Cycle Haven 2011 Illustrator, Photoshop

“This tutorial is all about creating an image with the use of collage, vectors and various textured techniques” – Neil Stevens Illustrator, image-maker.

Cycle Haven - Final Image

For this tutorial I have created an image that draws inspiration from Pop Artists – such as Richard Hamilton – and mixed this influence with my own to give it a more contemporary feel. Hamilton’s art would often involve collaging images to create original pieces. Found pictures, old photographs and various objects would all be carefully placed to create a whole new image. I’ve taken that influence on board, but also added a few simple shapes, cleaner lines and the usual colours and textures I tend to include in my work. With some simple techniques within Photoshop and Illustrator you can also create this look and feel. This approach to illustration is, in fact, quite new to me. I have been experimenting recently by adding something a little extra to my previous style. By mixing vectors with photographic images
I have found a new direction. The best thing about the collage style is that anything goes, and the more inventive and crazy your approach and ideas become, the more interesting the results can be.

I have always been inspired by the work of Ciara Phelan, Jesse Lenz, Julien Pacaud and Marek Haiduk. To me, these guys are the best at contemporary collage work. If you want to be inspired and create work of their quality, finding their websites and browsing away is the place to start.

Preproduction Sketch

Before I began my image for this tutorial, Digital Artist gave me a number of images to work with and I also selected one of my own. The idea was to create an illustration of cyclists within a mountain scene. The beauty of the Pop Art style is that you can interpret the theme in numerous ways. When finding images to use you often have to be quite eagle-eyed. You could sift through numerous old magazines and stock photography and not find exactly what you’re looking for. But, if you look harder, you may end up finding two different images that, when put together, will create exactly what you want. You can cut them out, change the angle, flip them, discolour them and add them to other scenes and images.

Organize Your Layers

I had a couple of images of mountain scenes, a cottage, wind turbines and a cyclist to work with. I began sketching out ideas in a very rough fashion and decided upon creating a rather surreal world where cyclists are riding across planets or worlds to an ideal cycling destination. I first created the planets, or worlds, within Illustrator. I thought if they were sliced in the middle I could create the individual scenery on each flat surface. When I create scenery, it is often with geometrical shapes and so I added these in on the flat surfaces and chose autumnal colours. This then helped me to decide on the palette for the remainder of the illustration. I thought about connecting these worlds with a path for the cyclists to follow. Rather than have a round-edged path, though, I chose a zigzag to lend a futuristic feel. I picked a colour for my background and added in a few very small circles to represent planets in the distance, purely to decorate the image further and give it a sense of depth later on. As you create these shapes within Illustrator everything looks a little flat. Don’t worry about this, though, as all the shading and depth will be created later in Photoshop.

Layers all stacked together

Once I was happy with my vector backdrop, I copied and pasted each element into the Photoshop blank canvas. I named each new layer as I copied them, as there will be so many that when you get to the final strait of creating the illustration it will really help if you’re organised. For example, as I had three planets, I created a new group in the Layers drop-down menu and placed each new layer within this folder. This way I know where to look for all my bushes, hills and so on for each planet. I now had all my elements for the main background within Photoshop, organised with all the layers named clearly. I now set about using the photograph of the cyclist. All I needed to do was cut out the cyclist using the Pen tool in Photoshop then trace around the perimeter and any gaps of the profile. This automatically creates a path and I then used Make Selection so that I could copy and paste all this detail into Photoshop. Here I converted the cyclist to greyscale, played around with the brightness and contrast and added a slight tint of colour with the Brush tool. I needed a handful of these cyclists, so I copied and pasted them 12 times and named each as Cyclist 1, Cyclist 2 and so on. I changed the colour of each of their jerseys for variation then set about placing them on the path, and as the path headed further into the distance I made sure that their scale was appropriate to their position. With collage you often don’t need to worry about scale and perspective as much, but there are some situations when it can help enhance the overall look and feel, especially when you want to achieve the appearance of depth or a vanishing horizon. Again it is entirely up to you as to how surreal you make it.

I still had a few more stock images that I could add to the illustration, and one was an image of a few wind turbines in a field. As all the structures looked the same I only cut out one of them and then placed them into my design following the sketch I had created earlier. At this point some elements of your sketch may not work so you can still move them around. Negative space is always good, so don’t feel like you need to fill the whole canvas with images; it’s good to let the illustration breathe. I cut out the cottage from another stock image and once again copied and pasted a few of them together to form a cluster of buildings to add a bit of density. The final stock image I chose was of a set of hills and a valley with blue sky that I thought would be a great use of scenery and a distant haven for the cyclists to be riding towards. I echoed the shape of the hills and roundness of the planets in this element to make it blend in well with the illustration. I wanted it to seem like it could be a window to another world.

As I copied and pasted these various selections from the stock imagery, I noticed they all contained different tones and colours. To make them more harmonious you can decrease their saturation as you go or wait until the final flattened version. By doing them individually you gain more control through subtle changes. With this particular illustration, I decided to tweak each layer ever so slightly by adding noise. You simply create a new layer over the top of an element you wish to change, fill it with white and then select Filter>Noise>Add Noise. This gives you a new layer of texture, that, when you use the Color Burn blend mode, creates a roughened detail over the flat areas to give them a more life-like look and feel. Once you are happy with the placement of your layers, textures and elements, you can flatten the image and then play around with the brightness and contrast. It’s also good to experiment with the hue, saturation, colour balance and even a photo filter of your choice to achieve the final colouring you desire. You can then stand back, take a good look and hopefully be happy with your work.

Some colour manipulations

Bring Life to Your Worlds
Add shading and texture to give the image an organic feel.

Step 1 – Import grass
With the stock imagery of the field of grass you can select an area and bring it into your main illustration to lay over the flat worlds.

Step 1

Step 2 – Create the shadows
With subtle use of the Brush tool in black at 30-60% Opacity, you can carefully shade areas on a new layer above your world.

Step 2

Step 3 – Blend modes
You can use the blending options, such as Multiply or Darken, and change opacity to make subtle changes to your shadow layers.

Step 3

Step 4 – Final touches
Add texture Once you are happy with your elements, add a final layer at the top. Use the Add Noise filter at 20% and the Color Burn blend mode.

Step 4

Fotolia Images used in this tutorial; 279148, 466494, 950694, 1576769, 8532430, 22863578