Start by creating a font sheet in Photoshop. Apply as many styles as possible, considering the correlation between these and your theme. For example, a calligraphic font will be more suited to organic elements. Our theme is tourist photography and a blocky typeface is suited to such mechanical and structured forms. We’ve chosen Chaparral Pro as our base.
A large chunk of your time will be taken up cutting out image elements from existing backdrops. For solid colour backdrops, simply apply the Magic Wand at a Tolerance of 25, apply a layer mask and invert this before saving. Automate this technique by saving it as an Action, to improve productivity.
Sadly, separating your elements from the existing background won’t always be easy. For less-routine backdrops, apply selections using the Pen Path tool, then perfect selection edges using the Refine Edge options and apply a layer mask to isolate your option. Layer masks will come in handy when editing later in the workflow.
With all your images removed from their backgrounds, it’s time to drag and drop them into your main image, which also ensures your layer masks stay attached. Convert all your newly imported image layers to Smart Objects, de-scale and arrange them away from your type. By making these Smart Objects you will be able to alter the image size without distortion and keep your options open when compositing. Placing away from your text lets you see what you have to work with.
Now you can start to create the building blocks for your letterforms using your Smart Objects. It’s important that you scrutinise the placement of your elements, so they visualise and accentuate the shapes of your fonts. For example, we’ve used the image of an arm holding a camera to accentuate the curvature of our letter S. We admit to using the Transform>Warp tool to fit our element to the typeface, which we get away with as we’re using an organic image (a human arm).
Don’t be afraid to edit the images. That’s why we have applied layer masks so you can work out elements at any time. For example, using an angled camera lens to again create the curve in your letter S. Continue to look for images that will fit a specific space in the letter. Pay attention to the layering of images, the shapes of the images and the relation of image sizes. As we have more letters to create, we’ve increased the size of our elements to combat repetition.
This can become quite a painstaking procedure, but if you care about the uniformity of your elements it’s essential. You may find that some of your image elements actually have a similar level of exposure. Some may seem a lot darker or a lot lighter. Target where these images are, then apply Levels to correct exposure. Also use your new adjustment layer’s layer mask to target lighting with a paintbrush. Make sure that your Levels adjustment layer only affects the layer in question by clipping this layer to it.
Changing colour isn’t always a concern. Random splashes of colour from various objects can result in a colourful image. However, there is nothing wrong with boosting the vibrancy of existing colours. This is a relatively easy technique that needs your attention. Apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and then set appropriate values in your Saturation and Brightness sliders in the relevant colour options. You can use your attached layer mask and a low-opacity black soft brush to work original colours back in where you want them.
As we have used a lot of camera and lens stock, the image has been saturated with dark tones, affecting the splashes of colour, which seem minimal. We’ve combated this by increasing the vibrancy of our image and applying gradient shapes.
We’ve introduced more colours to our image with the use of gradient shapes. They have been added using the Elliptical Shape tool, applied specifically to the camera lenses. This is a lot easier with the new CS6 Shape tool Fill options. You can layer your shapes, combining Screen, Overlay and Vivid Light to affect detail. Make sure you do this inside your Smart Objects, which will automatically update effects in all duplicate layers and enable you to resize non-destructively.
If you think you might end up resizing your elements, it’s best to dodge and burn each one separately, by opening each Smart Object and then Opt/Alt-clicking the Create New Layer icon. In the New Layer dialog box we’ve set Mode to Overlay and activated the Fill with the Overlay-neutral colour option. This will create a 50% greyscale image that you can now paint to with low-opacity brushes. White will add highlights and black will create shadow. You can alternatively add this to the top of your layer stack if you don’t plan to resize any letter layers.
We’ve created better depth of field by adding black-to-transparent gradients to our image elements that fall behind others. Opacity, scale and positioning will vary. We’ve also emphasised our collage effect using mixed-media texture. We’ve achieved this by loading ‘brushfx-paint-splatters-set-1’ brush set supplied and applying black ink splats to a new layer set behind all our image elements. Alternate styles, sizes and Brush Tip>Angle to vary effects, matching the direction and edges of your image layers.
We’ve completed our effect by creating more painted layers throughout our layer stacks. We’ve painted with a 50% grey to Screen blending mode layers. Make sure you clip these new paint layers to stop noticeable overlapping. We’ve also introduced a tea stain background that we made using the supplied ‘brushfx-coffee-cup-stains-set-1’ brush set. Finally we’ve merged all our layers, sharpened and applied Add Noise at an Amount of 2%.