Ciara Phelan shows you how to mix vector imagery with papercraft photography to create a textured collage with real depth
This tutorial uses some basic layering and masking techniques, coupled with some papercraft elements that we’ll montage together to create an interesting textured collage with lots of depth.
There are several tools in Photoshop that are used by creatives over and over again: I’ll take you through some very versatile processes that you can incorporate with these tools into your own workflow. We’ll be designing an album cover, but the mixed-media techniques can be applied to any project.
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01 This image is all about experimentation, mixing a variety of elements with lots of different techniques to create depth and layering. Before you even open Photoshop, dig out your scalpel and card for a spot of good old-fashioned papercrafting. Cut out lots of different swirly blobs and layer them using mountboard to create shadow.
02 To make the illustration feel less digital, we’re going to add organic textures by creating some interesting marks on paper. I decided to experiment with black and white acrylic paint, as I wanted the imagery to feel quite fluid. However, you can use whatever you have to hand – felt tips, pencils, spray paints and so on. Photograph everything.
03 Open a new square Photoshop document; mine is set to 210mm at 300dpi in RGB. It’s best to start with the photographic elements and build digital ones on top, so open one of your paper blob images, select the Pen tool and trace around the edge of the top blob. Make sure you stay inside the edge, not outside.
04 When the path is completed, Ctrl/right-click and select Make Selection… from the pop-up menu. Set the feather radius to 0.3, and hit OK. At the bottom of the Layers panel select a new folder, then at the bottom of the same window select Add Layer Mask. This will create a folder with a mask that you can put the blob photograph layer and other textures into.
05 To enhance the shadows and highlights in the image it’s best to use an adjustment layer. This way you have greater flexibility and can remove a filter if you change your mind later. To do this, go to Window>Adjustments and, in this case, Curves. I’ve added lots of shadow to make it feel like a deep pit.
06 Now it’s time to start introducing some fluid vector shapes. Open up Illustrator and create a new A4 document. Select the Pencil tool, and draw some big round blobs. If you have a tablet it will be slightly easier, but a mouse is fine. Fill the blob with black, then copy the shape, move back to Photoshop and paste it in. Using the Magic Wand tool, select the shape and create a group mask as in step 04. Drop a photograph of the paper blobs into this group to create a large swirly mass.
07 Repeat the above steps to create layers of photographic elements and textures. Don’t forget to add adjustment masks to enhance the shadows and incorporate even more depth and shade.