Graphic Design Bundle
It’s a great month to be a member of Go Media’s Arsenal subscription. Not only do you have access to our entire library for only $15/mth, but you are able to download this month’s special graphic design bundle of products at no extra charge.
Not an Arsenal Member yet? Join now and gain instant access to our entire library, including this bundle, for only $15.
Not interested in our membership? No worries. You can still purchase this bundle for 60% off the original price, now through 3/31/3018 – or the individual products inside of it, on their own.
What’s Included in this Graphic Design Bundle by Go Media’s Arsenal:
Free Vector Textures + How to Use Them
We are so excited to announce the release of a new vector set, the Fistful T-Shirt Design Graphic Vector Set.
This new vector set was created by new Arsenal Artist, Dedda Sutanto, and can be found over on our Arsenal for purchase now. This set is exclusive to our Arsenal and includes 43 individual elements, plus the fully completed design. These elements include a fantastic array of frames, crests, wings, borders, bullets, stars, ornate elements, and more. A gun and fist are extra elements that complete this unique set.
We’ll be using elements from this pack, along with free distressed vector textures, to create a distinct weathered design. So, in order to follow along, you will need to purchase the set, as well as to download the free set of distressed vector textures we’ve made available for you here:
Download now: GoMedia_Vector_Freebie_Distressed-Vector-Texture
Step One: Come Up with Your Own Design in AI.
Use the elements from the Fistful T-Shirt Design Graphic Vector Set to create your own unique design. (Or, if you choose, use the fully completed design provided in the set.)
Here’s the design I’ll be using for the purposes of this tutorial:
Step Two: Select (Ctrl + A) and Group (Ctrl + G) all of the elements together. Make sure your design is centered horizontally and vertically within your artboard. This will come into play later.
Step Three: Select (Ctrl + A), then make a copy your design (Ctrl + C). Place your copy next to the original. Then go to Window > Pathfinder to pull up your Pathfinder Window.
Step Four: Making sure your copy is selected, press UNITE on your pathfinder tool. Your copy should merge into one solid shape. Well done!
Let’s leave it there for a moment and go back to our original design.
Step Five: It’s time to paste our vector texture over our original design! Open the vector texture of our choice up in AI.
Copy (Ctrl + C), then (Ctrl + V) to paste the vector texture over top of your design. Head over to your swatch panel in order to change the vector texture from black to white and place your texture where you think it looks best.
Step Six: Add the copy (i.e. the black shape) over top of the original design (and, of course, the vector texture you’ve added to it).
Just like the original design, you’ll want to center this shape to the artboard. You’ll also want to make sure that this shape is indeed at the top of the pile so to speak. You can do this by making sure it’s selected and going to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front.
Step Seven: Next, select all (Ctrl + A) and head back to your Pathfinder Tool. Hit CROP.
Step Eight: and you’re done! But wait!
Hope you guys found that helpful. See you all very soon!
Texture tutorial: How to apply our rolled ink textures to your design for that old-time print shop vibe
Introducing The Shop’s rolled ink texture packs, volume 01 and 02
Ladies and gentlemen, drum roll please. I’m happy to announce that my rolled ink texture packs are finally available on the Arsenal! Simon from The Shop here, and I’ll be walking you through both texture packs, as well as through a few techniques to make good use of them. On to the texture tutorial!
So, what is it about these textures that makes them awesome?
Well, for a start, they have been created by hand. I used both a foam and a rubber roll to execute them, and lots of rich, deep, black ink.
The result is that series of 28 textures in total (14 in each pack). After experimenting with pressure, ink quantity, roller motion, and paper types, the textures were left to dry for a few days. After the drying was complete, they were scanned in at very high resolution (800 dpi and more). Following the scanning process, they were carefully, and minimally edited to produce a set of textures sized at 5000 x 7800 pixels on average.
Both sets are delivered in the form of flat RGB .jpg images in a ZIP archive.
Cool story, but how do I use these textures?
Oh boy, am I glad you asked. I precisely prepared a quick piece showcasing these textures, so we could experiment a little bit. We’ll use both Photoshop and Illustrator for this tutorial, but you should be all right with just Photoshop.
Step 0: Assets gathering
Before we get started, you’ll need to put your hands on a few assets.
The next asset is a blue soft grunge texture, also from Dustin (through his Valleys in the Vinyl blog)
Finally, I prepared a small freebie pack for you guys.
It includes the vector type element used in my piece. I crafted it using a typeface called Felt Noisy, made by the awesome folks at PintassilgoPrints. Consider buying that amazing, messy brush style font! You won’t regret it one bit. The file is available in Ai (CC), EPS (CS3), and PDF formats. It includes a black and white and pre-colored version of the artwork.
The freebies we’ve included in the pack are two of the textures from the Rolled ink textures, volume 02 pack. They are #4 and #12. They will be used in the tutorial.
Finally, the last asset you should have at hand is a useful set of Photoshop actions by Media Militia. They allow you to turn white pixels to transparent ones, with a single mouse click.
I’d like you to also quickly read the post – it includes some background on how the actions work, and instructions to install them.
Step 1: file setup
The first step is to create the canvas we’ll be working in. I’m using an 24″x18″ file @ 300 dpi.
I’ve also created a few guides to give a loose structure to work from. I’ve placed my vertical guides at 1″, 2″, 12″, 22″, and 23″. My horizontal guides are placed at 1″, 2″, 9″, 16″, and 17″. This “grid” gives me a quick indications of my piece’s center, as well as marks a nice border zone around it.
Step 2: the background
Start by filling your background layer with our bright yellow (#fbfbd9).
Feel free to double click on it so it becomes an unlocked layer.
Create a new layer above the yellow layer, and fill it with our dark green (#337061).
You know have two layers, one being completely invisible.
We’re going to leverage rolled-ink-texture-pack-volume-02-sbh-007.jpg from the second volume of the rolled ink textures. Pasted into a layer mask, this texture will allow us to reveal the hidden yellow layer. Visually, this will translate into a bright border around our dark piece.
Open the texture in Photoshop.
Select its content, and copy it (CTRL/CMD+C). Head back to our piece. Add a layer mask to our green layer.
Make sure the layer and the layer mask are “untied” to each other (no chain link). This will allow us to move/transform their content independently from each other.
Now, ALT/OPTION+CLICK on the layer mask to access its content. Simply paste the texture in there (CTRL/CMD+V).
In a layer mask, black pixels represent the parts of the image that will be hidden, and white pixels the ones that will be shown. The various gray levels represent the various degrees of transparency. With that in mind, we’re going to place our texture so it will allow a bit of the yellow layer to show at the edges of the piece. We’ll obviously have to invert the layer mask’s content to achieve our effect.
You can see that I’m slightly distorting the texture to fit the project/goal at hand.
Once the texture is in place, invert it (CTRL/CMD+I).
Click back on the layer’s thumbnail to admire our result. This is the perfect moment to further tweak the layer mask if the result isn’t quite where you’d like it to be.
I’m personally happy with the texture overall, but I think some of its artifacts (paper folds and creases) are showing too strongly. I’m going to use the levels panel (CTRL/CMD+I) to fix this. With the layer mask selected, bring up the levels. Tweak the various sliders until you reach a level you feel comfortable with. My values bring a stronger contrast to the texture, “washing off” some of its detailed creases, folds, etc.
And here’s our cleaner, and better defined result.
And we’re done with our background. Proceed to some house-cleaning (or else!), and let’s get ready to move on to adding the type element to our poster.
Step 3: bringing the type in
It’s time to move on to Illustrator, and to open one of the files containing the type element.
You have a couple options from here:
- Grab the pre-colored element, copy it, and paste it into your Photoshop document
- Use the monochrome element, tweak the colors to your liking, copy it, and paste it into your Photoshop document
- Get the Felt Noisy typeface, and use the many alternate characters available to tweak the type element to fit your tastes just right (and then paste it into your Photoshop document)
Because I’m already happy with my current color scheme, I’ll settle on the already colored type piece. Simply copy it, and paste it in your Photoshop document. I HIGHLY recommend keeping the type as a smart object, as this will retain its vector properties within your raster file. This could come in handy should you decide to tweak the type’s placement or size later.
Size the type to your liking.
Once you’re happy with the type, proceed to organize things a bit.
It’s now time to finally use our rolled ink textures.
Step 4: using the rolled ink textures to create ink noise
If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to grab Media Militia’s actions, and to get them installed. Next, open rolled-ink-texture-pack-volume-02-sbh-012.jpg from your asset pack.
You can use levels to tweak the texture to your liking (lighter or darker).
Once you’re done with that, it’s time to run one of the actions to obtain a version of our texture with a transparent background. Make sure that your colors are reset to the default (you can press “D” for that), and run the “maximum opacity” action. This will ensure the best result for the following steps.
You’ll end up with a file looking like this
Simply drag it into our main file.
Turn it into a smart object (Filters > Convert for smart filters in Photoshop CC).
Once the layer is a smart object, resize it and position it so it covers as much of our piece as possible. It should also not have an overwhelming effect.
Once the texture is in place, proceed to give it a color overlay of our bright yellow (#fbfbd9).
Open rolled-ink-texture-pack-volume-02-sbh-004.jpg, and follow the same process. The only difference is that you’ll give it a green color overlay (#337061).
Once you’re happy with your ink effects, it’s time to organize things a little bit. I renamed my layers to reflect the textures that were used to generate them, and grouped them properly.
Step 5: textures!
It’s time to add a little bit of textures to our piece. This will tie things together, as well as add extra depth.
I’ll be using a texture workflow that’s as non-destructive as possible. I wrote extensively about following such a process for the good folks over at Design Cuts:
Adjustment layers, clipping masks, and clipped layers will become your new best friends. While it might seem cumbersome at first, such a workflow has many advantages. You could go back to your original piece of content in a heartbeat, by simply turning layers off. You could quickly change the intensity of an effect used during the making of the piece, to make it stronger or more subtle.
The gist of it is to use clipped adjustment layers to your textures, so you can revert your changes at all times. Makes sense? Alright, let’s get going.
The first texture is BB_AntiqueEnvelope_04.jpg.
Place it in your document so no seams are visible.
Desaturate it (the Saturation slider of the Hue/saturation adjustment layer is set at -100).
Next, use a Levels adjustment layer to bring the texture’s artifacts and grain out.
Finally, change the layer’s blending mode to Soft light @ 75% opacity.
The next texture is VV_ColoredGrunge_02.jpg. The interesting feature of this texture is that it features a soft vignette. We’ll make advantage of that to focus the viewers’ attention to the center of the piece, where the type is.
We’ll repeat the same process: place the texture as a smart object, desaturate it, use levels to enhance it, and switch its blending mode.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 35% opacity.
This concludes the texture part. Here’s what my layer stack is looking like.
Step 6: finishing touch
In our case, the finishing touch will be a subtle halftone effect. This will allow us to give the piece a tactile feel, as if it were printed.
Start by creating a merged copy of all your visible layers (CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+ALT/OPTION+E). I’ve renamed my copy Halftones.
Convert the layer to a smart object.
Proceed to add a Color halftone effect to your layer (Filter > Pixelate > Color halftone).
The result is obviously not adequate.
Start by changing the effect’s blending mode. You can do so by clicking on this little button, on the right of the effect name in the layer palette.
Change the blending mode to Soft light @ 100% opacity.
From there, change the actual layer’s blending mode to Lighter Color @ 75% opacity.
Because of the effect’s nature, the colors in the piece have slightly shifted. You can fix this if you don’t like the result by adding a hue/saturation adjustment layer, clipped to the halftone layer.
And we’re done! Isn’t it looking nice?
Well, we’re done. I hope you had as much fun following along as I had writing this tutorial. I also hope that this short write-up helped you to see the potential these ink textures have to quickly bring some ink elements in your designs, to be used as masks, or as textural elements.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! I’ll be watching the comments below, but you can also tweet at me @simonhartmann.
Finally, don’t forget to get your hands on both volumes of The Shop’s Rolled ink textures!
BUY THE SHOP’S ROLLED INK TEXTURES, VOLUME 01
Simon from The Shop on this end of the keyboard. I’m excited today, because one of my go-to personal texture packs is released on the Go Media Arsenal! Let me show you what the Dirty Plastic Noise Texture Pack can do for you.
Where do the textures come from?
These noisy and dusty textures come from an unlikely place. You know these little plastic pockets in billfolds to hold extra credit and ID cards? Well, now you know.
I’ve had that leather billfold for a while. It’s old, and all worn out. It’s been at the bottom of countless pockets and bags. And it has accumulated a lot of dirt, dust, and other lint particles.
I pulled out these little plastic pockets, cut them down in flat “sheets,” and scanned them at very high resolution (on average 5250×7400 pixels @ 2400 dpi). These textures are the result of that scanning process.
Unlike my Photocopy Noise texture pack, these textures actually show little dust worms, smudges, and similar artifacts. They don’t look like glitch elements, but more like actual speckles of matter.
The pack contains 4 variations of each textures:
- Black speckles on black (JPGs)
- Black speckles on transparent background (PNGs)
- White speckles on black (JPGs)
- Transparent speckles on black (PNGs)
- 5250 x 7400 pixels @ 2400 dpi
How to use the textures
It’s actually quite simple: put them on Screen or Multiply, and noise things away. Add a specific color overlay, and add subtle speckles to your backgrounds. Paste them in your layer masks for subtle weathering. Let me walk you through some of the steps of the creation of the hero image to demonstrate.
Part 1: background building
I’m using a 1270×770 pixels document in Photoshop.
I’ve filled my background with a dark, muted green (#2c2918).
Insert 2014-05-16-plastic-card-holder-textures-black-on-white-sbh-007.png in your document. It’s important to use the transparent version for our effect to function later on.
Note: I like to place my documents (File > Place) rather than paste them in, as it allows me to have them as smart objects, which help to keep a non-destructive workflow.
Place your texture so it covers the whole canvas. In my case, I’ve kept the vertical orientation. Once you’re happy with your texture placement, validate the transformation, and reduce the layer’s opacity to 50%.
From there, it’s time to blend that texture a bit better with the background. In this specific case, we could use a blending mode, or we could use a color overlay. I chose the latter. Double click on the layer to bring up its blending options dialog box.
Head to color overlay, and pick #3e3f41as the color.
Validate, and admire the result. We added some subtle textures to our piece in three steps (place, size, color overlay).
Part 2: using blending modes and opacity levels
As I’ve said before, and due to the nature of the textures, the two best blending modes to use here are multiply (and its derivatives Color burn and Linear Burn), and screen. Note that nothing stops you from experimenting further!
After placing my type elements in my piece (they are set in Duke, from Lost Type Co-op), and adding a bit of texture to them, I felt like the piece could use some additional texture buildup.
I’ve selected 2014-05-16-plastic-card-holder-textures-black-on-white-sbh-006 as my next texture. I really like the bottom part of that texture the horizontal smudge).
In order to feature that in a significant manner in my design, I rotated the texture 90° clockwise.
Next, change its blending mode to multiply at 50% opacity. The result keeps that sweet part of the texture, but without being overbearing (thanks to the lowered opacity), and multiply knocks away the white pixels.
The next texture to place in the document is 2014-05-16-plastic-card-holder-textures-black-on-white-sbh-010.png. It’s simply placed in the document horizontally, and has its opacity lowered at 50%.
Next up is 2014-05-16-plastic-card-holder-textures-white-on-black-sbh-006.jpg. With this white on black texture, the goal is to add a lot of dust speckles using Screen.
The texture is placed horizontally in the canvas, and more or less vertically centered.
From there, change its blending mode to Screen @ 25% opacity.
The next texture I used is 2014-05-16-plastic-card-holder-textures-black-on-white-sbh-013.png.
Rotate it 90° clockwise when placing it, and then lower its opacity to 50%.
Place the texture in your piece so none of the paper seams are visible.
I’ve used the levels palette (CTRL/CMD+Ito increase dramatically the contrast of my texture. Desaturate the texture (CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+U), and then increase the dark tone value, lower the mid-tones towards the dark ones, and reduce the range of the highlights.
This results in the grain of the texture being exacerbated.
Finally, put the texture on Soft light @ 15%, and admire your hero image.
This quick example is obviously just scratching the surface of what’s possible here. You could combine these in many more creative ways. And their high resolution will allow you to use them in projects ranging from screen to paper without significant quality loss.
I hope you liked following the quick demo as much as I liked putting it together. Until next time, cheers! And don’t forget to go buy the pack:
Paper Textures Tutorial: Adding fake folds to your design in a jiffy with the folded paper texture packs
Paper Textures Tutorial: Adding fake folds to your design in a jiffy with the folded paper texture packs
Hello Zine readers! Simon from Studio Ace of Spade here today. I just wanted to let you know that my folded paper texture packs, volume I and volume II are now available on the Arsenal! I hope you enjoy this textures tutorial, teaching you to add fake folds to your designs in a jiffy with the folded paper texture packs!
What’s in the packs?
Glad you asked. Each pack contains a series of 12 textures each. The textures are roughly 4740 x 6320px @ 600 dpi.
The pack is centered around folded and crumpled paper, from a simple vertical and horizontal folds all the way to crazy crumpled and over-folded paper. Check these examples below:
These should cover a decent chunk of your folded and crumpled paper emulation needs.
How to use these textures
Just like the photocopy noise textures I released a few weeks back, the textures are black and white, which dictates some of the workflow to follow. This awesome post about blending modes I found on PhotoBlogStop gives us this information about the Screen blending mode:
Screen: Similar to the Lighten blend mode, but brighter and removes more of the dark pixels, and results in smoother transitions. Works somewhat like the Multiply blend mode, in that it multiplies the light pixels (instead of the dark pixels like the Multiply blend mode does). As an analogy, imagine the selected layer and each of the underlying layers as being 35mm slides, and each slide being placed in a separate projector (one slide for each projector), then all of the projectors are turned on and pointed at the same projector screen…this is the effect of the Screen blend mode. This is a great mode for making blacks disappear while keeping the whites, and for making glow effects.
Keeping this information in mind, here are a few ways to use the textures.
Add the texture within your layer stack
The scenario: you just want to add paper folds as the finishing touch to your print.
Here’s the finished file for the piece I did for the demo of my metal dumpster texture pack.
In order to give this piece an extra “vintage movie poster” feel, I’ll simply add folded-paper-textures-volume-01-sbh-001.jpg from the folded paper texture pack volume I to the top of my layer stack.
Once that’s done, simply change the blending mode to Screen, and you’ll have some fake folds in your poster!
If the effect is too strong, you simply have to play with the layer’s opacity slider to make the effect more or less subtle. Below is the same texture at 50% opacity instead of 100%.
The scenario: you want to use some of the more exotic textures as part of your design itself.
There are some less conventional folds in the packs. For instance, in volume II, there’s this burst-like thing (folded-paper-textures-volume-02-sbh-006.jpg):
This is the file of the piece I did for the photocopy noise texture pack:
While this might be a bit corny, I’d like to use the burst-like folds behind the design (and the silhouette in particular) to create some divine rays of some kind. Let’s start by placing the texture at the bottom of my Design layer group.
Composition wise, I think it could be more interesting if the rays were coming from behind the head of the silhouette.
Now, we simply have to use the Screen blending mode to our advantage again, so we can see the background effects of the piece again.
Since the effect is still a hair too strong, I simply decided to lower the opacity of the texture layer to 25%, and we get something much more subtle.
Paste the textures in a layer mask
Using these black and white textures in layer mask is super easy, because you can get a very quick sense of how they’ll impact the content of that mask. If we look at the more crumpled type of paper textures, we find things like that (in volume I, folded-paper-textures-volume-01-sbh-007.jpg):
This would be perfect to emulate a very worn print. Let’s have another look at the Road Hog tee design pack by OK Pants (more info about that here, on the Arsenal). It’s just got a background effect set up, just like at the start of the tutorial I wrote about my metal dumpster texture pack.
I want to emulate a worn look for the piece, just like if the piece had been heavily scratched. It’s simple to do. Let’s start by adding a layer mask to our design. Simply highlight the layer you want to add a mask to, and click the Add layer mask button at the bottom of your layer palette.
Make sure the layer and the mask aren’t linked together (click on the chain link between the layer and mask thumbnails), so we’ll be able to resize and move the content of each independently of each other.
Once these two steps have been taken care of, open your texture, copy it, and paste it into the layer mask. Simply ALT/OPTION+CLICK the layer mask’s thumbnail in the layer palette to access its content to do so. Resize the texture so it fills the whole canvas. Even though the files are super high-resolution, don’t hesitate to sharpen things up a bit (you can use Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen a couple of times). Sharpening the texture will also bring out the fold pattern more.
Once you’re done, click the layer thumbnail again to admire your result… And realize that obviously, the effect is too intense. Simply switch back to the layer mask content view, and make the edits needed to the texture.
First, let’s invert it (CTRL/CMD+I).
The result is much nicer.
From there, using the level palette (CTRL/CMD+L), you could make the effect stronger:
Or you could do it much softer, too:
I’m sure there are a few more ways to use these creatively, but that’s what I wanted to show you today. I hope you enjoyed going through the short how-tos as much as I had fun writing them. As usual, you should ask your questions in the comments below or by tweeting at me. And obviously, you should purchase the texture packs so you’ll never have to worry about how to add folds to your designs again!
Hello there! Simon from Studio Ace of Spade here. Long time no see. I’m here to introduce you today to a texture pack I’ve created, called the photocopy noise texture pack. I’m delighted to announce that it’s finally on sale at the Arsenal!
What is the pack about?
What’s so special about this texture pack? First of all, these are hand-made textures. They were made using an old photocopier that had a toner on its last leg. The result is a pack of six fantastic noise textures. The process was simple: I created a black document in Ai, and printed it as many times as I could before the toner gave up. Because it was almost ready to throw away, it wouldn’t print a perfectly black sheet. I got these black rectangles, speckled with white spots and stripes. Once scanned in, cleaned up, and inverted, these make up for perfect noise textures.
A closer look at the content
Some technical data: you get six textures, that are around 4760×6400 @ 600 dpi. Here are what they look like:
How can I use these?
I thought you’d never ask! In order to demonstrate the possibilities of the textures, I’ve put a quick little tutorial/demo together, using Jeff’s Awakened t-shirt design pack as the base. We’ll use both Ai and Ps for this. Here’s a preview of what we’ll be doing:
Basically, we’ll use these to age Jeff’s design, along with a few other tricks here and there. Here’s a 100% crop, to get a better sense of what these textures are able to do:
Note that if you haven’t purchased the Awakened t-shirt pack, or have no idea of what I’m talking about, you should go read and watch more info: over here.
Let’s get started
Step 1: document setup
Jeff’s illustration is quite neat, and would look quite awesome on a print. So, let’s go ahead and create a new 24 inches wide by 18 inches tall Ps document @ 300 dpi.
Once you have that new document setup, fill its background with dark gray (#231f20), and setup guides for the center and margins. I might have gone a tad overboard with mine. My vertical guides are at the one, two, 11, 12, 13, 22, and 23 inch marks. My horizontal guides are at the one, two, eight, nine, 10, 16, and 17 inch marks.
Oh, and if you’ve read some of my other tutorials before, you’ll probably remember that I’m a stickler for proper layer naming and other Ps etiquette stuff. My background layer is named bg – #231f20, which gives me both its functionality and its color.
Step 2: importing the design
Let’s have a look at Jeff’s design:
As you can see, there are quite a few elements that compose it (feathers, purple circular element, red circles, white circle, blue geometrical element, silhouette, and off white stars). I could simply select everything, and copy and paste it in Ps. The only issue with doing that is that it won’t allow us to individually texture the elements. Since I want to do something refined and individualized, I won’t go that route. We’re going to copy and paste each element one by one. It’ll be a bit long, but worth it in the end.
Use the main image as a reference point to position your elements, and make sure that they’re always sized at 100%. Also, don’t forget to paste the elements as smart objects, so they retain their vector characteristics. It’ll be crucial for later.
Note: you may have to center or nudge elements manually.
The purple circular pattern.
The red circles.
The blue geometrical element.
The white circles.
The black silhouette.
Aligning the stars back in place (the top star is at the intersection of the top red circles).
Nudging the wings back in place.
Here’s a view of how the design elements are placed compared to my initial guides. If you want your design or some of its elements to be bigger or smaller within the finished print, now is the time to adjust the sizes. For instance, I’ve decided to size my design so it reaches the smaller rectangles inside of my guides.
And here’s a view of my layer stack so far.
Step 3: let’s roughen these vectors up
The next step will involve the use of Illustrator’s roughen filter (Effect > Distort and transform > Roughen). I learned about the effect through that 2011 Method and Craft article by Simon Walker. Basically, the effect distorts your paths and adds more or less subtle variations to them.
We’ll be applying the effect on all of the elements of the design, minus the wings. This is where retaining the smart object quality of the elements pasted in Ps comes handy. You simply have to double click on the layer thumbnails of the smart object in order to be brought back to Ai, and to be able to edit the vector element.
Let’s start with the purple circular pattern element. I’ve turned off the other elements of the design for better legibility, but you don’t have to.
Once you’ll double click on the layer thumbnail, Ai will open and you’ll be able to edit just that element.
Let’s select our element, and bring up the roughen filter (Effect > Distort and transform > Roughen). I suggest zooming in a little bit, in order to fully appreciate what the effect does to your paths. Oh, and tick that “Preview” box to see what’s happening.
Obviously, the default values are a bit extreme in terms of result. After a little bit of tinkering, the values I’ve settled on are the following:
- Size: 0.1%, relative
- Detail: 50/inch
- Points: smooth
Note that you can come up with your own values. These should be considered as a starting point for your own exploration. Also, you could decide to expand the various elements from strokes to paths, or to leave them as is. Once you’re happy with the filter’s values, validate them. The next step: save your work (CTRL/CMD+S), close the file in Ai, and head back to Ps for a little surprise…
The effect is applied! Isn’t that neat? Now, you’ll simply have to go through the same process for the other design elements (minus the wings, once again: the halftone effect they have is enough). I personally used the same values for the roughen filter for all the elements, as it gives consistency to the final piece, but you could spend the time to find the perfect values that works the best for each specific part of the design. Below, a few shots of the process, up close:
Note the special values I’ve ended up using for the white circles: the effect wasn’t visible enough with the other ones I settled on earlier, so I upped the ante a bit. I did return to my previous values for the other elements though.
And done with that part.
Step 4: textures!
Finally, we can play with textures here. The photocopy noise texture pack is made of black and white textures, which will somewhat dictate the workflow we’ll have with them. First, we need a bit of a refresher about blending modes. This wonderful article by PhotoBlogStop will give you every detail you ever wanted to know about them, including math (!), but we’ll focus on Screen:
Screen: Similar to the Lighten blend mode, but brighter and removes more of the dark pixels, and results in smoother transitions. Works somewhat like the Multiply blend mode, in that it multiplies the light pixels (instead of the dark pixels like the Multiply blend mode does). As an analogy, imagine the selected layer and each of the underlying layers as being 35mm slides, and each slide being placed in a separate projector (one slide for each projector), then all of the projectors are turned on and pointed at the same projector screen…this is the effect of the Screen blend mode. This is a great mode for making blacks disappear while keeping the whites, and for making glow effects.
The most interesting part of this quote is the emphasized sentence: “this is a great mode for making blacks disappear while keeping the whites, and for making glow effects.” It just happens that the noise effects in the textures from our pack ARE white speckles and stripes. So we simply have to put the textures on screen to retain just their noisy part, and the rest shows up as transparent. After that, if the effect is too strong, you simply play with the opacity slider of the texture layer. Let’s put this into practice by adding some noise to our background layer.
Go ahead and place photocopy-noise-textures-sbh-001.jpg in your design. It should be just above the background layer, and sized to cover the whole background.
Give it a quick sharpening (Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen), and simply change the layer’s blending mode to Screen. As you can see, the effect is quite strong.
We’re simply going to lower the opacity of the layer to 25% for something a bit more subtle.
Also, I’ve given the background elements their own layer group.
It’s time to start adding our subtle noise to the rest of the design. We could simply use the texture clipped over each element, and tinker with the opacity sliders to create some subtle overlays. But this would show the noise as white or light gray speckles over each design elements. Most of these being line art, we wouldn’t see much of an effect.
We’re going to use another trick from our bag, and paste the textures in layer masks. Remember that whatever part of a layer mask that’s white shows the art, and whatever part of it that’s black hides it. Armed with knowledge, we can deduce that pasting the textures as is will simply obliterate the designs. Nothing subtle here. What we can do however is to invert the textures once they’ve been pasted in the layer masks. From there, playing with levels to increase or decrease the intensity of the effect is child’s play.
The process to paste a texture in a layer mask is easy:
- Add a layer mask to the design element you’re interested in impacting (with the layer highlighted, go to Layer > Layer mask > Reveal all). Make sure to click the little chain link between the layer and the layer mask to make it disappear. This will allow you to move or resize the content of the layer mask without changing the design element itself
- Open your texture file, copy its content (CTRL/CMD+C)
- Go back to your design, and ALT/OPTION + CLICK your layer mask. This will allow you to get access to and edit the content of the layer mask itself, rather than your design
- Paste your texture (CTRL/CMD+V)
- Resize and edit the content of the layer mask at will
- Click back on the design element and admire the result of your work
Here are some images of the process with the wings. I’ve used photocopy-noise-textures-sbh-001.jpg again.
Layer mask added and unlinked.
Pasting the texture in the layer mask.
Resizing the texture to cover the whole canvas. You have access to the same transform controls that outside of the layer mask (CTRL/CMD+T or CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+T for proportional transformations).
Inverting the texture (CTRL/CMD+I).
Using the levels palette (CTRL/CMD+L) to increase the contrast.
Admiring the result.
Comparison with the layer mask turned off.
Some of impacted areas highlighted.
As you can see, it’s quite a simple process, and the result with the photocopy noise texture pack are just the right amount of subtle.
Following a similar workflow, I worked my way through the other elements of the design, using textures #1 to #5 of the pack (#6 will used for the final finishing touch).
Below, some before and after pictures for each element:
Purple circular pattern, before
Purple circular pattern, after (background turned off for better effect appreciation)
Layer mask details
Red circles, before
Red circles, after
Layer mask details
It can seem that the effect is too subtle. Here’s a 100% crop to convince you otherwise:
Blue geometrical element, before
Blue geometrical element, after
Layer mask detail
White circles, before
White circles, after
Layer mask detail
Layer mask detail
Layer mask detail. Note that I’ve used the same textures than for the silhouette. I’ve simply moved it to the top right a little bit.
And here’s the full design after all that process:
We’re almost done. It’s time for the finishing touches.
Step 5: let’s wrap this up
Now that all of our design elements got their individual weathering treatment, it’s time to tie everything up together. In order to do so, we’ll first add a layer mask to the whole design layer group, and paste one of our textures in there. This will unite the elements together visually, by giving them a consistent weathering. I used photocopy-noise-textures-sbh-004.jpg for that (the one with the heavy striping).
Once that’s done, we’ll add two more textures at the top of our layer stack. The aim is the same: to tie all the elements visually together, by impacting them all with the same element. First, let’s add photocopy-noise-textures-sbh-005.jpg to our design. Make sure it fills the whole canvas.
Let’s make it significantly darker, so its effect will be much more intense.
After that, change its blending mode to Screen.
Since the effect was a tad overbearing, I lowered the opacity to 25%.
We could stay there, but I’d like a effect similar to a vignette, that would detach the center piece from the background a bit. I’ll be using photocopy-noise-textures-sbh-006.jpg to accomplish this. Let’s place it into our document, in a way similar to the image below (it’s been rotated upside down, and scaled up so it covers the whole design). I’ve also given the two top textures their own Global textures layer group.
Once it’s in place, simply change the blending mode to Soft light, and lover the layer opacity to 25%. This gives a much softer result than Screen, and still let’s the background’s subtle noise show through.
And we’re done! You could take the time to mock this up on a poster mockup template if you wanted to:
I hope you liked going through this tutorial as much as I liked writing it. I also hope it convinced you to get the photocopy noise texture pack, as well as Jeff’s Awakened tee design pack if it isn’t already done. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet at me (@simonhartmann)! I’ll also be watching the comments in the next few days. Thanks again for reading, and until next time, cheers!
The very talented Steve Knerem is the guest artist behind a majority of the content of our vector set 22. In this tutorial, he shows us how to assemble a rad rockabilly poster using various elements of the set, a bit like what Jeff did for us when we released Set 18.
In the first part of the tutorial, Steve will be walking you through his process to design the poster, from concept to final piece. In a couple of weeks, we’ll publish the 2nd part, which will infuse the composition with an even stronger rockabilly/1950s feel, by doing some additional research in terms of typefaces by digging at the source: 1950’s/1960’s era gig posters (as well as more contemporary material too). Finally, a few weeks after that, we’ll publish a wrap-up piece that will provide additional tips and tricks to give a vintage finish to the poster, like if you had found it in your parent’s/grandparent’s attic after all these years.
But no more rambling, let’s let Steve have the microphone!
— Simon, Go Media’s Arsenal Manager
Thanks for reading my article on how I built this Rockabilly poster using the Arsenal’s Vector Set 22.
In this set you are going to notice that it’s all revolved around icons from vintage 1950’s U.S.A: hot rods, babes, tattoos and everything in between. As you search through the set notice I threw in a mix of styles from my hand drawn look to straight vector art (done in Illustrator). Have fun with the pack and add it to your own arsenal of goodies!
Let’s have a quick look at the set’s content
So let’s get started!
My thoughts to create this poster are keep it simple within the realms of design and content, yet pack a punch with enthusiasm and detail. When I think of design, I definitely try not to throw in the kitchen sink, but be selective and make sure I have for this project a title focus and an image focus. In addition to that, make sure your eye flows either top to bottom, in the “Z” pattern or in what I think is helpful is a circle pattern. These are the elements the the brain locks into and make the poster reads well, creates good flow and is a successful piece.
Choosing the Color Palette
I need to think about colors. When I thought about my color palette typical Rockabilly/50’s colors seem to be red, black, white, tan and a cool color. This isn’t etched in stone but what seems to be the norm. I know I want to go with a vintage look as it were designed back in this era.
Thinking through the composition
Ok I have my color palette, now for design. I am setting up this design for a 16×20 4-5 color screen printed poster for a fictitious event in my home town Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. I worked- up a few quick ideas and am going to call this “The Rockabilly Throwdown Fest.” Imagine a huge fest with all your favorite bands, hairdos, pinups and vintage styles for one day, sounds awesome!
I’ll first set up a ½” bleed area around the poster. This guarantees me that anything within these borders will be printed, and I don’t have to worry about it getting cut off. You could probably set up a ¼” in bleed as well.
Looking at Typefaces
I’m going to then move on to the title “The Rockabilly Throwdown Fest” and search for a font. There is an endless supply of possibilities but let’s go with something that feels like it belongs.
Quick note: if I were to choose a font that seemed like it could go with a black death metal fest, it wouldn’t have the right feel. Do your research.
Down to the Nitty-Gritty
Next let’s piece this together.
Choosing the Centerpiece
My initial thought is to utilize one of the pin ups as the main character… Maybe the devil girl.
A Layout Change
Ok, so an interesting turn of design events is taking place. I was originally thinking of placing an image in the center, but because of the title design I am thinking of something else…Let’s see where it goes.
Let’s Change the Centerpiece, and Let’s Add Some Supporting Design Elements
I like this pose better, and I think she goes better with the design. I know I want some sort of starburst in the background to create a sense of depth so I grab the star tool and set it to 75 points.
I want to trim the bottom and left side so I take the pen tool and make three points in at “L” shape. Make sure the color is selected in the stroke color box. Note the purple color “L” at the bottom left of the artboard.
While the “L” shape is selected, I also select the starburst then I go to the pathfinder panel and select the divide button all with my black arrow tool. Both images will look united, but then click on the part that looks cut away with your white arrow tool and delete it. The starburst might spill over the document parameters, so you will have to select those parts and delete. From here select the starburst with your black arrow tool and choose a fill color in the color box. Most likely you will see areas fill in the where your dividing “L” line was.
These are a few extra steps, but this makes the object complete. Click off on a blank area and select the parts that are spilling over and the parts that filled in with your white arrow tool and delete them. Click off on a blank area, then click on the starburst one more time and select unite in the pathfinder panel. I like to do this just to give it a final merge of the object. Now you are all set. Now we can play with different colors of the starburst and create some background texture/depth.
Remember the arrow patterns I drew once I noticed the design took a different direction? Well, I want to keep this design going and incorporate all things related to the fest. So let’s grab a guitar, a microphone, and an old car. I also swapped out the pinstripes at the bottom for some military looking wings. Also, don’t forget to switch the starburst’s color to a red slightly brighter than the background. The yellow was too strong, and overpowered the character.
Adding More Supporting Elements
I have in mind flames also, pretty iconic piece for this scene. But something a little different… like this, from the pinstripes pack.
I know I don’t want to use the whole image, only half. So, I have to cut it in half.
Here’s how I did it:
Select your lasso tool, and draw around the part you DO want to keep.
Cut it and paste it back (CTRL/CMD + X, then CMD/CTRL + V or F). Select the image and select unite from the pathfinder panel. This is so there are no open points and you can select it and change the color any time. Let’s place it on the poster in a few open spots:
Quick note: the one placed left of the pinup had its color changed to the same red as the background. Since it’s overlayed on the starburst that’s lighter, it gives it that sweet punch through effect. One more thing to play with!
Time to Add More Copy!
Quick note: work around the canvas and DO NOT focus in one area for a long period of time. You have to work around the canvas/design and give most areas enough attention. Say I completed this bottom left part completely and came back to it in two days. Well some of those fresh thoughts will be gone and you need to think through the design once again. If you work around the canvas little by little you can give most of it attention and develop those first thoughts.
Alright, back to the game. Keep developing the text, make parts pop, and make the fonts of the bands specific. If you look at any poster the bands will have their own text font.
Time to Make Sense Out of the Mess of Items at the Bottom Left
When coloring for a spot color project such as this poster or a tee shirt, you’re limited to one color choice usually. This is where you need to be selective/creative and think this through.
All I did here is create color shapes and place them behind the character and objects.
Here is another technique that is good to use especially with my hand drawn pieces. If you know my style or if this is the first time seeing it..it’s pretty detailed… Yes? So here is a time saver. Make a copy of the outlined image and place it behind the original piece. Lock the top original piece. Select the car with your white arrow tool. Select merge from the pathfinder panel then add a fill color to the color box then unite it using the pathfinder.
Change color and we just saved 10 minutes of using the pen tool.
Do the same with the microphone and the guitar and now we can take this to the next step.
Adding a Tad More Depth, and Other Refinements
I also wanted more dimension that just the starburst in the background. So I took the flames from the pinstripe pack pack and made this into a solid image by repeating the steps we just did for the car. You just got a free vector! Take a look under the pinup at the light red flames, cool feature and more interesting things going on.
Time to add some finesse to the border. You can taper the edges by expanding the stroke of the frame, then deleting the top point of the square edge.
I also added a stroke to each image. You have to add the stroke to a solid image that is underneath all of your layers. For the car we have two layers. One is the black outlines and one is the green color. Add the stroke to the green color. Make sense? Notice I changed the black lines to red… Looking cool!
Well I’m liking what I see, title reads well, colors look cool, feels like a Rockabilly poster.
Last thing I like to do is add a touch of my own flair. In this case I’ll grab some dot patterns from the symbol box.
I’ll just throw a few down and figure out what I like.
Next I’ll expand it because I don’t want to use the whole pattern just parts. So click on Object > Expand.
I’ll then take the lasso tool and cut out random parts that I want to use.
Cut then paste it then unite with the pathfinder using your black arrow tool.
I like to place these splatters behind the white stroke and make it the color of the stroke, in this case it’s white. So now we have a cool 16″x20″ – 5 color promo poster!
Let me know if you have any questions, go crazy with these vectors and send me your designs: put them in the Go Media Flickr Pool, and/or in the comments! One thing to add is that I illustrated a mix of hand drawn and vector/Illustrator images. This adds a really nice feel of that hand drawn look yet utilizing the strengths of Illustrator.
— Steve Knerem
Note: find Steve online at:
Comic Book Inking and Coloring Tutorial
Earlier this year I was commissioned to come up with a series of character illustrations for Cohort Pictures new film project; ‘The Northern Mist‘, a suspense horror set during the Roman occupation of Briton. The illustrations would be used to help the rest of the creative team cast the roles for the film, aid in costume design and provide a bit of promotional material to drum up interest from investors and audiences. It was a great chance to really flex my creative muscles and get into some good ol’fashioned doodling. My favourite piece to come out of this one was what I nicknamed the Lady Briton sketch, so I decided to run a quick step by step tutorial for anyone interested in how I took this illustration through from brief to final concept.
So the brief for this character went something like this (and this is me paraphrasing pretty extensively)-
“she’s a feisty female Briton, easily equal to her male counterparts, she get’s captured early on in the film so it’s important to try and get her fighting spirit across in the design as much as possible. Also- she is the only female in a movie full of dudes, so she really needs to not be a troll.”
After a bit of pleading, Patrick (the director working on the film) also sent me through this rough sketch he’d put together. It makes such a difference getting some rough input from a client as it means I have a starting point- even the crudest stick man helps me to get a result closer to what they originally envisioned. Anyway – from this, I gathered she needed to be in pretty light armour, probably leather or cloth and covered in dirt. Nice.
The next step is getting a rough sketch together. My initial sketches are always pretty awful (I think I drew this one whilst on a bus in Spain?), but the point of them is very much like the concept Patrick sent me: to quickly get an idea across. If you spend any massive length of time on them, then (if you’re like me) you’ll resent any changes that need to be made, at the end of the day: time is money after all. In this version, Patrick could see I’d gone for a cloth wrap that showed off more skin in a way that wasn’t too obviously sexual, and made the hair very loose, long and straggly. I also gave her two swords, but Patrick felt that a crude sword and shield might work better, so we went with that.
The developed sketch turned out like this. I tried to stay aware that whilst this character needed to be feral and wild, she also had to be quite attractive in her own way. To keep that appeal in there, I pretty much sketched her naked outline and started adding clothes after so as to keep that core feminine silhouette to the design.
Once that got approved I moved onto inking- I ink right on top of my pencils, but I always make sure to have a scanned copy at a decent resolution just in case I slip up. A lot of top inkers recommend brushes to help you get a good line weight into your artwork, this can make your drawings a lot more dynamic and it really helps to give a sense of depth. Originally I just used digital inking via my Wacom tablet, but at my first comic con in Boston, a few editors from DC comics tore my portfolio apart, saying I had great talent but I really needed to use brushes to ink my work. Since then I’ve tried my best to use brushes, but as with all things it’s easier said than done and I ended up ruining a few sketches with spilt ink pots and the like. Now I’ve found a happy medium in the Pentel Brush Pen- which is what it sounds like; a pen with a brush nib. I think it’s designed for Chinese calligraphy or something, but to my mind, there is no better pen out there for inking your artworks (at least for the major lines anyway).
So now my inks are nailed down, it’s time to erase the pencil underneath and get the inks scanned into Photoshop. I use the Levels Tool (Ctrl+L) to try and clean up my image a bit and get rid of any paper grain. Basically I just move the black and white cursors a little closer to the centre until I’m happy with the definition I’m getting. It’s useful to zoom right in here to make sure I don’t have any pencil trails still knocking about. A trick I sometimes also do (but not for this piece) is run my linework through a Live Trace in Illustrator, then just save it as a PDF and open it back up in Photoshop. This can really help smooth out my lines and can make a huge difference if I’m going for that ultra polished look.
For colour I generally duplicate my line layer and set the top one to multiply. For the lower level I go to Select > Colour Range and choose black to select all the lines. Then Select > Modify > Contract and contract by one pixel. Now I invert the selection and delete. This means that the lower layer (which will become my colour layer) has slightly thinner lines than my top layer. This way I can just use the paint bucket tool on my lower level to quickly fill the areas I need with colour. The downside of this is that the lines on the lower layer are now very jagged, but fear not- that top layer is still perfect and will keep the ultra smooth lines. Smart.
Shading wise I do love my gradient tool, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons and so, with that in mind, for this piece I decided to use Copic Markers. Now I’m no pro with these things yet, but I’ve seen some amazing artwork from guys like Adam Hughes and Mahmud Asrar, so I figure it’s well worth my time getting to know them. They’re basically watercolours in a pen minus the mess (are you seeing a pattern here?). Seeing as I wanted this piece to be really gritty, I figured it didn’t matter too much if I wasn’t perfect yet as it’d probably add to the effect I was trying to achieve anyway.
So here’s how I work- I go back to my inks in Photoshop and place a ‘screen’ layer over them and fill it with Non Photo Blue (#A4DDED – thank me later), this changes all my inks to a special type of blue that is really tough for scanners to pick up (meaning the lines won’t show up as much when I scan it back in and I’ll just have my sexy Copic shading). I print this out and then start going over it with the Copics. I only use grey as I already have my basic colours in Photoshop. Copics have two types of grey- warm and cool. Warm is generally for skin and ‘warm’ things, and cool for clothes and ‘cool’ things (duh!), however, for this character I really wanted to make her as pale and cold as us Brits really are and so I swapped them over, using cool greys for the skin and warm greys for the clothes. This contrasts well with the olive skinned Romans I illustrated later.
So the technique I use is just to start with my lightest colour and keep adding until I’m happy. I apply each colour a few times to get really slight gradient differences and then switch up a pen for more defined shadow and light sections. Another cool tip is don’t worry about going outside the lines- we have our perfect inks saved on Photoshop now, so if needs be we can always use that as a mask to clean things up.
Some other gadgets I have are these Sepia pens. Again, these come in warm and cool greys. They’re not quite as washy as the copics but they have a much finer nib and are great for detail.
I use these for any sections that need real precise details like on the leather strips or strongly defined shadow. They’re great for hair as well.
Finally I have a couple of white ink pens for highlighting any areas. Generally I like to do this digitally as these inks can run a bit, but sometimes it can be helpful to get the whites in whilst I’m ‘in the zone’ and am pretty familiar with the illustration and lighting etc…
Now for the fun part; get the Copics scanned in and throw them into Photoshop.
I grey-scale them up with Ctrl+Shift+U to get rid of any colours that have shown up (or not if I like the effect, I call it as I see it depending on the illustration).
I put this layer above my colour layer (but below my smooth ink layer) and set it to multiply. What I’m left with is my digital colour mixed perfectly with my Copic shading. Sweet.
Now is the time to take a good look over the illustration. I often notice some bits I want to be darker or lighter. Not to worry though, I just hide the Copic layer and start editing my original colour layer. I wanted the eyes much darker and I think I wanted the clothes to cast more of a shadow too, so all I did was highlight those sections and darkened them with either the Lightness Bar on the Hue/Saturation Panel (Ctrl+U), or with the Gradient tool set to black.
Likewise I wanted to brighten up a few sections, like on the sword, so I did the same thing but with white. When I’m creating a glow or a shine, I make sure to do it on a new level above my smooth inks, stuff like this really helps blend a work of art and brings a piece together.
I know what you’re thinking- “this chick is way too clean, where’s all the mud we were promised?”. I know, and I’m way ahead of you. I have this great texture in stock from Go Media Arsenal Grime Set 2 pack, I think it’s actually concrete, but it works really well for adding a natural, dirty looking texture to things. Normally when I’m working with textures I like to desaturate them so they taken on the colours of whatever layers I apply them to, but in this case I thought the bluey grey colour worked pretty well (having flashbacks to Braveheart!) so I decided to keep it as is.
To apply the mud effect I simply throw it on above the colour layer, delete any part that isn’t over the skin and set the layer to multiply- this ensures that all the dark bits of the texture stay dark whilst the light bits show through the skin colour underneath. After that it’s just a case of playing with the opacity to get the muddiness to a level I’m happy with, I think I opted for around 50% opacity in this piece. Another cool trick I do here to add a bit of depth and volume is to select the erase tool and a really soft brush with a low opacity and just go to work erasing bits of the mud texture on the parts of the skin that would be either naturally lighter or catch the light (since the mud layer is set to multiply, and only the dark bits are showing through, erasing them will make that area lighter). In this case I erased around the shoulder and hips, as well as on the top of the thigh to make those areas seem a bit more rounded and curved.
Now the brief asked for a character illustration and didn’t really mention anything about backgrounds, but I work to the Bill Beachy mantra of “under promise and over deliver” so whilst not going overboard I am going to try and produce a background that’ll help set the tone for this illustration. [Note: Bill Beachy is also the mastermind behind the best web design firm in Cleveland, Go Media.] The basis for the background is very simple. Another texture from Go Media’s Arsenal, this time from the Rust 3 set with a blue tint and a black gradient coming in from above. I’ve also included just the hint of a pattern from the tribal vector pack in order to make that background a bit more dynamic. Also since the illustration is for a movie called ‘The Northern Mist’ I figured it’s probably a safe bet to put some mist in there too. This is basically created on a layer above the background (but behind the character) by using some of the sexy Smoke and Cloud textures from the Arsenal. I use a few of these mixed together and set the layers to ‘screen’ (removing any blacks from the texture and just showing the white misty goodness), this gives a sense of volume to the mist in a very authentic (and quick!) way.
To add a bit of depth and to create a foreground, I duplicated the mist layer and moved it above the character illustration to give the appearance that my Lady Briton was stood amongst the mist rather than in-front of it. I also added a bit of light in the top left corner to help show off a bit of light direction and some cheeky dust particles to make the light look a bit more dynamic and to add extra depth. One last cool little trick I did here was to put all the character layers in a group (Ctrl+G) and then apply a gradient mask to that group from the ground up, effectively fading out her feet. The result of which made her look as though her feet were disappearing into the mist, but still allowed me to keep the mist fairly fine.
So there it is, my finished Lady Briton illustration. Patrick and the guys from Cohort Pictures were really thrilled with how this, and the other illustrations turned out. In fact, they even hired me again right away to produce a short comic book in lieu of the traditional storyboards, so that they could use it as a marketing tool for the film!
Hello dear Zine readers. Simon and Jon from Studio Ace of Spade here. Today, we’ll have the pleasure of walking you through the making of our entry for an old installment of The Fox Is Black’s Recovered Books contest.
Our goal with this walk-through/PSD break down is to provide some insight on the concept behind the poster, and on the various techniques that helped during the execution phase of it.
Let’s be clear: we don’t think we’ll give you any magic recipe to create a cool poster, but rather a detailed look at what our workflow for this one was, and a look at some of our favorite techniques when manipulating images and blending them with type elements and textures. We hope you’ll be tempted to actually play with the various values we used in our level editings and filters as well as the different textures in the packs we used, in order to make this piece your own.
How it came to be
The contest on The Fox Is Black
Like we said earlier, what became this poster was an entry for The Fox Is Black’s Re-covered book contest.
The Fox Is Black, formerly Kitsune Noir, was started in April of 2007 as a way of sharing interesting ideas with likeminded people.
The contest is quite simple. Bobby and his team of authors choose a book, provide some background inf, cover examples, and a deadline. Here’s some of the announcement post:
Well, it’s been a few months since our last Re-Covered Books contest, so I figured it was time we get back to creating some awesome work, don’t you think? I decided that I wanted to pick a book that was newer, something that could really inspire a lot of bold ideas and not be marred with clichés. Browsing through our library at the TFIB HQ I came across a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and realized that’s exactly what I was looking for.
It’s important to remember that this was the book that inspired Blade Runner, the emphasis here is on the word inspired. That means I don’t want to see any Harrison Ford looking guys on your covers, or anything that’s borrowed from Blade Runner. Try and use your imagination and come up with some crazy, sci-fi imagery.
And here are the examples of (beautiful) vintage covers he provided:
Having read excerpts of that book a long time ago and not seen Blade Runner yet, we quickly proceeded to do so in order to understand the difference between the 2. After some research, we also discovered a comic book version of the book, edited by Boom Comics!
After all that research and armed with our best memories of sci-fi movies (from Metropolis to The Matrix), we felt like we could go ahead with conceptualizing a direction that would be ours, even if not totally unique.
The title gave us the most obvious visual direction. There are androids, sheep, electricity, dreams that are mentioned. The story includes robots that are so close to look like humans that they might not be recognized by an untrained person. It’s also happening in a society devastated by a global nuclear war, and Earth is in a shape so bad that most of the people left to colonize the stars.
In short, we want robots, electronic elements (circuit boards…), sheep, and a gloomy atmosphere.
From there, we started to gather reference photos and some other visual to create something close to a mood board.
This mood board includes a WPA poster with 2 bighorns sheep, a 1890s photo of the National Galleries of Scotland of a sheep named MacGregor, one of Hannes Beer’s ADED project installment, a photo of sleeping sheep, and the Bighorn sheep print designed by Mark Weaver.
After the mood board, we embarked on a quick texture research, to find circuit board textures we could use. As usual, Caleb from Lost and Taken got us covered, with this pack of circuit board textures, published on WeGraphics.net. Bittbox also has a series of circuit board textures up, but we ended up not using them. We’ll explain why a bit later.
After some quick sketching on paper, it became clear that trying to draw a robot sheep wouldn’t work as efficiently as using a photo as the base of our poster. We did some posters including hand drawn elements before, but this one just didn’t seem to work. Instead, we decided to use the 1890 photo of MacGregor the sheep as the base element of our poster.
Once the base of the poster was determined, we also knew we wanted to have the circuit boards present in the image as well, probably overlayed on top of it. We also knew we had to have the author name and book title on it somewhere.
A lot of the things that happened during the execution of that cover/poster were happy accidents, as it often happens with an organic design process. This means one thing: EXPERIMENTATION IS KEY. It also means that what we sometimes consider as mistakes can actually be more interesting than the original direction you planned for.
With all that said, let’s dive in the execution part of this piece, shall we?
First, some useful resources
The very first file you’ll need to get is the picture of MacGregor the sheep. Don’t forget to grab the biggest size available.
Let’s look at our layer palette to see what we used and what you’ll need to emulate it. First, the background.
In here, we have, from top to bottom:
- A photocopy texture made by clarisaponcedeleon and available on DeviantArt
- Scan-32 is a vintage paper texture part of a pack done by Caleb of Lost and Taken called Vintage paper textures vol. 1 (published at Design Kindle)
- VV_PaperDotsSingle is a paper texture with some heavy grain, published on Flickr by Dustin of Valleys in the Vinyl
- VV_DirtyPaperPack_02 is from a series of dirty paper textures collected by Dustin of Valleys in the Vinyl
- bashocorpo_com__paper3 is a paper texture from Bashocorpo
- Metallic blue (6) and Metallic Blue (2) are both from a pack called 7 blue grungy paper textures from Lost and Taken
You’ll also see a color layer (in blue #6faab8), but more on this later.
The next set of resources will be useful for the global texturing process:
Here’s where to grab these ones:
- Tape borders and tape borders copy are constituted of pieces of tape coming from Fuzzimo’s Flickr stream and from Lost and Taken and combined on a layer.
- Splash 3 comes from a pack of textures made by Andre Meca and published on PSD Fan
- grunge_-_dust_-_deviantart_-_too_dusty… is a film texture with dust and speckles I found on DeviantArt
- texture_from_film_-_05_-_4298403252_6b4b31470a_o_d is a grainy film texture, coming from a set by m. r. nelson on Flickr
- 4439092868_c299e91a19_o – subtle grunge – LT is part of a set of subtle grunge textures made by Lost and Taken
- Old Film 02 has been found on DeviantArt
- noise2_7 is part of the second set of noise textures put out by WeGraphics. If you don’t want to buy the set, use the free sample
- circuit board – BB is one of the textures taken from BittBox’s circuit board texture pack
- c_b_2 – BB is wrongfully credited to BittBox here, and can be found in that free set of circuit board textures at WeGraphics
Phew. That’s all the resources you’ll need in terms of textures. In addition to that, you’ll need the 2 aged effect actions, created by the good folks here at Go Media (Aged Effect One and Aged Effect Two).
Note: in order to save the actions, just do a right click on the links above, and choose “Save link as…”
Let’s make this piece
Step 1: creating a new document
Let’s remember that at first it’s supposed to become a book cover. So we could just go ahead and decide on a cover format based on one of the most common book sizes. Since we weren’t sure we’d make it through the contest and just in case we’d want to turn this into a print, we decided to design our submission as an 18×24 inches poster.
So let’s create a new 18×24 inches document in Ps. As you can see, our document will be in RGB mode since some of the filters we’ll be using in the final phases are available in RGB mode only.
Other than that, since we might end up getting this to print, don’t forget to put the resolution of your document to 300 ppi. We’ve also added guides, as they help us to structure the composition. On a 18″x24″ print, we have them typically set up at 1, 2, 9, 16 and 17 inches vertically, and 1, 2, 12, 22 and 23 inches horizontally. Then, you can also add some as needed.
Note: you might want to create a similarly set up document in Ai, and leave it open in the background. We’ll use that one for creating the type elements a bit later.
Step 2: let’s place MacGregor
We could have started with the background texture buildup, but we wanted to make sure we’d place the main element of our poster without the distractions of background textures. We already knew that our type would mimic a typical book cover layout (title at the top, author at the bottom), so a somewhat off-centered placement for MacGregor was what made sense.
Drag the sheep image in your document. Desaturate it, then, convert it to a smart object (right click on the layer). This allows to keep “access” to the original file, even though you’re going to resize it and/or apply filters to it. Beware, this state has some limitations. Once it’s a smart object, place and resize it as you see fit.
The image the National Galleries of Scotland are making available is fairly small. We’ll need to think about sharpening and other enhancements. In terms of sharpening, one method I like to use a lot is based on the high pass filter. It’s been explained very well on this blog by Oliver Barrett, so I won’t go over it too much in detail.
You’ll need to make a copy of your correctly placed sheep layer. Then, right click on the layer and rasterize it. Once it’s rasterized, apply the high pass filter. I used the highest value possible for the filter, 250, because the base image is so small. Switch the blending mode of the high-passed layer to soft light and play with the opacity to adjust the intensity of the effect. You can see I actually have my base layer (not high passed) on hard light, to let the color and background effects play through, then the high passed layers are set on soft light at 25% opacity. The second copy is here because I needed to make the sheep a bit more present once the background was done.
The background textures
Since we wanted to create a dark and digital mood but not fall into a Matrix style, we opted for an electric, kind of muted, blue as our base color: #6faab8. After that, we wanted to start with a paper grain and rusted metal background. As you’ll see, it evolved into something a bit different.
First, a layer filled with the base blue (#6faab8).
Then, our first texture: Metallic Blue (2). Open it, drag it in your document and place it at the center. Resize it in order to cover the full extent of the canvas (or even to go beyond its limits). Then you want to desaturate it (CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+U) and adjust its levels (CTRL/CMD+L), to bring the details of the texture out. Then, sharpen it a couple time by using the sharpen filter found at filters > sharpen > sharpen. Just compare your original Metallic Blue (2) file with the one I have here. You’ll also notice that I placed the blending mode of this texture on Overlay @ 100% opacity.
Now, by following a similar process, let’s build up all the other layers used for our background. Here, Metallic Blue (6) has been placed on Soft light @ 100% opacity, after being leveled and sharpened.
bashocorpo_com__paper3 is bringing us the splatters we wanted. It also lightens the piece.
VV_DirtyPaperPack_02 adds folds and other worn effects.
VV_PaperDotsSingle is probably the texture that has the most impact throughout the piece. It’s what makes the final piece’s halftone effect so strong. Now that we have a chance to look back on this, maybe we would have put it on Soft light instead of Overlay, and also down to 50% opacity instead of 75%. Yet, as said before, it’s what brings most of the main feel to the piece. It’s bringing these great lines of worn folds.
Scan-32 is part of the Vintage paper textures Vol. 1. We edited the levels to make it really dark (the black is at 125, the mid-tones at 0.5 and the white at 200). Using Linear burn as a blending mode brings a lot of dark back into the piece.
Finally, ending up with the photocopy texture on Soft light @ 75% opacity helps to restore some light in the center zone, where MacGregor awaits some further treatment.
This concludes the background. If you’ve read our tutorial/case study of our Lost and Taken poster on this very blog, you’ll see that the process to play with the textures and combine them together is pretty similar.
Adjustments to MacGregor
Once you turn back on the layers for MacGregor, this is what your piece should resemble. All the texture work of the background is hidden! So, instead of leaving your base sheep layer on normal @ 100% opacity, let’s switch it to hard light.
The result of this blending mode switch lets the background show through pretty well. We’re definitely hitting the grunge vibe we wanted the piece to have.
We’re not having much of a technological feel to this, but that’s where the global texturing process will play. For now, it’s time to create our type elements.
The type elements creation
As a rule of thumb, when working on a piece like this one where there aren’t too many type elements to manage, we like to create them in Ai. It offers more control on the type, and allows to adjust scaling at will before applying textures and other effects.
Here are the final elements we used in the piece.
You’ve probably all recognized Gotham. We decided to use it because it’s a really legible typeface, but also because it has that great vintage feel. Because of the overall dark piece, we wanted the type to be white. In order to make sure it would be legible, we included it within these black blocks that act as a separation between the busy texture of the piece and the type. Finally, the white rectangles help to structure the type elements a bit better.
If you look closely at our type elements, you’ll notice they’re looking worn out. To achieve this effect, we’re using the roughen filter in Ai (Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen). You can see the values we’ve used on the screenshot. We need to give credit here to Simon Walker (aka Super Furry) and to Dan Cassaro (aka Youngjerks) for the tips and tricks on how to use this filter. Simon did a great post over at Method & Craft detailing his use of it.
When placing our type back in the piece in Ps, we realized that white type in a black rectangle wasn’t that efficient. We then decided to invert the type elements to black text in white rectangles, which has much more visual impact.
Once both type elements were placed, it was time to start adding texture to them. Instead of adding another set of texture layers specifically to them, we decided to just place their blending mode on Soft light @ 100% opacity. When stacking copies of the layer, you’ll give it more opacity, with the textures below still playing through it. In our case, we stacked up 3 copies of the layer of each type block.
You’ll also notice a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer for both elements, and here’s the reason why. This is what happens without the adjustment layer:
The colors are just way too “hot”, too saturated by places. Sometimes, this can be a sought after effect. James White (aka Signalnoise) explained in his broadcast about his Dagger Woods poster that his really flashy colors are often obtained that way. But this time, we weren’t pursuing this route, so we added that adjustment layer, and turned the saturation down to -75.
Which gives us the following result:
Much more subtle. Also, remember we’re designing in RGB, and that when printing, these really bright colors don’t translate all that well (unless you add a spot color and work with some really talented pre-press guys).
The last thing we added to the type was a layer mask in which we pasted a grunge texture to add some extra grunge. Demonstration:
Without the grunged layer mask, this is what we get.
Here’s what the content of my layer mask looks like:
The texture was probably taken from this grungy lamp post texture pack from DesignInstruct, but we could be wrong. To paste a texture in a layer mask, it’s quite easy. Start by opening the texture you’re interested to use. Copy all its content (CTRL/CMD+A, CTRL/CMD+ C). Then go to your main document, and ALT+CLICK on the layer mask. You’ll be switched to see the content of the layer mask. You then just have to paste the texture you previously copied in there, adjust its placement, size and levels, maybe use the sharpen filter, and you’re all set. This technique allows to use elements than are bigger than brushed, which are limited to a 2500×2500 pixels size. And here’s the result of our manipulation:
Here’s a shot of the current state of our piece:
Now that the type is in place, it’s time to add some global textures on here.
This step is important, because it helps us to bring coherence to the piece by unifying all the elements together. The technique behind it is the same than when building the textures for the background, except this time you have to take the legibility of everything you have underneath into account. What’s the point of adding more to the composition if it takes your original work away?
Let’s start by adding something we’ve been talking about from the start, the circuit board textures.
We’ll start by using c_2_b, which comes from that WeGraphics free texture pack. We placed it vertically and made sure it would cover all the design. After the typical desaturation, sharpening and level editing, we switched its blending mode to Overlay @ 100% opacity.
Thinking the effect wasn’t as strong as we wanted it to be, we duplicated the texture, which gave us the following result:
We were happy with the added intensity. We just put the opacity of the copy a bit down to 75%.
If you looked well, you’ll see we have a layer mask on part of the board textures. The reason for that layer mask is to soften the board texture on the text blocks. Let’s look closer at our text without the layer mask:
And now, here’s the text with the layer mask being active:
It’s really subtle on the top part, more obvious on the credits, and helps quite a bit. The layer mask content consists of the text blocks surface filled with #d4d4d4 gray.
Next texture in line is one of the circuit board textures from Bittbox’s set. It’s on Soft light @ 100% opacity. It adds some really soft lines.
Next, we have noise2_7 (or you can use the free sample, spot the link under the download button). It’s placed on Screen @ 50% opacity. Screen makes the black parts of the image transparent, which just leaves the white speckles and dust appearing. This ages your piece in a heart beat.
For the same reason we duplicated the circuit board texture, we’ve duplicated that one too. The other thing we did to the duplicated layer is to rotate it 180°, to add some more visual variations.
Next texture in line, Old_Film_02. Placed on Soft light @ 50% opacity, it’ll had some soft hints of more dust and speckles.
The next texture is taken from Lost and Taken’s subtle grunge textures. Placed on Soft light @ 100% opacity, it brings some brightness back in the piece.
m. r. nelson’s texture_from_film_05 brings some of that film grain into the piece. Soft light @ 100% opacity.
too_dusty, the film texture from Miss Alienation’s DeviantArt gallery, is yet another dust speckle texture. You’ll need to apply some pretty harsh levels to make the speckles come out. Place it on Soft light @ 50% opacity.
Andre Meca’s splash texture adds another layer of subtle variations. Its blending mode should be Soft light at 50% opacity.
The tape border layer has been created using the various pieces of tape of the packs I listed above. If it’s too long and painful for you, you could also use these great brushes released by Chris Spooner. Combine your tape elements to create a frame that would go around the edge of the piece. Then, put the layer on overlay @ 100% opacity. Since we didn’t think it was creating a strong enough frame, we duplicated it and tuned down the opacity of the copy to 75%.
Phew. Almost done! Bear with me for the finishing touches, and you’ll have yourself a great finished product!
Finalizing the piece
So far, here’s what we have:
What we’ll do now is to gain time in the following steps. First, select the whole piece (CTRL/CMD+A) and then crop it (Image > crop). The reason we do that is to clear the file of the excess of texture that goes beyond the limits of the canvas. You don’t see them, but Ps does and it slows it down when applying filters and inflates your file size.
Once the cropping is done, let’s create a new layer that will include a merged copy of all the content of our piece so far. There’s a shortcut for this, it’s SHIFT+CTRL/CMD+ALT/OPTION+E. Once that’s done (and it can take a while, so go grab a warmer for your coffee mug), make 2 copies of that layer.
This is where the actions we’ve asked you to download will get useful. Get them loaded in Ps, and let’s play with them a little (Addicted to design wrote a quick how-to).
Run the first aging action on on the first copy of the comp layer. Here’s a preview of the result:
The action effect is a really harsh, almost xerox like (but with color) rendition of the piece. Let’s switch that to Soft light @ 25% opacity, for a less aggressive result.
Let’s turn back on the second copy of our comp and run the 2nd aging action on it:
For the same reasons as before, let’s switch this to Soft Light @ 25% opacity, and it’ll already look much better.
These 2 actions help to enhance the contrast, while still adding something of an aged look to the piece. Now the last piece, the halftone effect.
The halftone effect we use to finish most of the posters we do is greatly based on this tutorial written by Adam Levermore. Mad props to him. Let’s create another comp layer (once again, the shortcut for that is SHIFT+CTRL/CMD+ALT/OPTION+E). Once it’s done, rename it halftones and make it a smart object. Reset your color palette to black as your foreground color and white as the background color. We do this because your active foreground color will be used as the color of the dots of the halftone effect. Go to Filter > Sketch > Halftone pattern. Here’s what you should see:
The first thing you should go is head over to the zoom menu, and hit the “Fit in view” option. Now you’ll see what you’re doing. After that, we choose to emulate a pretty realistic halftone effect, with a minimum dot size of 5. We set the contrast at 15, like that it’s high enough to still show highlights and dark areas, but it’s also low enough for the brightest areas to how some of the halftone dots in them. Here’s the result:
Now, it’s time to use to our benefit some of the smart object status of our halftone layer. First, let’s change the blending mode of the actual halftone effect. Double click on that symbol, noted 1.. Then, in the drop-down menu (2.), choose Soft light @ 100%.
And then, finally, we can put the blending mode of the layer on lighten @ 50%.
Now, hit File > save! Save it as a PSB, as the final file is over the PSD file format size limit. Our file weighs a whopping 2.5+ Gb. And here you are, with a neat grunge, Do androids dream of electric sheep?-themed, poster.
Thanks again for sticking with us to the end of this rather long tutorial. We hope we’ve given you some insight on how we do things. If you have questions, suggestions, love/hate messages, let’s get the discussion going in the comments! Also, if you want to follow the progress of the poster as we made it, you can check the stream of Dribbble rebounds associated with it.
Simon H. and Jon Savage, Studio Ace of Spade.
There must be something about digital type that we don’t like.
We put a lot of energy into distressing, aging, texturizing, and simulating letterpress techniques with digital type. There are a lot of cool techniques out there. So here I am, sharing yet another one that’s really good for distressing specific parts of letters that are subject to more wear & tear.
We’ll be using Photoshop and digging into layer masks & scatter brushes.
But first, let me show you an example of what we’re trying to achieve.
Okay, so a couple of things about the way this type looks that I can’t achieve using regular techniques:
- The distressing is not even. This is not just noise or a texture overlay.
- The outlines are not straight. Actual distortion of the letterform edge, from peeling, erosion, ink bleed, or whatever.
- Certain parts of the letter seem more vulnerable to wear & tear. This makes sense I guess.
Step 1: Prep your type
Create a document, 1000×500 pixels. Fill the background with #22202c. Make a text box, type something clever in #eae7e0, and rasterize the type with applied FX.
If you’re curious, here are my type settings:
Unviers LT Std, 49 light ultra condensed
Layer effects: 7px #eae7e0 stroke, from center
Now let’s do some standard pre-grunge type tricks that I learned from Jeff Finley’s Wacom Illustration Video Tutorial. Blur the rasterized text by 1px. Now use smart sharpen with a 0.8px radius and at 140%. Remember these blur and sharpen numbers will depend on the size / resolution of your document.
Now let’s distort the edges of the text a little bit. Go to filter>distort>ripple, and choose a small ripple with a 22% amount. The edges should ever so slightly ripple. Here’s what mine looks like now:
Step 2: Make a grunge scatter brush
This is the brush we’ll be using to paint away distressing on the type.
Open up your brush panel and check “Shape Dynamics”, “Scattering”, “Noise”, and “Smoothing”. This is gonna be a nasty brush! Push the sliders for Size Jitter (in Shape Dynamics) and Scatter up & down until you get a brush preview similar to the one you see here.
I generally like to keep my main brush very small & soft, usually between 1-4 pixels and 0% hardness.
Hit “D” on your keyboard to reset your foreground & background colors to default black & white. This means your brush will be black, which is what we want.
If you just swipe the brush around a little bit, you’ll see you’re now “painting noise”. Perfect!
Step 3: Paint the type mask with the scatter brush
Make sure your layer mask is selected, and use your brush tool to paint inside this mask. Black pixels hide the rasterized type layer, and white pixels show it. The mask starts out all white.
As you paint in your wear & tear, think about the letters as physical objects. What parts look subject to distressing? Call to mind rusty old street signs and roadside ice cream shacks. Vary the size of your brush between 1 and 5 pixels. Use larger brushes for the edges of the letters. Use a little more distressing in areas that seem especially ‘rippled’.
See how the mask I’m painting looks noisy, like the brush preview above?
Just keep painting until you get a degree of distressing that suits you. I tend to prefer very mild distressing. Just enough to get the looker’s subconscious to think “not digital”. Be sure to make each letter different. That’s kind of the whole idea of this approach: more custom than a distressed font.
Cool, huh?! Once you do it a few times, this technique isn’t much harder than overlaying a texture – and it looks a lot better to me.
We’re basically done here, but I’ll add in a paper texture to make our image more closely match the “SHHH” image.
That’s it! Thanks for reading this quick tip, and let me know if you have ideas to take the technique further.
Hey designers, attend our all-inclusive soul-fulfilling three-day design retreat, WMC: Off-The-Grid, this October 5 – 7th. To learn more, head to wmcfest.com.
Simon from Studio Ace of Spade here. Jeff Finley asked me to compile a list of some common distressing techniques as a supplement for his eBook “The Designer’s Guide to the Apparel Industry.” Distressing graphics is a pretty integral part of designing t-shirts. This tutorial will demonstrate three easy to understand and easy to apply techniques for adding a distressed or grunge look to a design using Adobe Illustrator.
Be sure to check out some other tutorials the graphic designers at Go Media have whipped up as well!
Adobe Illustrator Technique #1: The Grunge Brush
For the first technique, we’ll learn how to take advantage of Illustrator’s brush tool and of some of the brushes that come bundled with it. Our subject will be a vector of a blimp I created a few weeks ago and used for one of my Studio’s entries for Signalnoise’s retro poster competition, “Air traveling”.
The Step 1 is easy: open your vector file.
Step 2 is easy as well: make sure your vector object or group is expanded.
To do this, select all (CTRL+A or CMD+A, depending if you are using a Windows or Mac box), then go to the menu “Object” then “Expand”. You might be prompted to select what you want to be expanded. Check all the boxes.
Once this is done, we’ll move to step 3: select the brush tool and get the brush that interests us. Don’t forget to de-select your vector art or else you will apply the brush to it.
Open the brush panel from the left toolbar (or with F5), then click on the menu icon at the lower left corner.
Make your way through the menus to pick the “Artistic – Chalk / Charcoal / Pencil” brush set.
Then pick the first brush and the brush tool.
Now, we’ll have to pick a random color that is not used at all in the design element we’re planning to grunge out. The reason for this is because we’ll use the magic wand tool later to select the brush strokes we are about to make, and we don’t want anything else but these brush strokes to be selected. Here I picked a really loud blue (something like #3FE6FF).
Now it’s your call. Play with the brush tool and make a couple brush strokes in order to cover your vector element. In my case, 2 strokes were enough.
Experiment with different thicknesses, placements. You should play with how you position/draw the paths with the brush tool, with the stroke thickness… For instance, I was hesitating between a 2 pt. thickness and a 4 pt. one before settling on 3 pt., because it looked the best. I would also not be afraid of editing the paths afterwards with the direct selection tool (keyboard shortcut: A) to modify their directions.
You want to cover most of your design, but also make sure that you won’t go overkill with it. Also, watch how I tried to leave out of the blimp the big chunks at the top left of the top stroke. These would have been over the top in my opinion, and wouldn’t have looked so realistic.
Quick tip: to quickly toggle the brush stroke on and off, switch the stroke color to your background color by tapping the X key repeatedly.
Once you’re satisfied with the result, time to move towards step 5.
Here, we’ll expand the brush strokes like that we can merge them with the design using the pathfinder tool. To do so, select your vector object and your brush strokes (I used CTRL/CMD +A since these are the only things I have in my art board).
Then, go again to Object > Expand in order to expand everything.
Step 6: the pathfinder. Now comes the time to merge everything.
Go to the pathfinder (Shift + CTRL/CMD + F9 by default in Ai CS3) and click the merge option. Depending on the complexity of your design, that can take a few seconds.
The 7th and last step is to use the magic wand tool (shortcut: Y) to get rid of the blue we don’t need in our final design.
Click anywhere on the blue strokes to select all of them. Delete (DEL key) and…
… And it’s distressed! Victory?
No. Ai sometimes leaves some transparent elements that need to be cleaned up too. To see them, select everything (CMD/CTRL +A), then use the magic wand once more (Y) to click on one of these left over points. Once they’re all selected, you can delete them.
And here it is, our distressed blimp.
Adobe Illustrator Technique #2: the grunge vector element
The grunge brush technique is easy and convenient (the brush comes with Illustrator), however it might not look very realistic — especially if you have to make the brush really thick, big or to repeat it a lot to cover the design. Real distressing looks more or less random and doesn’t repeat itself.
One of the tricks we have up our sleeve then is to use resources that are specifically made with the distressing purpose in mind. Head over to the Go Media Arsenal and grab some grunge vector resources.
For this one, I’ll use a texture of the Destroy I vector pack (first one of the preview actually). It’s subtle enough, yet you can duplicate it for more intricate effects (as will be demonstrated).
Step 1: Open the files you will need: the blimp vector and the grunge vector. As I explained previously, the grunge vector is from the Go Media Arsenal.
Step 2 is similar to what we did previously with the brush strokes: change the color of the grunge vector to a color that has not been used in the element you want to distress. Again, I choose a bright blue.
Step 3 is where it becomes fun: it’s sizing and placement time. I chose to center the vector, then to size it big enough to cover my vector blimp. But then I realized that the single instance of the texture wasn’t enough distressing for my taste.
So what I did as a 4th step was to copy the texture and then paste it in front (CTRL/CMD +F)
After that, I just had to rotate the top copy a bit to accentuate the grunge feel. I rotated it of 90° for that tutorial, but remember that experimenting is the key and that you should find what suits you.
Step 5: Expand the vector grunge elements (Object > Expand).
Step 6: Merge using the Pathfinder palette.
Step 7: Cleaning out. Like earlier, we are going to delete the grunge vector(s) used to distress the blimp in order to keep just the distressed blimp in the final art.
Here I used the magic wand (Y) to select the blue grunge vectors…
And deleted them selection (DEL)…
Selected the transparent leftovers, deleted.
And there you have it, another distressed, grungy looking, blimp!
Adobe Illustrator Technique #3: using a texture
Like in Photoshop? No, no. We are going to live trace it.
(Don’t grab that one, go grab the high resolution file, it’s going to look much better)
It’s going to be really simple and share a few common steps with the previous techniques. Our experimentation subject is going to be this vintage radio vector I did a few weeks ago as part of another entry to Signalnoise’s retro poster competition.
Step 1: open your file.
Step 2: let’s place (File > Place) that grunge texture in our document. The process is really similar to opening the file.
Now, our 3rd step is to live trace it. It’s going to be easy, as when you place and select the texture, the live trace button appears on the top toolbar of Illustrator. We could use some of the presets, but I believe we can get better results by experimenting with the values a bit. So instead of selecting them, click on Tracing options at the bottom.
I always set Path Fitting, Minimum Area and Corner Angle to 1 when using Live Trace. It’s supposed to give the most details from the object I’m using as an input. I also checked Ignore White since I just want the grunge of the texture to come out. Then I also check the Preview box to see what those settings are producing.
I bumped the Threshold to 160 in order to get a darker texture (more pixels are converted to black). Once you’re happy with the result, click Trace and don’t forget to hit the Expand button.
Then, step 4 is to place, size and change the color.
Step 5: Expanding. It’s crucial to be sure that it’s correctly done, or else it simply won’t merge.
Step 6: Merging.
Step 7: Cleaning up!
Hey Designers, make sure to check out our Arsenal Membership, which hooks you up with our huge product library for only $15 per month. Yes, seriously.
Simon here, for another showcase of the amazing work posted in the Go Media Flickr pool. It’s so hard to select, as the level of submissions keeps getting more and more fantastic.
If you’d like to see your work featured here, just join the group!
Sorry for not posting this earlier, but you know how it goes: busy, work, life, trying to keep some sanity, etc.
Grid Kit Released
We cooked up the grid kit to be a go-to ingredient in your page layout process. We revisited the classic tomes of page construction and put together a smashing sampling of grids that will inspire & guide your eye through the design process.
All of the grids are vector so you can use them right in Adobe Illustrator, or overlay them onto your pages in InDesign, Photoshop or other design application.
We’ve included every kind of base grid we could dream up: various columns, margins, gutters, and rows. We’ve got isometric grids, golden concentric circles, graduated golden sections, gradient cells, and more. Several page construction methods resulted in a few of our favorite grids in this kit.
Most of the grids are for a single 8.5×11 page, but a handful use Van de Graaf’s page construction methods to build a page area for facing pages. If you want to see each & every grid included in the kit, check out the Grid Kit Facebook album.
Remember to check out the Grid Kit Facebook album to see a preview of all the grids in the kit.
I’m going to show you all how I went about designing the cover art for my band’s new single “24th of January.” Listen/Download for free here. If you aren’t aware, 2/3 of Parachute Journalists are members of Go Media: Jeff Finley (me on drums), and Adam Wagner who’s voice you hear on most of our songs.
We’ve chosen to release one song at a time and make them available for free download. Why? Because we’re producing each song ourselves and admittedly we’d never get our record out if we didn’t. One of the best parts is being able to focus on one song at a time to get something closer to our original vision. And I get to create new and interesting album artwork for every song!
Listen to the song
What you will learn in this tutorial
- Advanced texturing, noise, and grunge effects in Photoshop.
- Classy typography solutions
- Insight into the design process, hacks, cracks, and cheats. :-)
Now, admittedly, I am looking back at my artwork and reverse engineering my design process. I’m going to give you a glimpse of what I did and how I made my decisions. This isn’t exactly a step by step tutorial, but more of a “behind the scenes” look. Enjoy!
The deadline to create the art for this new single was fast approaching and I was still answering boatloads of emails from earlier in the week after I asked my entire customer base their opinion on how I could promote our new Vector Set 18. So I found a free moment late Friday night and cracked open Photoshop and started a new document at 10″ x 10″ at 300 dpi. I make all these covers at least that size in case I want to make prints out of them or create a cool fauxtograph effect which requires a higher res image.
My first idea was to run with a winter theme, being that our title was the “24th of January.” I thought I’d dive in head first in Photoshop and start splashing around until something cool happened. I gave myself an hour before bed feeling cocky like I knew that something awesome would just make itself while I clicked around. I hunted around Deviant Art’s stock photo area hoping something would stand out. At the moment, I was caffeinated and freshly inspired by Janee Meadows after she left me a nice comment on Facebook. I thought for sure greatness was just at my fingertips.
But that wasn’t the case. I couldn’t design anything. I pieced together stock photos and moved around blocks of my favorite typefaces. I even tried saving myself with the cheap retro/grunge tricks that I use to make everything look cool (you’ll have to buy this tutorial to find out), but nothing was working. I had the worst case of designer’s block ever. See below for what I ended up with. Sure it’s not bad, but there’s no meaning behind it and I felt like I was reusing the same fonts and textures and wasn’t what I envisioned.
Perhaps because I didn’t start with a sketch? Perhaps I didn’t even consult with Adam, the one who penned some of our best lyrics? I saved out whatever I had and closed Photoshop. I failed and was super tired (although still buzzing from the coffee I drank earlier). The last drop of energy I had was used on a Facebook post and tweet about how I couldn’t design anything and fortunately a handful of compassionate folks backed me up and said “we’ve all been there.” With that, I went to bed after emailing Adam asking him for some fresh ideas and inspiration.
So I spent all day Saturday with my wife on her birthday. It was a much needed break to clear my head. I picked things back up Sunday afternoon. Waiting for me in my inbox was an email from Adam with some meaningful themes and inspiration. Here is what it said:
Recent events have caused me to question my identity again. How do I know that I’m the same soul that fell asleep when I wake up? Maybe my soul was switched, and all memories replaced with those of another person. I’d have no way of knowing. But I’ve certainly felt aware of some strangeness lately. And this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. I’m starting to feel like a veteran of this mental world. So, I just kinda roll with it. Paint a few of pictures of the (un)reality I’ve been living in.
Ok. What about a beautiful woman (like a goddess, or angel) performing brain surgery on a dude just sleeping in a dorm room environment? What about a side view of a face, but you can see inside the head like a cross-section, and there’s something frightening in there. Perhaps two howitzer barrels positioned behind the eyes operated by Bill Nye the Science Guy. Or a raccoon on a treadmill. Or a series of pipes & funnels that collect pictures through the eyes, which funnel into a grinder/transformer and make their way into a barrel that’s sticking out the mouth? The devil is operating the machine.
Immediately a light bulb turned on after reading that. It caused me to immediately think of the Rosemary’s Baby poster designed by Phil Gips and Steven Frankfurt that I love so much. I knew I wanted to do a head in a profile with something going on inside it. I also imagined a dark and creepy mood like something out of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. So I went back into Photoshop with a new attitude and direction.
Designing the Head
I was going to start with the head and go from there. I hunted around Deviant Art’s stock area, iStockphoto, and various others but couldn’t find a profile headshot that I really liked. I knew there was one resource I hadn’t looked at in years, 3d.sk. I used to go there for reference images for modeling characters in college. I knew they’d have a profile shot!
I found one I liked in their free sample area, high res too. I downloaded it and pasted it into Photoshop.
I rotated the head into position, and needed to cut out the head from the background. Fortunately the background just needed a quick level boost to make it entirely white. From there I tried a technique I learned awhile ago about masking out hair in Photoshop. The only thing I remember was using a brush set to “overlay” to create a nice mask. I did that, but discovered I kinda liked the way it looked just after doing that.
Now, I got that result above by accident. In fact I don’t even remember how to recreate that effect. If anyone else knows a better way to achieve that two-color grainy look, please let me know!
Screen out those darks
I put the head in it’s own group and set the layer to screen, so all the black parts would become transparent. I needed a dark background in there so I chose a darkish blue-green color. I also did a little cleaning up around the edges and made his ear less distracting.
Grain out the background
By default, I like to add a little subtle texture to my background layer. I’ll find some nice stock textures of film grain (thanks Simon!) or scans of dark colors in magazines and all the natural unevenness helps create a more cohesive look in the end.
You want to put this grainy layer right above your background color and set it to multiply or screen (or your choice of blending mode).
Put the gun to his head
This was looking pretty cool already, I almost wanted to just add the type and call it a day. But I was missing some of Adam’s core ideas. “What’s going on in his head?” This is where things got fun. I really liked the idea of putting the Howitzer barrels coming out of his eye sockets. That was my first choice, so I hunted around stock sites for images. I found a few that I thought were the appropriate angle and pasted them in and started cutting them out.
The 2nd option was getting there, but I wasn’t really feeling how it was laid out. And I also wasn’t sure of the usage rights on that image because I found it on Google Images which is usually a BAD place to go photo hunting. I just wanted to put life to an idea.
But no matter what I did, I just wasn’t feeling it. The barrels were too long or too off-balance. It wasn’t filling the negative space in his head in a way that felt right to me. So I tried to move on to another one of Adam’s ideas.
The raccoon on a treadmill! Perfect!
Raccoon on a treadmill = Design WIN
Anytime you can put a raccoon on a treadmill, your design is instantly awesome. So that’s what I thought! I found a great photo of a Racoon walking on Deviant Art and tried using that. I cut it out using my Wacom tablet and an eraser. This is a decent technique when accuracy or precision is not needed when masking out an object. Since the little guy was furry, I just used a soft brush with pressure sensitivity on to mask him out.
Once I got him masked out and into the design, I tried adjusting his levels and colors to match the overall piece. Now I needed to find a treadmill. But all I could find were modern looking treadmills that were too “fitness-ey” if you know what I mean. I wasn’t liking where it was headed and knew it was going to be a pain. So at this point I just scrapped the poor raccoon idea and moved on.
Finding the right solution
I tried the Bill Nye idea, but that was just awful. I chuckled as I gave it a try, but knew right away we couldn’t put his face in the art and expect our message to come across. I also tried a campfire and a few other things, but nothing was really standing out as a winner. What was going wrong here?
I took a step back, reread Adam’s email, and listened to the song again. I took note of “the devil is operating the machine” – reminded me of that scene in Eraserhead where there’s a disfigured man pulling levers by the window. The opening lines to the song read “Who says the words with my mouth? Who looks out with my eyes? Who hears the morning dove first? And only then the silence of the night?” It sounds to me like some sort of God or puppet master controlling your senses. The question is raised, “are we really in control?”
I found the right solution.
I wanted to illustrate the idea of some mythical figure pulling the strings on our senses and memories without using the tired “puppet master” cliche.
Completing the Idea
I knew I wanted to make this “mythical figure” a silhouette a la the Rosemary’s Baby poster. With the head in the background and the silhouetted mountain and carriage. I found some various photos of models in “puppet master” or “spell casting” positions and thought this photo would do the trick:
I traced around the figure using the pen tool in Photoshop and created my silhouette. I freehand drew the mountain scape and placed everything together the way I wanted them. I made the silhouette darker than the background and also added a slight gradient behind it, so it sort of faded into each other near the bottom and wasn’t such a harsh line.
TIP: I also added some noise, Gaussian blur, and smart sharpen to keep it from looking so crisp.
Experimenting with Vectors
I was excited because we just released Vector Set 18 over at the Arsenal and wanted to see if could include some of our new “Infographix” vector pack. So I played with adding some in but I wasn’t quiet sure it achieved the effect I wanted. They sure did look cool though! But I wanted to make it a little more obvious that there was some crazy magic person controlling the senses.
I scrapped those vector elements and decided just to create a simple graphic myself. I would circle the eyes, lips, and ears and connect them to the wizard’s hands. It sort of had that “infographic” look that I liked, but made it apparent that the wizard was interacting with the floating head.
TIP: I pulled a random grunge texture from the Arsenal and used that as a mask on my “circles and lines” layer. Just so I could beat it up a little bit and match the rest of the piece.
ÜBER NERD TIP: You can use ANY image as a mask! Open your texture, press Ctrl+A to select all and then Copy. Then go back to the layer you want to mask or distress. Add a new layer mask and then Alt+Click on the actual layer mask in the layers palette. You should now be editing your mask. Press Ctrl+V to paste and then click back on your layer thumbnail to exit mask editing mode. Voila, you should now see that your images black/white values are now acting as a mask!
Adding the Aura
While poking around my texture collections, I found a sweet texture from Resurgere and thought it might give this monochromatic design a splash of color.
Now it came time to add the type. Well, in reality, I already had started experimenting with textures and color, but I’ll save all that for the end of this tutorial as the finishing touches. Truth is, I love playing with texture and color, and oftentimes I might do that in the early stages of a design to give all my elements a cohesive look as I’m working on it. But for now, let’s just focus on the type.
I had been using Knockout in a lot of my Parachute Journalists designs but admittedly was getting bored with it. It’s an amazing typeface, but I always feel the urge to try something new. This time I satisfied my craving for a tall, thin, condensed typeface by using Triple Condensed Gothic from Red Rooster.
That would be my title face and under that I’d pair it with an uppercase Helvetica Neue 65 Medium for Parachute Journalists. I wanted to include the band members so I completed the lockup with Mercury Small Caps with thin borders on the top and bottom to square things off. All of this was going to be really small anyway, so it’s really just for “texture” and not readability. The most important thing is the title and the band.
Also, I wanted to include more “type as texture” goodness. I wanted to add the lyrics somewhere in the design but didn’t care if they were readable or not. The goal was to give the entire piece an illusion of feeling bigger than it actually was. One way to do that is with really small type. I included the full song lyrics across the bottom in 4 equal columns. If you want, you can read the lyrics better here.
Adding one more piece
I really wanted to use one of the new vector images from our Infographix set, so I went back to it and found one. I was just looking for something subtle to add interest and centralize the whole piece. So I used another grunge texture to distress it and tastefully put it in the background after using a “color overlay” to give it an appropriate color to match the piece.
Now it’s time to add some textures and bring the piece home. As I said before, I often experiment with adding textures throughout the entire design process, but for the sake of this tutorial I’m adding them all in at the end so you can see what they do.
I create a new layer and fill it completely with white. Then I go to filter > Lens Correction and find the vignette option. I usually set the value to -100 and then tweak the opacity in my layer afterward. Once I’ve applied the vignette to my white layer, I set the layer to multiply and turned the opacity down to 50%.
There are lots of nice dusty textures out there, you just gotta find them. Eric Carl always knows a good texture when he sees it and has scanned in a bunch of vintage advertisements on his Flickr account. I used some of those to create my own textures and applied them like so.
The image was pretty dark overall so I wanted to give it a boost. I opted for using the “exposure” controls instead of brightness and contrast. Why? Just for different results that’s all.
I used a combination of hue/saturation, color balance, and color layers set to multiply and lighten. I was going for something cold and otherworldly here so I wanted to stay in the blue/green realm.
I added one more layer of some whispy, blurred clouds, added grain, and put it on top. I set it to soft light and lowered the opacity to 50% and decided I was done with my image. Here’s the final piece:
Just for fun I thought it’d be cool to animate the different layers building on top of one another in an animated gif. See below for a different look on how it all came together. It wasn’t as straightforward and easy as this final image makes it look!
Grunge design was getting popular when I got started in 2004. I was inspired by the artwork and branding behind the underground punk, metal, and hardcore music I listened to. Naturally their aesthetic seemed to be riddled with dirt, grime, and blood because it seemed it fit the bands image and message. I had no idea why it was that way, it’s just how it was. So let’s take a step back a few years to see where it came from.
They say David Carson is the “father of grunge” because he rejected typical type layouts and played with non-mainstream techniques to achieve different results. He surrounded himself in the Southern California surf/skate culture in the late 80s and early 90s where he began to make his mark. This went on to help define the visual aesthetic for surf/skate culture as fans began to identify with it.
When I was in college from 2000-2004, I flipped through music magazines and read through the liner notes of my favorite albums, I noticed something that caught my eye. Here was “smart” type layout combined with illustration, dirt and grime. Something my newbie designer eyes had not seen before then. This helped me discover that design wasn’t ONLY about creating ads with a clever tagline like my friends who majored in Graphic Design did in college (I was an 3D Animation major).
I was soaking up the designers and artists responsible for this refreshing hybrid including Asterik Studio (now Invisible Creature), Eduardo Recife, Damnengine, THS, and the Bau-da Design Lab. To me it was the anti-mainstream and rejection of pop culture, boy bands, and the slick MTV aesthetic. I was all about it.
These are just a few of the many pioneers of the modern grunge style. They stood out because they were able to move between stunning photo manipulation and hand drawn illustration without neglecting their typography. Of course, the icing on their collective cakes were the dirt, stains, spills and splatters that symbolized the underground and alternative design sense. Their combination and skill of putting it all together was what made them great.
For the rest of us just getting started, we hadn’t yet learned or trained our eyes for type or had the resources for pro photography. However, we knew Photoshop and we had the tools to help us LOOK like we existed in the same realm. Around that time, Photoshop brushes, textures, and grungy fonts were tools developed to achieve that counter-culture vibe that so many of us found refreshing and relatable. At that time it seemed like everyone I knew was hording brushes, textures, and grunge fonts from sites like Misprinted Type and Dubtastic. Clean “corporate” design was so “pretentious” and “boring” and our young energetic selves needed to destroy all that was clean and too “business-like.” It kind of went with the territory when you listen to metal and punk rock and watched films by David Lynch or Harmony Korine. Also, adding “aged effects” was an attempt to make your designs feel less digital and more realistic and natural.
We found beauty in the grotesque and solace in the sinister. We found comfort in nostalgia and we smile when we see something that visually takes us back in time to our childhood. We wanted to make stuff in the same vein and the availability of these “tricks” made everyone who had Photoshop be able to put together a “grunge design.” Copy, paste, boom you’re done. Easy. And the popularity of those resources encouraged designers to create and share their own as a way to get exposure. In fact we did this in 2006 when we launched the Arsenal and sold hundreds of “vector packs” and were featured in magazines like IDN and Computer Arts.
So what has happened since? It’s exploded and because it’s so “easy” to find and download tricks to create a dirty and grungy design, you have young designers “grunging shit up” all the time because they can. What’s happened is that you’ve got an overabundance of awful and messy collages of used and reused free grunge brushes and vectors. Apparel brands and department stores are making loads of money selling tees using heraldry emblems, eagles, wings, skulls, splatters, etc. 4-5 years ago it was an emerging trend. 2 years ago it was a tired cliché. Today your grandmother owns a garment with a skull or dragon on it and a few copy/pasted splatters.
So where is the “grunge movement” going today? There are certainly designers still doing great work out there. A few years back, you had designers like Ronald Ashburn (Electrik Suicide) making waves with his futuristic retro style and Scott Hansen and Mark Weaver setting trends with a more minimal and Swiss approach.
On the music design side, you have Kyle Crawford, The Black Axe, and Sam Kaufman perfecting their craft and building upon the rich visual history of the bands they work for. I don’t see the trend ending any time soon, but I do see a more mature approach as designers grow and appreciate subtlety and get sick of the messy clutter or design objects often associated with grunge.
In reality, whatever the mainstream is doing, look for the new pioneers to reject it and create something entirely new. If grunge design is mainstream and ubiquitous by now, there’s certainly an undercurrent of young rebellious designers looking to destroy it.
If you have some inspiration for a refreshing take on the “grunge” movement, please post it below.