Scrollsaw Portraits in a NutShell #2: Lesson #2 - Creating Patterns on the Computer

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Blog entry by KnotCurser posted 08-09-2011 11:45 PM 24538 reads 13 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Prep Work Part 2 of Scrollsaw Portraits in a NutShell series no next part

Since I was asked by a TON of people over the last few months how I go about creating a scroll saw pattern from a picture I am going to attempt to share with you all just how I go about doing so.

First of all, I am using Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1. I was able to get a great deal on the software (student pricing) and that is what I use for 95% of my graphic’s work. The techniques I use can pretty easily be duplicated using other graphics programs, some of them extremely inexpensive or even free.

For this lesson, I wanted to pick a pretty simple graphic so all the changes can be easily seen. I found an album cover “Something for Everybody” by Devo and it fit the bill nicely.

What you are looking for in order to make a great cutting is a LOT of contrast, and that is what this picture has. You CAN make just about any picture work, but you can save yourself a TON of work if you find a picture like this one – Trust me!

Now, I start by doing the exact same thing for just about every picture I work with – knock down the color and crank up the contrast. Here we go…………………….

In PhotoShop, Open your picture and hit “Control-U”, or choose “Image, Adjustments, Hue/Saturation” to bring up the “Hue / Saturation” Window.

Slide the “Saturation” Bar (The middle one) all the way to the left. This will knock down any colors except shades of gray. Click “OK”.

I think you can see where I’m going with this………

Now, choose “Image, Adjustments, Brightness/Contrast” to bring up the “Brightness / Contrast” Window.

Slide the Contrast bar all the way to the right. Now, you can “play” with the Brightness bar to give you the level of detail you need for this picture. I chose to set it to level +30. Any less and there would be too many shadows; any more and you start losing important details.

Now, we have to take care of a bunch of little details – all by hand I’m afraid…………………..

First, I used the pen and cleaned up (filled in) some of the areas around her chin and mouth. I also drew in some of the lines in her fingers as well as removing that nasty area under her lips.

Now I had to make a decision. How do I keep the teeth from falling out of her? I decided to draw a line where a camera flash would naturally go on her lips to connect her teeth to the rest of the image. I also cleaned up the miniature DEVO Hat she is putting in her mouth.

In essence, we are done right here! Read to cut. However, I took the liberty to add one more element to the image – the Band’s name. I found the following image on-line and it is basically ready-made for scrollworking.

I cut just the band’s name out of it, rotated it a tad and pasted it on her neck – sort of a tattoo of sorts.

NOW we are ready to print and cut. :-)

In closing, what advice can I give?

Less is more – keep is simple! This type of work relies a lot on the “mind’s eye” to fill in the details. Don’t try to capture every single shadow line or detail in the picture. You would be surprised what leaving out entire body parts will do. Take a quick look at this image of a past work I did.

Now, look at it again and notice the total lack of Han’s Left arm – pretty cool, eh?

Don’t worry about embellishing your work – it’s an original after all! If you have to move something around, go for it! If you want to add or subtract elements, go for it!

Take a few steps back and stare for a while – I find that looking at your image from a distance shows you more what your finished piece will look like.

Only create as much as you need with the computer – if you are comfortable using a rough pattern that you can then embellish once you start cutting, by all means do so! In this case, I will probably cut in eyelashes and individual hairs around her head while I am cutting.

Practice, Practice and above all…………. Practice! Don’t be afraid to screw something up – you learn from these mistakes.

Hope this helps!

Good luck!


-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

9 comments so far

View rance's profile


4266 posts in 3359 days

#1 posted 08-10-2011 12:05 AM

Bob, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. This is the missing link I’ve been looking fer. Note: You missed that slober sliver on her tooth nearest the blue candy. :) Missing arm, missing slober, artistic license I suppose. Nice blog. Thank you for sharing your secrets with the world.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3235 days

#2 posted 08-10-2011 01:47 AM

Bob, Thanks for posting this! I learned alot. I also use Photoshop to make patterns. You can “incorporate” a feature I use somewhere into your technique. I choose “Filter, Adjustments, Threshold”. This will bring up a window that will allow you to adjust the level of detail. I am not trying to take anything away from your technique. I just thought might help.

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View KnotCurser's profile


2027 posts in 3267 days

#3 posted 08-10-2011 02:57 AM


I would NEVER refuse extra tips on any process I use – I have to give this a try now.



-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

View DamnYankee's profile


3312 posts in 2761 days

#4 posted 08-10-2011 03:16 AM

Thanks for sharing

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View flintbone's profile


202 posts in 3355 days

#5 posted 08-10-2011 01:02 PM

Thanks for your help Bob.
I’m still learning and this is a big help.

-- If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. - Albert Einstein

View woodworkerscott's profile


361 posts in 3013 days

#6 posted 08-10-2011 01:49 PM

Cool. Thanks for sharing the info. Very useful information.

-- " 'woodworker''s a good word, an honest word." - Sam Maloof

View scrollingmom's profile


1189 posts in 2663 days

#7 posted 10-02-2011 03:16 AM

Thanks for your time and sharing.

-- Kelly, Allen,KS

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4178 days

#8 posted 01-16-2012 03:43 PM

Very nicely done.

This will help.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View rejo55's profile


190 posts in 2441 days

#9 posted 04-14-2012 01:50 PM

Always wondered how that was done. Got PhotoShop; all I need now is to convince Miss Honey Ma’am that I just gotsta have a new scrollsaw.

Thanks a ton fer the tutorial.

Have a good’un


-- rejo55, East Texas

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