Arrows, Lines, and Improving Your Photoshop Workflow


Final Image Preview


Most likely you will be taking direction from somebody when working professionally, and you never know what that client, or art director are going to request. When they throw a curve ball at you, you don’t want to have to go back and redo everything because you didn’t build your file in an orderly manner. You need to do things in the most efficient manner possible. You will also need to think outside the box in order to solve problems quickly.
We are going to re-create an old magazine cover that at first glance looks like it wouldn’t be too difficult to do, but if you make the mistake of getting started before doing some planning, you will quickly reach a dead end, and have to start over.

Step 1

Lets take a look at the artwork that we are going to re-create. You see it here. It’s from the cover of the Magazine Juana Gaita, which is currently celebrating its 50th year of publication.
So what steps do you envision having to take to re-create this? I can tell you now that you won’t be able to think of everything. There are always little details that you have to deal with as they come up, but let’s do the best we can. Here are some details that I can foresee having to deal with:

  1. There are two patterns of 45 degree angles lines that are perpendicular to each other.
  2. There are only a few colors, so I will use solid color adjustment layers and masks to make the artwork.
  3. It looks like the colors on the background pattern are just inverted with various shapes like rectangles and arrows.
  4. There is one main arrow of the same shape and size that breaks the pattern.
  5. There is a pattern of arrows nestled into each other facing both left and right.
  6. The arrows and rectangles all line up precisely with the 45 degree lines at all vertices.

Step 2

Now with the above observations we can come up with a quick and rational way of creating this pattern. Let’s begin with the lines. Create a new document that is about 2000px by 1300px. In the Preferences go to the Guides, Grid, Slices, and Count section. Then set your Grid to every 80px with 8 Subdivisions.
Now turn on your Grid by going to View > Show > Grid (Command+’). Then select the Rectangle Tool (U), make sure that Create Paths is checked in the Property Bar. Draw a rectangle path that is the width of one of the subdivisions of the grid. Now hit Command+T and transform the path so it is the same width, but make the height stretch way past the height of the canvas.
Line your path up so it sits next to one of the main grid lines. Make sure that you have Snap to Grid enabled under the View menu so it’s exact. Now with the Pen Tool (P) Command-drag around the whole path. Then hit Command+C to copy, Command+V to paste, then Command+T to transform. Then move the new one over to the next main grid line. Repeat until you have something that looks like the image below. When you get to the edge of the canvas, select all the paths and move them over to the left, making sure to keep them lined up to the grid, then continue.

Step 3

Now select all the paths with the Pen Tool and hit Command+T. In the Property Bar enter 45 in the Angle Box and hit Enter. Now make a new Solid Color Adjustment Layer with the paths and fill it with black. Duplicate that layer and then hit Command+T. Then right-click in the Transform Box and select Flip Horizontal. Now we have our two sets of perpendicular lines.
Note: The reason that we made the lines black and not the color that we actually want is because at the moment we are constructing a mask that we will use later to create the color. This is because of what I noticed in observation number three where the colors are inverted. It will make more sense later, but just be aware for now that we are constructing a mask.

Step 4

Zoom way in so you can see the pixels where the lines cross. Make a Guide by clicking and dragging on the Ruler at the top of your document. If you dont see a Ruler, hit Command+R and it will appear. Line the Guide up so it sits exactly where the lines cross. Now Zoom-out a little. Then make another Guide in the same place, only move it down four boxes. Make sure that each Guide is in relatively the exact same place. This will be important to keep things aligned later.

Step 5

Now lets organize our Layer Palette a little by separating the two “Line” layers into their own groups. Select One of the “Line” layers. Then go to Layer > New > Group from Layers. Do the same for the other.
We dont want the negative space of each of these groups to be transparent, so make a new Solid Color Adjustment Layer and fill it with white. Duplicate this white layer, and put one of them in each group just under the “Line” layer. Now you should see only one set of lines at a time.

Step 6

Now we are all setup to create the zigzag pattern with the lines. Select the Rectangle Tool (U) and make a rectangle path that follows the guides that you created. Make sure that you have Snap enabled. Now with the path highlighted in the Paths Palette, and the top “Line” group highlighted in the layer palette, go to Layer > Vector Mask > Current Path. If your guides were lined up correctly, you should get a perfect zigzag shape.

Now we need another zigzag at the bottom half of the document. Click on the Vector Mask that you have on the upper group. With the Pen Tool (P) hold Command and drag around the path, hit Command+C to copy, Command+V to paste, then Command+T to transform. Bring the new path down until the second zigzag lines up perfectly.
You also need to make sure that the two paths in the vector mask are an equal distance apart. The Ruler Tool (I) is useful here, and it is hiding underneath the Eyedropper Tool (I). With the Ruler simply click and drag. The distance between the two points will be displayed in the Info Palette.

Step 7

Now we are ready to create the horizontal bars. At this point we have everything we need to create them already made. Click on the Vector Mask from the upper “Line” group. Then in the Path Palette drag the Path that says “Group 1 vector mask” down to the New Path button at the bottom of the palette.
With the new path selected in the Path Palette make a new Invert Adjustment Layer above both of the “Line” groups. It lines up perfectly with the zigzags because we used the same paths as we did to make the zigzags.

Step 8

Now lets make the arrow shape. Zoom way in to one of the points where the lines meet. With the Pen Tool (P) click right at the point where the lines meet to make a new path point. Now while holding Shift the whole time to constrain the path, click at the various points you need to in order to make the arrow shape.
All the lines should be perfectly straight, or at a 45 degree angles, if you are holding Shift down. You will no doubt have to go back and adjust some of the points. To do this simply Command+click on a point. Then use the Arrow Keys to move it around. Here are a few shots of how my arrow lines up. I made it red just so you can see it better.

Step 9

With your arrow path selected make a new Invert Adjustment Layer above the previous one. Line the arrow shape up at one of the places it should be. Now would be a good time to reference the original to see where things are going. It should be fairly easy to line them up if you have the Snap set up. Keep duplicating the “Arrow Invert” layer and placing the different arrows where they should be. There are total total, plus one that is a Solid Color Adjustment layer.

Step 10

There is one more small detail we need to fix before we can make a mask out of this artwork. Notice how the lines are interfering with the front of the arrows. If you look back at the original artwork you see that there are no lines where the front of the arrows are. This is an easy fix.
Open up one of the “Line” groups. Then click on the “Line” layer. Hit the Add Layer Mask button and a mask appears next to the vector mask. Now with the layer mask highlighted, we can simply paint the lines out with a black brush where we dont want them. Repeat this step for the other “Lines” layer.
This double mask technique is a real life saver because we dont have to actually remove the vector lines. That means that all the vector information is still intact just in case we need to go back and change something at a later date.

Step 11

Now we are finally ready to add some color! Like I said before, we are going to use what we have created as a mask to create a Solid Color Adjustment Layer. First make a Solid Color Adjustment Layer above all other layers except the solid color arrow. Make it whatever color you want. This will be the first color of your design.
Turn off the solid color arrow and the solid color layer that you just made so you can see the design beneath. Then in the Channels Palette drag the Red Channel down to the New Channel button to duplicate it. Now load the selection of the channel by holding Command+clicking on the channel thumbnail. Make another Solid Color Adjustment Layer just above the previous one. Then pick your second color, preferably a complementary color to your first color. Turn all the layers back on and there you have your design in color.


As a final touch, I added in a texture layer. You can see how to do in the 60′s Psychedelic Poster Tutorial.
Now we have a PSD file that is relatively simple considering the complexity of the design. The most important part of the construction this file is that we can revert back to any of the above steps very easily. I hope this tutorial has shed some light on how a professional workflow is achieved in Photoshop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *