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Digitizing Landscapes

Approach is everything when you want to digitize realistically. In this and upcoming articles we will be discussing how to approach digitizing so your work comes out looking more realistic and dynamic.

Your typical landscape will often have the following: sky, mountains or hills, trees and a meadow or water. The first thing you want to consider is depth. The sky is behind everything, then the mountains, then the trees, etc. So first of all this will generally be the order of progression for you to digitize, but that alone will not give you the illusion of depth.

Over the years, I have noticed that vertical stitches have more loft than horizontal stitches. So in addition to the order preference, it is best to have a sky in which the fill is horizontal (left to right) and the mountains should be at an angle. The more the angle approaches vertical, the more loft it gets. So the closer to the foreground, the more vertical the stitch. What also creates realism is more detail the closer to the viewer.

This means trees in the background may just be a fill stitch, but in the foreground should show more detail like branches, groups or clumps of leaves and on occasion individual leaves. Satin stitch has more loft so take that into consideration also.

A row of pine trees can be done several ways. One way to approach this is to use a fill stitch going vertical or near vertical and having random pattern put to it. In Pulse use the fill stitch labeled Random. In Wilcom use the settings in Tatami and change the A pattern to .5 and the B pattern to 0. Add a percentage to Random of 15 to 80%. You can add even more depth by doing several rows of the same stitch fill, one on top another. A simple but impressive way is using satin stitch with Auto Split Stitch on (known as random split stitch in Pulse.) Feel free to turn it down from the standard 7 mm until the fill starts looking more like soft branches. I will be writing about trees more in depth in the near future.

Pulse&Wilcom Random Pattern
On the left is the settings window for Pulse. In this window you can choose pre-programmed patterns. Above shows the settings for Random. On the right is the Object Properties panel for the II stitch (Tatami). There are no pre-programmed settings for Tatami. but if you change the off set function to A: .5 and B: 0 and then change the Random factor to 60, you will get a very similar look. This pattern is excellent for trees and fur.


Pulse&Wilcom Random Pattern2

Water and ground should still look flat, even if it is in the foreground. Just a little bit of angle if you desire. Rivers that go on into the distance are best left horizontal stitches. Don’t be tempted to curve the angle of the stitch like you might do with the letter s, this will only give it loft and break that feeling of realism.

When doing reflections in water, I like to make the water and the reflections in the same direction and pattern, so the fill patterns match. This helps unify the reflection with the water. To give the reflection ripples, just add a jagged edge.

Mountains can be done rather majestically if you know a few tricks. First, focus on depth. Angle of stitch is important here. Keep your angle close to horizontal with the mountains in the background and more slightly higher angle with those in the foreground. If there are a range of mountains, you can break up the range in layers, either by changing the stitch direction or the stitch pattern. Look at the natural lines and ridges and imagine how they might progress inwards and that is your next mountain range.

With Mountains that have two obviously different sides, the key is to treat those two sides at opposite angles so one side does not look more in front of the other. Mountain caps are an entirely different thing. If possible, use fill stitch that is at a similar angle as the mountain it is going on. You don’t want the snow caps to look like they are sitting on top of the mountain, but part of them. If the snow parts are too small for fill stitch (generally I would not go below 5 mm for the width of the stitch), then use satin, but keep in mind that satin tends to look more lofty than fill stitch. Keep your density and underlay at a minimum.

As said earlier, sky should be in a fill stitch done horizontally. This direction also helps with blends. The sky is more often seen as being brighter above and fading in the horizon. A blend can be achieved more smoothly being digitized in the same direction. Wispy clouds should also be created in the same or close to same direction. Lighter clouds can be done in an open fill stitch with density being about half as much as normal. Cumulus clouds (the big pillowy ones) can break the rule about loft. Even though they are in the background, vertical or near vertical satin stitches with the split stitches turned on will give the clouds a nice puffiness. Just like the mountains, you can give the clouds more definition by treating the same cloud as separate parts and have billows overlap.

Before & After
Above we see the basic layout of stitch direction. Below is the final result. Notice how the reflection looks like it is part of the water rather than just a flipped image of the mountains and trees.

I will leave you with this, when digitizing, have a philosophy. Keep your stitch styles consistent. Perhaps keep one type of pattern for one kind of object (such as a mountains) and another different pattern or angle for the object next to it. Also, don’t use an obvious pattern when digitizing nature. If the fill pattern you use is too distinctive, it will look less realistic. That’s why I like to use random. It helps blur the pattern of your fill stitch.

Good luck and have fun!


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