Every year, our primary school organises a kids self portrait art t-towel as a fund raiser. The grandparents each get one for christmas, and I have saved clean ones for each year for the kids to put in their memory trunks. I’m making it sound grander than it is. Memory cardboard box is more the reality.
My son is now in his final year of primary school, so I have his full primary school history in tea towels. A good friend of mine, who has kids at the same school as mine, had a birthday recently. As her birthday gift this year I digitised her kids drawings into one picture, and framed it.It is so cute to see how the kids drawing skills develop, but their view of themselves doesn’t change that much. Most schools in the UK seem to do this type of project, and as it invoves photoshoping the images, you can edit out the bolognese or other unidentifiable stains if you have been using the towels, and they are a bit grubby. I didnt have towels from 2004 or 2005, as my son hadn’t started school then, but I managed to borrow from friends who had. (As an alternative to the t-towels….. you could get your children to draw themselves every year…but I would definitely have forgotten to do that.)
Kids drawings from t-towel or other source
Scanner (or high resolution camera)
Photo editing package
Step1: Collecting the raw images
Scan the relevant section of your t-towels at a minimum of 600 dpi (dots per inch) (or take high resolution photographs).
Save the files to your computer. With seven photos per child, make sure you name the files for easy identification. These are your raw unedited images. It doesn’t matter too much if the t-towels have seen some heavy action with bolognese and ketchup stains, you will be able to clean them out fairly easily. All of the images scanned from the t-towels will have the weave effect from the t-towel material. This will be cleaned up too. In this example the highlighted child with the long arms isn’t the one I’m capturing here – its his friend William 3 along from him.I use a software package called Pixelmator to edit the photos. It does most of what photoshop can do, at a fraction of the price, and is easy to use.
Step 2: Digitally cleaning up the images
For each child, crop the raw unedited photos to be a standard size. Then create a new blank editing layer for each. This way if you accidentally make a mistake, you don’t have to go back to the beginning. At this size the image isn’t great, but in the final picture it will be fine. I’ve blown it up here to show as much detail as possible. Any blurriness will be invisible when reduced back in size.
The main objective is to isolate the line drawing that you want to keep (the sketch), from the rest of the noise on the scanned image. I.e. get rid of the wattle effect from the materials, and any marks on the t-towel.
Adjust the sketch to be as black as possible, and the rest of the image to be as white as possible. Play around with the brightness/contrast on the “exposure” tool and the Light and darkening of shadows on the editing layer.
Each image will be slightly different, so you will need to play around to get an image you are happy with. This is my image above, adjusted for brightness, contrast and exposure.
Clean up each picture to remove the weave effect, and any marks you dont want. I actually created an extra “layer”as it was a lot less time consuming than taking every weave mark out. Finally for each picture, use the magic eraser tool and touch up with the ink dropper and brush tool to give yourself a clean image:
Repeat these scan and edit steps for each year.
Once you are happy with the cleaned edited versions of the self portraits, you are ready to consolidate.
Step 3: Consolidating all drawings into 1 picture
Create a separate pixelmator file, and set it for the size that fits your frame. Set up a template for where the drawings will go on the page. I used rectangles to “place” the images. This helped to make sure the sketches line up well. The rectangles will be removed before printing.
Add the dates, school years and name of the school as well as any other information you want to include. Then copy and paste the png sketch files to the allocated space of this template.
Once you are happy with the layout, remove the holding outlines, print the document and frame it. This was framed as a present for my friends birthday. It was very well received. Her youngest daughter Charlotte was concerned that she is only in year 3, and won’t have her whole school career depicted – but I can easily add her each year until she graduates** (**picture now updated to include Charlotte)
I am planning to do these for all my sons best friends (well their mums anyway) as school leaving presents in July. This would also make a great fathers day gift, or a present for a grandparent.
Update: I used these images as a year book page, using the year 6 sketch for the whole year. This was added to some nice messages the kids wrote about each other in the leavers year book.