Let’s create a striking history book cover about antique war stories with the Hard to Kill Vector Pack
How to Create a Book Cover Design
Well hello there dear readers! Simon here, ready to walk you through my process to create a striking book cover with our latest vector pack release, the hard to kill vector pack. We’ll look at the pack elements, how to pick, choose, and arrange them to craft a design.
Our role today is to create a book cover for a collection of ancient warrior stories. The collection includes stories from antique Athens and Sparta. We’ll need to have a good centerpiece graphic element, as well as include the two parts title: “Ancient warrior stories – Vol. 01: Athens & Sparta.”
Building our concept
While the pre-made designs included in the pack are striking, they don’t quite fit the intent. They are more suited for apparel applications.
We need something striking, but less focused on a lettering element, and more on a visual element. The Spartan helmet will do just fine for that.
The shield will provide a good supporting visual element to anchor the helmet in the frame.
The two circular frames elements will provide additional ornamentation.
We’ll probably add another thing here and there, to tie everything together, but these will be the core of our piece. We’ll also use League Spartan, from the League of Moveable Type, to set our title.
Oh, and for the color scheme? We’ll stick to the white/dark gray/light gray of the pack itself. It’ll challenge us to keep things efficient to maintain legibility, and impact.
Let’s get this show on the road
Step zero: document setup
We’re working on a book cover, assembled from vector elements. We’ll work in Illustrator, in a 6″x9″ format. Note that the color mode has been switched to RGB, to match the color mode of the vector assets.
Step one: background elements!
That one is easy. We need to create a rectangle in a dark gray (#231f20) that covers the whole canvas.
Step two: the warrior helmet and shield
Let’s start with the helmet. Let’s paste it at the center of our document (X: 3″, Y: 4.5″), sized at 4.5″ wide. Let’s reflect it on a vertical axis so it “looks” to the right (right click > Reflect).
Let’s remember to organize/rename our layers, and groups, right away to keep our document clean.
Let’s add the whole shield element (including pattern) into our document. It should be pasted behind the helmet, centered in the document, and sized at 4.9″ wide.
Once the shield properly in placed, we need to adjust the color of its background fill to match the color of our document’s background color (#231f20). The shape in question is the black path at the bottom of the group.
Here’s the result after a quick shot of the eyedropper tool (I).
We’re moving forward, nicely, but the shield’s pattern showing through the helmet’s open areas creates visual tensions. To remedy that, we are going to create a background fill shape by using offset path. With the helmet highlighted, let’s head to Object > Path > Offset path. The dialog box will allow us to create the shape that matches the helmet with an extra 0.25″ added to its edges. Note the round joins for a softer feel.
The function creates a new path, that is the same color than the one used a base. We need to change the color of that path to our background color as well (#231f20).
With that done, and with some layer clean-up later, this is where we’re at.
Step three: the circular frame elements
Adding these in is nothing trickier than giving them their own layer, proper size, and proper order. Let’s start with the more complex of the two, with the pointy elements.
After creating a layer for them placed below the helmet and shield one, it needs to be pasted in centered, and sized at 6.383″ wide.
The second frame is to be pasted behind the first one, centered, and sized at 7.25″ wide.
The various black areas of that second frame need to be changed to our background color (#231f20).
Step four: the text
Adding the text is a walk in the park, thanks to the type on a path tool. Let’s start by creating a centered circle with a diameter of 7.65″ in a new layer.
We’re typing our first part of the title (“ANCIENT WARRIOR STORIES”) on that circle. It’s set in white-colored League Spartan, sized 18 points tall, centered, and tracked at 250.
After creating a second circle, we can add the second part of our title (“VOL. 01: ATHENS & SPARTA”).
The issue we have is the alignment of the text object on its circular path.
The good news is that after double-clicking on the type on a path tool icon in the main toolbar…
….we get access to this option panel, that allows us to change the alignment to ascender, which in turns makes things look a lot better.
With that done, we’re almost done with our cover, as the main elements are in place.
Step five: some fluff for good measure
While our cover’s main elements are in place, the corners are slightly empty at the moment. It can give the impression that our content is floating in the middle of the page. Let’s add some corners elements to visually close the frame around the center piece. The corners of this element will do.
After ungrouping the piece/releasing the compound path, we’ll be able to select the corners in question separately from the rest.
After a bit of clean-up, and selective grouping, we obtain each individual corner element.
They should be pasted at 0.25″ in each direction of the corners, and sized at 1″ wide.
And because we’ve properly named our layers/vector objects, this is what our file organization looks like.
Step six: leveraging our texture library to add a final layer of substance to the mix
To properly wrap this piece up, we are going to add three textures to it to give it some “meat.” First, let’s save a high resolution PSD file of our piece (File > Export > Export as). Note the checked Use artboard box, to trim the elements that are outside the bounds of our canvas.
A few technical notes and reminders
As we embark on the texture side of things, it’s a good time to remember a few base rules, and processes:
- Don’t know what a clipped layer is? Glad you asked! This means that the layer is only visible/applies to the layer directly below it. You can very quickly do this by holding ALT down on your keyboard and clicking between the two layers. Here’s a quick demonstration.
- Every time we’ll work with textures, we’ll follow this simple process: place as smart object, sharpen1, desaturate, enhance contrast with levels, and modify the blending mode.
- Placing the textures as smart objects, and using adjustment layers to tweak them, allows us to stick to a non-destructive workflow. We’ve explored in depth the numerous pros and few cons of such a workflow in this past tutorial: “How to Use Textures The Right Way.”
Notes: 1 – accessed through the Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen menu.
Let’s start with a texture from our vintage paper texture, vol. 01 set.
The texture is vintage-paper-textures-volume-01-sbh-001.jpg.
It’s placed in our PSD file as a smart object, sized up to 165%, rotated 90°, and sharpened.
After being desaturated with a clipped hue/adjustment layer, we’ll be enhancing its contrast with a clipped levels adjustment layer.
And after changing the texture’s blending mode to soft light @ 75% opacity, we’re achieving the first part of our texture effect.
Next is a vignette. I strongly recommend using this lossless vignette technique, found via Design Panoply (#6). The color of my shape layer is our trusty dark gray, #231f20.
Note the 150 pixels feathering value.
After changing the vignette shape blending mode to soft light @ 50% opacity, our effect is achieved.
The last texture we’ll add to the piece is from our photocopy noise texture set.
The texture is the first one in the pack, photocopy-noise-textures-001-sbh.jpg.
That texture is placed centered, and sized up to 100%.
We’re using levels to make the white specks of dust really “pop.”
The result, after changing the texture’s blending mode to screen @ 100%, is quite satisfactory.
And here’s a last look at our layer palette in Photoshop.
Let’s wrap this party up!
Phew, we’re all done! Look at this cover. Let’s mock it up for the client presentation.
I hope that you enjoyed following along the tutorial as much as I enjoyed creating it, and that your outcome matches the goals you set for yourself before diving in.
Did I leave anything unclear? Any suggestions? Don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below! I’ll be happy to help.
The hard to kill vector pack is now available! Go grab it! If you already have, I hope you enjoy it, and that this tutorial gave you a sense of what you’ll be able to accomplish with it.
And on that note, I’ll see you next time. Cheers!
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:
Hello GoMediaZine/Arsenal blog readers! Simon here with a new step-by-step tutorial. We will be leveraging the contents of our brand new Crest of Arms vector pack to create a poster for the release of PWR.CLRS’ first, self-titled, album. We’ll talk about inspiration, layout exploration, and execution.
Our framework for the tutorial is that we’ve been contracted to create a poster for up and coming musical act PWR.CLRS. The experimental musician is based in Cleveland, and produces a mix of hard-hitting electronic beats, distorted guitars, and spoken word surrealistic poetry. He’s releasing his first record, and needs to let the masses know about the fun night ahead. As we’re pressed for time, we’ll be leveraging the library of visual assets provided by the vector set to speed up our design process.
Gathering some inspiration, and putting a concept together
The inspiration from this piece came from three different sources: the vector pack itself, a superb portrait bathed in neon, and wide array of album art examples.
The vector pack features a lot of clean cut, precisely drawn shapes, with careful highlights, shadows, and ornaments. The elements that immediately jumped at me were the shield shapes (actual shield, circular patterned version), the stalks, and some of the oval frames. Although all the elements are exquisitely drawn, their complex highlight and shading made them hard to mix with other elements. We’ll look at techniques to remove some of the fluff.
The next bits of inspiration came from two photos available from the wonderful collections over at Unsplash. The first photo is this striking night portrait, taken by Alex Iby. I knew rapidly this would become my centerpiece element.
The second photo that helped to shape the piece was this other portrait, taken by Jay Clark. The slogan on this gentleman’s shirt was the key to the band name. I started with TRVE.COLORS, which morphed to PWR.CLRS (Power Colors).
Lastly, the amazing library of album art through the ages hosted at Fonts In Use proved good jump-starting material.
With the elements in hand, it became clear that the shield shapes would support, and frame, our neon portrait. A dark background featuring white text would make for increased contrast. Some additional visual elements (stalks), sprinkled with some textures would tie the whole piece together.
Additionally, we’re locating this era-defining performance at the Phantasy Nightclub in Cleveland (Lakewood), OH. The Phantasy is a special place:
“Nine Inch Nails debuted at the Phantasy. The Ramones, Iggy Pop, the Pogues, the Damned, the Psychedelic Furs, the Cramps, Motorhead and the B-52s all played there. The Phantasy was also fertile soil for Cleveland’s ascending 1970s and 1980s music scenes (…)”
(via this old news article)
Let’s set a date of February 28th for the performance, and indicate that tickets are available everywhere.
A few technical notes and reminders
We are going to use both Photoshop and Illustrator for this piece. Photoshop is were 99.9% of the work will happen, but Illustrator will be necessary for opening the pack’s files, and to customize the vector elements themselves.
We are going to work extensively with textures. It’s a good time to remind you guys of a few base rules, and processes:
- Don’t know what a clipped layer is? Glad you asked! This means that the layer is only visible/applies to the layer directly below it. You can very quickly do this by holding ALT down on your keyboard and clicking between the two layers. Here’s a quick demonstration.
- Every time we’ll work with textures, we’ll follow this simple process: place as smart object, sharpen1, desaturate, enhance contrast with levels, and modify the blending mode.
- Placing the textures as smart objects, and using adjustment layers to tweak them, allows us to stick to a non-destructive workflow. We’ve explored in depth the numerous pros and few cons of such a workflow in this past tutorial: “How to Use Textures The Right Way.”
Notes: 1 – accessed through the Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen menu.
With this in place, it’s time to get started!
We’re working with an 18″x24″ canvas. I made mine 18.5″x24.5″, in order to work in some bleed area. I’m at 300 ppi, and using RGB, as some of the texture magic happening in the finishing touches rests on it.
Next, we’ll use the automatic guide tool (View > New guide layout) to create a grid to align our elements on. We’ll be using four columns, and eight rows. The margins are set at .25″, so the inside of our outer guides will be our 18″x24″ canvas.
Main elements: the portrait
If you haven’t yet, grab Alex’ portrait over at Unsplash.
Let’s place it as a smart object in our document. It’s sized at 22.5% of its original height and width, and its center is located at X: 9.25″, and Y: 13″.
Next, we need to change the color of the background to #231f20 (a rough equivalent to CMYK rich black).
Main elements: the vectors
It’s time to grab the assets we’ll need from the vector pack. Let’s start by opening it in Illustrator. All of the ones we’re interested in are on that first artboard. I’ve highlighted them in red:
- The shield
- The “circular patterned” shield
- The wheat stalks
- The oval “toothed” frame
Let’s start by copying all of these in a new, empty Illustrator document to remove some of the clutter out of the way. I suggest a sheet that is at least 8.5″x11″, and in RGB color mode (to match the PSD document). A dark background (#231f20 for instance) will also help us to see our modifications to the assets more clearly.
Next up: to copy and paste these four assets to the empty Illustrator document.
Prepping the shield
The main change we need to make is to remove all the fluff from that main shield shape. All the shading do-dads have to go. The fastest solution is to ungroup the asset (Right click > Ungroup), to manually select all of the extra elements by hand, and to erase them.
At that point, we’re left with this neat, thick, white shield.
Next, we simply have to paste it in our Photoshop document, as a smart object. It’ll be sized 425% of its original size, and its center placed at X: 9.25″, and Y: 12.25″.
Once in place, this is what our layer stack looks like: the background, the smart object photo, and the smart object shield.
Masking the image using the shield
One of Photoshop many useful features is the ability to click on a layer thumbnail, and to load its content as a selection. Let’s click on the shield layer thumbnail while pressing the CTRL (PC) or CMD (Mac) keys to load it as our selection.
From there, with the photo smart object highlighted in the layer palette, we can simply click on the Add layer mask shortcut at the bottom of the palette to start the masking.
Et voilà, we have a mask in place. It isn’t showing/hiding the right thing yet, but we’ll get there shortly.
If we click on the layer mask thumbnail and press ALT/OPTION at the same time, we can have access to, and edit, its content. We’ll start by inverting the image, so it shows the proper thing.
Better, but we also need to mask the photo past the edges of the mask.
Let’s go back to our mask view (click + ALT/OPTION), and paint the outer side of the shield edge in black as well to hide the rest of our portrait.
If you use the paint bucket to quickly fill the area, remember to use a solid paintbrush to clean the seams.
And with that work done, the photo is properly masked!
A bit of extra depth
In order to give the shield around the photo a bit more visual presence, we are going to give some extra layer styles to simulate a real thickness. First, a thick stroke. It’ll be 35 pixels thick, and has the same color as the background (#231f20).
Next, a strong drop shadow, for the illusion of depth. Note the darker color used (#202020).
The result is a satisfactory illusion of depth and layers.
The circular shield
Time to add the “oval patterned” shield in the mix. After heading back to Illustrator, let’s change its color to pure white (#ffffff), then paste it as a smart object into our Photoshop document behind the photo layer.
It’ll be sized at 550% of its original size, and positioned with its center at X: 9.25″, and Y: 12.25″. Additionally, we’ll change its blending mode to screen, to interact more with texture elements later.
The circular, “toothy” frame
This little one needs to be adapted a bit.
First, its color needs to be changed to all white.
Next, it needs to be pasted as a smart object between the photo, and the main shield shape. It’ll be sized at 950% of its original size, and positioned at X: 9.25″, and Y: 12.03″.
After changing its blending mode to overlay, we get a neat secondary frame effect in place around the portrait, highlighting the face even more.
Last vector element: the wheat stalks
This last one is the finishing touch of the vector assets. It frames the overall piece, and also gives it a visual anchor within the canvas. We first need to head back to Illustrator to change their color to pure white.
Next, we’ll paste it as a smart object right above our background layer. We’ll size it at 1000% of its original size. Its blending mode will be overlay @ 50% opacity, and its center is at X: 9.25″, and Y: 12.3″.
And all of our elements are in place! Next, we need to talk text.
Copy copy copy
The copy for the poster will be straight to the point: the name of the act, the occasion we’re summoning people to show up for, the location/date line, and the ticketing information. All spelled out, we have:
- RECORD RELEASE PARTY
- PHANTASY NIGHTCLUB • CLEVELAND • FEB. 28TH
- TICKETS AVAILABLE WHERE TICKETS ARE SOLD
The typeface we’ll use for our poster is a free one, and comes from the League of Moveable Type. It’s called Orbitron, and has been designed by Matt McInerney. It’ll be the one used for all of our text elements.
PWR.CLRS is typed at 150 points tall, centered. Its center is located at X: 9.33″, and Y: 2.40″. Note that the kerning is set to optical.
RECORD RELEASE PARTY is typed at 60 points tall, centered. Its center is located at X: 9.22″, and Y: 21.94″. The kerning is set to optical as well.
Next, PHANTASY NIGHTCLUB • CLEVELAND • FEB. 28TH / TICKETS AVAILABLE WHERE TICKETS ARE SOLD are all part of the same text object. The “/” indicates a line break. It’s written 30 points tall, and placed at X: 9.25″, and Y: 23.21″. The kerning is set to optical as well.
And with that, all of our text elements are in place. Here’s a look at how our layers are organized up to now. Note the new Background layer group, to separate its elements from the rest.
Time for textures!
Now that everything is all well organized, it’s time to add textures. If you looked at some of my past tutorials, you already know that I LOVE textures. They help us to give substance, depth, and, well, texture, to very clean digital shapes. Luckily for us, the Arsenal has quite the library.
First up, the text
In order for the text to be more worn out, we’ll be using a texture from the Vintage Organic Noise Texture Pack. The texture in question is gma_tex_herbal-organic_09.jpg.
Remember how we used click+ALT/OPTION to edit the content of the shield’s layer mask earlier? Well it turns out that we can do much more than using brushes and the paint bucket when doing that. We can also paste the content of a texture file in that layer mask. Depending on the texture, it can make for a very rapid, and efficient way to give things a worn out aspect.
Let’s start by opening the texture in Photoshop, and copying the content of the file (CTRL/CMD+A to select everything, CTRL/CMD+C to copy).
Then, let’s add a layer mask to the Text layer group.
By clicking+ALT/OPTION on the layer mask thumbnail, we have access to that pristine layer mask’s content.
By pressing CTRL/CMD+V, we can paste the texture at the center of the layer.
In order to cover the whole piece, we’ll rotate the texture clockwise 90°, and size it up to 220%.
From there, in order to soften the intensity of the texture, we’ll use levels (CTRL/CMD+L) to fade the texture some.
The result is this beautifully, organically worn text.
Next, the background. We’ll be using a painterly texture from the Brush Stroke Textures, Volume 02 pack. It’s brush-strokes-textures-volume-02-004-sbh.jpg.
Let’s place it dead center right above the background layer, sized at 105% so it covers the whole background.
Remember the technical notes from earlier? Don’t forget to sharpen the texture smart object (Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen).
After using a clipped hue/saturation to desaturate the texture layer, we’ll be using a clipped levels adjustment layer to enhance its contrast.
Lastly for the background, we just need to change the blending mode to soft light @ 35% opacity for our effect.
With that our background is fully textured. Time to move on to texturing the piece as a whole, to tie everything together.
Texturing the full piece
The first texture we’ll use for the piece as a whole is from the Vintage Organic Noise Texture Pack again. It’s gma_tex_herbal-organic_07.jpg.
We’ll place that texture centered in the frame, and rotate it counterclockwise 90°.
It’s sized up to cover the whole piece, at 55%.
After sharpening the texture, we can simply change its blending mode to color burn @ 35% opacity. There’s no need to desaturate it, as it’s already a black and white texture.
In order to add some highlight at the top of the poster, we’ll then add gma_tex_herbal-organic_03.jpg in the piece.
This one is rotated 90° clockwise, and also sized up at 55% to cover the whole piece.
After sharpening, we can change its blending mode to soft light @ 25% opacity.
To add a hair of film noise, we’ll use GoMediaArsenal_FilmNoise_05.jpg from the film texture pack.
This texture needs to be rotated clockwise 90°, and sized up 2100% to fill the whole piece.
Once we have used a clipped hue/saturation layer to desaturate the texture, we need a clipped levels adjustment layer to enhance the texture’s details.
With that done, we just need to change the texture’s blending mode to screen @ 35% opacity.
With that, we’re almost done. Here are what our layers should look like at this stage:
The last bit of stuff we need to do to this poster to wrap things up is to add a little bit of a halftone effect. Let’s start by making a merged copy of all the layers so far, by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+ALT/OPTION+E. This will create a new layer at the top of our stack.
Let’s rename it to Halftones.
After that, we have to turn it into a smart object. With the layer highlighted, head to Filter > Convert for smart filters.
With that done, we can head to Filter > Pixelate > Color halftone. Note the value of the Max. Radius, up to 10, from the default value of 8.
The cool thing with smart filters is that the layer has a blending mode, and the filter itself has one as well. What that means is that we can make the effect even more subtle and believable. Let’s start by assigning the halftone filter a blending mode of overlay @ 100% opacity. To do this, let’s double click on the double arrow icon on the right-hand side of the layer thumbnail.
We then get access to this drop down menu to choose the blending mode.
From there, we can change the blending mode of the layer itself to lighter color @ 35% opacity.
If everything went according to plan, this is what the layer stack should look like.
Additionally, here are a couple of detail shots @ 100% zoom.
And here are some close-ups:
And finally a full view of the final piece:
Wrapping things up
Phew, that was a long one! I hope that you enjoyed following along the tutorial as much as I enjoyed creating it, and that your outcome matches the goals you set for yourself before diving in. Did I leave anything unclear? Any suggestions? Don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below! I’ll be happy to help.
The Crest of Arm vector pack is now available! Go grab it! If you already have, I hope you enjoy it, and that this tutorial gave you a sense of what you’ll be able to accomplish with it.
And on that note, I’ll see you next time. Cheers!
What to do When You’re Overwhelmed
Ever find yourself in a situation when you’re so overwhelmed with work that you actually feel paralyzed? Us too.
Here are some ways which help us to power through during those times when we’re under the gun.
Write it down. No, but seriously. There is nothing better than a to-do list. Sure, Teux-Deux and GoogleTasks are great, but there is no better feeling than physically writing down your list of to-dos. Getting everything down on paper allows you to understand what you’re up against and lets you plan accordingly. Making sure to turn even little to-do’s into formal tasks will allow for you to feel more accomplished, as crossing them off feels oh-so-good. A brand new planner will really help facilitate this process.
Delegate! For many of us, it’s not easy to give up control to other members of our team. The delegation of tasks, however, can be one of the best tools in your toolbox, and one of the most powerful moves to make. Though delegation takes a lot of upfront work, the backend is often smooth sailing.
Try SMART goal setting. When setting goal for yourself, be SMART about it. Goals should be: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and trackable. Too lofty and the anxiety will start to sneak in.
Pump…yourself up. A great tip we found once that we love involves Star Wars (and what great tip doesn’t)? When you’re distracted, strap on those headphones and motivate yourself with some great music (sans-lyrics) like the Star Wars soundtrack or video game music. It will make you feel like you’re taking on the world, one tiny task at a time.
Create consistency. Whether you’re a blogger, social media manager, designer, or entrepreneur, there are tasks that you do on a somewhat consistent basis (or should). These might include writing blog posts, publishing tweets or Facebook posts, emailing potential clients or writing proposals. When you feel overwhelmed, these tasks may become unwieldy. Instead, block out consistent chunks of time in your week to dedicate to these important tasks, making sure not to overcommit yourself to anything unreasonable. Remember, quality over quantity always wins.
Phone a friend. In times of desperation, phone a “friend”. This not only takes some of the pressure off but also introduces some fresh new life into your work and content. Here at Go Media, we have a great list of extended family on hand at any time, as well as some great freelancers and bloggers who can step in at any time and lend a hand.
Put your blinders on. When you have a huge project to attend to, office chatter, music or small interruptions can be an unwelcome distraction. Besides gritting your teeth to power through, think about what you can do to alleviate some of these disruptions. This could be anything from getting into the office early or using an app to practice the Pomodoro timer (work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break). (Try Freedom, Focus Booster or Stay Focused.) You could also try changing scenery and work from home or a coffee shop or completely shut down your computer and work strictly on pen and paper.
Underpromise, overdeliver. Setting expectations is an important part of communicating with clients, family, and friends. When you consistently overpromise something you may or may not be able to deliver upon, you are setting yourself and the relationship up for failure. We suggest setting honest expectations upfront and then overdelivering whenever possible. It’s such an awesome feeling all around.
Good luck and go get ’em!
TV Glitch Effects: Makin’ Em in PS (& Free TV Glitch Textures, Too!)
So guys, we’re kind of obsessed with these tv glitch textures we’ve been seeing around town lately. So, we created some for you to use and apply to your work right now.
We also thought you might like to learn how to apply your own glitch effect on photos in Photoshop. So stick around and we’ll create some magic together.
Choose your photo and open it up in PS.
Something about this photo really called to me. Can’t put my finger on it.
Open up your channels panel, then highlight your red panel.
From your menu options, select Filter > Distort > Shear
Using the points given, create a soft wave.
In the “Undefined Areas,” section, select “Repeat Edge Pixels,” then select “Ok” to Save.
Look back at your channels panel. Make sure all of your colors are selected now. What do you think? Love what you see? Want more cowbell?
If you’re craving more glitch, select your green panel and repeat the process we completed in Step 5.
And, you guessed it! Feel free to repeat with the blue color channel as well.
Play with it until you’re satisfied.
Last, let’s go Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Crank that up as high as you’d like (Gaussian) and Ok to Save.
Hope you guys had fun. What freebie textures, what tutorials do you want us to create next? Please let us know in the comments section below!
How to Start Your Own Podcast
Hey, it’s Bryan from Go Media and today, we’re going to dip our toes into podcasting. You’ve probably heard there’s a ton of cash, arms full of lovelies, and loads of listeners just WAITING for you to put your voice into their ears.
Or, you’ve just got some knowledge that you want to drop and this seems to be a worthwhile way to go about it.
Either way, you’re probably asking yourself how to get started, and how can you get started without spending a lot of time and money upfront? That’s what I wanted to know about 6 years ago when a few friends and I wanted to start our own podcast.
In this tutorial, we’re going to be looking at what equipment and software you should be looking into as you begin your journey into podcasting. Then, we’ll go into some tips and tricks on the recording and editing side.
Now, full disclosure: I wouldn’t call myself a professional podcaster. I’m not making loads of money doing this, or going to awards shows, or seeing millions of downloads. Actually, that’s realistically a small percentage of all of the podcasters out there. And, my arms are empty, still waiting for the lovelies to arrive.
But, as more and more people want to get into podcasting, it’s becoming apparent that there really isn’t a good “how to” out there. I learned a lot just by trial and error using existing equipment and free software that I had lying around from my days as a solo acoustic.
6 years later, I’m still using a lot of the same techniques and software. But, I’ve streamlined the process quite a bit so that I can podcast in any location, for any type of situation.
On the professional side, I run the Go Media Podcast. We set up the conference room with three mics so that Bill, Heather and I can talk to each other, as well as our guests over Skype. We run our mics through a mixer that connects to my laptop. With the help of a 5-way stereo audio splitter, we can all connect our headphones to the mixer so we can hear our virtual guests.
On the personal side, I also run 5 other podcasts through the Fans Talk Podcast Family. There, I do a majority of the podcasting with virtual co-hosts over Skype, Google Hangouts, Blab.IM, or whatever else we wind up trying out. And yes, four of the series revolves around the wonderful world of professional wrestling. For those, I connect with various guests from all over the world via Skype.
You know that whole thought about not spending a lot of time on it? Well, I am known to over-extend myself a bit, but it’s become a passion, and honestly – how cool is it to know that people actually want to hear what you’ve got to say? Even if you’re talking about professional wrestling while drinking with your best friends? That’s awesome.
Equipment I Use For Podcasting
If you’re doing a solo show, or meeting your guests over Skype, you can get started with less than $100 worth of equipment. If you want to have multiple people on one side, you could get a 2-3 person setup for under $300.
I’m assuming you’ve already got a pair of headphones that you use and are happy with. Just in case, I use V-MODA LP2s. Luckily, they were a gift I received as a groom’s man. Otherwise, I might not have picked these up as they’re a bit out of my price range at around $200. Legit, they are the best pair of headphones I’ve ever owned. They really give me a great, focused sound. And, when you listen to music with these, the experience is amazing.
However, sometimes being connected to my laptop with a cable isn’t ideal. If I’m only doing a solo episode, or am the only person on my side as I connect with someone over Skype, I tend to use my Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Headphones ($90). I got the green ones. They connect right to my laptop without an issue. While they do come with a microphone, the quality is not great. Not good enough for podcasting, that’s for sure.
I didn’t buy these specifically for podcasting, but have loved the flexibility it has given me during recording sessions. Since I do a majority of my podcasting at the home studio standing up, not being attached to the laptop with a cable is really nice. I can move around, walk away to get a beverage refill as my co-hosts continue to talk, and I don’t lose the ability to hear them.
But, in the end, as long as they aren’t leaking audio out into your mic while you’re recording, and are good enough to use to listen to music, you should be fine starting out with whatever you have handy.
Microphones & Accessories
This is a hot button topic for a lot of the podcasting industry. Condenser mics vs. snowballs, USB-powered vs. XLR-exclusives that go into a mixer, there are so many ongoing debates, it might be difficult to really find what works best for you and your budget.
I skipped all of that and went with something that seemed to be a good fit for my needs, as both a podcaster AND a musician. As well as someone who might just record with a guest over Skype or might connect with multiple people through a mixer. I wanted to be able to have flexibility without a load of different equipment.
I went with the Samson Q2U Handheld Dynamic USB Microphone. Out of the box, it also comes with a pair of headphones and some recording and editing software, but I never had much use for either. Headphones aren’t super comfortable, but in a jam, they can come in handy. And software is dated and really not useful for me, but maybe it could be for you.
Anyways, the Samson Q2Us can connect to either a USB input or can connect with a mixer via XLR. Or both at the same time, depending on how you’re recording or what you’re recording. It comes with both cables, so no need to have to pick up anything additional. You can plug your mic directly into your laptop or desktop with a USB cable and start using it right away.
Once you choose a microphone, you’ll need something to hold your mic for you. I’ve gone the route of desk stands, as well as boom mic stands which I took from my days as a musician that did semi-frequent shows around town. But, recently, I’ve fallen in love with my NEEWER Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand. They connect to the edge of the desk and can move around with you. If you want to sit, they can position right in front of you without a problem, and without getting in the way of your hands or your view of your guest, notes, beverage, mixer, or laptop.
I’m also terrible at popping my ‘P’s, so I doubled up with two air filters. One is the On Stage Foam Ball-Type Mic Windscreen. This wraps around the mic itself, and keeps away any air that might be flowing through the room towards the mic, like fans and heaters. Then, I added a Dragonpad pop filter 360 Flexible Gooseneck Holder, which attaches to the mic stand. This adds a much needed buffer between me and my mic.
After months of debate, and knowing that we’d be having multiple people in the studio at Go Media, I decided to pick up a mixer. Specifically, the Behringer XENYX X1204USB Premium 12-Input 2/2-Bus Mixer. At $230, it might be outside of your price range. And realistically, it might be completely out of your needs as well. But, if you plan on sitting in-person with 2-3 other guests and don’t want to have to share a mic, this is a good option to have.
And, just in case you’re doing a mix of 2-3 guests in the studio with you as well as a guest over Skype, you’ll want to pick up a headphones splitter. That way, you can listen to the output from the mixer and everyone will be able to hear themselves and the Skype audio. I use PLAY X STORE®3.5mm 6-Port Multi Headphone Splitter, and at $5.50, it’s a really handy. It will split your audio for five headphones and all in stereo. Besides using it for podcast work, Heather and I also use it when we record Designer Face Off.
This goes without saying. I must have something to write notes in. I try and keep track of coughs, Skype drops, or anything else that is either worth looking into removing from the final edit, or follow up questions to ask.
So for me, I go with the Go Media pocket notebook that was made available at this year’s WMC Fest. But, use whatever is available: sticky notes, a napkin, a moleskin, back of an envelope, etc.
You can get started with what you already have. Whether it’s the work-provided desktop or your personal laptop, you can do a lot with little.
For the first 4 years, I used my basic, under $200 tower to get the job done, and it did. For a while. Now, I mostly use it for show notes and talking to the live chat, or pulling up wikipedia to fact check my co-host.
Now, I use a Dell Inspiron i15RV 15” laptop. It’s got a 1.4 GHz Processor, 4GB DDR, and a 320GB Harddrive. Really, I didn’t even buy it for podcasting. I bought it so I could work remotely from the coffee shop. But again, it gets the job done.
I’m a Windows guy. They’re easy for me. But, Macs offer a lot of built-in support that’s enviable. Garageband specifically. So, by all means, do what feels right.
Software & Apps For Podcasting
If you’ve got a Mac, Garageband is a great tool for recording and editing podcasts. Windows doesn’t have that. But, you can record and edit with some free software. If you want to share files easily between hosts, including some quality cloud-based archiving, you could be looking at about $100 year at Dropbox/Google. If you want stream your audio live, add another $100. If you want to host your mp3s on a social-powered service with some slick, Facebook and Twitter friendly embeds, add another $135.
Audacity is free for both PC and Mac. For Fans Talk episodes, we’ve all become accustomed to recording individually through Audacity. Then, everyone exports their audio to an .ogg file, which is higher quality than an mp3, and a smaller file size than a .wav. It’s somewhere in the middle, which is great for file transfer speeds.
Quick Tip: I make sure my recordings are at least above -30db. That way, if there is background noise, which normally hits around -42db and below, it’s easier to remove. And, always record about 5 seconds of audio of just your background noise. Keep the mic on and just sit back quietly so that you can isolate that noise when you edit.
And yes, I also edit all of my episodes with Audacity, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
I’ve been using Dropbox for years to keep all of my PCs synced together. It helps me go from recording on the laptop to editing on a faster system like my desktops at home and at work. It also allows my co-hosts and guests to be able to send me their files. Either they upload to their own organized folder structure, or we share folders. Or, in the case of someone just doing a one-off appearance, I’ll have them upload to Dropbox using the new “File Request” feature, which will allow them to upload even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.
Dropbox comes in three tiers. The free account gives you 2 GB of cloud storage. For $9.99/m, which is the tier I’m using, you get 1 TB of space. And, for $15/m per user, you can get the Dropbox Business account, which gives you as much storage as you need.
Recording on Audacity isn’t for everyone. Nor is it always possible. So, how can you get a solid, individual track of my guests and co-hosts? While I’ve tried various Skype recording extensions, nothing came out perfect. Primarily because, technology isn’t perfect. Skype could drop at any moment, or the internet could buckle causing the audio to come to me to be really poor and useless.
While a few different sites like this have come out over the last few years, Zencastr is the new kid on the block. It records all sides of the conversation into individual tracks, which streams and saves to my dropbox instantaneously.
And, if you want to eliminate Skype or Google Hangouts, Zencastr just added a VOIP service to it’s features. But, keep in mind, this is just in beta. So, it can be a bit buggy.
Zencastr is currently free, but once they get out of beta their plans could range from $10/m to $20/m. Limited to 3 hour shows.
Sometimes, podcasting can easily start to feel like you’re talking to yourself or with a friend in a box. You might see downloads grow, but quality feedback, especially for a weekly series, is never guaranteed. I actually don’t expect it anymore. However, that feedback is so great. And timely feedback is even better. But, what if you could get instantaneous feedback as you record? That’s where a service like Mixlr comes into play.
It’s an app that works with PC and Mac, and even your iPhone and Android if you’re into that sort of thing.
Depending on how often or long you record, Mixlr will stream your audio and provide you a nice chat from $9.99/m ($99/y) to $49.99/m ($499/y). I use the first tier. There’s also a free version and it allows you to stream for an hour at a time.
I’m really hoping this helps you start to think about what you need to get started with your new podcast. But after equipment and software, it’s time to start recording and editing.
I go in depth about the recording and editing process using Zencastr, Mixlr, and Audacity in my video tutorial on Go Media’s Arsenal.
The whole wide world is waiting for you. Best of luck and let us know how it goes!
How to Use an Opacity Mask in Illustrator (A Newbie’s Guide)
Hey Fans of Go Media’s Arsenal, the best resources for designers on the planet. We’re here for a quick guide to using your new Brink Design Co. Industrial Vector Brushes, just released a day ago! These 100 handmade vector brushes were created with an unparalleled level of detail, made using a variety of different mediums and techniques to give your work that dirty, grungy, industrial look so many of you, our loyal customers, have been requesting.
Hop on this train, as the pack is 21% off through Monday, December 21st. And these vector brushes are exclusive to the Arsenal, so you won’t find this detailed work elsewhere
Or, if you love the Arsenal products in general, you could join our Membership and gain access to our huge product library ($10,500+ in products) for only $15 per month. No strings attached, cancel at anytime. And yes, we’re totally serious.
Now, let’s get to the tip!
Skill Level: Newbie
Tools Needed: Cool Illustration, Brink Design Co. Industrial Pack and Adobe Illustrator
1. Install your Brink Design Co. Industrial Pack Vector Brushes (or, as I like to call, 100 handmade brushes from the heavens)
Instructions are included with the pack.
2. Open your illustration in Adobe Illustrator. We chose this cute little monster guy.
3. Start going crazy with some brush strokes. This is the fun part. Soak it all in.
4. Group your brush strokes all together. Ensure that your monster is left out of the mix.
5. Object > Expand Appearance
6. Using your Pathfinder Tool (Window > Pathfinder), select the first option – Merge
7. “Control C” to copy this element. Next, go into your Transparency Window. From the drop-down, select “Make Opacity Mask”
8. Click on the small black box within the window.
9. Click “Invert Mask” and BOOM.
10. Click on the masked area if you’d like change where your mask is placed.
11. You’re done! We hope you’ve enjoyed this tip. Make sure to pick up the Brink Design Co. Industrial Pack and create something great everyday.
Tutorial: Building a brutalist conference poster with Jason Carne’s Texture Lot One (Free Poster Mockup Included)
Conference Poster Tutorial
Hello there! It’s Simon on this end of the keyboard. I’m very happy to make my return to the Zine with a poster design tutorial, that will explore the possibilities offered by Jason Carne’s Texture Lot One. The tutorial will have us explore texture use tips and tricks, but also customized black and white conversion, large scale sharpening, type pairing, layout building, and more.
I’ll be using Photoshop CC for the tutorial, but any version of Photoshop past CS3 should be fine. Note also that I’m working on a Windows-based system, but other than visual appearance and slightly different keyboard shortcuts, that will not have any impact on the process we’ll go through.
Introducing Jason Carne’s Texture Lot One
As the hero shot image tells us, the set contains 30 “finely crafted” textures, that will help us to give a wide array of artifacts to our flat, digital art. They come from a multitude of source material: burlap, cork board, a scratched cutting board, stone, and more.
The textures come in the form of high resolution, black and white textures.
The level of detail is superb, and gives us plenty to leverage to add substance to our compositions.
And one more for the road, just because we can.
Let’s talk some more about the piece we’re putting together here. It’s a poster for a (fake) architecture lecture, focusing on Cleveland’s brutalist landmarks.
What is brutalism? Glad you asked:
Brutalist architecture is a movement in architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, descending from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century. The term originates from the French word for “raw” in the term used by Le Corbusier to describe his choice of material béton brut (raw concrete). British architectural critic Reyner Banham adapted the term into “brutalism” (originally “New Brutalism”) to identify the emerging style.
So, what does a brutalist building look like? There’s this amazing Tumblr called F**k yeah brutalism out there, and it’ll help me to answer that question:
(Education Wing, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971 -Marcel Breuer & Associates – via)
(State Historical Center, Columbus, Ohio, 1970 – Ireland and Associates – via)
There is something monolithic, synthetic, and minimalistic at times.
Now, why choose Cleveland as the focal point of the fake lecture? It happens that Cleveland has its share of brutalist buildings. A 2007 article from the Plain Dealer lists the major local representative landmarks of the movement: Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College Metro Campus, Cleveland Justice Center Complex, Crawford Hall (Case Western Reserve University), and more.
Assembling the free assets needed
It happens that there is a CC-licensed image of the Cleveland Ameritrust Building, one of these major landmarks, available on Flickr for us to use as the base of our poster. We’ll need to grab the biggest size available (4028 x 2704 pixels), through the all sizes page.
Got it all? Then it’s time to get started!
Preparing our Photoshop document
We’ll use is a “standard” 18″x24″ canvas for our piece. For the readers outside of the USA, feel free to use an A3 format. Note the fact that we’re using an RGB document, as some of the filters we’ll use require that color space to function.
Next, we need to setup a grid. It’ll help us when building the composition. First, we’ll leverage Adobe CC’s New guide layout functionality to build a six columns by 8 rows main grid (View > New guide layout).
The result is a grid based on squares of 3″x3″.
The next set of guides are going to help us establish the boundaries of the center column. We need vertical guides at 4.5″, and at 13.5″.
Finally, we need horizontal guides at 11.5″, and at 12.5″.
And with that, our document is ready to go. It’s time to get started for real.
The first thing we need to do is give a solid color to our background layer. It’s going to be the base for the effects we’ll build up through the tutorial. We’ll be using a very light gray, #ededed. If we were using pure white, the contrasts would be too strong, and some of the texture effects we’ll apply later would be “washed out.”
Next, we need to place the photo in our composition. We’ll place the photo as a smart object, in order to maintain a lossless workflow. It will also guarantee us access to the untouched original file. To do so, we have to use File > Place (or File >Place embedded in Photoshop CC), and navigate to the photo file.
Once the image is included in our file, we will give it its final positioning and size using the absolute positioning tools at our disposal. The center point of the image should be at X: 2.55″, and Y: 26″. The image is scaled up to 125%.
With that done, we need to sharpen the smart object, since we scaled it up. We’ll use the high pass filter for that. The Zine archive features a short article about the technique already. Let’s start by duplicating the smart object.
Next, we need to run the high pass filter (Filter > Other > High pass). We’ll use a radius of 100 pixels.
The result doesn’t look like much. To obtain the desired effect, we need to change the copy’s blending mode to soft light @ 100% opacity.
Next, we are going to clip the copy to the original layer (CTRL/CMD+ALT/OPTION+G). This contains the high pass effect to the layer it’s clipped on.
With that done, we can change the blending mode of the original layer to multiply @ 100% opacity. This will make the photo adopt the soft gray we’ve used as background color as its main color once we’ve converted it to black and white.
Black and white adjustments
Desaturating a picture IS NOT a proper way to convert it to black and white. We are going to use a black and white adjustment layer for that. The preset we’ll use is called blue filter. Cyan, blue, and magenta hues in the original image will be light, while greens, yellows, and reds will be untouched or dark. For a higher contrast, the greens, yellows, and reds could be purposefully set to darker (using a negative value in the sliders).
The next step is a curve adjustment layer, set to the lighter preset. This allows us to soften the black and white conversion.
Finally, a levels adjustment layer allows us to push the contrast up.
It’s time for some layer organization.
A hint of texture
We are going to add one of Jason’s textures above the background. It will help us to generate a subtle grain effect. The texture is Corkscrewed – Light.
It’s placed centered in our canvas, rotated of 90°, and scaled up to 225%.
After converting the texture layer to a smart object (Filter > Convert for smart filters), and sharpening the texture (Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen), we can change its blending mode to soft light @ 75% opacity.
That texture concludes our work on the background. Before switching gears and attacking the content columns, here’s a look at our layers so far.
Setting up the columns backgrounds
Back when we set up the grid, we created a set of special guides that we’ll now use to delimit central column for our text. The column is split in two parts, one with a red background, and one with an almost-black background.
Let’s start with the almost black. It sits at the bottom half of the canvas. Here’s the area we have to delimit.
After creating a new layer, we need to fill it with a very dark gray, #040404.
Finally, the blending mode of that layer should be multiply @ 98% opacity. This will allow us to bring a hint of translucency in the shape.
The next shape will be its pendant at the top of the composition, and will be filled with a very bright red, #eb1d1d.
The blending mode of that layer should be multiply @ 50% opacity.
The shape’s translucency is too high (we need to remember that it will be the background to text later on). In order to address this, we’ll duplicate the layer, and change the blending mode of that copy to normal @ 50% opacity.
A quick note about layers, as we’re about to add type elements in there. Here’s what they should be organized into. The background elements have their layer group, and each half column elements have their dedicated layer group. From there, it’ll be easy to add the type in the proper group, so everything stays organized.
It’s time to talk about typography
As announced at the beginning, we’ll be using two type families: League Spartan Bold, and League Gothic.
The main title
The main title reads “CLEVELAND / BRUTALIST / LANDMARKS,” and is set in all caps League Spartan Bold, colored in #ededed, that is 48 points tall, and with tracking set to 250. Each line is its own text object, and they are aligned to the grid lines within the column.
In order to further ground the title element, we are going to add horizontal dividers underneath each line of text. The dividers will be colored in #ededed, and measure 6″x0.125″. The dividers are positioned underneath each text line, 0.125″ under the text line. We’ll use shape layers to generate the dividers.
And here’s what the layers look like.
We are not creating a proper conference poster if we don’t add the secondary information like the lecturer’s name, a date, a location, and a URL. The information is broken down as follows:
“NOVEMBER 20TH 2015 AT 07.30 PM / CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART / A LECTURE BY DR RYAN G. BRAVIN / www.clevelandart.org”
The individual type objects are aligned in a similar fashion as before, on the grid lines. “NOVEMBER 20TH 2015 AT 07.30 PM” is set in League Gothic Condensed Regular, that is 72 points tall, colored in #ededed, and with kerning set to optical.
“CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART” is set in League Gothic Regular, that is colored in #ededed, that is 60 points tall, and with kerning set to optical.
“A LECTURE BY DR RYAN G. BRAVIN” is set in #ededed colored League Gothic Condensed Regular, that is 72 points tall, and with kerning set to optical.
Finally, the URL to the site of the Cleveland Museum of Art, www.clevelandart.org, is set in #ededed colored League Spartan Bold, that is 24 points tall. The text object is located at X: 9″, and Y: 22.8″.
Here’s what the layer organization looks like:
And with our type in place, our piece is almost complete.
Now, it’s time to layer some more textures to polish the piece!
Textures and artifacts
Here’s a theory: one of the motivations to add textures to our work is to help us to add depth to our digital art, and to break away from their flat, clean, and precise origins. At this point in the process, the photo is pretty gritty, but the type above it is very clean. Adding more textures will allow us to weather that type and the column backgrounds.
The first texture we’ll add is PackingFoam.
It’s placed centered in the composition, rotated 90° clockwise, and scaled to 55%.
After sharpening the texture (Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen), we can change the blending mode to screen @ 15% opacity.
The next texture is the freebie we grabbed at the beginning, BB_AntiqueEnvelope_04.jpg.
It’s placed at X: 18″, and Y: 19.9″, rotated 90° counterclockwise, and scaled up to 1,150%.
After sharpening, we’ll use a clipped hue/saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the texture.
A clipped levels adjustment layer will help us to enhance the texture further.
Blending mode: soft light @ 35% opacity.
The next texture is from Jason’s set, and is called Corkboard.
It’s placed centered in the composition, rotated 90° clockwise, and scaled to 55%.
After sharpening, the blending mode should be changed to soft light @ 25% opacity.
The texture levels are coming together nicely. We’ve added grain, light noise, and small artifacts to the piece with a few layers of substance. Let’s have a look at the layers before the ultimate polishing touches.
Lossless vignette effect
There is a way to create a lossless vignette effect in Photoshop, thanks to shape layers. The first step is to draw an ellipse that fits the canvas. It should be colored in #040404.
Next, we need to use one of the tools accessible via the direct selection tool (A), in the toolbar. It will allow us to display the ellipse inverted, getting closer to the vignette. Once the active tool is the direct selection tool, we need to change the path operation button‘s setting to subtract front shape.
The result is a very sharp edged ellipse, almost ready to be a vignette.
Next, through the layer’s properties panel, we need to feather the layer mask to 350 pixels. This creates the fuzzy edge for the vignette.
Finally, the blending mode for the vignette can be switched to soft light @ 50% opacity.
Last but not least: halftones
The last piece of the puzzle is a halftone effect. First step, to create a merged copy of the piece so far. We’ll use the CTRL/CMD+ALT/OPTION+SHIFT+E shortcut for that. It’ll create a layer containing a merged copy of the piece so far. I called it Halftones.
Once the layer is generated, it needs to be converted to a smart object.
After resetting the color palette to default (D), we’ll use the filter gallery’s halftone effect (Filter > Filter Gallery > Sketch > Halftone pattern). We’re using a size value of 8, and a contrast value of 50.
Then, we need to change the effect’s blending mode to soft light @ 100% opacity.
After that, we can change the layer’s blending mode to soft light @ 50% opacity.
And our piece is now done! Here’s a look at our final layer stack.
Wrapping things up
Phew, that was a long tutorial! I hope that you enjoyed it, learned a few tricks here and there, and that your outcome matches the goals you had at the beginning.
Did I leave anything unclear? Any suggestions? Don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below! I’ll be happy to help out.
Mockup your poster using the free sample below from our Poster Mockup Templates Pack and please share your work with us in the comments, by tweeting at us at @go_media, or sharing them on our Facebook page.
Free Download: Free Poster PSD Sample from Go Media
If you already purchased Jason’s texture set, I hope you enjoy them, and that this tutorial gave you a sense of what you’ll be able to accomplish with them. If not, go grab them while they’re hot!
And on that note, that’s it for me! Until next time, cheers!
Pro Tips On Preparing Artwork For T-Shirt Printing
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.
We are Go Media, Cleveland brand designers (and more), and we hereby decree that best way to ensure fast turnaround times on your custom printed t-shirt order and keep a happy, healthy relationship with your print partner is to deliver correctly prepared art files every time. By following the guidelines in this article, you can avoid unnecessary delays in the process that occur due to common artwork errors.
Tip #1: Start by planning out your color schemes.
This might seem like a strange place to start, but by planning your color palette first, you can avoid details that are often overlooked until it is too late. When creating an apparel order from scratch, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you pick garment or ink colors first. However, there is an undeniable link between the two that is reflected in the final product. Always simulate every ink and garment color combination by creating mock-ups ahead of time to proof the results on screen.
If designs are already created and you just need to add them to garments, the process is a little easier. It’s important to check if your graphic contains the same color as your shirt. If so, those areas can be used as negative space – the space around and between the subject of an image – in the middle of your print only, as matching colors along the outside edge will not be visible.
Similarly, ink and garment colors close in value will result in low visibility. Sometimes this can produce a cool effect, like when using tonal colors. However, if your intent is to have a logo that is readable from far distances, you may want to consider otherwise. To guarantee your logo can be seen from across the room at corporate events, make sure that you have maximum contrast between the two colors.
If starting from scratch with the ability to choose garment colors before inks, you can design with color harmony in mind. This requires a little more groundwork, but there are tools and resources available to help make this advanced technique easy even for the novice designer. First, you will need to determine the RGB values of the garment color that you have chosen. For our example, we will use the Alstyle 1301 shirt inline (92, 193, 81). Next, plug those values into a Color Palette Generator such as Kuler by Adobe. From there you can apply the different color theory rules to create additional ink color swatches.
With whatever colors you end up choosing, add them to your ”swatches” palette and save them. Create a separate folder for this color scheme, and label each color in a way that makes sense to you. Use these presets as a guide to how you will paint each area of your design and do not stray from your original plan. Just think of this process as if you were picking “paint chips” from the hardware store in preparation to paint the exterior or interior rooms of your house.
Tip #2: Choose Pantone colors (only if you possess a physical color book).
One of the biggest mistakes is improper use of Pantone references. Many times designers will select PMS colors from their graphics applications like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator and expect to see the results as they appear on their screen. This defeats the entire purpose of calling our Pantone references due to the differences in color calibration from one computer monitor to the next. To get an idea of how drastic color, brightness and contrast controls vary on screen, walk the television aisles of any electronics superstore.
The only way that your printer can guarantee a color match is if you both are looking at identical references. This requires both parties to be holding the exact same physical color book in their hands. The Pantone book that you will need for screen printing inks is called the Solid Coated Formula Guide. This color library is generally sold with an Uncoated version and costs around $150 for the pair. So, unless you need to guarantee exact color matching on a regular basis, this may be a bit of an investment for a part-time designer. The good news is that your printer will generally not require PMS colors with your order and will choose the closest available Pantone based on what they see on screen. Count on your local print shop to have correctly calibrated monitors and ideal lighting conditions for viewing color. Just remember that there may be slight variances from your “out of the box” computer that you are working from in your office.
Remember to include your PMS references in your written order submission. If the Pantones are only included in your files, they may be overlooked or assumed as non-pertinent information.
Tip #3: Design in Adobe Illustrator when possible.
If you can control how your graphic assets are created, always do so in vector format, created with Adobe Illustrator. Unlike .JPG, .GIF and .BMP image formats, vector graphics are not made up of a grid of pixels. These files can be resized indefinitely without sacrificing print quality, so if you want to use the same logo for business cards, postcards, t-shirts, banners and billboards, each one of them will print clearly and without the blurriness or pixelation that occurs when resizing images that were created in Photoshop.
When you create your graphics in a raster–based application, such as Photoshop, you are more or less stuck with the original dimensions. Always start your documents from scratch at the intended print size with a resolution of 300 pixels per inch. If you then copy/paste low resolution elements into that workspace, you will notice that it will resize the graphic and will appear much smaller. DO NOT scale these elements any larger, or they will become blurry and will print with poor quality. When in doubt, always create your artwork larger and at a higher resolution than needed, as you can always scale the art down without causing issues. Transforming files to be larger can get you in trouble.
On the condition that your artwork was hand-drawn and you need to digitize the illustration, be sure that you have scanned your artwork at the correct resolution. The general rule of thumb is that if you have drawn the artwork at actual size, then scan it at 300 dpi. If your artwork was created an 50% scale, then you will need to scan the artwork at double the recommended resolution (scan at 600 dpi).
Tip #4: Leave the separations to the professionals.
For t-shirt graphics, your print shop will be creating spot color separations themselves, so there is no need for you to try and divide the ink colors up on your own. Regardless of which program you use, set your color mode to RGB. CMYK, also known as full color, is for process color printing only, where the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black halftones are blended on press to optically create the full color gamut. Instead, think of screen printing inks as pre-mixed paint colors that go straight from the bucket to your t-shirts.
Where a full color image is reproduced on t-shirts, your printer may use 8-12 spot colors printed as halftone screens to reproduce the spectrum of color in your file. This technique enables them to replicate photorealistic prints with more vibrancy, even on black garments, and with greater color consistency from one piece to the next. If the graphic is instead made up of all solid areas of color, the print may not contain any halftones at all.
The color separations that the pre-press department will create from your artwork will be specific to their equipment and workflow. Sometimes, creating your own separations will just be creating extra work for pre-press, as they might have to make corrections. If you are trying to achieve a particular effect, try to mock it up first. Always include instructions in addition to submitting your original untouched print file, and consult your printer ahead of time before submitting your order to confirm that they can produce the results you are looking for.
Tip #4: Save an editable copy for yourself and a second copy for print.
When you have finished your final design, be sure to save an editable file for yourself, just in case you need to make adjustments later. If your printer has issues with any of the things that you have done within your file, you want to be able to go back and make amendments without having to recreate them. Or worse—start from scratch.
Once this safety net is in place, save a final print file to send to your printer using the following guidelines:
-Outline all fonts (convert to vector shapes)
-Embed all raster links
-Save as AI, EPS, PDF
-Rasterize all text layers
-Merge all printable layers
-Save as PSD, TIF, PNG, PDF
*Create a separate layer for your garment color and label it. DO NOT flatten your artwork to your garment color.
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:
Hey designers, want way more inspiration? 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.
When I first decided I wanted to to get into screen printing a few months ago, I really had no idea what was involved. I am an artist and I knew that I wanted to print my own designs but that was about it, so when I first started to look around for screens I went to my local art supply store and they were able to provide me with my first silk screen and a squeegee for a fair price. However, I recommend that you find a screen print wholesaler such as Catspit Productions, LLC. and deal with them directly. This way you will save yourself a whole lot of cash as well as tapping into the supply line for everything you will need.
You can screen print without a carousel.
With the average cost of a screen printing carousel being between $1500 – $2500 I could not afford one to start out. Instead, get a friend to help hold the screen firmly in place while you use the squeegee to apply the ink to the screen then have them lift it away, it really is that easy. Just make sure the screen does not move while you’re printing. I use a flat piece of wood slipped inside the shirt to keep it flat and prevent ink from bleeding through to the black layer. A day may come when you are printing the volume to afford a carousel, but to begin with you can get by without one and save a whole bunch of money. As I am writing this I am running my entire operation off one trestle table with the help of a friend to hold the screen when I print, that’s it.
How to use photo emulsion on the cheap.
Photo emulsion is easy to use in the right conditions. To use your artwork on your screen as a stencil you will first need to coat the screen with a photo emulsion in total darkness, then dry it in total darkness until the emulsion sets, then finally you can place your artwork transparency onto the screen and expose it to light to make a stencil from your artwork.
Buy a darkroom safe light
The best way to work with the photo emulsion is in safe light conditions. A darkroom safe light lets you work with the photo emulsion in safe light conditions so that you can see what you’re doing when mixing the emulsion and coating the screen without exposing it to UV light (sunlight, light from light bulbs). Jump on eBay and find a Kodak darkroom safe light (or equivalent). With everything photographic moving to digital these days, safe lights are no longer in demand and you should be able to buy one for around $20 (I did).
Buy some photo emulsion and a scoop coater
You can buy this directly from your screen print supplier or on Amazon.
Coating the Screen
Turn off all other lights; plug in your safe light. You are now working in safe light conditions. Mix your photo emulsion as specified by the manufacturer. Poor the mixed emulsion into your scoop coater and use it to coat the underside of the screen.
Drying the screen
Now the screen needs to be left to dry face down in a dark place, where no light can reach it. Photo emulsion takes a while to dry so plan for safe light conditions to dry it for a few days away form daylight (or any other UV light). For months I used a large suitcase to store the screen in while it dried. I put some blocks in each end of the case to hold the screen away from the bottom and placed the screen inside face down, zipped up, and then covered the suitcase with a blanket to ensure no light entered and waited until it dried. In winter without heat applied this can take a week to dry properly. In summer it will dry much faster. If you can apply a low heat source (fan heater for example) it will dry much faster. Only check on the screen under safe light conditions and only expose your artwork when the photo emulsion is completely dry, it hardens. I recently got a new laptop to use with Photoshop, and have modified the cardboard box the laptop came in to use as a light safe box for drying photo emulsion coated screens in. It really can be as cheap and simple as a cardboard box well sealed with black duct tape. A few blocks in each end to keep the screen off the bottom, the lid closed up with a blanket thrown over it to make sure it is light safe.
Build a super low cost exposure unit:
If you want to buy a large vacuum sealing exposure unit it will cost from $999 – $2500. I couldn’t afford that, I still can’t. Here is how I expose my screens, its super cheap and easy.
Buy a lamp for an exposure unit for under $30.
Your local hardware supply store sells 500 watt halogen work-lights for around $30 (cheaper in USA). They generally have a black housing and clear glass lens at the front with a wire grill covering it. Start by removing the grill and glass from the front. It is a UV filter and when you expose your artwork to your screen you will want maximum UV exposure. If you have a shed, attach a piece of wood 32cm from the trestle table you will be exposing your screen on. I attached the wood with a hinge so I can fold the lamp up and away when not in use. If you don’t have access to the bare beams of a shed wall to rig up your exposure unit then use whatever is at hand. I have seen people use a guitar stand to hold the lamp the correct distance from the screen while it exposes (32cm).
Next you need to buy some foam rubber to fit under your screen. The idea here is that the foam is slightly deeper than the screen so that it pushes the screen up from the table when the screen in placed under the lamp face up.
Buy 3m of plain black cloth fabric. Cheap as chips. We will use some of this to cover our foam rubber and the rest will be used to cover the area under our screen when we expose it.
Wrap the foam in black fabric so that it is completely covered. I used liquid nails to attach the fabric to the screen as I cannot sew. As long as the foam is covered in the black plain cloth it will be fine.
Buy a piece of 1 quarter plate glass with 0 UV rating (or the lowest UV rating you can get so that it will let the maximum UV rays though possible). Measure it so that it is big enough to cover your artwork holding it down flat onto the screen. Slightly larger than the inside edge of the screen works fine. Have the edges of the glass sanded so that you can handle it safely without getting cut. Any glass supply store can do this for you.
And that is all the kit you need to get started. You will have some black fabric left over, when you are ready to expose your screen start by covering the table area with the remaining fabric.
How to expose a screen
Kill all the lights and turn on your safe light. Now in safe light conditions get out your screen which is already coated with now dried photo emulsion. Put the foam packing in the underside of the screen. Place the screen in the centre of the black cloth, foam down, screen up. Place the artwork on the screen paying attention to which way the art will print, place the glass over the artwork so that it holds it flat against the screen. Turn on the 500 watt work-light and expose the screen for 5 minutes.
After five minutes turn off the 500 watt work-light. Turn your safe light back on. Take the screen and wash it out, I recommend doing this process at night to eliminate light from affecting your screen result. Start by soaking your whole screen in water on a soft spray, and then turn up the pressure and blast away the unwanted emulsion from your new stencil. It can take a while to get the emulsion to wash out using just a garden hose, be patient or use a high pressure washer to speed things up.
Dry your screen off and your screen is done, you are ready to print!
For more useful information on screen printing check out Catspit Productions, LLC. Also I recommend reading Threads Not Dead, by Jeff Finley of Go Media for an in-depth look at apparel industry and how to launch your own clothing line. They even sell screen printing starter kits out there.
I got into this for the love of art and to earn some side income, chances are it’s the same for you to. Earning some cash along the way is good too. One day I hope to launch my own clothing line and go big time. In the mean time I try to simplify the print process so that it is manageable and affordable while I am still working a day job. I hope you have found some value in these methods.
I recently posted a new illustration on Dribbble called “Revivalist” and it got quite a lot of likes. I thought I’d write a tutorial about how I created it. So let’s do this!
One of our clients Disciple Clothing needed a “logo” and business card designed for a ministry they are a part of. The Ashish Mubarak Ministries to be exact. They sent me their current business card along with the illustration they are using as their “logo.”
Wow! That’s technically an illustration and not a logo. As an illustration, it’s gnarly 90s gold and obviously in need of an update. Lauren Kusant from Disciple recognized this and asked me to simplify this into a logo, modernize it and add the word “Revivalist” to it. But in my professional opinion, if I reduced this entire scene into a a logo (what is and what isn’t a logo), it would ultimately lose all the different messages its trying to communicate. There’s a lot going on here!
Sidenote: If you’re interested, I suggest reading the article A Logo is Not a Brand.
You can’t fit a flaming sword, a bible, mother Earth, a dove, a scroll, and some stalks of wheat in what is traditionally called a logo. Sure you could take ALL of those elements and identify its core message and communicate that single message with a single mark. Sometimes when I do this, the client often feels that it’s too simple and too far removed from their vision. It loses some sort of wow factor. Now, a logo is meant to be a placeholder for a brand. A simple icon or wordmark that represents the brand that can be resized and repurposed for any application you can think of. It should be easy to spot, easy to recognize and easy to reproduce. Sometimes, clients will incorrectly ask for a logo, when what they really mean is “a cool looking graphic design that represents them.”
I once had a client ask for five different “logos” for their apparel line. What!? After talking more with them, they really wanted five different t-shirt designs. Specifically, five different typographic t-shirt designs. In other words, cool ways of writing their name mixed with other graphics.
So how was I going to tackle this project? I felt the best solution would be to maintain the integrity of the elements but simplify the illustration entirely into more basic shapes and iconic forms. I decided to go with a thick line art style. It won’t be a “logo” per-say, but it will still be a simple and iconic design that can be used on a variety of applications to represent the ministry. So without further ado, let’s get into the design process!
TIP: For this style, stick with ONE line weight for a uniform look. We aren’t going for “realistic” here. Don’t over-illustrate. Simplify and keep things spaced evenly.
Step One: The Sword
Since we’re aiming for iconic and simple, always start with basic shapes and add detail from there. If you start going crazy with the pen tool, you’ll have a harder time making things “perfect”. You’ll see what I mean later. For the sword, I started with a box and used my pen tool to add a point. Then I used my Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) to select the three points at the tip of the sword. To make sure they are evenly spaced and my midpoint is exactly in the middle, I used the align tool “Horizontal Distribute Left.” Make sure “align to selection” is checked and not “align to artboard.” Otherwise you’ll spread out your points all across your artboard and you don’t want that.
To make the tip, I wanted a perfect 45 degree angle. Why? Because I feel it’s more iconic when angles are in good harmony with each other. Angles like 45, 90, 60, 30 are all good angles to use. To get the 45 degree angle, I held shift when creating my line. I lined it up with the left point and then selected and repositioned the “tip” to match. There might be a more exact way of doing this, but this way gets me close. I also drew another vertical line down the center of the sword and aligned it with the rest.
To create the handle, I did a lot of the same techniques as above. I started with a basic rectangle, created a midpoint, and moved it upwards slightly. I used a 15 degree reference line instead this time. How did I get it exactly 15 degrees? I started with a horizontal line, then used the Transform palette to rotate it exactly 15 degrees. Get used to this tool because it comes in handy!
I gave the handle guard a white fill in addition to the black stroke so I could position it on top of the blade and cover up parts I don’t want people to see. To create the rest of the handle I did more of the same. For the pommel (bottom tip of the handle) I made a rectangle and used Warp > Bulge to get it a slightly bulbous shape.
Step Two: The Book
For the book, in this case The Bible, I kept things simple by illustrating only the essential elements. The page, stuff on the page, and the dimension or thickness of the book. I started with one half first and then mirrored it.
I’ll create temporary vanishing point guidelines to make sure I get my perspective angles correct. You can fake this of course but I wanted to make sure. And one technique that’s very common is designing one half first and then mirroring it so each side is symmetrical. Then center it up perfectly with the sword using the align tool.
Step Three: The Fire
Truth be told, this took me many attempts to get right. I had to imply the sword was on fire without over illustrating it. The fire had to look like fire and not a leaf or some other decorative doodad. And it had to be symmetrical, but I didn’t want to have the same flame on both left and right sides. The challenge was to make it FEEL symmetrical without actually being exactly the same on both sides.
I started with a flame on the left side. I made sure the bottom part of the flame followed the contour of the book below it. To communicate a flame instead of a leaf, you need to have a few tendrils. You don’t need a lot, but if you have just one (like a candle flame) it doesn’t look like a flame. Unless of course a candle is underneath it. But I didn’t want any more than three tendrils or points to keep it simple.
Once I got one I liked, I mirrored it for the right side. I used my pen tool and adjusted points around until I had something different but still similar. I kept the bottom part the same which helps create the illusion of symmetry. I only adjusted the top two points. Once I was satisfied with my flanking flames, I put in the smaller whisps on top of the sword and behind. These don’t need a lot of tendrils because there are other flames around it that communicate “this is fire”. Without the more complex flames to the left and right, you can’t be sure whether it’s fire, wind, or some other decorative swoosh.
Step Four: The Banner
I purposely left room at the top for the banner. This is where the text “revivalist” is going to go. I started by using the font Modula Sans as a base. Since I want everything to have a consistent line weight I’ll need to create new lines from scratch. Before I did that, I roughly set things up how I wanted it using the Warp > Arc Lower tool and distorting the text into position. Once it’s close, I lower the opacity of my reference and start drawing lines as simply as possible. It doesn’t have to match up exactly with my reference and it’s ok to adjust later. For the A, I actually used an upside-down V.
I positioned the banner on top of the sword and made sure it was perfectly centered. I also added the back “flaps”.
Step Five: The Wheat Stalks
I knew I wanted the wheat stalks to circle the design in some way. Instead of trying to draw a curve by hand, I started with a circle as reference and added a single point at the top of my stalk and then deleted other parts of the circle until I was left with the part I needed. To create the head of the wheat stalk, I took two overlapping circles and used the Intersect tool in my pathfinder palette. That gave me a perfect shape. I rotated it 30 degrees and mirrored it so I would have a symmetrical shape to work with. I then duplicated this shape vertically by holding Alt+Shift while I dragged it down some. After that I pressed Ctrl+D five times to repeat the last action and duplicate the shape. I added one more of those shapes on top. For the sprout-like things coming out the sides, it’s just a simple path that was duplicated and mirrored on both sides. Easy.
I moved the head into position on the stem and then individually rotated the shapes along the curve slightly. Just to make it look like it was bending along with the stem. When I was satisfied with the position, I copied it, rotated it, and positioned a second wheat stalk to the left of it. And finally I grouped the two of those together and mirrored it on the other side while making sure my wheat stalks were perfectly aligned to the center of the design.
Step Six: The Dove
Since I am not a pro at drawing a dove, I wanted to make sure I was close! So I grabbed a reference image from iStockphoto. It’s more of an illustration, but I liked the position and symmetry. I thought it would be an excellent starting point for my design.
I started out with extreme basic shapes. Circles, ovals, ellipsis, whatever you want to call them. I tried to make as few lines as possible while still capturing the essence of the bird’s body. When they are properly layered, you can create the illusion of depth very easily! Make sure the head is on top of the body, the feet on top of the wheat. The body behind the wheat, etc.
For the wings, I made one on the left side before I mirrored it to the right. Here’s a good rule of thumb for creating vector illustrations: Use as few points as possible for the cleanest curves. It’s so much easier to manipulate that way. For my wings, I made sure they were behind the body but in front of the wheat. This gives the illusion that the bird is kind of leaning forward.
For the tail feathers, I used the same technique I did in creating the head of the wheat stalks. I used two overlapping circles to cut out a basic feather shape. I used the rotate tool and held down ALT while I clicked the bottom of point of my shape to set the new pivot point. When the rotate dialog box pops up, I used 30 degrees and checked the preview button to make sure. Instead of hitting “ok” I clicked “copy” to duplicate the shape instead. And then I pressed Ctrl+D to repeat this process a bunch more times until the shape copied itself in a full circle. Pretty cool technique!
I deleted the shapes at the top that I didn’t need and set the fill color to white just so they overlapped and didn’t look transparent. I also adjusted the layering of the feathers to keep it symmetrical on both sides. With the bottom feather being furthest behind, the next two features being second, and then the top feathers being in front or on top. Does that make sense? See the image below for a breakdown.
Step Seven: Fine Tuning
In reality, there was a lot more trial and error in the process of this illustration. There was a lot nudging lines around, moving and rotating, and asking “does this look right?” Use your eye and keep the shapes and lines in harmony. And my final design was inverted (white on black) to match the colors the ministry was using on its old business card and website.
But before I made the color change, I wanted to “naturalize” the illustration a bit. Make it slightly rougher and analog. Here is a simple technique for making your vector art look a bit more natural.
Roughen it up a bit.
I selected all my strokes and went to Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen. This took some tinkering to get to look just right! I was aiming for a subtle wobble to my linework, but not too much.
This looks pretty good, but I want to take it a step further. I’ll copy my entire design and open Photoshop. I’ll start a new document at about 2500 x 2500 and paste my artwork as pixels. Make sure it takes up most of the document.
After you’ve got it pasted in there, merge it with the background layer. Then go to Filter > Add Noise to about 15%. Then give it a Gaussian Blur of 2%. And finally apply a Smart Sharpen to about 140% with a 34 px radius. Now adjust the levels to eliminate the grey noise in the background.
Repeat this process about 3-4 times tinkering with your settings to get the best effect.
Aside from the fact that the lines are slightly rougher than before, notice the joints between lines. The areas where lines meet up are now a bit more blended together. It doesn’t look extremely precise and perfect. More natural. Now this isn’t always appropriate for every situation. If you wanted to keep the clean look then don’t do this. But in my case I like the analog look and felt like it worked for this project.
Back to Illustrator
At this point, I will copy and paste this back into Illustrator and give it a live trace to convert it back to vector art. I’m ok with some amount of smoothing or “quality loss” here. My image is 2500×2500 so it is pretty high res. A Live Trace will work fine. But if I wanted to keep a lot of those rough details, there is the “lettering” preset under Live Trace Options which works wonders for keeping your rough details, but is terrible for CPU performance. Your resulting vector art is often loaded with thousands of points and that’s not really good here. So I just keep the default settings.
Step Eight: Finish!
That’s it. That’s all there is. I hope you learned a bit about creating iconic vector art in Illustrator. It’s really about being able to simplify the elements as much as possible, using basic shapes as starting points, and keeping things simple, balanced, and consistent. Everything in this design has one stroke weight. Even my text. That’s the beauty of this style. This won’t work for a logo, but this illustration can be just as versatile in many situations.
Here’s my final design on black and then the finished business cards.
Mock it up!
Hi, Philip Hepler here from 316 Graphics. A few weeks prior to writing this, Jeff Finley and I discussed possibilities for the next Arsenal vector pack. We decided to concept some hot rod elements which later turned into a vector set inspired by the art style of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Here’s the design process for this fun vector pack.
For the record, here’s my list of tools I’m working with:
- Plain copy paper
- “col-erase” blue pencils
- Mechanical pencil (.9)
- Light table
- Intuos Wacom tablet
- Adobe Illustrator CS5
- Inexpensive scanner/copier/printer
- 27” iMac
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Since we wanted to be inspired the art style of Ed Roth I did a Google image search for inspiration. I also checked out the official Ed Roth web site ratfink.com. Rat Fink was an anti-Mickey mascot that represented Roth’s attitude and style in the 50’s and 60’s. I always get sucked in to learning more about the artist, and in this case, ended up spending some time checking out his crazy car creations and wild monster hot rod themed illustrations. I ended up with four or five key examples of his work which I printed out and pasted above my drawing table for inspiration. Next I did a little brainstorming and made a list of possible elements for this theme. Some of the elements on my list were chrome pipes, flames, smoking tires, gear shifters, flying eyeballs, and Hot Rod Monsters of course!
PUTTING PENCIL TO PAPER
Next I took the strongest elements on my list and did a rough sketch of each, constantly referencing my inspiration images and imagining how those elements should look in this art style. I’m in the habit of using col-erase pencils to rough sketch my ideas on plain copy paper. The light blue lead of these pencils help me stay loose and general with my sketch so I can get the basic look right and leave the details for the next step. Then I draw over the blue sketch with a mechanical pencil to refine it more and add more detail.
I also use a light box and a fresh sheet of paper to refine and clean up my sketch even further if necessary. With my rough sketch ideas on paper I scanned and saved them as a pdf file and sent them off to Jeff to see what he thought of the elements so far. He replied back quickly that he was digg’n the elements, but also had a great suggestion to make multiple monster heads and facial features as separate elements. This would allow users to make their own Hot Rod Monster “Mr. Potato Head” style with mix and match parts. What a great idea! Now I was really getting excited.
WHAT’S YOUR VECTOR VICTOR?
With Jeff’s feedback and suggestions I did a few more rough element sketches and decided it was time to color them up in Illustrator. I scanned my revised sketches and placed each scan into my Illustrator file on a background template layer. For the more organic shapes of the monster features I used the brush tool with a 3 pt. round calligraphy brush and set the diameter setting to Pressure with a Variation of 3 pt. For the longer smooth strokes and more mechanical elements I used a custom art brush with rounded ends. Using my trusty Wacom tablet, I traced my sketches, trying to emulate the hand inked look of Roth’s illustrations.
Tip: instead of making multiple brushes of different widths for your graphic, you can adjust the thickness of individual brush stroke paths by increasing the stroke weight in the stroke palette. This is a quick way to get variable stroke weights in your graphic without having to duplicate and modify multiple brushes in your brush palette. See the video link below if I’ve lost you.
I also used the Blob Brush tool to fill in larger areas like the monster’s mouths and some quick irregular shapes and details. Feeling good about how the elements looked, I saved another pdf of the vector elements, sent it to Jeff for review, and hoped for the best.
WRAPPING IT UP
Thankfully Jeff loved the elements and how the vector pack turned out! But before I could send him the files I needed to clean up the elements and make everything nice and neat. First I saved a new copy of the file and then selected each element and expanded the appearance of the brush stokes to create objects (Object-Expand Appearance). With all the brush strokes now converted to black filled objects, I used the Unite function to make the objects one shape (Pathfinder window-Unite). For vector pack art like this, uniting the artwork as one shape makes cleaner, neater elements to work with. Just in case I need to go back and adjust or modify something later, I can always go back to my previous file where my brush strokes are still “live” and editable.
Live brush strokes
Brush strokes expanded to objects
Expanded objects united as one composite path.
GOT ALL THAT?
Here’s a video of how one of the elements was drawn in Illustrator, the brush settings I used, and the method to my madness!
I would like to thank Jeff Finley and Go Media for the opportunity to work on this latest vector pack release. It was a lot of fun to draw and I hope it will come in handy for one of your future projects!
This post was written by:
I’m the man behind the curtain at 316 Graphics, a full time freelance graphic art studio specializing in apparel graphics. The emphasis of my work is on hand drawn illustrations and the ability to adapt to a multitude of art styles and looks. Check out 316Graphics.com to view my portfolio, inspiration section, and freebie downloads. I live and work in Thomasville, NC (home of the big chair), love classic cars, and drink a gallon of southern sweet tea every day.
Creating Sagittarius in Photoshop
- Program: Adobe Photoshop
- Version: CS3+
- Estimated Completion Time: 2-3 hours
Let’s start by opening a new file with a size of 1000x1500px with a resolution of 300ppi (pixels per inch).
Next, open the stock images we’ve downloaded. As you can see below, I positioned the stock images so you could have an idea of what we’ll be creating. As you can see below, the Archer’s elbow is missing, Fig. a, so I used another stock photo then cut the area I only needed, Fig. b.
The next procedure is to remove the areas/backgrounds we don’t need. For this step I used the Pen tool (P) to define a path all around the outline of each components of our image. Once the path has been defined, press right-click then select Make Selection from the pop-up menu. Do this procedure for the rest of our images.
The final product should look like as shown below.
Next is to change the color tone settings of our images to make it look as one. For this process, you can use Hue/Saturation, Levels and Vibrance to correct the colors of each component. This process is all trial and error so patience is needed, don’t hesitate to experiment. I recommend to use the Archer’s body as the reference color tone for the Horse’s body and Arm extension to follow. The main goal for this step is to set the color tones of each components as close as possible.
Next is to make the connection of the Archer’s body to the Horse’s body. For this step I used the Brush tool (B) to paint the connection. I sample the color to be used from the Archer’s body then started to paint the missing parts. Using some shadings and highlights, I defined the archer’s abdominal muscles and the lower bones of the ribs. This step is only the primary procedure for the connection, further digital painting will be done in later steps.
Next step is to remove the line on the Archer’s body. Using the Patch tool (J), select a small area of line we want to remove, Fig. a. After that, drag the selection and you will see the selected area change showing a preview of the area to be sampled, Fig. b. Use the areas close to the line as reference for the sample for the selected areas. Do this step until no trace of the line is to be seen, Fig. c. The final product is shown below.
Next is to extend the strap for the bow case. To do this, just select the Pen tool (P) then make a shape just like as shown in Fig. a. Next, using the Brush tool (B), paint the selected area using the colors sampled from the original strap, Fig. b. Remember to apply a subtle drop shadow for the strap. The final effect should look like Fig. c.
After that, let’s extend the bow. Using the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), select an area just like as shown in Fig. a. Once selected, press Ctrl/Cmd+C to copy the selection. Place the copied selection on to the top portion of the bow, then press Ctrl/Cmd+T to rotate the selection just like as shown, in Fig.b. Do this also for the bottom part of the bow. Finally, do this procedure again for the second set of extension for the bow. Make sure to erase some parts of both edges to make it rounded, Fig. c.
Next step is to add the string/rope for our bow. To do this, using the Pen tool (P), define a path just like as shown in Fig. a. After that press right-click then select Stroke Path from the pop-up menu, Fig. a-1. From there, select the Brush as the tool of reference for the stroke, Fig. a-2. Make sure that the Brush settings is set to a Hardness of 100%, Size of ~3px and color# 000000 prior to doing the path. The effect should look like, Fig. b. Access the String’s layer Layer Style menu, then follow the indicated values as shown in Fig. b-1. Finally, using the Pen tool (P) or Brush tool (B), make the dropshadow for the string.
After all the process we’ve made, we have to Merge all the layers that composes our Archer. But before you do it, I suggest you to duplicate all the layers first before merging, then group it into a folder, then hide it for the mean time. This will be our main backup just in case we want to change something later.
Once merged, change its Levels (Ctrl/Cmd+L) and Hue/Saturation (Ctrl/Cmd+U) settings with the given values indicated below.
Let’s now prepare the background of our subject. First, open the files Mountain.jpg. Like what I did in Fig. a, I only used a certain part of the image. Next, open the Ground.jpg then press Ctrl/Cmd+T to activate the resizing handles. Distort the image just like as shown in Fig. b. Change the Hue/Saturation setting of the Ground with the values indicated in Fig. c. Finally, using a soft, midsize brush with color #000000, paint the areas indicated in Fig. d.
The final effect should look like as shown in Fig. e, here the merged layer of the Archer is placed.
The next step is to add the ground shadow of our Archer. This step is easy for you only need to use a soft, midsized brush set to an Opacity level of ~50% and color #000000. Brush the areas indicated below paying close attention to details. Make sure that the closer a part is positioned in reference to the ground, the shadow is more darker, and as you go away from the ground you decrease the opacity for the shadow.
Next using the Brush settings indicated below, paint the hair of the Archer as well as the tail part of the Horse. While brushing, try to use different shades of blacks and greys, so the hair will look shiny and give the illusion of fullness.
Our image looks flat, to fix this we need to add a couple of different shadings and highlights to emphasize the body contour of our Archer. Before we start, we first need to know the position of our “light source” which, in this case, is right above of our subject.
Knowing that, let’s start our digital painting process!
We’ll start our process by adding some shadings. Based on our light source, I indicated the areas needed to be painted with different shades of blacks and browns. For this step, I recommend you to use a soft, mid-sized brush with an Opacity level of only about 2-10%. The process is all up to you. You could follow the original dark shades/areas of our image then just enhance it.
Next, after doing some shadings, let’s add some highlights. Using the same brush settings we used for the shade, but know using different color tones close to white, paint the areas indicated in purple. Highlights will enhance the shadings we’ve made. In this step, make sure to site the areas that needed to be emphasized or enhanced, such us the roundness of the Archer’s head, his arms, the horse’s chest, thigh, and neck to name a few.
Before we added the shadings and highlights, the image looks flat, but now some areas look as if their popping out.
Next step is to add a series of color enhancement that’ll set the mood of our image and make the image look as one. First, add a new layer then, using the Paint Bucket tool (G), fill the entire layer with color #462d00. Next, set its Blending Mode to Overlay then decrease its Opacity level to 30%.
Next, like what we did in Step 17, add a new layer then fill it with color #004a6d. Set its Blend Mode to Color Dodge. This step made our subject glow in a fantasy kind of way.
At this point we need to save a JPEG file of our work. Once saved, open the JPEG file then place it directly above our “work layers” then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur then change its value to about 1.3 pixels, just like as shown in Fig. a. Next, using a soft, small size Eraser with an Opacity of about 50%, erase the areas indicated in Fig. b. This step will add a subtle glow for our subject thus creating a fantasy-like environment.
The final effect should look as shown below.
Next, I did some further enhancement for the highlights we’ve made earlier but know doing it above the color enhancement layers we’ve made. For this step, use a soft, small brush with an Opacity level of about 25% and color #ffffff.
Next, using a small brush of about 3px, paint the areas indicated in red with color #ffffff. This will emphasize the fold of the bandanna in his head and enhance the depth of the subject’s face.
Next is to add a subtle cast of shadows of our subject. To do this, using the Brush tool (B) set to a size of about 90px with hardness value of about 26%, paint the areas indicated in red with color #000000. Finally, decrease its opacity level to 45%.
Next, we need to add a color overlay to make our image warmer. To do this, add a new layer then, using the Paint Bucket tool (G), fill the entire layer with color #ff9600. Go to its Blend Mode settings then change it to Overlay. Finally, decrease the layers Opacity level to about 32%.
Lastly, to complete our creation, I added a subtle sunlight cast from the upper-right corner of our image. To do this, using a hard, small brush, paint small dots like as shown below.
Next, go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur then follow the indicated setting shown below.
After that, press Ctrl/Cmd+T to transform our selection. I distorted it like as shown below, so that the light rays are more compressed on the upper-right corner then spreading all out to the lower-left corner of our image.
Finally, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur then apply the indicated value shown below.
That’s it, we’re done. The final product is shown below. Hope you had fun working on this project and learned something new! Thanks for reading!
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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!
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Creating a Monogram
Monograms are an interesting way to go about making an identity. By nature they can be straight forward or extremely ornamental and illustrative. In this tutorial I’m going to walk you through the steps I (Chris Comella, designer at Go Media, hi!) took to making Go Media’s own Heather Mariano (formerly Heather Tropp) a monogram for her business card.
What follows is a series of animated GIFs. Each show the steps I took toward executing my concept. They all loop, so if you miss something the first time, don’t sweat it. It’ll be back in a few seconds. Also, below each animation you’ll see the corresponding notes.
Step 1: Creating the H
I start off making the general form of the H with basic shapes. Then I add in the negative I’ll be using as guides to ‘carve’ away any excess form. After I draw out the shape, using the pathfinder I unite all the white shapes together to create one solid piece I can use to subtract from the black base. To polish off the H I add a swirl at the stem and carve out a point on the leg.
Step 2: Creating the T
We start off again by creating a basic shape from which to work with. I basically create two circles with a square joining the middle to create an elongated circle. Merge the three pieces and start on the negatives. The two white circles again act as my guide for carving out an unwanted form. Once I’m done drawing out the shape on one side, I duplicate and rotate the piece to fit the other side to keep it symmetrical. Lastly, combine all the white shapes and subtract it from the black base.
Once I have that initial piece (the Arm) done, I end up squashing it a bit as you can see. I finish off the T by using two circles to create a a curved stem and adjust the angle a bit with a third shape. I merge those together along with the arm, and the T is set.
Step 3: Rendering the type
So now that we have the foundation of the monogram set, we can start thinking about how to render it. I wanted it to feel a bit more tactile, so what I did was create some contours that help define the shape spatially. I set the standard in my mind with the first line you see made above…following that precedent I just go ahead do the same around the letters. Next, I decided to take another look at the letters themselves. I end up adding in some open lines to two of the primary curves in the pair, giving it a more decorative, floral vibe. Also, you can see I added a horizontal line connecting the two letters.. here was something I kind of stumbled upon and decided to elaborate. What came to mind at this point was adding another aspect to the piece, I wanted it to appear ‘juicy.’
So in that vain, I decided to add in some water droplets. I liked this because it was in line with the piece’s theme and created some more visual appeal. Following the contour lines I layed down previously, I used those as a jumping off point for the droplets. Drawing them with those curves in mind, I rendered an initial droplet and then elaborated further by adding a couple more throughout the type.
Next up is the color. This step turned out to be very important, because not only is it making the leap from black & white, but it also defined the unique shapes of the letters themselves. What I did here, similarly to the contour lines, was set a precedent with the first piece and moved forward from there…essentially, winging it, but with a sort of mental guideline.
Step 4: Complimentary imagery
To emphasize the monogram’s theme, and to help round out the composition, I decided to make a flower to pair with the type. I started with the petal and finished by drawing the body out. This needed to be simple as it’s purpose is to fit in with the type.
Step 5: Putting it together
I pasted in the flower behind both the letters and trimmed it down to size (erasing any unwanted parts). Next I drew in a highlight and filled the flower with the same gradient from the type highlights. Taking it one step further, I decided to add in some (what I believe are called) Pistils… aka, antennae things. Finally I duplicate the flower and add it in at the bottom of the T to balance it out. From here I simply tightened the piece up, making any minor revisions or tweaks that were left. I decided to add a stroke on the T, a simple gradient to the water droplets, and create a small lightning bug riffing on Heather’s passion of photography (I always thought of lightning bugs as nature’s paparazzi). And there you have it!