Review: Sketch Master

200608bc_patricia1 By Ronnie Norton, ABI, Qualified European Photographer, Associate of the Irish PPA

The best way to introduce Sketch Master is to quote the Redfield Plugins opener which explains it far better than I could. "This is a manipulation tool for the creation of realistic looking hand-drawings derived from photos. You can simulate various tools such as lead pencil, ink-pencil, crayon, charcoal, airbrush, etc. Three layers with separate settings allow one to produce some effects of stylized fine-arts on all sorts of surfaces (water paper, squared paper, laid paper, canvas, leather, crepe, rag paper or any other kind of surface you wish)."

Image: Patricia Vonne, singer songwriter and actress ("Sin City"), from her Irish concert shots. ©Ronnie Norton

One of the disadvantages of running a studio with several Photoshop experts on board is that I never get the chance to do the hands-on image manipulation myself. So when the opportunity to review this product came along I jumped at it.

Using Sketch Master has turned into a great learning experience for me. It is such a simple, intuitive product to use that you feel like a digital artist after the first few minutes. But after you've realized, that you can make some really great images with this plug-in, then it’s decision time. Do you go with the supplied presets or start from the beginning and use your own customized settings? Well that’s the great thing about this product. The decision is all yours, to use as few or as many of the supplied settings to make your images look just the way you want them to.

With no experience whatsoever and with just one or two clicks you could have a perfectly saleable image, or you could spend days creating a masterpiece. The tools are all there for you to use or abuse as you see fit.

The principle is so simple. You just download the plug-in, install it in Photoshop, open up the image you want to manipulate and click on Redfield > Sketch Master in filter drop-down menu. This brings up the working screen with your chosen image on one side and all the control sliders on the other. If you wish, you can then use the “Dice” or “Randomiser” to apply some random effects to your image and with a bit of luck you’ll get a perfectly usable image in a click or two. You can then save it and, bingo, the job is done.

Photo: Kris Kristofferson, original. ©Ronnie Norton

Photo: Using the Randomiser, a fully automated feature, I got a very acceptable start. I slightly rotated the Strokes-03 and kept the Marmara Background for shadow and highlight settings. ©Ronnie Norton

Or you can select one of the random images from the dice as a starting point and really make the image your own. It is at this stage that you begin to see the range of possibilities within this product. The tools are divided into four sections for lines, strokes, image and background. Each of these is then broken down into a simple set of sliders giving you an incredible range of control over all aspects of the image. This is when it gets interesting, with what to keep and what to change.

Photo: With very few alterations, a little can do a lot. I've narrowed and darkened the strokes as well as boosting the Clean Dark, Clean Bright and Details sliders. ©Ronnie Norton

I would recommend that you now take a step back and look at each of the sections. Do some experimenting and find out what each slider can do. There is a great help section to walk you through this part. Otherwise, as you add or subtract effects, it is difficult to keep track of your original thoughts. You can get carried away on a sea of visual possibilities with no horizon in sight. If you don’t set some sort of goal then you could waste hours being entertained by the interesting effects.

It seems to me that you get most value from this product by careful selection in the four basic sections to suit your particular image. Choose a background to suit the image and then apply the best line or stroke to complement the amount of light or shade in your photograph. Work each section separately until you have the desired effect and then move on to the next part. I also think that frequent saving of stages would save a lot of heartache later.

Photo: Here I dropped the Saturation, made Strokes and Background the same and played with the Rotation. ©Ronnie Norton

Photo: Finally, I changed Strokes and Background to Stucco, re-introduced some Saturation, slight adjustments all around and got a really nice etching, film grain look. I had to stop at this stage. It got to be addictive and way too much fun. ©Ronnie Norton

As this is a review and not a tutorial, I will strongly recommend that you download the demo and jump in just like I did. Properly and judiciously used, this plug-in could add some serious dollars to your bottom line.

I am including some additional images of my own just to show what can be achieved in a short amount of time. But rest assured, I intend to get really acquainted with Redfield Sketch Master because I can see some real opportunities for some major “client pleasing” with this effects package.

Sketch Master sells for $39.90

200608bctara1_1   200608bc_lucia1_1
Photos: Tara Murphy (left), Lucia Evans (right). ©Ronnie Norton


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