Create a Mixed Media Composition Using Illustrator and Photoshop

Create a Mixed Media Composition Using Illustrator and Photoshop

Final Product What You’ll Be Creating

Sometimes, by combining elements created in different programs into one piece, you can produce a result that cannot be achieved in either of them alone. In today’s tutorial, I will demonstrate how the flexibility of Photoshop can be combined with the boldness of Illustrator to create a fantastic mixed media piece.

Resources Used

Step 1

Start of by creating a new document at a size you find suitable, I say this because the elements of this design can easily be arranged to match any size. I chose 1024 pixels by 768 pixels, at 72 px/inch. Make a new layer and fill it with white, next grab the texture and place it and resize it until you are satisfied with its position.

Step 2

We are now going to work a bit on the texture, keeping in mind that we don’t want something too flashy so not to distract the viewer away from the main vector elements that we’re going to add later.
Start by cleaning any unwanted areas of the texture by using the Clone Stamp tool (S), in my case I had a black smudged area at the bottom of the canvas which I didn’t like. After you’re done cleaning, turn the blending mode of the texture to luminosity, then duplicate the texture layer (Ctrl + J) and change the blending mode to multiply and turn down the opacity to 30%.

Step 3

Now that we’ve finished with the background it’s time to bring in the kids, I’m using this cheeky image I found in 123rf, however you can always use a free alternative. Place the image at the bottom of the canvas and resize it so that it suits the rest of the background and name this layer ” kids ”, then change its blending mode to darken. You should notice that the white background has disappeared leaving only the kids and the floor they’re sitting on.
Note: this is not a method of extraction, it is merely a quick shortcut that can be used when very large areas of an image are completely white, however if you’re not so lucky with your image you will have to use the pen tool (P), channels, or some other standard extraction method.

Step 4

One of the most important aspects of blending images together is getting the shadows right, in our case we have perfect natural shadows on the floor the kids are sitting on, so I’m going to take advantage of that shadow by blending the floor into the background leaving the shadows intact.
To do this, first you have to make sure that the kids layer is not a ”smart object”, if it is you will have to rasterize it (Layer > Rasterize > Smart Object). Now zoom in about 300%, and use the eraser tool (E) to carefully erase the hard edges of the floor, then make a rough selection around the floor and shadows and bring down its saturation so that it matches the color of the background. Finally, using the arrows on your keyboard move the image down until the children’s feet are almost touching the bottom of the canvas.

Step 5

When I was creating this image I had in mind a color range that consisted of gray, green and yellow, therefore I have to change the color of the blue T-shirt. To do this use the Color Replacement tool (B), and set the foreground color to #67700e, then carefully color over the blue T-shirt, notice that the color of the shirt is changing to a yellowish green.
Note: there are many different ways of coloring that suite different images, to learn more check out this tutorial: awesome photorealistic coloring techniques.

Step 6

Now we’re going to start working on our vector elements, so open up illustrator and start off by drawing a square using the Rectangle Tool (M), color the square in with a solid yellow and make sure the ”strokes” are off. Now we’re going to change this square into a triangle, to do this select the Direct Selection tool (A) and then click once on the square, notice that 5 small anchors have appeared, the one’s on the outside are called anchor points and the one in the middle is called the center point. Click on the top right anchor point once, and using the arrows on your keyboard move it until it meets with the center point, you should end up with an isosceles triangle.

Step 7

Make sure the triangle is still selected and go to Effect > 3d > Extrude & Bevel, enter in the values shown in the image below.

Step 8

Bring the 3d triangle into Photoshop, place it at the top left corner of the canvas and rotate it until it looks suitable, then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur and give it a radius of 2 pixels.
Note: if your version of Photoshop is CS4+ then the blur will be added to the smart object (triangle) as a smart filter, if not then you’ll have to rasterize the triangle before applying the blur, so make sure you are completely happy with its position before you rasterize it.

Step 9

Create a gray rectangle in Illustrator, and then apply Extrude & Bevel with the settings shown in the following image.

Step 10

Bring the rectangle into Photoshop and place it somewhere below the triangle, we are now going to give it a shadow that will create a feeling that it’s floating and moving above the background. To do this, create a new layer underneath the triangle, and name it ”triangle shadow”, now click on the triangle layer while holding Cmd/Ctrl to select its transparency, make sure your on the ”triangle shadow” layer and using the paint bucket tool (G) fill the selection with solid black. Now use the arrows on your keyboard to move the shadow to the bottom left of the rectangle, then give it a Gaussian Blur with a radius of 1.5 pixels and bring down the opacity of the layer to 10%. Use the following images to guide you through this step.

Step 11

We are now going to decorate this shape to make it look a bit more alive, to do this create a new layer above the rectangle layer and name it ”decoration”. From the tool palette select the brush tool (B), choose a round brush and set the size to 3 or 5 pixels depending on the size of your rectangle and set the hardness to 100%, now make sure the foreground color is set to white and start coloring in parts of the rectangle, when your done bring the opacity of this layer down to 10%.

Step 12

In the next few steps we are going to create the swirl, which is definitely the most interesting aspect of this design. Start by drawing a white circle in illustrator using the Ellipse tool (L) and give the circle a very slim stroke of about 0.25 pt, also give the stroke a color of #A2A2A3. Now duplicate this circle once (copy & paste) and size it down until you have a very small circle, just make sure that the layer of the small circle is below the layer of the big circle since this will be very important to create the swirl. Now select both circles while holding shift on your keyboard, then go to Object > Blend > Make, then go to Object > Blend > Blending Options and apply the settings shown in the image.

Step 13

Now we are going to play with the angle and the path of this swirl, to do this select the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C), then click and hold the center point of the small circle, while holding on to the center point use your mouse and pull the path upwards, do the same thing to the big circle but this time pull the path downwards, keep playing around with the path until you reach an outcome you like, use the following images for reference.
Note: this kind of swirly shape is the signature mark of Adhemas Batista, one of the worlds leading graphic designers, so if your looking for inspiration on ways to apply this technique be sure to check out his portfolio.

Step 14

Bring the swirl into Photoshop and place it somewhere close to the kids. We are now going to create the hole that will make the swirl look as if it had emerged from the background itself. To do this Create a new layer underneath the ”swirl” layer and name it ”hole”, zoom in until you are very close to the smallest circle in the swirl and using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) while holding down (Shift) on your keyboard create a selection that is just slightly larger than the smallest circle, and fill this selection with black, finally add an Outer Glow to the ”hole” layer with the settings shown in the image below and bring down the opacity of the layer to 80%.

Step 15

In this step we are going to shade the area of the swirl which is near to the opening of the hole, to do this start of by creating a layer above the ”swirl” layer and name it (shade), now select the transparency of the swirl by clicking on the ”swirl” layer while holding (Cmd/Ctrl) on your keyboard, then zoom in close to the hole and using the Brush Tool (B) carefully add a bit of black shade to the two circles closest to the hole and bring down the opacity of the layer to 40%.

Step 16

Using the exact same technique that we used in Step 10 to create the rectangle’s shadow create a shadow for the swirl, however I felt that the opacity of 10% was to much so I brought it down to 8%, feel free to experiment with opacity and the position until you are satisfied.

Step 17

What I really love about these swirly shapes is that there’s no end to the tricks and tweaks you can apply to them, we’re going to be adding a silhouette of a bicyclist to make it look as if he were sliding down a slope and jumping of at the end.
To do this, start of by downloading this cool silhouette pack, this pack contains 2 files, the one we are going to use is the ”CSH” file (Custom Shape), to get this into Photoshop select the Custom Shape Tool (W) and right click anywhere on the canvas, you should find a small arrow on the right, click it and choose ”Load Shapes” and load the ”extreme actions” file. You should now find that a new set of shapes has been added to the list, choose a silhouette you like and place it at the end of the swirl and give it a color of #201c1d.

Step 18

Now that we’re done with our 3d objects, we are going to add some 2d decoration shapes to make the background more interesting, these are very simple shapes that you can easily mimic just by looking at the image below.

Step 19

Continue filling in the spaces using the 3 main techniques we’ve learned in this tutorial (3d objects, swirls and the 2d objects) and make sure you experiment with shapes and sizes, also make sure you create some 3d objects and place them out of focus to create a sense of depth of field (as shown in step 8), this is the outcome I ended up with.

Step 20

We are now in the final phase of creating this piece and all that’s left is to bring it to life with a few final effects. We’re going to start of by adding some brush strokes to make the piece look a bit dirty, I chose to use these spray paint brushes, spray some yellow, gray and light green brushes on a layer above all the other layers, and then use the Eraser Tool (E) to erase the parts of the brushes you don’t like.

Step 21

Download this cloud brush pack and add it to your brush list, now create a new layer above all the other layers and name it ”clouds”, make sure that the foreground color is white and the background color is black, then add some clouds to various sections of the canvas, just make sure that they don’t overpower the main elements of the design.

Step 22

As you may have noticed the colors of this image are a bit drab, so to spice it up we’re going to add some color and exposure adjustments, to do this go to Layer > Adjustment Layer > Color Balance, Brightness/Contrast and Gradient map with the settings shown below.
Note: set the Gradient Map’s blending mode to Multiply with an opacity of 20%.

Step 23

Create a new layer above all the other layers and go to Image > Apply Image, then go to Filter > Other > High Pass, turn the radius to 5 pixels then click OK, finally change the blending mode to Soft Light and the opacity to 50%.

Final Image

To bring this piece to an end, create a new layer and go to Image > Apply Image, now select the Sharpen Tool and set the Strength to 30%, sharpen parts of your image. And there you have it, the final outcome.

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