Deke’s Techniques 273: The Very Pigture of a Happy Thanksgiving to You

Last year around this time Deke converted a beloved childhood drawing trick into a Photoshop project: the annual Thanksgiving tradition of creating a turkey by tracing around one’s splayed out hand. This week’s pre-Thanksgiving free Deke’s Techniques episode pays homage to another childhood drawing game: making a cute stylized pig by connecting some carefully arranged letters.

Let me regale you with the tangentially holiday-related story of how this little piggy came to be. Deke and I were enjoying a suitably tasty breakfast in what passes for a greasy spoon in the health-conscious city of Boulder, when Deke began admiring photographs of barnyard animals around the room. He gazed at one porcine specimen and said, “Look at that pig-ture.” (Deke apparently loves a good graphic pun in the morning.)

After my eyes rolled back to their original position, I grabbed a napkin and our waitress’s pen and showed him this trick I recall from some murky time in my childhood: drawing some familiar letters, then connecting them to magically make a pig. The waitress squealed with delight, Deke started writing notes for this tutorial, and I squirreled away the napkin for the day I would one day be writing about this technique. It isn’t easy doing this week after week and I need to hang on to all the props I can find:

Scan of the napkin drawing that inspired the Pig-ture drawing

Which, in Photoshop becomes this:

Making a pig from letters

Now, of course, in the hands of Deke, a low-tech napkin sketch becomes an opportunity for a lesson in some useful, basic Photoshop skills. You’ll see how to reverse the E and convert it to outlines to extend the snout. How to mask the W feet against the body and fill them with a bit of hoof. How to adjust a repeating script so that it smooths out into one flowing curly tail, and more tricks that might seem overkill for reproducing a childhood drawing game, but for which you may find yourself one day grateful.

Meanwhile, if you’re a member of, there’s an exclusive movie this week in which Deke shows you how to make this “photorealistic” or at least as photorealistic as a pig made from letters can possibly aspire to be. If you’d like to try out a membership, you can get a free week’s trial at

Before you go, here’s a message from last year’s hand turkeys, Jake and Jenny, who are delighted with this week’s change in menu:

Hand turkeys suggest ham for Thanksgiving

And thanks to all the blessed colonists and indigenous peoples of dekeTown. Whether you’re here in the States taking a four-day weekend filled with indulgence in the name of gratitude or elsewhere in the world observing what you call Thursday, we continue to be grateful for you.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 275: Creating a Roy Lichtenstein-esque Effect

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