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Tutorial: Making a knitted sweater

  To the right is what the sweater will look like when finished. It looks like a lot of work, but it's really not. Once this process is understood, you can add this sort of complex texture to something like a sweater easily and in about 20 or 25 minutes.

The main Photoshop tools being used are the pencil, brush, levels adjustment and lasso tool.

The image is from a finished digital portrait that can be seen by clicking here.

 

  Setting up the sweater color base
Start by setting up the base sweater with color and shading. In this tutorial, I use the same same method I describe in my Digital Painted Candle Tutorial -- using the lasso tool and levels/color controls to define the large main areas of color and shading differentiation, and then the pencil tool at a low opacity setting to smooth the edges appropriately.

The sweater has a collar which I draw on its own layer just above the main sweater layer. Later, toward the end the process I'll blend it into the main sweater layer.

 

  Set Photoshop in Quick Mask Mode:
The sweater has knitted vertical strips. There are a number of ways to define the strips. Being partial to the lasso tool, I like to use it for drawing the stripes. I do this after putting Photoshop in its Quick Mask mode. To see the stripes, I have the Quick Mask set so that the selected areas show up with color (The opposite of Photoshop's Quick Mask default setting). I like to use a nice bright cyan for my Quick Mask color. The Photoshop default is bright red, so I change it to cyan.

I draw the strips following the contours of the sweater folds. The stripes could also be drawn using the pencil tool, but... I just like the lasso tool and the uneven effect it produces. It just seems more natural and alive.

As each strip is drawn, or after several have been drawn, I use the fill option to fill the lassoed or "antline" area(s) and then move on to the next stripes.

 

  Exit the Quick Mask mode:
By exiting the Quick Mask mode, the drawn stripes are delinieated with the "antline." We want to put those delineated stripes on their own layer... but not by just creating a new layer and filling in the stripes. Instead, we want the stripes to have the same shade and hue that they had on the full sweater. To do that, make sure the sweater layer is the current layer and then press Control "J" to copy the selected areas up to a new layer just above the sweater layer.
 

  Control "J":
After pressing Contrl "J", a new layer is created with just the stripes on it. If you turned off the sweater layer beneath, the image would look like the one to the right - just showing the stripes. Each stripe is colored using the color, hue and shading that was on the sweater layer.
 

  Make stripes slightly darker:
Make the stripes layer the current layer and use the Levels Adjustment tool to slightly darken the stripes. Leave them on their separate layer after darkening.

Now, when viewing the sweater and the stripes layer, there appear to be slightly darker stripes on the lighter sweater.

 

  Making the sweater look knitted
Switch back to the Quick Mask mode and use the brush tool to draw short lines across each set of light and dark stripes. Don't worry about exactness here. Variety in the strokes works for the effect.

Keep making short strokes that cover the entire sweater, varying the angle as the stripes change directions.

I prefer using the brush tool rather than the pencil tool for the short strokes. The slight feathering of each stroke works well for the final knitted weave effect.

 

  Next, exit the Quick Mask mode so that each short stroke has an "antline" around it. Select the layer with the darker stripes and use the Levels Adjustment tool to lighten the short strokes. Because you have the stripes layer selected, only the strokes over the stripes will become lighter.  

  Now, select the sweater layer underneath the stripes layer and use the Levels Adjustment tool to darken the strokes. Like magic, the sweater takes on a knitted look.
 

  Finally do a little work on the collar and the sweater is finished. The collar was on a its own layer so that the knit stripes and strokes would fall underneath it, simply making it easier to finish the image off.