Image for Digital Arts Magazine

Here is an image I put together for a tutorial to be published in Digital Arts Magazine. This is a combination of a couple of previous poster designs and elements watered down so I can discuss the steps I took along the way. I mostly focused on using Blending Modes and using simple objects to yield cool results.

Look for this tutorial in an upcoming issue of Digital Arts, and I’ll be sure to announce when the issue is released.

Signalnoise Tutorial for Digital Arts Magazine

I don’t yet have photos of the actual magazine but the ‘Elle’ tutorial I wrote for Digital Arts Magazine has been published on their website. The poster was originally designed for the crew at Thinkstock, who were kind enough to donate the photograph of the lady to this tutorial. The process is stripped down and broken into 16 steps, but the fundamentals of how I created this poster are there.

The tutorial is published in the July 2010 issue of Digital Arts Magazine, currently on newsstands in Europe. Enjoy!

Signalnoise Tutorial: Rainbow Shards

As some of you know, I spoke at FITC Toronto last month where I included a small and simple Photoshop tutorial on how I achieved the rainbow shard effect seen in many of my poster designs over the last few years. What I showed to the crowd was a stripped down version so I could demonstrate easily and quickly how the effect was created in about 4 minutes. We can’t have only those who attended have all the fun, so here is the web version of the tutorial in the exact way I presented it at the conference.

But before we begin, please PLEASE try experimenting with various steps along the way. I understand tutorials are meant to be a map from point A to point B where you can create the exact results shown, but screw that. Try your own stuff, add images, change the shapes, switch up the colors. Anyone can read and follow instructions, it’s the exploration and playing that makes it your own and can lead down other creative paths. I endorse learning, not replicating.

Bear that in mind, and lets get to it.

Step 1: In Adobe Illustrator, create some basic shapes using a few varying degrees of greys. Try to get a good range so they don’t look so monotone. If you are looking to get things lining up later on, be sure to hold down the Shift key while making these so all lines are perfectly horizontal, vertical or 45º.

Experiment tip! After you’ve run through this tutorial once, try creating some other shapes to play with later on. It’s super fun, trust me.

Step 2: I originally used Flash in order to create these random little groups, but you really don’t have to. Take the shapes you created in Step 1 and make a few groups with a variety of size and dispersal. Take a bit of time here to play with the shapes and get the groups looking as random and interesting as possible. If you are adjusting lengths, be sure to hold down the Shift key to maintain that 45º angle so things line up properly.

Experiment tip! Seriously, don’t cut corners here because it will hurt you later. The more interesting the groups are here will improve depth later. Try using different shapes and arrangements to see what results they might yield. Think of these groups as your tools, the better they are the better they will work for you.

Step 3: Copy and paste 2 of the groups you just created into Photoshop onto a black canvas, then drop the opacity of these layers down to 50% each. Expand the size of the shapes a bit so they bleed off. You can set the dimensions of the canvas to whatever you like, I just chose this format because my it was for my Keynote presentation.

Step 4: Copy and paste 2 more groups of shapes into Photoshop on top of the previous ones from Step 3. Again, expand the groups so they bleed off the edges of the canvas.

Step 5: Set the Blending Mode of those 2 new layers of shapes to Overlay. You should now be able to see some interesting things happening as the shapes react to those underneath.

Experiment tip! Try adding as many layers as you wish to this step. Also try adjusting the scale and opacity of the shapes to see what happens.

Step 6: Now it’s time to add color. Create a new layer, select a full spectrum linear gradient and apply it across the canvas. I then selected the shapes below in order to apply a layer mask to the color layer. Looks pretty gross, huh?

Experiment tip! Try using different colors, radial gradients or using the airbrush tool to create custom color fills.

Step 7: Set the Blending Mode of the color layer to Overlay, and set the opacity to around 35%. This coloring doesn’t look too interesting but there is a method of applying color I discovered quite by accident, which is by way of layering colors over top of one another …

Step 8: Duplicate the color layer 3 times so you have 4 layers of color. This will improve the saturation of your colors without over-blowing or pixelating the shapes. You might have to adjust the opacities of your color layers individually of they are reacting too harshly with one another. I included my layers palette in this image to show you how I have things set up so far.

Here is the clean version of Step 8.

Step 9: Now we are going to add some subtle highlights and shading to the shapes in order to create a bit more dimension. Create a new layer and set the Blending Mode to Overlay. Select the gradient tool with a setting of white to transparent, and apply a radial gradient to the upper-right corner. Do the same steps and apply a black radial gradient to the lower-left corner. You can adjust the opacity of this overlay if the highlight or shadow are too harsh.

Experiment tip! Try using this method of highlight and shadow in different areas to either bring elements forward or knock parts back. It can add quite a bit of dimension to your work.

And there you go, nothing to it.

This is a fairly simple tutorial, but I hope you can understand the possibility of experimentation particularly in the early steps. It’s nothing to just follow instructions to yield to same outcome, the real power comes from playing with elements along the way to see what results might come about.

So have fun, and feel free to post your creations in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Creating the New Retro: Tutorial download

James White in Computer Arts magazine tutorial

If you somehow missed picking up issue #156 of Computer Arts magazine, which contains my tutorial entitled Creating the New Retro, it is now available as a PDF download from the Computer Arts website. You can check it out right here:

Creating the new Retro: Tutorial by James White

Many people have contacted me regarding when this tutorial would be available online, however I strongly recommend picking up the issue if you have the means. Lots of great stuff in there.

‘Creating the New Retro’ in Computer Arts 156

James White in Computer Arts 156

James White in Computer Arts 156

James White in Computer Arts 156

I received my fresh copy of Computer Arts #156 in the mail a few days ago, which contains the tutorial I wrote entitled ‘Creating the New Retro’.

As I previewed earlier on the site, the tutorial walks through the steps taken to create the piece above outlining my process behind creating the retro-style colored lines prevalent in my artwork. It’s always a pleasure to work with the kind folks over at Computer Arts, especially for such a great opportunity.

The issue should be available worldwide now, just watch for the killer cover designed by Hvass&Hannibal.

Signalnoise Tutorial in Computer Arts #156

James White in Computer Arts 156

I’m happy to announce that the latest installment of Computer Arts magazine, issue 156 has been released and features the tutorial I wrote entitled ‘Creating the New Retro’. This tutorial walks through the process behind creating the image above, minus text and logos, and explains the techniques used to produce the layered colored line aesthetic in 15 steps. Check it out in the Technique section of the mag.

The issue is also being shipped with a free 2009 calendar which features some amazing artists such as Guilherme Marconi, Evgeny Kiselev, Jon Burgerman and many others. I can’t wait to get this on my office wall.

Watch for issue 156 of Computer Arts to hit newsstands worldwide in the coming weeks.

Signalnoise tutorial: The O series

The O Series tutorial

I have had many requests for tutorials over the past months, but given that they are quite time-consuming to create I have stayed away from them to continue with my poster designs and freelance work.

Last week I posted a few images entitled The O Series.  The process behind the images is fairly simple and I thought it would make for a good first tutorial post. There is nothing advanced here, and all you will need is a basic knowledge of the layers palette, blending modes and masks.

So, if you were at all interested in the creation of these pieces, here you go.

Step 1
Start by creating a white circle in the middle of the canvas, and apply a radial gradient layer mask so the center is faded out. Drop the opacity down to 15%.

The O Series tutorial

Step 2
Duplicate the circle layer we just made, and move it up and to the left. Bring the opacity up to 100% and set the layer Blending Mode to Overlay.

The O Series tutorial

Step 3
Duplicate the layer we just made and drop the opacity down to 25%. Set the Blending Mode of this new layer to Color Dodge. Move the circle a bit to the right on the canvas.

The O Series tutorial

Step 4
Duplicate the layer we just made, bring the opacity back up to 100% and set the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Shift the circle to the left a bit, and this time scale the circle down a little.

The O Series tutorial

Step 5
Make a straight duplicate of the layer we just made, and shift it a bit to the right. Keep all the layer settings the same.

The O Series tutorial

Step 6
Now that we have all of our circles in place, it’s now time to add some shadows and highlights to bring a bit more definition to the shapes. Create a new layer, and set its Blending Mode to Overlay. Using the Brush Tool set to black, proceed to paint in a few soft shadows concentrating more on the lower-left portion of the sphere. Then on the same layer, set your brush to white and paint in a few highlights. Try to keep in mind where a light source might hit our sphere, and paint the shadows and highlights accordingly. I lassoed where I painted for the sake of clarity in the example image.

The O Series tutorial

Step 7
To make the shading and highlights a bit more dramatic, duplicate the layer we just made and set its opacity to 50%. Keep the Blending Mode at Overlay.

The O Series tutorial

Step 8
Now we need to make the highlights really pop. Create a new layer and set the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Then using the Brush Tool with a soft setting, paint in a few focused highlight areas building on where you placed highlights in step 6.

The O Series tutorial

Step 9
Duplicate the layer we just made and set the Blending Mode to Overlay.

The O Series tutorial

Step 10
Once again, duplicate the layer we just made and this time drop the opacity to 50%.

The O Series tutorial

Step 11
Create a new Adjustment Layer and select Levels. When the levels dialogue box appears, set the white side to 145 and the dark side to 15, and click Okay. Keep this new layer above all of the layers we have created so the level setting will be applied to all.

The O Series tutorial

Step 12
Finally, we can now add some color to our sphere. Create a new layer, and remember to keep it below the Levels Adjustment Layer we just made. Using the Brush tool on a soft setting, paint in some color highlights on the sphere. Do this for a few colors to add some interest to the composition, in my case I chose red and purple.

The O Series tutorial

Step 13
Set the Blending Mode of our color layer to Overlay. You can continue to add some color on this layer until it feels right.

The O Series tutorial

Step 14
After placing so many overlays on top of gradients you will notice some fragmentation or banding. To solve this, switch the canvas to 16-bit and everything will smooth out. Simply go to Image > Mode > 16-Bits/Channel. After saving your PSD as 16-bit, you can then flatten your canvas and switch back to 8-bit to save your work as a jpeg.

The O series tutorial

The O series tutorial

Step 15
Have some fun and try a few different color treatments using the Brush Tool or some gradients. Also shift the circle layers around a bit for more diversity.

The O Series tutorial

I tried to keep this is simple and straight-forward as I could, so I hope this helps out those curious about my process. I do a great deal of adjusting and experimenting with my work, so be sure to try new things as you go to see how the slightest of alterations can change how color and overlays react with one another. But most of all, have fun.