Photoshop expert and retro-kitsch enthusiast Don Sparrow reveals the tricks and special techniques he uses to digitally age his images in this step-by-step guide to giving your work that familiar styling of the forties and fifties.
Within the next few pages, I aim to share some of the tricks I have learned during my time as a professional illustrator. The style I have developed as a delivery device for my illustration work leans heavily on the look and feel of printed material from the forties, fifties and sixties. By using a style that is reminiscent of a long gone era, but often dealing with modern subject matter and personalities, I've been able to find a way to approach a story in a more timeless way that (hopefully) engages the reader.
I use Adobe Photoshop to colour most of my pieces, although I try to ensure that this modern, digital technique doesn't make my work appear too slick and computer generated. I guess it could be described as digital collage. I take a real-world work (most often an ink drawing or gouache painting) and adding layers of textures and colours from my library of digital resource material to create a cohesive piece. It's retro warmth meets sly modernity. Well, that's the idea anyway.
During this tutorial, I hope to impart a novel way of solving a visual problem, digitally, while ensuring that the finished piece doesn't reveal its Photoshop roots. Then, if you ever need to create an image with the look and feel of decades gone by, you can use some of these tricks rather than applying the same old filters, familiar to everyone, time and time again.
Follow these steps and you'll add another useful arrow to your digital quiver, gain another option for self-expression, and, if nothing else, have a cool new trick to show off to your friends.