also showed the students how to use layer styles to highlight the type more.

Here are some examples:

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Cloning Photos with Clone Camera (Grade 4)

Here’s an example of a project I wanted to do with the kids where I have an idea and think to myself – I wonder if there’s an app for that. And of course, nine times out of ten, there absolutely is.

Clone Camera does exactly what it says. It allows you to take multiple photos of a person (or persons) in different spaces and stitches it all up together in one photo. Here is the first test shot I did when I was learning how to use the app.

So you get the idea. The neat thing about it – just like stop motion apps – is that it shows you an onion skin of the previous frame. In other words, when you are ready to shoot photo #2, it shows you the ghost of photo #1 so you can make sure you’re in a good spot as well as being able to match eyelines, as you can see in the above example with this student in the fourth and fifth pictures.

This app is pretty intuative to use. You take your photos, and then with each picture (not the master shot though) you paint in the areas you want to keep in the final photo. You have to be careful though. The onion skin feature only works for the┬álast photo taken. So you have to make sure the subject (or subjects) are in seperate enough spots so that there is no overlap. Here’s an example of one group of students that obviously went a bit wrong in that area.

You can see here that one boy’s leg has overlapped another boy’s head. The photo below shows another thing that can go wrong if you don’t paint everything in you want to keep.

In case you can’t see it, the girl on the far left of the frame didn’t paint her arm and leg properly, hence the unintentional amputation!

This requires a camera that is locked off at a certain spot. That means it needs to be fixed to a tripod so that it doesn’t move when you take the three or four shots you want to take. After that the process is fairly simple.

See the video below to see how the app works.

The project is a lot of fun, and the students came up with some pretty impressive shots. Below is a couple of examples that worked well.