Category Archives: Design Process

Photo to Pattern: Sneak Peek

I’ve now finished two small portraits of Squib, one for  the WeaveWith project and one which was inspired by a poem I wrote myself. I’m planning on doing them both again — along with the larger “Feline Masterpiece” — after Christmas. I’ve got the makings of a “substitute for black” list of Delica colors, which I’m hoping will simplify the photo to design conversion process.

I don’t have time to write it all up right now, but I have a sequence of images that illustrates how the tapestry looks at different stages of the editing.

Here’s the original photo:

Squib SleepingI used Photoshop to enhance the color of the picture. As black cat pictures go, this one has a lot of visible detail that will ease the pain of converting to a pattern.  [There’s so much artistic and intellectual pain involved that every little bit of ease helps a lot, ugh.] The adjustment I made in Photoshop makes the photo’s colors look more like they would if you were looking at the subject outdoors, in sunlight. This improves the level of detail in the image.

Next, I imported the picture into Bead Creator Pro (BCP). My custom palette includes transparent Delicas with no coatings except glazed; matte Delicas including most of the special finishes; and metallic Delicas that exist in nature. It’s about a third of the complete Delica range, and I much prefer how my photos convert when I’m using this set. [One entry in the “photo to pattern” posts will show how I came to this conclusion. Stay tuned.] Here’s what BCP did as it imported my image:

SquibSleeping-BCP-rawIt used 95 colors, most of which are in the background of the picture (our bedspread). I used BCP’s “Use Only XX Colors” function to reduce the number of colors to 40:

SquibSleeping-40colorsThere have been relatively small changes in Squib herself; most of the colors that were eliminated were in the background, which is exactly what I want.

This was as much processing as I could  let BCP do. When I tried to go from 40 to 35 colors, I started losing significant details in Squib’s fur. So the rest of the processing is manual.

I gleefully threw out all the background and replaced it with stripes of green and lavender, mostly because I’d just gotten my hands on the gorgeous DB-1053, matte lavender/olive, yum. The only thing I did to Squib’s image was to clean things up around her left ear (she often had mucky ears, and has apparently carried that with her into her afterlife). The final-for-now pattern uses 28 colors.

SquibSleeping-FinalForNowAnd here is the woven beaded tapestry, taken off my loom about an hour ago:

Hot Off the LoomThe large black areas are woven with DBC-0010 — the hex cut version of DB-0010, for non-Delica geeks. It’s got a bit more sparkle thanks to the cut, and I think it’s sufficiently different that I’ll be able to use it for highlights on areas filled with DB-0010.

The grey shades look a lot lighter in beads than they did on the chart. I completely missed that Squib’s whiskers are visible in the raw version of the chart. They got smoothed out during the color reduction and I should have edited them back in manually. I’m going to revise the pattern by using darker beads than the original greys; using hex cut black Delicas as a highlight color (that gets rid of at least one metal, which will help naturalize things); and fiddling with the background some more.

The Delica Brown Blues

Black animals are hard to photograph — they look like blobs of black in most light — and they’re just as hard to bead. Harder, in some ways, because a camera will record whatever color it sees.  Not necessarily the color that the human eye sees, and not necessarily a color for which there is a matching Delica.

I made several peyote weave pictures for Squib’s scrapbook (having not yet gotten into my loom groove). Most of the patterns featured black cats, but the most realistic “cat eyes” pattern I could find had a tabby with a white streak down the nose:

Hannah Rosner’s Cat Eyes Cuff Pattern

For my first take on the pattern, I lumped half of the original colors into a new “black” category (using Delica DB10, opaque black) and the others into the “brown” category, using DB1584 (opaque matte espresso bean).

(This approach failed, a lot. Even if the DB1584s had not been playing some evil beady Jekyll-Hyde game, the final bracelet looked blotchy rather than naturally striped. My second pass was more successful; see below.)

Delicas are the bead of choice for most weavers I know, because they are very consistent in color and size. Well, mostly consistent. A couple, maybe more, shades of Delica browns change color dramatically, depending on the light.

The following are not great photographs (I’m less than inspired to take great pictures of a collection of bad artistic decisions), but they show the effect of light on DB1584.

I work under a daylight lamp, which is fluorescent, and this is probably  why I didn’t know I had a problem until it was much too late.

This picture shows the bracelet under fluorescent light. It looks okay; there’s still more red in the image than is visible to the naked eye, but it’s still “brown.”

"opaque matte espresso bean" Delica in fluorescent light

Here’s what happens when you look at the bracelet under daylight, through a window:

DB1584 viewed with daylight through a windowAside from being ugly all on its own, the red shows how badly my “black or brown” choice to replace colors worked out. Ugh.

And this is what the bracelet looks like under the incandescent lights in the bathroom (the angle is weird because the lights are not usefully placed to photograph objects on the counter): DB1584 in incandescent lightYeah, it’s really bright. Really bright RED. Wow.

I don’t have a comprehensive list of the Delicas that display this change, but I’m starting to keep one. The only other problematic color I know about it DB1134 (opaque chocolate); one of my vendors shows the shift in their image of the bead.

Delica DB1134 Opaque Chocolate

There’s no fix except to avoid those colors. I am buying brown Delicas locally so I can be sure they don’t pull this nasty little stunt.

If you’ve had a similar experience with other Delica colors, or have other info on the topic, please leave a comment. I’ve poked around at Miyuki’s site but haven’t seen anything.


And for those who are interested, here’s the cuff woven with my second set of colors.

I used Hannah’s pattern because it was the most natural looking of the ones I could find.

Second time around, I assigned a different shade of dark grey to each of the original colors in Hannah’s pattern, with no brown at all. There aren’t many options for shades of black and grey in the Delica line — I tried to avoid anything with an AB or luster coating, but had to use several metallic shades to have enough colors at all.

My final’s not natural looking at all (unless you’ve galvanized your cat). But it is more realistically detailed and more interesting to look at than my first try.

Cat Eyes bracelet with no brown

WeaveWith Week 3: Maybe I should have made a bracelet

My week has been filled with much activity and very little progress. [There was a technology problem developing which gets a chunk of blame but the other half is/was me fiddling with the pattern. See below.]

I have set up my own palette for Bead Creator Pro that avoids the issues I had with too many shiny beads. Since then it’s gotten a lot closer to plug-and-play, at least (and it’s an important qualification) if I’m designing large patterns. Say 8×8″ on up.

When you’re creating a smaller pattern — one that will fit on a Lani, let’s say — you don’t have enough beads to cram in all the details. BCP can’t tell the difference between an important detail and a distracting detail, so it crams them all in there.

Squib as rendered by BCPIt is literally true that there are that many different colors going on in Squib’s fur, but the software can’t account for the fact that the human eye perceives her as a mostly black cat. (Happens all the time when you use the flash on your camera – your picture has more detail than you can see. Makes telescopes work, too. Not so good for portraits.)

Hence my restart before, where I revised the pattern to get a better balance between detail and perception. Worked great until I got to the whiskers.

Monday: whiskers. First three colors I tried completely vanished into the background. Next couple of colors contrasted nicely, but I couldn’t tell the difference between facial-detail-I’d-left-on-in-first-revision and whisker. After much testing, much unweaving and much frustration, I used the hex version of DB507. It’s an odd color for me — pink with 24kt gold iris — but it’s not overwhelmingly pink, and the differences due to the slight changes in color and cut work nicely. That gets me to Monday night.

I spent the rest of the week – ugh – weaving and unweaving to try to get Squib’s face right. I have been steadily reducing the amount of detail and darkening the bead colors, but I finally decided last night that I needed to go back and mostly-manually redraw Squib’s face the way I did below her chin.

Here’s the last revision before I decided to completely redraw her face – that appalling orange color is how BCP displays DB507 — no clue why.

Sphinx v5[Revision 1 worked great for the body but wasn’t strict enough for the face.] I’m still working on that today.

The tech problem: my monitor was dying, and I didn’t know it until it was totally dead. Until Thursday, it was pushing everything it displayed to the red end of the spectrum, so what I was seeing in the software and what the software thought it was showing were much much different than usual (which is saying a lot). Thursday night the monitor gave it up and David let me use one of his (computer artists have lots of monitors), so it wasn’t truly until Friday that I was able to work on the design and get consistent results.

I think I’ve figured out how to revamp the facial detail. Once that’s done it will only take a day or two to finish the portrait, and then I can get back to the Christmas present I’m working on, and “Hope” (the cardinal).

Word for the week: argh!