How I drew my Bjork 'Alarm Call' picture

by Matthew James Taylor on 16 June 2007

How I drew my Bjork 'Alarm Call' picture
Bjork Alarm Call artwork

Please note: This is a very old illustration and I as a result I draw in a very different way today. But I still believe it will be of interest to some of my visitors so here is this old tutorial.

Bjork Alarm Call black and white line drawing

I started by penciling a drawing onto A3 paper. This was by far the hardest and longest part of the whole picture. The good thing is that once it's done it's almost all fun from there on. Once the drawing was done I could then start to ink it in. You might see that I have closed the lines at the bottom of the picture and on the edge of the snake - you will see why later... When I was done I scanned the picture in (which had to be done in two parts cause I only have an A4 scanner).

Bjork Alarm Call scan resolution

Here is a close up of the resolution I scanned with. Once I had a Black & white image of my drawing I could cheat and use the program: "CorelTrace". CorelTrace turns your black & white image into a vector file that can be opened by most vector program like CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator.

Bjork Alarm Call vectored

Ok, now I have opened CorelDraw and I have imported the .eps file of my picture. Let me explain what a trace does a little clearer... Say I trace a black letter "B". The end product will be like this... I will have a solid black vector shape of the outline of the "B" and then 2 white shapes "on top" of the black shape which looks like wholes right through. I can then change the shape of any of the "shapes" or I can pick them and change their colour! - This is exactly what I do! When I originally inked in the picture I closed in the bottom of Her body and the end of the snake. By doing that, I have now made a white shape which can be filled rather than it being outside of the main black image. For example, a letter "E" becomes 1 black shape in the form of an "E" but if I close up the ends of the "E" and Make a "B" then I can now color the 2 white shapes. (I hope this is clear.)

Bjork Alarm Call vectored and coloured

Here you can see I have chosen one of the white shapes in Bjork's hair and I have filled it with a graduation.

Bjork Alarm Call snake scales

The scales are filled the same way but with radial fills. You just select a whole heap at once and WHAM! Easy-done.

Bjork Alarm Call face vector shapes

With the tonal values in Bjork's face - that is a tricky one to describe. For them I actually drew the shapes with a vector line tool and just filled them with different colours. When you do this it is important not to let any isolated black areas such as her nose from being covered by any new shapes. In other words - make sure that her nose shapes are on top of her skin shapes; this is all part of layering. This bit just takes practice.

Bjork Alarm Call face vectors complete

Ok, by this stage I have now finished colouring with CoralDraw. Notice how there is no lace on the top of her dress - I'll put this on later in PhotoShop. To export your picture from Corel there are two main ways. You can export it as a PCX file but this means that the background will be white. I didn't want that so I exported the vector image as an EPS file. When you do this it is important to go to your view preferences and change your fountain steps to 256. This will make sure you have smooth blends. You can see in the above close-up of the snake's scales I had less fountain steps and the blends step badly.

I then opened Photoshop, started a new picture and placed my .eps file. I find that my .eps files loose their colour when they are placed - I haven't solved that problem yet so I just readjust it after it comes in to PhotoShop with the colour-balance tool. You can see her lips are different colours in the .eps and the PhotoShop image. Now, because it's an .eps image this means that the background is clear. That's great because I can create some layers behind the .eps layer and put some background art. I made some roughly hatched yellow lines in CoralDraw and put them down first. Then some concentric circles on top, slightly clear and fading out to the edges. All that stuff is easy if you know PhotoShop. The shadow on the snake and the lace are both shapes made with paths and filled; they were made partly transparent.

Last of all I put in the writing which I also constructed in Coreldraw. The picture took me a whole day.


View the completed Bjork painting in my gallery.


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