Designing Digital Assets Part 2

Hey there! This is Part 2 of my mini series about how to design digital assets for use in design projects or sell online. You can find Part 1 here.

In Part 1, I went over what digital assets are, how they are used, and where to find (or sell) them. I explained my process for gathering inspiration and painting the "hard copy" of the assets.

In Part 2, I'm going to go over how I prepare the scanned files in Photoshop so they can be used as digital clipart. This is a shorter blog post, but I want to break the process up into distinct tasks.

Blog post graphic - designing digital assets pt 2.jpg

One note - for this mini series, I assume you already know the basics of Photoshop. This is not a beginning Photoshop tutorial, so if you've never opened the program, maybe bookmark this page and hop over to Skillshare for some Photoshop classes. 

I'll be completely honest, cleaning up and prepping files is the most tedious and boring part of designing digital assets. You just need to sit down with Photoshop and grind it out, so make some coffee, pop on your headphones and listen to some music or podcasts. I was thinking of making this into a video tutorial, but the combination of my extremely noisy and busy household plus my lack of free time makes it difficult. So it's going to be text with screencaps.

In Part 1, we left off at painting the illustrations that will be made into digital assets. For the next step, the illustrations will need to be scanned into the computer. I am lucky enough to have access to a large bed scanner at work. If you have a home scanner, you can use that. There is also a way to use your Iphone to scan, however, I am not sure how good the resolution is. If you attempt his, use good lighting. As a last resort, you can get things scanned at a copy shop, although it is unnecessarily expensive and it takes a long time.

After scanning, I open the files in Photoshop. Sometimes I make adjustments to the color or brightness/contrast. When I'm satisfied with the look of the illustrations, I start "cutting" them out.

First, I unlock the background layer. Then I use the polygon lasso tool to roughly select each element from the background layer, and copy/paste it to it's own layer. 

Then, I turn off the background layer and make a new layer with a dark grey fill. This provides a good contrast background so that when I'm cutting out the elements, I can see the edges really well and I don't miss spots.

designing digital assets Part 2

Next, I start cleaning up each illustration one by one. I use a hard round eraser brush to erase the remaining white space around each element. I get as close to the edge as possible without cutting into the artwork. A mouse works fine for me, but you can also use a graphics tablet if you like. 

When I've erased all the white, I switch to a round eraser brush with a soft edge, or a slight texture. Then I go all around the outside edge and "soften" the eraser line. The reason for this is that digital assets are nicer and more valuable if they have a slight softness to the edges, so that they blend naturally into whatever background they are placed on. You don't want the soft edge to be a big fade - just a few pixels in. This is tedious and detailed work, so zoom in and go slow.


Now, after I've done all that erasing, I check my work. I apply a black stroke effect to the layer. This allows me to see any tiny areas of pixels I may have missed erasing. Cleaning up these artifacts is crucial to making high-quality digital assets. When I've cleaned up any missed areas, I simply turn the stroke back off.

Designing digital assets - Part 2 check your work

After I've cleaned up each illustration, I export each one as a separate PNG file. To do this, I turn off every layer but the one I'm exporting. Then I go to Image>Trim and select "based on transparent pixels."

Designing digital assets Part 2 - crop and save

This crops the image to the exact edge of every visible pixel. Now all I have to do is save it as a PNG.

Designing digital asses Pt. 2 - save as PNG

After I save, I hit CMD Z to undo the crop. I just repeat that process for every element, and then save the whole file in case I need it in the future.

And that's it! It's pretty straightforward to clean up and save the individual elements. It's just time consuming and tedious work! But not to worry, the next step - creating arrangements such as wreathes, frames, textures and backgrounds, is a lot more fun. 

We will go over all that in the next installment - if you have any questions in the meantime, leave me a comment below!