I was messing around with GIMP today using some techniques taken from a book I checked out from the library: The Artist’s Guide to GIMP: Creative Techniques for Photographers, Artists, and Designers 2nd edition by Michael J. Hammel (San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2012). One of the techniques he demonstrates in the book essentially takes a photo and makes it look kind of like a charcoal sketch. So I says to myself, “Self, why don’t you try this out on a Minecraft screenshot?” “Good idea,” I replied. I thought so, too. Ultimately, I chose a screenshot of a Castle Grayskull build I’ve written about before on this blog. After some experimentation, what resulted was this:

Minecraft Castle Grayskull in what looks like a kind of pen & ink + watercolor medium.

Minecraft Castle Grayskull in what looks like a kind of pen & ink + watercolor medium.

The original looked like this:

My original Castle Grayskull screenshot.

My original Castle Grayskull screenshot.

For those who are interested, the process of turning the latter into the former can be summarized this way:

1) I opened the original image in GIMP and made five duplicate layers. I desaturated the bottom three layers.

2) The background layer is the most complicated: I first used Sobel edge-detection, then I changed white levels in the resulting image, and finally I inverted the colors of the layer. This layer’s mode is normal.

The first layer looks like a rough pencil sketch.

The first layer looks like a rough pencil sketch.

3) On the next layer up I used Gaussian blur with a horizontal and vertical radius of 10. This layer’s mode is burn.

With the burn layer, the image starts to look like a finished pencil sketch.

With the burn layer, the image starts to look like a more finished pencil sketch.

4) I also used Gaussian blur on the next layer up, this time at a radius of 15, and set this layer’s mode to Hard Light. The picture at this point looked like this:

It looks like a charcoal sketch of a rather blocky Castle Grayskull.

It looks like a charcoal sketch of a rather blocky Castle Grayskull.

5) The next layer up is color. I applied some motion blur (probably not strictly necessary), and then set the layer’s mode to overlay. This produced an image like this:

Now it has a little bit of color, but it's still a little too muted.

Now it has a little bit of color, but it’s still a little too muted.

6) For the last layer all I did is take the original image and set the layer mode to dodge. This intensified the colors to a level that I found pleasing, producing the image seen at the top of this post.

The finalized image.

The finalized image.

I’m probably going to do more of this. It’s really satisfying and super fast to do.

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