Making a Cross-Stitch or Needlepoint Pattern in Photoshop

Instead of doing my taxes like I was supposed to, I spent all day Tuesday working on a cross-stitch/needlepoint pattern of Amy Sedaris.  This is the first in what I hope will be a series of “Hipster Hero” patterns.  Amy Sedaris is definitely one of my hipster heroes.  She’s hilarious, ballsy and crafty.  What more could you ask for?

In order to make this pattern my own (since I’ve never gotten to take a picture of Amy Sedaris), I started by making a photo collage in Photoshop.  This image uses pieces from six or seven different photos.  Amy’s face is from one photo, her hair from another, the cake from another and so on.  Most of the body isn’t even hers.  It belongs to a halloween costume model.  The writing is from her book cover which is (I assume) her handwriting, but I rearranged the words and adjusted the letters. I won’t go into the specifics of how to combine images in Photoshop, but this tutorial will give you a basic idea.

amycollage

Once the collage was finished, I checked the pixel count by looking at the image size (788 x 600 pixels) and figuring that about a third of the image would actually be stitched.  That meant 157,600 stitches.  Ouch.  So I shrunk the image by half, which was as far as I could go before things started becoming splotchy and unrecognizable.  The pixels now numbered 118,200.  Still too many.

I wasn’t going to be able to finagle this image much smaller, so I had to zoom in on just a small part of it.  I decided to focus in on just her head and shoulders, which left a little bit of the nice blue color in her dress.  But now I just had Amy’s face, which — while distinctive in it’s Jerri Blank-ish expression — didn’t really capture her domestic side.

amytiny

Back in went the cake, with a new arm that I got from a photo of a waitress.  To add a little more humor, I made the cake slide down the plate, leaving a little trail of chocolate behind it.  Then I remembered that Amy also really loves rabbits, so I put a rabbit on top of the cake.  He is also sliding down precariously and covered in bits of frosting.  Lastly, I drew in sparkles using a star brush in Photoshop.  They reminded me of a 60s magazine ad for cleaning products.

This new image (look how tiny!) requires closer to 5,000 stitches.  Still kind of intensive, but doable.

amysmallpattern

Now it was time to tackle colors.  The more colors a pattern requires, the harder it is to distinguish between them.  This makes the pattern harder to follow and means more skeins of emroidery floss to buy so I was ultimately shooting for as few colors as possible.  After zooming in to 500% so I could see each pixel clearly, I switched to Image — > Mode — > Indexed Color.  I started with a Local (selective) color palette using 24 colors.  This was the minimum number of colors I could use before things started looking weird to me.  I also made sure to set the Dither to “none,” which keeps the colors together in larger blocks, rather than scattering the pixels to imitate shading.  Here are the before (RGB Mode) and after (Indexed Color Mode) screenshots:

amyrgbamyindexed

Not too bad, but I wanted bring down the number of colors even more.  I find that the easiest way to do this is by using the magic wand tool and the eyedropper.  First, I chose the magic wand tool, setting the tolerance to 1 and unchecking the “contiguous” checkbox.  I wanted to select only one color at a time, but I wanted to pick it up everywhere it existed in the image.

magicwandNext, I looked for two colors (usually next to each other) that appeared very similar.  I clicked on one of them with the magic wand tool, then clicked on the second with the eyedropper tool.  I selected Edit — >Fill and chose “foreground color” from the drop down menu.  This filled in all instances of color #1 with color #2, essentially eliminating color #1 from the image.  If the image didn’t look notably different, color #1 was gone for good.

I repeated this process until I got down to eleven colors, which was as far as I could go while still keeping most of the detail in the image.  I made a couple of individual pixel changes using the pencil tool, but then the image was finished. Using the same magic wand, eyedropper and edit — >fill sequence, I made a rectangle for each color, so it’s easier to match and buy thread for it. Here’s the 11-color image with its matching color guide:

amycolorboxes

My last step was to add the grid.  I went to Preferences — >Guides and Grid, and set the grid to “every 1 pixels with 1 subdivision”.  I don’t know why they use this lingo, but it bascially makes a one-pixel grid, separating each stitch individually.  There’s no way to print the grid that I know of, so I took a screenshot of my finished pattern and printed that instead.  Et voila!  Finished Amy pattern, ready to stitch up!

amyfinishedpattern

Reader/Writer Sets

I’ve been working on a custom notebook project lately and after I cut out all the covers I had a lot of pretty card stock left over that could become half-size notebooks and bookmarks.  I’ve also been wanting to do a project that uses patterned silhouettes and these seemed like the perfect medium to try it out.  Because I’m a little geeky, these have equations on them.

readerwriterscanI drew these shapes in Illustrator first, then printed them at 3/4” size and cut them out with scissors.  Then I traced the cut-outs onto another scrap of card stock and made this stencil from them using an Xacto.

stencil

I plan to make at least one other set of equations using differently patterned paper. Ideally I’d also like to make these sets for sale as a very limited-edition run, but it takes too long to trace and cut out the shapes to be worth it.  I could print them on the Gocco but I Gocco everything these days.  I’m bored with it.