When restoring vintage illustrations, I will often take out the background paper so that I can blend it into another design.
The design below is a work-in-porgress. Notice how the leaves and shaded background gently blend into the background, while the birds pop slightly.
I love giving new life to vintage illustrations found on postcards or Victorian trade cards. These vintage originals are often in pretty bad shape.
You may have noticed, that many of the digital illustrations in the shop have white backgrounds.
Why A White Background
There are 3 reasons why I will often restore a vintage illustration to white.
- The paper part of very old papers like postcards and trade cards is often in pretty bad shape. It would just be too much work to try to smooth out the paper.
- Even if I want a more antiqued feel, I'd rather just add a new background with a multiply blend mode.
When adding these images into my designs, I used a blended layer stack method, which requires a completely white background to blend invisibly.
My Blended Layer Stack Method
I like to use these illustrations in blended stacked layers. This method won't work on dark or brightly colored backgrounds, but it works well in gently colored and textured backgrounds. This method works much better than using a cut-out of the illustration. Cut-outs are great for some applications, but to get a natural blended effect that looks like you painted directly on your background, a blended method is superior.
Here's the blended stacked layer method in a nutshell:
- Drag the illustration onto your background file.
- Duplicate the illustration layer.
- Link these two layers so that you can't accidentally move one and get them out of alignment.
- Add a layer mask to that layer and fill it with black.
- On the bird layer underneath, set the blend mode to multiply.
- On the top bird layer, use a soft brush in white and gently reveal parts of it, avoiding any white background areas.
These illustrations are from the Vintage Birds No. 5 collection.