A few months ago I refreshed my Twitter Background. I had been toying with the idea of doing a simple but striking mixed-media illustration for the background. When it was done, I received countless nice emails praising the design and many more wanting to know how I had achieved that effect. This cursory tutorial is for all those who wrote to know the method. In this tutorial, I explain the process of creating a mixed-media illustration using a photograph and re-creating some of the elements from the photograph in vector format. The process touches base with creating a composition of the raster and vector elements in a beautiful, modern digital artwork.
What Is Mixed Media?
Mixed media artwork refers to art made via the use of different mediums. In visual art, this could refer to an artwork on canvas that combines paint, ink and decoupage. In digital art, it refers to using raster and vector graphics in a medley of creative placements.
- Choosing the right raster graphic. For eg. a photograph.
- Studying the photograph for design elements and qualities.
- Creating complimenting vector graphics.
- Finishing artwork with secondary design elements.
1. Choosing The Right Raster Graphic
Use a strong photograph as the base of your design.You will be re-creating elements from that photograph in vector format to achieve that "flows out of the photograph" look and feel.
For my project I needed a picture of me that was looking up. I short-listed a couple of photographs before deciding on the one used here. The background of my page was going to be gray, so I took the warmth away from the photograph, making it brighter and cooler, focusing on the grays and blues in the picture. I also cut out my outline from the sky and roughed up the edges in preparation for the final artwork.
2. Studying The Photograph For Design Elements & Qualities
Outline the most striking qualities of your photograph. What visual element of the photograph stands out the most? Is it the color or the perspective? Is it the unique paisley pattern or bold lines? Once the points are listed out, decide on the elements you want to build on.
For my project I liked the ornate patterns in the top I am wearing and felt that I could extend that design beautifully into vector artwork. With the pattern in my top being extremely busy, I decided to make the accompanying vector graphics fairly simple and monotone with stark black outlines.
3. Creating Vector Graphics
Fire up illustrator. Create the vector design elements. Experiment with stark contrasts as this will highlight the vector and raster aspects of your piece beautifully. If your photograph is color, go for monotone vector graphics and vice versa.
For my project I decided to make graphics that were similar to the paisley patterns but not exactly the same as I didn’t want the visual to be crowded. I gave it a sketchy, hand drawn effect by not making all the curves perfectly smooth. The bird was blacked out and all details were left out to break the "white" in the vectors.
Import the photo into Photoshop. Import vectors as Smart Objects into photoshop so you can make changes to them on the fly. Create the composition from a sketch or from experimentally arranging the elements at will. Don’t be too rigid. Sometimes going with the flow and evolving along the way produces a more natural effect.
For my project, I wanted to blend the swirls and the bird with my photo to express thoughts coming out over the top of my head and Twitter being my constant companion. The roughed out white edges I gave the photograph in Step 1 helped achieve the transition perfectly.
5. Finishing Touches
Once the elements are in place, use subtle effects like shadows, textures, patterns, overlays and gradients to tie the piece in perfectly. For my piece, I simply used the LBOI checkered gray background.
I used Photoshop to process my photograph initially and then creating the composition and applying the effects. I used Illustrator for all the vector artwork seen in the piece. I hope you have enjoyed reading my process for creating organic mixed media illustrations. Have you created similar pieces? Are there any other methods you use? Please join the discussion below or drop me a line if you have any questions.
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