Architect and graphic designer Andy Hau believes that you can barely move without seeing a sign telling you where you are, reminding what you can or can’t do or warning you what might be waiting around the corner, resulting in some of the most alien juxtapositions, especially in the countryside and places of natural beauty.

His tutorial is a response to this and aims to re-create everyday street signage, while attempting to reassess our willingness to automatically accept its presence in every context.

The street signage system that we see today in the United Kingdom was part of a movement during the Fifties and Sixties to create a one-size-fits-all strategy that could be easily read at high speed, using simple icons and clear typography.

Step 1: Background

In order to make the image interesting and gently mock the fact that there is too much unnecessary signage in the world, we need to create the greatest contrast possible between the sign and its context. I’ve chosen to use the edge of the world as my setting with an image of a cliff for my background.

Step 2: Clouds

To give the illusion that the image of the cliff is the edge of the world, we need to add a few clouds to exaggerate the perspective. Using a cloud brush (readily available online), draw in a few. Turn down the opacity of the layer so that they blend
into the image.

Step 3: Water pipe

I’ve added in an image of a water pipe to give interest but also further exaggerate the Surrealism in the image. Using a water brush (also easily found online), paint in a stream of falling water from the pipe using a light grey colour for the hue.

Step 4: Houses

To give the illusion that suburban sprawl has reached the very ends of the earth, cut out the silhouette of a row of houses and lower the opacity slightly. Make a copy of the houses and reflect them horizontally (Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal) to create the other side of the street.

Step 5: Signage

I am creating a UK-style road sign, mainly because I am most familiar with them but also because they have a mundane quality about them that contrasts with the background perfectly. Open an Illustrator document and draw two rectangles using the Rounded Rectangle tool. Fill these shapes with an emerald green colour (typical of British road signs) and make the outlines thicker. Change the outline to white.

Step 6: Road

Although there are clearly no roundabouts, I want the road sign to show one to boost the absurdity of it all. Use the Ellipse tool (L) to draw a circle with a thick, white outline and use the Scissor tool (C) to remove a segment of the middle. Use the Rectangle tool (M) to draw white boxes to represent the roads.

Step 7: Icons

Select the Polygon tool and click onto the page holding the mouse button, then press the down arrow until you get a triangle outline. Fill this with white and give it a thick red outline. Trace a silhouette of a falling man using the Pen tool (P) and place the symbol into the triangle.

Step 8: Typography

Real road signs use a very complicated system to determine the kerning and size of their text. However, we are simply going to use Arial in bold to create the same effect. Make the location names as peculiar as possible; the dullness of the font will give them a veil of authenticity and therefore enhance the comedic effect.

Step 9: Temporary roadworks

Create a yellow rectangle using the Rectangle tool and give it a black outline. Using the same technique as before, create a roadwork icon (I have replaced the workman’s shovel with a reaper’s scythe) and place it into the yellow rectangle sign. Finally, put in some appropriate text regarding delays in black.

Step 10: Finish

Select everything in the Illustrator file and drag it into the Photoshop file. Rasterise the layer by Ctrl/right-clicking on the thumbnail and selecting Rasterize Layer, and adjust the perspective of the sign by using Free Transform (Ctrl/Cmd+T). By holding down Ctrl/Cmd, you will be able to control each handle until the perspective of the sign looks correct.


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