I had a series of icons to draw for the Mail Tribune’s Outdoors section. The goal was to quickly produce some icons that looked different than what we were finding in typical clip art searches. The key factor was that there couldn’t be any outlines, because that’s what every other piece of clip art was doing. One in-house artist had already attempted the project, but was buried in other work and couldn’t pull the rabbit out of the hat in five minutes.
So I gave it a shot. I knew it had to be a quick and slick process that wouldn’t take very long for each icon. So I decided to grab stock photos and trace over them. In the example below I came up with the concept of a person looking through binoculars, but then the viewer had to know what she was looking at, so the icon became a simple montage of two images: the deer in the circle and the person looking through the binoculars.
I printed out the photos on 20 lb. bond paper turned the printout over on a light table and, with a pencil, outlined the picture on the back. This was a way to immediately simplify the picture and plot out areas that would eventually be areas of gray. Then I scanned the pencil outline into PhotoShop and used that image to trace over. I used the lasso tool to map out the different areas on various layers and filled them with gray tones. The woman with the binoculars was done separately from the deer in the circle and then I combined the two finished images together in another PhotoShop doc. I also reduced the deer in the circle and put copies of that image in each circle of the binoculars to give the illusion of a reflection of what the woman was seeing.