Making paper props - hints and tips

Inspired by Dre’s typesetting suggestions over in the Costume forum I thought it would be good to have a place for easy tips for making good looking paper props digitally. I am in no way a digital art specialist but thought I’d share what works for me.

Tip1 - the most useful Photoshop noob trick you’ll ever learn. You’ve got a gorgeous image and you want to make it look more IC. Even printing on parchment paper, the image is just too ‘clean’ and modern-looking. Google for a high res background image - this could be parchment, watercolour, canvas texture, whatever. Use the ‘search by size’ tools to ensure it’s big enough resolution (you don’t want to go below 200ppi really). Copy the image into photoshop or illustrator or whatever and put it ON TOP of your original image. In the ‘transparency’ or ‘layer mode’ option, select Multiply. Done.
This is how I made the IC versions of the black and white maps on the wiki maps page. (That and a lot of masking and adding arrows and stuff).

Tip2 - handmade stuff is full of imperfections. If you’re doing something digitally it will end up too clean looking unless you add in a load of fake imperfections. If you look carefully at the woodcut map version you’ll see there are lots of ‘cutting line’ smudges from the ‘woodcut’. (Oh how hard you try to get rid of these when you do a real woodcut - but it’s what gives woodcuts their character!). They go in the direction that you’d have cut the wood/lino in to create the image. Obviously some familiarity with the art style you’re faking helps immensely here.
There’s also a load of whitenoise over the black where the fakepaint hasn’t fakeprinted properly on the fakepaper. It’s a lot of effort to create all these imperfections but that’s the difference between a good born-digital prop and a great one.
http://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/mediawiki-public/images/thumb/3/32/Empire-map-woodcut-hollow.gif/640px-Empire-map-woodcut-hollow.gif

I used both above techniques to make the fakewatercolour tactical map for the last event. Look how much better the one on the left looks. Changes are: the font, added canvas bg texture, added Multiplied watercolour texture as an image on top, used masks to ‘paint’ in the colours with brushes at different transparency levels making sure to not paint right to the edges. That’s it but it looks IC rather than digital.

Now share your own hints and tips!

Do you want to put a link to my guide where you mention it at the top of the post? I’ll reciprocate since this is exactly one of the elements I was after tips on! :slight_smile: (and it strikes me that paper props and documents are in a bit of a weird gap between “creative stuff” and “physical kit”…)

Done.