APP1: Making a background for the posters

With this blog post, I wanted to focus on the background for the posters after focusing on the beginning of creating the vehicle illustrations in the last blog post. From the ideas I had done in a much earlier blog post, I knew a side-on view was going to be the best option. I started experimenting with Thrust SSC, as this is the illustration that is furthest developed so far. I should point out there have been some subtle developments of the Thrust SSC illustration from last time, these will be covered in my next blog post.

While watching the BBC documentary about Thrust SSC I discussed in my research, I came across an image that I took a screenshot of that gave me an idea as to the proportions of all the features in the poster. I also took some swatches of colour which can be seen, to give me an accurate set of colours for my background.

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Below is my first attempt, with one shape filled with a gradient blending from the blue of the sky to the beige of the ground. It is not particularly successful as it blends too loosely, even with the settings adjusted so the transition takes place over a relatively short space.

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And it looks even worse when a vehicle is placed on top of it…. looks like it is floating in mid-air in an alternate universe!

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So I spent some time thinking of improvements, firstly deciding the sky colours were not exactly that representative so I changed those. I also decided to use two shapes instead of one for the background, for the sky and ground. They would meet in the middle, giving a crisp finish, which would then be covered by the hills on the horizon.

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Below are the gradient settings for the ground that I made from the swatches earlier. There is not much of a colour difference, but it works to make a subtle base for the ground as in reality, the ground would be made up of many different shades.

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I then experimented with the Effect Gallery in Illustrator in order to give the ground the right texture to match that of Black Rock Desert. I tried many different effects but settled on the Mosaic Tiles setting in the end, as this gave a texture consisting of short horizontal lines that gave a slight blurred effect.

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Here’s a close-up image of the effect to give a better idea of how it looks.

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Personally, I am not convinced this would work, as it is too delicate, uniform, and looks more like a carpet than desert ground. This is disappointing so I needed a new way of forming the background. I decided to start working in Photoshop, as I had a feeling the brushes in there might be suited to my needs, helping me to get a realistic effect. This is something I predicted could be the case when I investigated illustration styles earlier on.

Experimenting with the background led me to trial a gradient in Photoshop, much the same that I had originally done in Illustrator. I created a shape and went to the Layer Styles palette, adding a Gradient Overlay. When looking through the gradient presets, I came across a chrome preset, which suited my needs very well. I adjusted the colours slightly and the positioning for the transitions between them, with the result turning out much better than expected.

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To create the land in the middle, I used one of the techniques I learnt while creating the Broken Method album artwork last year. I used that same brush I made, but using a foreground colour of dark brown and a background colour of light brown. As for the Brush Settings, I selected Color Dynamics and Shape Dynamics settings to add some random elements into the pattern. This looked slightly unrealistic, but it did not matter as due to the speed of the vehicle, this will be blurred. To achieve this, I applied a Motion Blur filter. I am happy with the effect as it looks semi-realistic, and although there are some gaps and odd shapes in the horizon landscape, these can be easily fixed.

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I then turned my attention towards working out how to incorporate a vehicle into this landscape and increase the realism along the way. Placing the vehicle into the landscape did not initially give a good result, as it did before in Illustrator.

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To place the vehicle better on the background, I used a brush from a free-to-use pack resembling flames that when the correct settings are enabled gives a great random dust pattern. As for the Brush Settings, I again selected Color Dynamics and Shape Dynamics settings to add some random elements into the pattern. I also selected the Noise option as this brings out the graininess of the dust.

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That helped to give a real sense of realism to the image, connecting it with the surface better. However, this made the ground look flatter and more unrealistic than ever.

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Adding to the sense of realism in the image, and also to illustrate the nature of Thrust SSC’s 110,000bhp, I added the ‘diamond shock’ effect that jet engines produced on the use of the afterburner. To produce the ‘diamonds’, I chose a soft circular brush, editing the Roundness of the tip shape to 10%, producing an elongated oval. I then set the foreground colour to a bright orange. When clicking at certain points, I would alter the brush’s size and opacity, so every diamond would be smaller and more transparent, to fade it out.

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 10.38.50I then turned the Angle to 3 degrees to add the ‘shock’ part of the ‘diamond shocks’ that connects the diamonds together. This created the downward part of the shock, so to create the upward strokes, I reversed the angle to -3. I also made sure the opacity levels were low to ensure it is an accurate representation.

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To improve the ground, I experimented with that same brush, of which the settings for I have placed below.

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The scattering produced an excellent random effect, but left it littering parts of the image it was not meant to be. To get rid of that, I added a Layer Mask to the layer, and used a soft circular brush to remove the excess from the sky. I was delighted with the outcome, it makes an enormous positive difference to the overall look of the piece.

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However, the sizing of the brush strokes for the ground were the same no matter whether they were in the foreground or background. The rules of perspective state the foreground strokes should be larger. So therefore I created a new layer, shrunk the size of the brush and ‘painted’ on top some smaller strokes near the horizon line. To then blend in the two sections, I made the brush slightly larger and repeated.

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The end result is very pleasing, I think it meets the needs and wants of the audience, and from now on I can experiment properly with placing information on the design in time to show some options at the crit and gain feedback. As for improvements, these will continue to be made as I progress, the first thing that springs to mind that needs fixing is the shadow the vehicle would generate in the sun of the day.