- Step-by-step CD Cover Design
Hammond & Bell EP
In this project I demonstrate the step by step creation of a finished piece of artwork and the idea process behind its creation. It demonstrates how use of some tried and trusted Illustrator and Photoshop techniques combined with random effects play can produce unexpected but pleasing results - embrace the mistakes! Often the piece I start work on with pencil on paper will take surprising tangents along its route to completion. This particular piece was a free brief from scratch and developed stage by stage with the clients regular feedback until I achieved something that felt representative.
- Step 1. Doodle and Sketch Idea
Vague ideas, half-formed letters; the basic shape of the logo takes shape based on a 3x3 square grid pattern and a 45 degree angle. Already there are suggestions of other shape elements coming into play that we will see return to the design later.
- Step 2. Vectorize it!
The sketch was recreated and drawn in illustrator with the use of a visible grid and guides to keep the angles and measurements consistent.
- Step 3. Manipulate and experiment
Once the basic shapes were created, the elements could be moved around and basic fills and transforms applied to them. This was a quick way to find a pleasing layout and a chance to experiment with colours, strokes and treatments. Quickly it is apparent that the logo is most readable and works better split over two lines with simpler solid fill.
- Step 4. Incorporate logo into basic cover design
This is the second creative phase - where did I want to take the design? The clients music and the new logo gave me the taste for a retro-futurist feel looking towards Pink Floyd, Sebastian Tellier, Air, Steely Dan and Justice; but that is quite a broad tenet. I decided to initially explore the use of the '+' symbol used in the logo and create multiple black and white images each one trying a new layout and exploring a new idea. There were elements of several I liked but nothing quite perfect, and it gave me an opportunity to talk to the client about the direction they wanted to go in with some visual references.
- Step 5. Working up a finished layout
Next I started to bring together the elements from the previous designs I liked and play with the layout until I was satisfied it 'sat' together. The client had responded positively to the 'shattered' style vector shapes, which were created experimenting with distort and transform effects on the original 3x3 stroked logo. Until the circle was introduced, however, I felt they didn't have much of a context, and in this case the key to tie the whole piece together was the switching to a 45 degree axis on the line work, which echoes the angles used in the letterforms.
- Step 6. Adding colours
The aim was to bring the associated day-glo colours of 80's rave music into a more classic artistic environment and suggest a melding of styles present in the music. I already had a colour palette in mind from previous work and but solid fills looked too 'clean' and 100% opacity too sickly, so I switched to a cyan instead of yellow and limited the colour palette to just the 3 basic brights, using gradients set from a solid to 30% opacity to fade. Also I added more elements like the 'pulse' wave and the line globe to give the circle more interest. The piece (unintentionally) now had inferences toward waveforms, interstellar rays, planetary bodies, and collisions of data.
- Step 7. Adding halftone fills
A great way to modify gradients in limited colour palettes is using a half tone fill. This can be easily achieved by converting a simple black to white gradient to a vector halftone. In the effects menu under pixelate, choose colour halftone and alter the radius to suit the scale of the artwork. Choose Object>Expand Appearance and then click the Livetrace button. In the Trace menu settings set the max colours to 2, the trace settings all to 1, tick ignore white and trace. Expand the results and then recolour with your chosen swatch - in this case cyan.
The fill on the logo was achieved in exactly the same way - except this time a black halftone was masked off in front of a standard colour gradient. Inner shadows and later an outline stroke were added to give the letters definition and blurred outer glows offset slightly.
- Step 8. Textured backgrounds and layer modes
Once the vector design was finalized, objects were grouped in illustrator and pasted in place into layers in photoshop as smart objects. If rasterized, remember to check they are at 300 dpi min. Because I wanted to mess with layer modes and transparency it was essential that we brought the elements in individually rather than all together. Suitable hi-res textures were set to multiply and darken modes, and gently erased where the detail was not wanted under objects. A plain amber tint layer was added and the edges burnt to help age the piece. Lastly, the pink disc layer was duplicated and set to multiply at 50% to add colour depth and saturation.
- Step 9. Finishing touches
Once I had played with the tones and colours it was time to add a few details and photoshop only effects. The paint splats were added top left with a simple splatter brush set to a really large size and then the layers again duplicated to get the depth of colours and match the palette below. Next, the globe lines were brought out with yet another texture layer and a disintegration effect added to the black lines using custom brush settings and scatter options.
- Step 10. Alternative versions
It doesn't hurt to mess with your final piece if you have the luxury of time! After some experimentation I quite like the results of an inverted dark background.