Ideas and Inspiration: Jean Berté process

This is really just a quick update duplicating a post I made on the Facebook page a while back that seems like it should have something on here too—I’d love to do some more research on this and write a proper post one day, but that’s probably going to take a while as it looks like getting the information would take some digging…

Today I was linked to from Richard Hollick’s page, and I found out that while I had included some posters in my portfolio here, I hadn’t actually written a post about them yet, so here’s a quick update showing what I’d put on Facebook back in April:

I’ve been fascinated by the artwork printed in the Jean Berté process for ages, and yesterday I came to recreate a poster printed in the process to use as a small element in a magazine cover design. Seeing as I now had artwork that completely recreated a Jean Berté printed poster I decided to see what it would take to recreate the poster not just in look, but in technical detail as well.

The Jean Berté Process was a colour printing process that involved overlaid colour designs printed using rubber stamps and water-based translucent inks. This meant that using just a few colours, you could create artwork that also included blends of those colours. (More details can be found here, amongst other places:

In this case, the purple element overprints the black (and orange) and as a result a far deeper purple is created in those areas that overprint.

This poster is a rather simple one, but using greater numbers of colours and blocks, quite sophisticated designs could be achieved. Probably the most famous work printed in this process are Brian Cook’s series of book covers showing landscapes of Britain.

Jean Berté Proces explanatory pic

An experiment showing the make-up of a design using the Jean Berté process as simulated in Adobe Illustrator.

Posted in Inspiration | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Designer’s Log 12: Inverted map cover

The summer 2013 Argus (processed, for a natural coloured version see below)

The summer 2013 Argus (processed, for a natural coloured version see below)

After a successful stint making the cover for the last edition of the UHSK student mag ‘Argus’ (which featured former Dutch queen Beatrix blowing up her own palace in reference to a ‘fresh start’ with our new king Willem-Alexander) I have returned for this edition with another ambitious photoshop job: a fantastical map of South America. The original brief called for editing an antique map of the continent to remove all the names and replace them with names referencing the articles of the magazine, in the hopes of creating a “treasure map effect”.

An empty map

An empty map

Having an actual antique map of the area on my wall, I know the look well. However, to go about it, I decided to try something new. Usually when removing features from an image like this, the first idea might well be to turn to Photoshop’s Clone Brush to paint over the names, but I wanted to try another approach. A while back I bought some old music scores specifically to get at the empty overleafs so I could scan them and have some nice antique paper textures in my library. In order to turn my vertically oriented map of South America into a horizontal image to use as a wrap-around cover I had to fill in a large section to the map showing the Pacific Area. To do this I filled the entire canvas with my empty paper as a topmost layer and then masked out the parts of this empty image over the names and other features, so that only the parts of the map that I wanted to keep showed through. In short, I did the opposite of what I’d usually do: instead of covering the names with copied pieces of the map to hide them, I covered the entire map with a new sheet of paper and then cut that open in such a way to show just the geographic features of the original map.

The inverted world map bij Vlad Studios

The inverted world map bij Vlad Studios,

The next step was extrapolating the grid and scale of the original to cover the new section of the map, and finally scaling the whole image to fit within the margins of the printer. It was at this point that I remembered a map that gave me a completely different idea. In 2007 Vlad Studios designed a map of the world that showed an inversion of the continents and oceans of the world, turning the continents into large inland seas and the oceans into large land masses, with underwater features like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge turning into huge mountain chains. This seems familiar to me as I quite often accidentally transpose land and water in my mind when looking at an unfamiliar map with odd coloring, something I’m sure I’m not the only one to do. The idea of actually making such a map had intrigued me since I’d come across the Vlads Studios map, and I decided that this cover provided a perfect opportunity to create one as it would make for a sufficiently intriguing twist to the familiar map of South America to turn it into a fantasy land.

South America in Google Earth

South America in Google Earth

Because the original inverted world map is rather stylized and lacking in detail I decided I wanted to try to create a realistic map, the better to get an idea of what such an inversion of land and water would look like. While I usually do my illustration work in Illustrator, I decided that for this map Photoshop was more appropriate, as I’d have to deal with photo-real elements. I started out by tracing the South American continent on my map with the pen tool, creating a path I could then easily turn into a smooth selection and use to form a stroked edge to the continent. In order to create a consistent hatching to my coastlines and new rivers I filled the entire canvas with a horizontal hatching, from which I could later cut only those pieces I needed. The path selection of the continent was the first thing to go into my new empty canvas. I first cut out a nice, smooth South American shaped piece from the hatching. Then, reselecting the same path I could modify that chunk of hatching. Contracting the selection a few millimeters and feathering it slightly gave me a selection of the inside of the continent that was slightly smaller and gradually ran into the border. Then hit delete, and you end up with a ring of hatching smoothly following the stroked path: the Great South American Ocean was on the map.

Then I could start moving my now nameless mountains from my earlier effort of clearing the names from the map to their new positions in the empty lands surrounding my new ocean, using Google Maps to make sure they conformed to the underwater features of the real world. Once the main, known features were in, the next step was making the map look realistic by putting in the second most obvious features: the rivers.

Cover fur UHSK Argus summer 2013

Cover fur UHSK Argus summer 2013

This I did by grafting rivers from the original map into new locations. I also fleshed them out by simply cutting out sections of one river and combining them with sections of another. Finally I also drew in a few new, big rivers from scratch. This I did by drawing a path with the pen tool and then outlining the stroke with a slightly feathered brush. I then filled these wide rivers with the same width of hatching as the South American ocean, creating a consistent look over the whole map.

The summer 2013 Argus, with my cover

The summer 2013 Argus, with my cover

The most difficult process by far turned out to be naming my new lands; some names suggested themselves naturally, of course, but I had also put in hundreds of rivers. I soon ran out of names of family- and committee-members, and even an online poll amongst my writer Facebook friends couldn’t come up with enough names to name every feature of the map. However, there are enough names not to make this too glaringly obvious. It helped that I could also take inspiration for names from the different articles in this edition, as that was the original idea!

Another minor problem with these covers is that nobody could tell me the bleed margins used by the printer, forcing me to take a guess as to how much to add around the sides to be cut off. It turned out reasonably well this time — certainly much better than last time, when part of the logo was cut off! It would however take some time before I could lay my hands of a few copies of my own, having to wait out the summer holidays.

Posted in Design | Leave a comment

Designer’s Log 11: Hart Johnson’s A Shot in the Light series

Syringe_cover_v3-3_smallA while back I reported on my design of a book cover for my good friend Hart Johnson. Since then this project has evolved from a single book into a work that is to be serially released. I gather the positive feedback to my cover design is at least partially responsible for the move to release this series privately — without skimping on quality, though, as Hart believes in the necessity of professional editing.

As a serial work this project is going to need several new covers to fit the new brief, about a dozen in total. We have decided to keep with the apocalyptic theme of the original and feature a new image for each of the episodes. Over the past week or so I have been working hard on the first two parts, titled Ill Omens and In Short Supply. Each new part has a different coloured background and featured image, but keeps a common titling and layout.

My first sketch of the featured image for Ill Omens

My first sketch of the featured image for Ill Omens

For the first book, Ill Omens, we featured the first sign of the troubles ahead: dead birds drifting up on shore. The first sketch of this scene captured the desired pose at the first attempt and I could immediately move forward to digitizing the scene, scanning the image into the computer at high resolution so I could trace it into my graphics program.

Unlike the previous cover, which I did in CorelDraw on a Windows machine, I am designing these on a Mac in Adobe Illustrator CS4. My 1tb hard disc on the other machine died over a year ago, taking virtually everything with it; I backed up the most important things, of course, but the vector files of this cover was amongst those things lost. The data should be retrievable, but until I can scrounge together the funds to have them operate on my disc, it will have to wait… So Adobe Illustrator it is, this time around, and that is of course no bad place to be!

The featured image for Hart Johnson's Ill Omens

The featured image for Hart Johnson’s Ill Omens

For the cover of Ill Omens I traced the different body parts of the bird by hand and coloured them with simple flat colours (white, black, and several shades of grey). I then duplicated these parts in white and used an “inner glow” filter on them, outlining the inside with a dark gradated outline. Then setting the opacity to Multiply I could add shading to the body parts and every other layer I sandwiched between these and the shading.

To detail the body I drew a simple feather shape that I filled with a white to grey gradient (or grey to darker grey, or grey to black, you get the point). By putting these feathers in strategic places in different sizes I could build up an appropriate feathery scruffiness to the body. For the final detailing I drew on some shadows, especially around the neck to which I applied a Feather filter to blend them into the drawing. I also applied a simple Drop Shadow filter to the other body parts with the correct density and position to sell the idea of depth in this dead bird.

The final version of my cover for Hart Johnson's Ill Omens

The final version of my cover for Hart Johnson’s Ill Omens

For the final touch I wanted a watery background to the scene, helping to set it on a beach. For this I first made a water shape with a very light blue fill, set to Multiply to cover the brown background. I then started adding shading and highlights. The first detail was to take an outline of just the water’s edge and apply a tapering stroke to that. Then outlining the stroke, adding a black fill and applying a Feather filter gave me a shadow of the water’s slightly convex edge. This shadow was moved under the water layer in the layer stack. I then took the same outline of the water’s edge but took out the nodes that would not be highlighted (leaving only the parts of the outline on the top and the left of the curves). These separate outlines then also had tapered strokes applied to them, the strokes outlined and a Feather filter applied to them. However, I filled them with a white to black radial gradient, which, with the opacity set to multiply, gave nice, sunset-y honey-coloured highlights.

The next step was to add some shape to the curves themselves, putting simple ovals into the top corners of the curves to give them some depth (with the same style as the edge highlights), and darker ovals under the water darker with a low opacity and a Feather filter to add shadow under the water and add more texture. This was then complemented with larger shadowed areas under the main body of the water, with sharper edges to give the appearance of slight waves casting them, and larger highlighted areas helping to give it some more shape. The final step was to add a spray of small oval highlights scattered over the whole body of water to complete the illusion.

Dead_Tomato_Cover_v2-2-01For the second cover, which I’ve agreed to first show today, Hart and I decided to feature a dead tomato plant on  a green background – a choice of background colour, incidentally that we came up with independently of each other. As I wanted to keep with the top down perspectives of the first two covers I looked online for photos of dead tomato plants from this perspective (weird images such as these are yet another thing the digital age has made much easier to come by). Unfortunately I only managed to come up with one such photo. Using this as my guide I started drawing my plant – and quickly found out just how annoying it is to draw dead, curled up leaves. The only way to achieve the desired look was to draw each curled up section of the leaf individually and shade it using a customized gradient, plus then adding some Drop Shadow filters to match, and finally adding some gradiated curly edges to finish the look. As you can imagine, doing this for a dead but still fully-leafed plant was a lot of work, and I had to start over a couple of times before I got any useful leaves.

However, about halfway through I came up with sickle-shaped leaf that I could duplicate in a particular triad and then use to flesh out most of the plant without it becoming too obvious – especially with the titling obscuring a good portion of it. The final and most important step was to come up with a nice rotten tomato. I did this by detailing a red oval shape with several smaller oval shapes gradiated from dark red at the top to the same red as the background shape nearer the bottom, giving a star-shaped series of shadows at the top culminating in a brown to green gradiated little oval at the top. This basic form was then shaded by duplicating the base object and filling that with a gradient that is dark red at the edges to red in the centre, stacked under the ‘stem’ object in the layer stack with an opacity set to Multiply. I then added wrinkles to the individual segments of the fruit using a cracked-concrete texture/shape I had extracted from one of my own photos for an earlier project. These wrinkles where a very dark red in colour and where duplicated for each of the five segments plus one for the base shape, each one slightly rotated from the others and masked out to fit the segments using a clipping path formed from the segment ellipses. I then decided to give the base shape an irregular outline by applying a Roughen filter to it, making sure to transfer this new shape to the shading object and the clipping path. I then covered the tomato in patches of mold, making these out of a series of simple ovals in different sizes with a gradient fill. This gradient consists of a white base colour shifting to a sickly green at the very edges, with this same edge set to 0% opacity so it blends smoothly into its neighbours, with a small dot of the same green in the centre to simulate spores. These white shapes are backed with the same shapes at a slightly larges scale with black instead of white. These tomatoes were then duplicated and the fungi rearranged to simulate different fruits.

Finally the titling was added to the cover for this second part of the series. The first book of this series, Ill Omens, should be out in September of this year.

Posted in Design | 1 Comment

Designer’s Log 10: Das Rheingold on the Rhine Brochure

My brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine

My brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine

Back in September I was commissioned by the Foundation LustrumOpera (part of Utrecht student orchestra USConcert) to work on the design of their advertizing material. Since then I have created a flyer, several roll-up banners, a full page print ad in German, stationary, and assorted other materials. One of the main items I have designed, though, is an 8-page brochure outlining the concept of performing two shows (Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold, and a hybrid between modern and classical music, light- and video performance called The Wagner Experience) on a Rhine barge in several cities along the river Rhine.

The title page of the original brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine, by Kuperus Design.

The title page of the original brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine, by Kuperus Design.

I came into the project after some preliminary design work had already been done. There already was an earlier brochure, and a logo. When I came on board, though, one of the first things I discussed with their art director was defining a new look to be implemented across the board. Their existing effort conveyed the seriousness of their message, and presented a clean and modern image designed to draw in sponsoring for the project. However, in talking to the organization, it quickly became apparent that these values, while important, were only part of the message they were hoping to convey: words like grungy, industrial, dramatical and impressive were as important, if not more so to the image they hoped to project. Therefore, the first thing I did was to subtly redesign the logo, replacing the blue with gold and rounding off the corners, and coming up with a new palette designed to better evoke the emotional values I was asked to convey. I did this by choosing black and gold as the main colours for all of their promotional material, and on the whole choosing photographs and other graphics that in using darkness and light had a more moody atmosphere than they had previously used.

Spread of the first draft of the Rheingold on the Rhine brochure

Spread of the first draft of the Rheingold on the Rhine brochure

When presented with this draft of their new branding, they felt that by using a colour gradient for the gold the look was still too digital, and through their web designer they found a suitable photograph of actual gold that could be used as a fill for the gold parts of the project.

The tour schedule for Das Rheingold on the Rhine, implemented as a map.

The tour schedule for Das Rheingold on the Rhine, implemented as a map.

Another request was for some graphical representation of their tour schedule, which includes dates in both Germany and the Netherlands, and is centered around the river Rhine — this is, of course, entirely logical, as the performances are on a Rhine barge. We therefore decided to try to represent the tour schedule as a map. In this I incorporated the separate logo’s for these shows. (I’d designed these as part of the diversification of these two shows.)

Hornall Anderson Design Works' brochure for the Services Group of America

Hornall Anderson Design Works’ brochure for the Services Group of America

For the brochure itself the client felt that keeping a white background would convey a more serious message for possible investors, so they requested I kept this feature of their original brochure.  For the rest of the update, I took inspiration from two brochure designs from the early 1990s that used an interesting design for the layout of images. The first was for a warranty corporation that combined a flying eagle with a triangular insert, giving the design a particularly dynamic look. The other, for a sail cruise organization, showed the effect interesting borders could have in a brochure.

To these two basic tenets, I added a number of things. The first was to vary the column sizes, which helped to give this brochure a less ordered feel than it would otherwise have had, complying with the grungier outlook desired. More importantly, I decided to implement a layering effect in this brochure, using drop shadows, to give it a more lively feel, and to help create some order in the various elements that would fill its pages.

The Wagner Experience spread from my brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine

The Wagner Experience spread from my brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine

I also implemented a radically different look I had devised for the portion of the brochure devoted to the Wagner Experience. As this show is intended to draw a younger, hipper public the look created for this is a lot more modern. It still draws on the same basic resources as the look for the organization as a whole, but by using negative images and a starker contrast a much edgier feel is created. The stylized look of this part of the brochure is one of the aspects of this work I’m proudest of.

As the client was rather happy with their original Photoshopped cover photo of a Rhine barge carrying heaps of gold (not done by me) I was asked to retain this. To help fit it into the new, more dramatic look I had devised for the organization, I decided to add a black vignette to the cover in an attempt to take away from the well-lit and open feel of this photo. I also moved the text element to cover the everyday banality visible on the banks of the river, which consisted of a collection of modern, grey, rectangular industrial units, and a sleek bridge. While I’m still not completely happy with this cover, as I feel it is not dramatic and impressive enough, it is certainly a cover the client is happy with.

On the whole, I am very happy with how this design came together. The different elements easily found a place in the whole, while the overall layout helps tie the many little pieces together and keeps the complete brochure readable.

My brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine

My brochure for Das Rheingold on the Rhine

Posted in Design | Tagged | 1 Comment

Designer’s Log 9: Europe at the Crossroads

It’s been a busy few months for me, having taken on the branding of not one, but two symphonic orchestra projects. The first is the (now well established) branding for Utrecht student symphonic orchestra USConcert, the other is for their celebratory project “Das Rheingold on the Rhine”, which I will do a feature on at some point in the future.

My poster for the lecture "Europe at the Crossroads" by former Dutch PM Wim Kok

My poster for the lecture “Europe at the Crossroads” by former Dutch PM Wim Kok

Today I’m going to give insight into a smaller project that gave me quite as much satisfaction: a poster for a lecture on European unity called “Europe at the Crossroads” at Utrecht University by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok. The brief for this project came to me through the history faculty study association UHSK, which I’ve mentioned on these pages before. I was honored to be given the opportunity to take this on!

Seeing as I had no information on what the lecture would be about I decided to do some searching – after all “Europe at the Crossroads” can mean many things: that the European Union reached a turning point in its evolution, or it might be referencing Europe’s geographical location at the crossroads between Asia and the Americas (and the problems and opportunities this entails). Usually when I am given a broad brief, or something that is easy to formulate in words, but dreadfully difficult to represent graphically (an all too common occurrence when dealing with university people who tend to think in words rather than images) I start out with an image search for the keyword. In this case, a search for “crossroads” turned up a rather interesting old road sign, which I think might be Polish, but in any case follows the older German road sign standards.

A road sign photographed by mzacha found on free stock photo site

A road sign photographed by mzacha found on free stock photo site

This sign is a sign to indicate in what lane traffic should queue up to move on in their desired direction, usually placed before traffic lights. What’s interesting about it though is that, while it definitely indicates a crossroad, traffic can either go left, right, or straight ahead but cannot return in the direction from whence it came: the only way to go is onwards. I found this an intriguing notion when dealing with European politics, as here too it is the case that, while many different directions may be open to us, going back on agreements already made is not a real option.

It was therefore clear that this sign would be excellent to base the poster on: it was clearly a crossroad, it had all sorts of positive and intriguing notions, and being a road sign it had got plenty of space to add information and symbols. The first step was then to recreate the sign itself; I could have used the photo I found, but I had a feeling it would be better if I could move the elements around and modify them as needed. The sign was made up using simple white vector shapes on a blue background, and it immediately became clear that I would indeed need to modify the symbols: this would be a vertical poster, so the layout of the sign had to be altered to take this new orientation into account. While the arrows are about the same size as the original, the vertical stems are slightly longer, and the whole has been spaced closer together in the horizontal plane. Also, the dashed line indicating the divide between the two lanes in the original has been extended further down in this version to help tie the next element of the poster into the symbolism: the map of the European Union. Once this simple icon had been constructed, the main part of the poster was all but finished. A simple white border completed the road sign look, and all that remained was to add the text.

Dutch road signs are special in that they are one of the few signs in the world to use the same font as US road signs, although this font is starting to be replaced by a subtly different one specifically tailored to the needs of the Dutch language. In any case, for this sign it was simple enough to find a freeware font replicating the look of the US Highway signage, as it would immediately look like a familiar Dutch road sign.

This being an Utrecht University lecture, and not a UHSK event, the logo I needed to put on the poster was that of Utrecht University. Luckily the UU is good enough to make its logos available to the public in a vector format on their website (along with strict guidelines on usage). In my time of dealing with institutions like these I’ve found this is by no means universal: the times I’ve had to reconstruct a required logo by hand to meet a deadline are innumerable. Sadly, very few organizations seem to realize that in order to use a logo in any print work, designers need a version in a resolution far in excess of what can be found online, and preferably in a vector format.

In all, once the concept had been found the design for this poster was simple and straightforward. However, I feel that the minimalist attitude of this work, along with its inherent symbolism helps to make it a clear and memorable design. Sadly I didn’t have the chance to attend this lecture, although it is a subject that interests me greatly. I therefore cannot be certain that the design does indeed portray the content accurately, but I would be very surprised to hear it wasn’t a success.

Posted in Design | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Designer’s Log 8: “I Deny the Autumn” poster


It’s October again! I just love autumn, when the temperatures (finally) start to drop again, and the world turns especially beautiful! It doesn’t hurt that my birthday is in October: as soon as the forests turn a fiery festival of oranges and yellows, and the air turns crisp and fresh, my mood takes a definite turn for the better.

So I was very excited when in 2010 the UHSK (the history study association I’m part of at Utrecht University) asked me to design a poster for their upcoming party: “I Deny the Autumn”. Of course, I didn’t completely agree with the theme, but it gave me the opportunity to design a poster heavy on the oranges and other fiery colours without immediately returning to the 1970s, or Dante’s Inferno itself. As usual with these history students (virtually all of whom are very much people that think in words and not images), they had come up with an abstract theme that didn’t immediately lend itself to be translated into an image. After all, how does one deny a concept, like autumn, while at the same time having to portray that very subject on the poster to make sense of it in visual terms? I came up with a solution where I’d draw something that would show actions through which one could deny the autumn: I decided to draw a fiery autumn leaf taped back onto the branch with sticky tape.

My poster for the UHSK “I Deny the Autumn” party

In this way I could show the futility of refusing to acknowledge the passage of time, while at the same time introducing a note of humour in the design. This was for a party, after all. It also made for a relatively clean design, which would leave a lot of room for text, while the background could be filled up with the leaf-strewn floor of the forest to give unity to the design as a whole so that it wouldn’t have to rely on loose elements placed forlornly in empty space. I always find that a sober image with the elements all in their own space evokes feelings of austerity and seriousness – exactly the opposite of what you’d want for a party! I’d still need the room for acres of text though, as the UHSK committee members always insisted on cramming as many words on there as possible. Usually I compress this to as few words as I can, but it still amounts to far more text than is advisable for a poster.

When drawing in vectors I have a way of always making things spiky yet elegant, so it made sense to chose a maple leaf for my hero leaf. I looked at some simple outlines of these online to make sure I had the correct shape in my head and quickly drew one up. I then decided to use a feature of CorelDraw that was new to me to colour the leaf with: Raster Fill. Basically what this does is it creates a grid inside the object you want to fill using the outlines of that object to determine the shape of the vertical and horizontal lines. You can decide for yourself how many columns and rows you want to have, and the nodes of this grid can be manipulated like any other vector nodes. You can then select the nodes of this grid and give them any colour you want, and the program will create gradients between the adjacent colours. This allowed me to give the outside of the leaf a particular colour and put patches of different colours in different spots of the leaf, and also to place subtle shadows and highlights where required. The sticky tape itself is a simple gradient-filled object with an opacity of less than 100%, and the branch is the same, but without the opacity filter. The background leaves are strewn using a stamp that came with CorelDraw, placed on a meandering path, closer spaced than usual, and with random rotations on them.

As I usually do with designs where I have to fill a lot of space with drawings, I placed a vignette around the poster, and added a glow to the important areas, so I could move the centre of attention to the part of the poster I want. In this case I made the glow yellow, to fit in with the autumn theme, and add to the cheerful atmosphere.

I made this poster for the first party of the year, and they were printed before the start of the academic year. They also made an A6-sized version to distribute as a flyer to the new first year students during their introduction-week. Naturally I obtained several of these small prints myself for my portfolio, and used one as a bookmark for the whole of the autumn term to full satisfaction.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Designer’s Log 7: Fairytale Forest Party

It’s been a while since I updated this, but life intruded. Still, as they say, “the reports of my death were greatly exaggerated”, and I am still here and designing.

Poster for history study association Fairytale Forest party

My poster for the UHSK Fairytale Forest party

For this blog I’m going to talk about another old poster of mine I did for the history study association UHSK of Utrecht University. This poster was for one of the themed parties this association organizes, and this time around they chose the theme “Sprookjesbos”, which means Fairytale Forest – specifically it refers to the famed Fairytale Forest that has formed one of the main attractions of Dutch theme park the Efteling since it opened in 1952. Readers of this blog will know this same park also provided the theme for the association lustrum of 2011- it just forms a huge part of a Dutch childhood, what can I say…

Sketches of trees

A basic design for vector trees that I’ve reused a lot over the years

Anyway, as usual they needed this poster in a hurry. Since my first year, myself and fellow chairmen of the imaging committee have worked to get the time the other committees have to commission a poster up to a few weeks, but at this time we rarely had more than a few days’ notice before they wanted it printed and posted. Luckily this poster consists of elements I already had lying around from other projects that I could throw together quickly to form the final design.

Vision of Summer

A rendering of a persistent vision of mine, I’ve drawn this scene in a variety of different media over the years.

The forest element is formed by trees I designed a year or so earlier to form part of an illustration for a short story I wrote (and never finished) that have since formed part of many of my illustrations. They are a convenient vector element to reuse. In this case I have taken them from yet another artwork of mine, a drawing of a dirt road running out of a forest and down to the sea which has been a persistent vision of mine over the years but that I can’t seem to locate. They’ve been dressed with leaves for that design, and I’m not sure I even bothered to redress the trees. I did, however change the colours around to have them form part of a night scene. The bark effect I copied from the artwork I did, but I achieved this by overlaying a gradient with this texture onto the solid shape of the tree underneath, adding some depth to the otherwise featureless trunks.

A magical dancing girl

A youthful folly, this was part of a series I did of dancing girls in a long and distant past

The cauldron and rays I originally designed as part of a series of dancing girls, but once the lady had been removed this same magic cauldron would serve perfectly as an undefined magical element in this forest. Other than a golden glow and some fairy dust, I really don’t know what it is supposed to be, but hey, it looks good, and they wanted the poster immediately…

A Magical Forest

My original use for the tree vectors

To bind all these elements together I overlaid a few basic gradient layers with layer effects. There’s a black vignette with a burn effect laid over the hole to burn out the outside edges of the forest and have the darkness intrude. This then contributed to the brightness of the next effect layer, a golden radial gradient growing transparent towards the edges with a dodge effect overlaid. By putting this glow only over the background trees, while the foreground trees are burned out I could create some depth to the image. Finally the background is a simple dark blue to black gradient, with only the golden cauldron glow and the trees providing the warmth of this image.

The next step was adding the text. As usual, I believe in the power of the correct font, so I paid attention to using the ‘correct’ ones. For the title I wanted to use a beautiful but readable German gothic or ‘Fraktur’ script, probably because I was influenced by the Brothers Grimm’s editing of German folk tales. For this part I used a font called Rothenburg (named after the beautifully preserved German medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber – which, incidentally, I visited in 2006), and it really is all you see here.

Efteling Python poster

The poster I remembered, or one similar to it

Then, for the rest of the information I decided to use the font the Efteling used themselves for their posters. In secondary school my maths teacher used to have an 80s vintage Efteling poster for a roller coaster in his classroom, and remembering this I looked up what font this series of posters used. This turned out to be an extended version of good old Helvetica, however, as I didn’t have access to that yet at this point I used a clone from one of my WordPerfect CD-roms called Swiss721, which serves admirably.

At this point I wasn’t in the habit of actually visiting every event I made a poster for, but I recall that this party was a great opportunity for everyone to come up with creative costume ideas. I hope my ambiguous poster design served as a blank canvas for people to project their own imagination on!

Posted in Design | 1 Comment