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Free Drawings from Photos for Old School Games

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If you look at the art in my Microlite75/78/81 games, you've probably noticed that I tend to use public domain line art, either from old books or from the sets of art Sine Nomine Games has released into the public domain. However, this means I end up reusing a lot of art from publication to publication. Given that I can't afford to pay for art as my games are freebies, this probably is not a surprise to many readers.

If I wanted to use photographs, there are literally hundreds of thousands of photo available on the web with Creative Commons Zero or other very liberal Creative Commons-style licenses that allow modification and commercial use. Unfortunately, photos really do not fit the style I'm aiming for. I have been trying programs that convert photos to sketches on and off for several years. Unfortunately, most either are so "sketchy" that you can't tell what the drawing is of or so detailed that they look more like half-toned pictures than line art. However, last week I stumbled on a program on my Android tablet that does a decent job of converting photos to drawings -- especially if I do a bit of pre-processing of the photo before I use the sketch filter.

Here are fifteen examples of photos converted I have converted to drawings by this process. The original photos had a public domain like license (that only prohibited releasing the unaltered photos as a collection). I'd like to know what people think of "drawings" like these for using in old school gaming projects. If people like them and think they would be useful for people who need free art of old school games, I will do more of them in the future. If I did 10 or 15 a week, within a few months, I could have quite a collection available. These samples are suitable for fantasy games, but I would not always limit myself to fantasy.

I understand that these drawings will not appeal to those who believe that every game (even free ones) need original art done especially for that game. However, many hobbyists designing games cannot afford this. Also, note that the originals of these images are much larger and these larger illos would be the ones I make available for people to use in their publications.

Image of Intelligent Critter

Image of Bubble Monster

Image of Building

Image of Walled City on Hill

Image of Dice

Image of a Dungeon Entrance

Image of a Dungeon Entrance

Image of Explorers in Forest

Image of Manor House

Image of Dark Path

Image of Pagoda

Image of Ruins

Image of Spiral Stone Stairs Down

Image of Funeral in Stone

Image of Tiger Guarding Dungeon Entrance

Reese Laundry said...
January 19, 2016 at 11:32 AM  

I like 'em! I've struggled with a similar process myself. You can often find fantasy art that's good enough to use, but in my case, I'm looking for more modern pieces - especially cyberpunk or Shadowrun type art.

Can to expand upon the tools and process you've come up with in more detail?

ravencrowking said...
January 19, 2016 at 12:41 PM  

Actually, these look pretty good!!

ENN said...
January 19, 2016 at 12:53 PM  

They look fairly good and have a consistent style, which is nice. The ones that have more solid tones to begin with (specifically the dice and the backlit tree silhouettes) show the process too much for my taste and read as modified photos much more than drawings. It might be worth reducing the scratch effect on those, or avoiding that type of photo.

JasperAK said...
January 19, 2016 at 9:59 PM  

Cool work. I'd second the request for how you did it. I tried some stuff with GIMP, but the results sucked.

Randall said...
January 20, 2016 at 9:13 AM  

For those wanting to know how I did these, when I have the procedure better developed I will be making a post detailing my method. Warning: it uses Android software that I've never seen on Windows/Linux.

Matthew Skail said...
January 20, 2016 at 9:52 AM  

I agree, these are cool! As a creator myself, even though I charge for my products, art is expensive and stuff like this is great. I've tried to do it myself but never managed it, I would love to know the filters and other processes you use if you don't mind sharing!

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