Monday, March 17, 2008

Recent Work: “Smoke” Book Jacket Sketches

Smoke is a middle grade novel by Mavis Jukes. In the story, twelve-year-old Colton moves from rural Idaho to a farm in northern California with his mom and his twenty-pound Maine Coon cat, Smoke. His parents are divorced, as his mother tries to start a new life. His dad is a rodeo performer, whom Colton idolizes, but rarely sees. In the story, themes of separation and longing are eventually balanced by the strength of family ties, community and the growth in awareness that increasing maturity brings. In the sketches I tried to suggest a sense of place, while evoking themes of melancholy and mystery.

The first sketch shows the cat, Smoke (who figures prominently in the plot), overlooking the California countryside. Notice the little rodeo rider in the “O”.

The second sketch shows a silhouette of Colton on a weathered wood background. In the story, an old license plate with bullet holes and a bronco-buster is one of Colton’s prized possessions. This is my favorite.

The third sketch shows Colton and Smoke overlooking their farmhouse. Sort of picturesque and melancholic. Not sure exactly how I would pull off this artwork if gets picked.

Fourth sketch focuses on the Western theme (probably too much).

The art director for this project is Robbin Gourley at Farrar, Straus, Geroux.

Experimental Stuff: Hand-Drawn Style

For the past couple of months I have been playing around with a new hand-drawn style. I am always looking for new ways to depict figures, and my hope is this will give me more options, and a wider latitude in the types of projects I am able to take on. I like the idea of juxtaposing the hand-drawn images with the 3-D objects. Here are the first results:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tutorial: Creating Distressed Type In Photoshop

Here is a (fairly) simple way to create your own custom distressed type in Photoshop. This tutorial assumes an intermediate level of experience with Photoshop. This tutorial was created in version CS2 on a Mac.

1. Create a new, blank, 300 ppi grayscale document in Photoshop that comfortably fits your headline. Choose a font that has some weight to it, since we will be degrading it. In this example I have created a document 6”wide x 1.5”high, and with the type tool, typed the words “Custom Distressed Type For Headline”in 35pt Rockwell Bold (fig. A).

2. Flatten the file (layer menu>flatten image).

3. Invert the image (image menu>adjustments>invert) (fig. B)

4. Apply the Noise filter: go to Filter menu > Noise > Add Noise…, set the amount to 60%, the distribution to Gaussian. (fig.C)

5. Next, apply the Gaussian Blur filter: go to Filter menu > Blur > Gaussian Blur…, set the radius to 2.0 pixels. (fig. D)

6. At this point, we need to upsample (increase the resolution by interpolation) the image to 1200 ppi. This is because we are eventually going to the convert the image to line art (just black and white, no levels of gray), and line art requires a higher resolution than grayscale to avoid the “jaggies”. So, go to Image menu > Image Size, MAKE SURE the “resample” and “constrain proportion” checkboxes at the bottom are BOTH checked, and in the document size box, change resolution from 300 to 1200 pixels/inch. (fig. E) Click okay.

7. Next, we need to add a “Threshold” adjustment layer. Go to Layer menu > New Adjustment Layer > Threshold. In the first dialog box, labeled “New Layer” leave the default settings, click okay. In the second “Threshold”dialog box (fig.F), leave the slider set to the default “128”for now, click okay. As you can see, the threshold adjustment layer converts every pixel in the image to either black or white, depending on where the slider is set. We’ll come back to this in a minute to adjust this setting.

8. Almost done. Now, click on the Threshold adjustment layer you just created in the layers palette to make sure that it is the active layer. Then, add an “Invert” adjustment layer ON TOP of the “Threshold” adjustment layer, by going to Layer menu > New Adjustment Layer > Invert (in the dialog box labeled “New Layer”, leave the default settings, then click okay). This converts the type back to black on white. (fig. G)

9. Here is the fun part. To customize the amount of “distress”, in the Layers Palette, double click on the Threshold Adjustment layer icon (circle divided diagonally in half) to call up the Threshold dialog box. Experiment with moving the slider gradually to the right to increase the level of distress (fig. H). That’s it! If you want to tweak things further, try experimenting with the Gaussian Blur and Noise settings in steps 4 and 5. Impress your friends, and have fun.