Once you have decided on how many vertical strips you’ll use to make this skyline paper piecing project, lay tracing paper over your pasted up skyline photos and mark a line at the very left end and one at the very right end. Your job is to divide the project into the 36 (or whatever) strips within those two lines. In my case I wanted strips of equal width, but that’s not necessary for a one-person project.
You can make equal divisions without measuring if you fold the tracing paper in half so the two border lines touch. This gives you a center line. Fold it in half again and you now have it in quarters. Now you’ll have to fold each quarter into thirds… and thirds again to make 36 columns outlined by the creases. Or do the math and divide the length of the skyline photo montage by 36. Use that width to make horizontal lines, in the process making your own graph paper. The larger the photos (and paste-up) you start with, the easier it will be to define the details of the buildings.
You can use regular graph paper, but it will probably dictate the number of columns you end up with rather than you selecting the number at the outset.
Now you are ready to mark off details of the buildings. Use the grid lines whenever you can, even stretching or shrinking building elements to do so. Mark the tops of the buildings and the window sills and tops evenly for each building even if your photo is fuzzy or tilted a bit.
Now it’s time to get out your colored pencils. Ah, but wait. If your set of colored pencils is like the dozen I have, you won’t have nearly enough browns and greys…. First look at the photo and imagine an arbitrary 20 colors…. Will you need half that are brown? Of that half, can some be yellow? cream? red? Perhaps you can see you can use 3 browns, 2 tans, 1 red, 3 yellows, and 1 khaki. Do the same with colors 11 to 20 : half greys and half brighter accent colors … and sky.
Even before you start with your colored pencils, check first on your fabric stash or a manufacturer’s color swatches to see what you might actually be working with. Adjust the colors according to your available fabric. Maybe more reds and fewer browns. When you use your colored pencils, you might need to use your red for more than one shade of red.
Also be aware of intensity. For instance, the Oakshott collection below will be more spectacular if a very deep brick red and dark charcoal are part of the final selections rather than all even tones as shown in this collection. (A single Oakshott fabric can be used as two colors if turned at right angles. Oakshott is woven from two different colored threads… i.e. black going one way, and red, perhaps, the other. Turning them different directions gives wonderful variations.)
As painters know, your eye will be drawn to the point of sharpest contrast. In the partially colored skyline below, the windows are still all paper-white and draw more attention than you will want them to have. That will be resolved as you make them shades of grey.That top picture that’s only partially filled in was colored using Kona Cotton colors – mostly from the neutral collection shown. The bottom brighter skyline was colored using American Made colors. Using the computer makes it a little easier to pick up the colors and place them in your design, but coloring it by hand gives you greater pleasure when you are working on the fabric project itself and see the colors come together with each seam.