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Tracing an image into Fireworks

If you're good with the mouse, or have a drawing tablet, you could draw your artwork straight onto the screen.

Talented artists can either sketch an image and then scan it into the computer or just draw it digitally.

The picture on the right was drawn on a Wacom Intos 3 pad using photoshop software.

It is amazing how brilliant artwork drawn in this way can be! But to do it you have to be talented... and I am not!

Like me most people cannot draw in that way - they need a bit of help - they can produce good images but they need to 'cheat' by 'tracing' the image'.

This tutorial will show you how to do that at a basic level.

You are going to need a picture to work with as a base - something to copy. If like me your creative skills leave a little to be desired, it can be easier to use well drawn artwork by an established artist - a screenshot or photo is also a good idea for a base - but to start with it is best to use a line drawing or a cartoon character.

You need to import the image you have chosen into Fireworks so that you can use it as a base to trace your Fireworks image from. Once you've chosen your starting picture, import it into Fireworks, place it on Layer 1, make it semi-transparent (I made mine 33% visible) and lock it. Create a new layer just above it - this is the one you will start drawing on. Depending on your drawing skills, you can either draw freehand or with the line tool.

Artwork is generally composed of a lot of curves, and to get the quality of these with the pencil is very difficult - you need to use the pen tool. The problem with using the pen tool is that if the curves are multiple areas you can sometimes find that the next curve interferes with the first - the pen tool takes a lot of practice to get used to. I recommend using the paintbrush tool - set it fine (1,2 or 3 pixels) and soft rounded. Then magnify your image and patiently trace around the edges.

Now we are ready to begin drawing.

For complex images always draw two sets of lines on two different layers - one for all the major outlines, and one for minor guides.

The major lines (which we will draw first) define the general shape of the image. Minor lines act as a reference for colour and shading. When you have finished your outline, use the magic wand tool to select areas of your drawing - then use the paint pot to fill those areas - using gradient or solid colour fills.

Here is a traced image I did of Garfield (It took about 10 minutes to complete using a Wacom pad):;

Tracing is an exercise that will help you gain mastery over a graphics pad - your hand gets steadier as you use it. It can ve very relaxing - and it helps you understand how the image is made up. Complex pencil sketches can take a very long time to trace... I chose Garfield because he is quick to draw.

Garfield appears with kind permission of PAWS Inc - All Rights Reserved.

Note that tracing the image yourself does NOT make an image copyright free - even drawing it freehand does not make the character copyright free - DiDA students be aware of this!

This vid-clip shows how someone traced an image from a photo - the result is a caricature of the person - but such a technique can be good fun!