Learn to Create Collage Typography

Ever been asked to come up with a type driven design but still wanted to use imagery? Creating text through collage can be an awesome solution. Here’s what you’re going to need to create a successful piece:

1. An open mind. I always find that being noncommittal toward the placement of objects allows you to easily rearrange the elements into a better composition.

2. A solid sense of composition. When you’re looking at the elements you’re going to use, it helps to have a rough idea of where that element will go and how it relates to the elements around it.

3. Lots and lots of royalty free stock photos. You don’t want to just pull images off of Google. That’s always a bad idea. The original photographer may somehow see that you’re using his/her work without permission and seek legal action against you. I find that using sites like istockphoto or sxc.hu are good places to start. Also, flickr can be a great resource if you ask the photographer’s permission.

4. Patience. It can take a long time for the forms to take shape in the way that you want them to. The important thing is to not get frustrated and to keep working until something strikes you.

5. Basic understanding of Photoshop. This tutorial uses the pen tool, blending modes, transformation tools, and other filters and effects.

Before we get started, you need to think through the project and determine whether or not that collage typography is appropriate for your project. It should only be used in a situation where you can use full color or four color process printing. There may be situations where a good color separator can get it down to 10 colors or so if you’re printing silkscreen, but that could be quite expensive.

Preproduction: Type Layout & Editing photos

Okay, let’s get started. First thing we’re going to do is rough out the composition, which basically is just laying out the type that the image is going to be based on. In this case, I’m going to be using Sign Painter, a typeface by House Industries. Let’s go with something short. Fly is an easy three letters. Bird imagery makes sense here, so let’s stick with that.

The next thing you’re going to do is find imagery and remove the background. I’m only going to show one here, but I’m probably using around 30-40 images total for the whole collage. For this pelican image, I’m going to use the pen tool to outline the shape of the bird.

Now I’ve got the outline finished, and I’ve used the right click (ctrl click on mac) -> Make selection to get our pelican selected.

Next, I’m going to go up to the top menu and go Select -> Refine Edge. I want to make sure that the edges of the bird are clean and crisp and don’t get weird edges.

These are the settings that I used for this photo, but it’s going to be different for each photo, so you’ll have to try out each setting on your own to see what photo will work for you.

So now that I’ve refined the selection, I want to make the pelican its own layer, separated from the background. Ctrl/cmd+J will create a new layer for your selection. Now, we’ve got the pelican on it’s own layer, lets see how clean the edges are. Make a layer under the pelican and fill it with a bright color. This helps to see how your edges turned out. I’m not looking for them to be absolutely perfect here because the layering of images will help hide any imperfections in the edges, however you don’t want them to look too weird.

Building the letterforms

I’ve gone ahead and cut out a bunch of bird shapes from various images and dragged them onto the collage canvas. I like to have them all visible, away from the text so that I can see what I have to work with. It’s similar to having a palette of paint. Also, I prefer to make all of my images smart objects so that I can scale them as I please. It increases file size, but keeps your options open in terms of composing the images.

Now I can start to create the letterforms using the images. Analyze your photos, see if there’s a shape that will fit perfectly as part of a letter. For example, using a wing as an arm on the F. Again, don’t marry yourself to a particular image in a particular spot. You may end up finding a better image to use down the line. Also, don’t be afraid to edit the images. You can use just a part of a bird if it fits better. Also, for this image, I’m not worrying about color. I think the random splashes of color from the various birds will result in a colorful image. We’ll talk more about that later in the tutorial.

As I said in the previous step, don’t be afraid to edit the images. The warp tool is a great way to manipulate an image into fitting into part of a letter. Here, I’m using the warp tool (Edit -> Transform -> Warp) to bend a feather into the L shape.

Keep forming the letters using the images, paying attention to how the images are layered on top of each other. You don’t want too many images just floating without something on top of them. Also, I prefer to use larger images to create the letters, but there are always going to be gaps. I like to feel those gaps with colorful pieces layered behind the larger shapes.

You should always be looking for images that will fit a specific space in the letter. For example, the head and beak of this toucan forms the counter of the lowercase Y.

From here, I’m filling in the spaces with images. I’m paying attention to the layering of images, the shapes of the images, and the relation of images to each other.

I’m also keeping an open mind the entire time and thinking if each element is in the best place. I’ve moved a few of them into new places, deleted a few, made a few bigger, etc.

Post Production: Additional Elements & Vintage Effects

So I’ve finished the collage. At this point, I want to clean up and organize the file. I’ll delete layers I’m not using and put the layers of each letter into a group so that I can adjust the placement of each. So now that I’ve got my file cleaned up and saved, it’s time to move onto some post production. I’m going to put some clouds in the background of the image. First, make a layer behind the word and fill it with a light blue. Next, find an image of clouds.

Now we’re going to separate the clouds from the background. It would be insane to try to do this with the pen tool, so we’re going to use the channels instead. First, desaturate the image – ctrl/cmd+shirt+U. Then bring up the levels – Image -> Adjustments -> Levels, or ctrl/cmd+L and make sure that there is very high contrast between the clouds and the sky. It should look like this:

Next, go to the channels palette, it’s next to the layers palette. Ctrl/Cmd click on the thumbnail to the left of the RGB/CMYK channel. This will select the lighter parts of the image, so in this case it will select the clouds.

Next, we need to see how the selection worked. Make a new layer and fill it with a lighter color. Then make another layer, fill that with black and put it behind your new cloud layer.

Now we can drag the clouds over to the collage and color them white. Mess around with the placement, find something that works for you.

To help unify the colors, we’re going to use a color balance adjustment layer. You can access this at the bottom of the layers palette. Because the background is blue, I’m going to slightly shift the colors of the collage towards blue. I’m not saying to make the whole collage blue, just to give it a hint of blue to help bring those colors closer together.

Let’s add in some noise and stuff to give it a slight vintage/aged feel. Yes, it’s super trendy at the moment, but we’re not gonna go crazy with it. It’s just an added flavor. First, you’re going to need to copy all of the layers and merge them together. This is going to be your filter layer. Next, lets add noise. Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise. These are the numbers I used, feel free to mess around with it.

Next, use gaussian Blur. Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur.

Onto smart sharpen. Filter -> Sharpen -> Smart Sharpen. Again, these are the numbers I used. Feel free to experiment. Make sure the Remove: is on Gaussian Blur.

This is the result.

It’s a bit too much for what I’m looking for, so I’m going to knock down the opacity to around 40 or so.

I’m going to make another layer, fill it with a pale yellow, set the blending mode to multiply, and move the opacity down to 60 or so:

And that should do it. Here’s some other examples of collage type:

View the full size image.

Go Media featured in Advanced Creation: Illustrator

advanced creation illustrator go media

Near the end of 2009 we were contacted by Stéphanie Guillaume & her team at the French outpost of Advanced Creation about re-releasing a couple tutorials from The GoMediaZine. We said “sure!”, and sure enough, the hefty 150 page special issue arrived in Cleveland just this week. Typically the French division of Advanced Creation focuses on Adobe Photoshop, but like I said, this issue is special!

It’s packed full of content, including 20 full-blown Adobe Illustrator tutorials! Among those twenty are two from right here on The GoMediaZine. Bill Beachy’s awesome Holiday Pinup Girl Vector Tutorial, and Maren Kelly’s guide to Creating a Complete Apparel Tech Pack.

Here are some pics from the issue:

advanced photoshop gomediazine vector tutorial

advanced photoshop gomediazine vector tutorial

advanced photoshop gomediazine vector tutorial

advanced photoshop gomediazine vector tutorial

Go Media’s Jeff Finley: Interview at VectorTuts


Just a quick heads up to let our readers know about the extended interview by Sean Hodge with Go Media’s Jeff Finley over at VectorTuts.

Jeff shares design, illustration as well as design industry insights, along with related thoughts on graphics software, balancing the personal and business aspects of your online presence, collaboration with other artists, tips for aspiring creatives, and much more.

Go Media Office Construction Update

Hey true believers, I wanted to give everyone a quick update on the status of Go Media’s new headquarters. Well, they say construction takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you estimate. This is absolutely wrong. In fact, it takes THREE TIMES as long and costs THREE TIMES as much. go hqBut I’m not here to complain – I’m actually very excited. Real construction has begun on our new offices! Move-in will (hopefully) be some time this coming fall. I won’t jinx us by saying anything else.. but, here are some pictures of the space under construction.

Computer Arts Projects: Typography Feature for Jeff Finley

Go Media featured in Advanced Photoshop Magazine

We were lucky enough to be featured in the new issue (Issues 45) of Advanced Photoshop Magazine. They were pretty generous, giving us a two page spread as well as covering the Arsenal in later pages. I can’t thank them enough for being so kind.

Go Media in Advanced Photoshop Magazine

Here are some photos. If you wanna read the article, I suggest you swing by your local bookstore and pick up a copy:

Go Media feature in Advanced Photoshop Magazine

More Photos after the jump

“Concentric Downpour” Printed on DBH

Another Design by Humans winner for Go Media. I tweaked one of the pieces from the Concentric Series to work as a shirt design and it won shirt of the day. Concentric Downpour
They did a great job with printing, and making sure the artwork flowed onto the back of the shirt. Big thanks to everyone that voted and helped get the design printed!

Be sure to send us photos of you wearing the shirt if you buy it!
Buy it Here!

More photos after the jump

“Bold is Beautiful” shirt finally printed!

I’m happy to finally be able to tell everyone that this shirt has been printed and is for sale! It couldn’t have come at a better time (on my 26th birthday!). I take my hat off to the people at Design by Humans who were able to print the “unprintable” so to speak. People gave me shit for designing something that could never be printed while others gave me praise for doing the same. I’m glad DBH was able to step up and get this done. 9 colors too!

I think DBH should post an article or tutorial on how they printed it. Because everyone wants to know. Btw, anyone at DBH reading this should consider how an article or video about it could be used as a great marketing tool. Let us know if you do, we’ll be sure to post it here.

Edit: DBH Flickr Photos of the Process

Anyway, thanks to everyone who voted and added their support. If you buy this, please send me photos of you wearing it!

Buy it here!

See more photos after the jump.

Funkrush Shirt printed and up for sale

Design a 6 Panel CD Package Tutorial

A few months ago, I wrote a tutorial for Computer Arts Magazine about how I put together the CD Package for the band Hollywood Ave. I wanted to share you the link, since it’s now available for free online in PDF form. Which by the way, we’re currently looking to do more CD packaging for bands or DVD packaging for filmmakers. Hit us up! Let’s work together.

Follow a brief to produce complete CD artwork from concept to final product, using Photoshop and Illustrator

The CD package I’m going to show you how to create over the following pages was a real commission I undertook for New Jersey rock band Hollywood Avenue. The band gave me a lengthy brief that described their vision for their album artwork down to the very last detail. This was both a good and a bad thing; good because I knew exactly what to create, bad because with the client having such a specific idea there was little room for manoeuvre.

The band’s idea was very imaginative and allowed for a surreal and artistic piece. Typically, I found stock photos of individual pieces or textures and assembled them together using various image-manipulation techniques in Photoshop, and I even used hand illustration to fake some parts. Colour overlays and other subtle effects and textures were also used to help blend things together.

Follow this tutorial to find out how I made Hollywood Avenue’s insane vision come to life. I’ll talk you through my workflow and decision-making process rather than focus too much on specific graphical techniques and I’ll also explain how to use printers’ templates to make sure your design comes up to their specs.

Here’s the link to read the tutorial:
Design a 6 Panel CD Package

Go Media’s Tech Shapes in Autechre Video (cool)

Ornate Lettering Tutorial 2

Go Media’s Vector Packs in Super Bowl XLII

Haha, this is pretty damn awesome. We knew our Vector Packs are popular, but it’s still makes us feel good when we see them on a national scale. I don’t know who animated this (it was NOT us, although I wish it could have been!). But there are a LOT of Go Media Vector Packs being animated. Wings, Grimey Brush Strokes, Splatters, Hooladanders, etc. There are a bunch that aren’t ours either, the animator used lots of different vectors.

Go Media in Computer Arts Feb 08 Issue


Go Media is fortunate enough to be included twice in the new Feb 08 issue of Computer Arts Magazine. Haley wraps up the 4 part tutorial series for cross-media design by explaining how to output a logo to a mobile device. And I wrote a tutorial doing some ornate typography from sketch to vector. Check it out:


From the article…

“Ornate lettering isn’t anything new. It’s been around for centuries and there are many ways to create it. You can get out your pens, pencils, brushes, rulers, French curves, and a compass; but I can almost guarantee that most young designers today would rather just use the computer than create it by hand.

Although we’re going to be using the computer, we will still start with a sketch. We will scan it into the computer and use Illustrator to create a vector version and add some additional detail. Then we’ll use 3ds Max to give it some depth. We’ll take it back into Illustrator and Live Trace your 3d render and then finally take the lettering into Photoshop to put on the finishing touches.

The purpose of this tutorial is to give you an insight into my workflow and inspire you to create your own lettering. Have fun!”


Here’s an excerpt from the Cross Media design Part 4:

“In our November 2007 issue we began a series of tutorials showing you how to create brand artwork and adapt it for different media. We started off by creating a logo and a print ad, then animated the logo for the web, and last month brought it to life for broadcast with a range of special effects. We finish the series this issue with exporting an animation for mobile devices.

This tutorial will give you a breakdown of the different formats and procedures that you need to choose between. We’ll take a look at Adobe’s Device Central, a great resources for finding specs on the latest devices, and explore how it can be used to preview mobile content. We’ll also cover how to export to M4V, 3G, and FLV formats using QuickTime Pro and After Effects.”


So you can either pick up the issue if you’re interested in reading the tutorial or visit their website. www.computerarts.co.uk


Tutorial: Extreme Sports Branding


In issue #142 of Computer Arts Magazine (should be in stores now) you can find Oliver’s tutorial on how to design a logo and print ad for a fictional extreme sports brand. The brand he chose to invent was Yellow Snowboards. So head out to your local bookstore and pick up a copy to read the tutorial. Here is an excerpt:


In this new four-part series, the fine staff at Go Media, myself included, will show you how a brand applies to different media. In this particular case, we’re working with a fictitious snowboarding brand called Yellow Snowboards (get the joke?). Yellow Snowboards needed a logo as well as a printed ad. In the following issues, we’ll be going over the brand’s integration to web, broadcast, and mobile forms of media.
This month’s issue covers the creation of the logo and the print ad. I’ll be going over the creation of the logo that was selected out of three concepts as well as the print ad.
For this tutorial, the print ad serves two purposes. One is to show how the logo integrates into snowboard-related imagery. The other is to serve as an example of how elements of Go Media’s vector packs can be applied to a design, the sports design is the most popular, and for the sports lovers check the codigo de bonus bet365 to learn about betting in sports.

Step one: I created three different logo concepts for this project. One relates to the joke (don’t eat yellow snow), and the other two are based around the idea of the trendy appeal of snowboarding and other extreme sports. Option 2 was chosen and I’ll describe the process of its creation.

You’ll have to get your hands on the magazine to read the rest of the tutorial!

More photos of the article after the jump.

Prom Night


This is a new shirt design that I did for some merch for a fairly popular screamy post-hardcore band. It was accepted and the design might actually see the cotton threads of a comfy shirt one day. Let’s hope that the printer is able to print it as it is in the mockup and not just crop it and center it on the shirt.

By the way, you can “love” or “comment” on this design if you want over at emptees.com – which by the way the community is really expanding lots of great designers post there. Rob Dobi, Horsebites, ATK Studios, Chris Rushing, etc. Lots of em. So if you’re a t-shirt designer or just a fan of this stuff in general, join and participate. Make the community even better!