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The Road to Web designing

Art Illustrations

Do you want to look great?

16 January 2012

Colourful type art

Intro

Michael Kammerer’s abstract works feature heavy doses of typography and geometrical shapes. Here he shows you how to produce an illustration based on the letters D and A (Why those two, I wonder… – Ed.) in a kind of dismembered style.
The plan will be to use Illustrator to create some basic abstract forms and import them into Photoshop as Smart Objects. Then you will learn to assemble these elements into a whole that has an arresting intricacy as well as integrity.
The tutorial also covers working with textures and some colouring tricks Michael relies on. These techniques can be very useful, not only for abstract illustrations but also to help you to get a better feel for composition in general.

Step 1

Create a new 300dpi A4 portrait document in Photoshop and fill it with a gradient from white to light grey. Using a gradient as a background can give you more depth and can have some advantages over plain colours when you work with textures.

Step 2

Place the letters of our design in the middle of the canvas. I used Helvetica for them – it’s a clear and clean typeface that will contrast nicely with the abstract elements and remain legible despite us messing with it. They need to be in separate layers and also big, while leaving enough space around them to add the abstract elements later.

Step 3

The project files include an Illustrator document containing all the abstract elements we’ll use, but here’s a crash course in how I create these abstract shapes. First draw some standard shapes in assorted sizes and fill them with black, white or grey.

Step 4

Select all the objects, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options, choose Specified Steps for the Spacing, enter a value of 20 and hit OK. With all objects still selected, hitCmd/Ctrl + Alt + B and you should get something like the above.

Step 5

The result of Step 5 looks okay, but it could be even better with some tweaks. Select it and go to Object > Blend > Expand to convert it to individual objects. Select some anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and deform the shapes by dragging. The above is an example of what to aim for.

Step 6

Let’s use the shapes to mess with the lettering. Right-click the type layer and select Rasterize Type. Choose and copy a few shapes in Illustrator, then paste them over the letters in Photoshop as a Smart Object. Cmd/Ctrl + click on its layer thumbnail and hit delete. Now delete the Smart Object for something like the effect shown above. You can instead do this step a few times with individual shapes – just don’t erase the letters so much that they become unrecognisable.

Step 7

We need more abstract elements for interest. I usually start with a few big shapes to create a basic composition. You can make them as in Step 2, or just use the ones from the project files. I took two shapes from there and placed them around the letters to get what is shown above.

Step 8

Our basic composition needs more detail. Copy another shape from Illustrator into Photoshop, scale it down and put it next to one of our two main shapes. Repeat this twice. Place at least one shape above a letter to give more of a sense of three dimensions.
I also pasted in one of the shapes from Step 6, positioning it exactly over where it’s been used as a mask at the bottom left of the A. I then softly erased most of the lower half of it as shown.

Step 9

It’s time to create more depth by adding some shadows. Select the Brush tool (B) and choose a round brush with 0% Hardness. Create a new layer above the gradient layer and below the type and abstract elements. Select a dark grey colour and brush on some soft circles. Use a new layer for every circle to make it easy to move them around for the best look.

Step 10

Let’s add some colour. Choose something nice and bright,Cmd/Ctrl + click on the D’s layer thumbnail, create a new layer and start painting over the letter with a soft brush. Repeat with another colour on a different part of the D, and with multiple colours on the A. You can also use the red-and-blue shape in the project file to add colour. I selected the black area to the lower left of the D and masked the coloured shape in there. Repeat for the small triangle below and to the right, hue-shifting the purple to yellow.

Step 11

Now choose another abstract shape from Illustrator and copy it into Photoshop. Put its layer somewhere in the middle of the layer stack, set the blending mode to Overlay and reduce the opacity a bit. Repeat with, say, three other shapes to create some nice background features.

Step 12

Add yet more colour highlights by brushing on circles with a soft brush. As before, always create a new layer for each so you can easily rearrange the circles and change the order of layers if needed. Play around until you are satisfied with the colours.

Step 13

To add more complexity you can also paste shapes from Illustrator over the coloured letters and set the blending mode to Overlay to get patterns inside the letters.

Step 14

Textures are important, and they are what we’ll add now. I usually use the high-quality free textures from lostandtaken.com. Grab one of their film textures (bit.ly/19GjRR) and paste it into Photoshop at the top of the layer stack. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U to desaturate it, change its blending mode to Overlay and set the opacity to 50%. Note the dramatic effect.

Step 15

The upper left corner is still rather empty, but it’s easy to fix by simply applying another film texture from the set. This time, leave the blending mode set to Normal, create a mask and draw a gradient from black to white on the mask. Set the opacity to 20% for a subtle finish.
Author:

Michael Kammerer

10 January 2012

Digital Mixed-media techniques

Intro

From sketching the initial concept all the way through to final piece, here you will follow the creation of an editorial illustration that mixes rich textures and flowing vector curves.
The artwork featured is Simon Brader’s The Donor Trail. It was commissioned by the Radio Times for a feature on a Radio 4 play about the emotional journey of a donor heart, as seen from the perspective of the donor’s and the recipient’s families.
Simon says the illustration, which was selected for the AOI’s Images 35 annual and exhibition, represents the dichotomy of a heart transplant: that for someone to live, someone else must die. The hourglass serves as a metaphor for their respective lives.
Simon hopes the tutorial will increase your confidence in mixing Illustrator’s bezier curves and clipping masks with Photoshop’s colour management. The tutorial should also provide an insight into the thought process that goes into creating distinctive work to a brief.
Digital Mixed-media techniques

Step 1

It’s an obvious point, but still one worth emphasising: when working to a brief, the first thing to do is make sure you really understand it. If you don’t, the most amazing image you come up with might be rejected because it doesn’t fit the application the client has in mind. Once I’ve got my head round the brief I start brainstorming, writing down key ideas which quickly turn into rough thumbnail sketches.
Click to view full size image

Step 2

Having decided which idea to pursue, take a little time to find reference material for the elements you want to include in the illustration. For this work I needed images of a hoodie and a shirt. Wherever possible I take my own photos of the elements as I want, as that gives me control over perspective and lighting and helps keep the composition exactly how I want it.

Step 3

I don’t usually scan in the rough sketch, but you can do so if you feel happier working over it. I would place the scan into Illustrator as that allows you to quickly alter the composition and colours.
If the client wants a rough, this is the stage at which I would send it. The most important thing is that the concept should be clear.

Step 4

Once the client gives you the green light, it’s then a case of nailing the composition and getting movement into the illustration. The beauty of Bezier curves is their endless adjustability, and I spend a fair amount of time tweaking them to get the image to flow. When using the Direct Selection tool (A), it is sometimes useful to hold down Shiftto constrain anchor points to move at 45-degree angles.

Step 5

Once I have a composition that I’m happy with, I play with the colours – and this also affects the feel, of course. My concern here is the reds – the blood and its background.
It’s important at this point to consider how the piece will be used. Paper quality is one factor in choosing colours: the more porous the stock, the more contrast needed between tones.

Step 6

I use textures as another element to help convey the concept, and at this point in the process I felt it was time to step away from the computer and get my hands dirty creating them. The heart’s background was sponged acrylic paint for a rich fleshy texture. For the hoodie I decided on ink, to represent the donor’s fading life. I also chose brushed paint for the shirt and ink wash for background.

Step 7

I scan in my textures at 300dpi and save them as JPEGs – perfectly adequate for most print jobs unless there is the possibility of needing to enlarge the scanned image at a later stage.

Step 8

I use a variety of processes to work on the textures in Photoshop, using basic adjustments of Levels (Cmd/Ctrl + L), Hue/Saturation (Cmd/Ctrl + U) and Color Balance (Cmd/Ctrl + B).
In the background, I want the area around the ink wash to show some of the details beneath, so having adjusted the Levels, I go to Select > Color Range, select the white with the eyedropper and use the Background Eraser tool (E) to create transparent areas.

Step 9

Be sure to save your textures as PSD files. That way you retain the flexibility to link them into Illustrator files while subsequently adjusting them in Photoshop (with layers if needed).

Step 10

Having placed my texture in Illustrator, I go to the Layers panel and drag the texture layer below the shape layer it’s meant to apply to, then select the shape layer and hit the Make Clipping Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Now I have a masked texture whose shape is editable with the Direct Selection (A) and Pen tools (P).

Step 11

Repeat the last step until all the textures are in place. It’s now that the illustration really starts to come alive.
If you need to adjust any texture, select it and go to Edit > Edit Original to switch to Photoshop. After you save your changes, Illustrator will ask whether you want to update linked files – click Yes.

Step 12

Once I’m happy with the main layout and colours, I use the Pen tool to create highlight shapes where needed, adjusting their layers’ transparency as I see fit to integrate the shapes.

Step 13

When I’m done editing the image in Illustrator, I export it to a JPEG that will act as a template for subsequent steps. Tick the Use Artboards box to ensure the exported artwork is cropped to the size you worked to.

Step 14

Next I open the JPEG in Photoshop and copy and paste every layer from the Illustrator file into Photoshop as pixels, basically rebuilding the whole image like a theatre set. I don’t use Smart Objects at this stage because my intention is to work on the elements as rasterised artwork. This system makes it far easier to add extra shadows and highlights.

Step 15

With the Pen tool in Paths mode, I trace round areas where I want more highlights, then convert the path to a selection (right click, then choose Make Selection with a feather radius of 0). I use the Burn and Dodge tools (O) to add a little more depth to some of the textures and highlights. Here I’ve highlighted the tie’s swirls to emphasis movement.

Step 16

The last step is to do final adjustments on the separate layers before flattening, and then tweak the overall colour balance and levels.
Author: 

Simon Brader

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