WHAT WE’RE CREATING:
Hello everybody! This week, I’ll be showing you how to use the typefaces from the 15 Professional Quality, Hugely Versatile Font Families Collection to create a beautiful, type based cruise poster. We’ll cover some really interested Photoshop and Illustrator techniques, as well as general design principles. All aboard!
STEP ZERO: THE CONCEPT
First things first, I wanted to nail the concept for this outcome! Two things that I focused on were:
- I looked at a lot of old sea travel posters
- I applied the simplify, and amplify rule
Vintage sea line posters
A simple web search turned up some amazing results.
Looking at these beautifully composed posters, a couple of characteristics are prominent:
- Bold illustrative elements
- Strong, yet parsimonious use of typographic elements
- Reduced color palette
My first attempts had too much copy, too many different typefaces, and not enough breathing room. The result, without surprise, isn’t satisfying.
Simplify, and amplify
This design principle aims to simplify things, in order to emphasise their essence. In UI/UX design, you have probably heard of the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your users are only going to use 20% of your site/app’s functionality. Once you’ve identified what is within that 20%, you can focus on making it the best. Tom made a great video talking about this.
Applied to a poster composition, this amounts to stripping away the unessential, filler material. It’s frustrating when a client asks you to fit too much content in something you design for them, so why was I doing it to myself?
My second draft included a bunch of additional information about Cunard’s level of service, and the cruise itself. After looking at the actual Cunard (and other) travel posters, I realised all of this was frivolous. I removed all of this, and the composition finally came together. Let’s build it.
STEP ONE: DOCUMENTS SETUP
We are going to use both Illustrator and Photoshop for the piece. Apologies to non-Illustrator users, but we’ll need to shear type, and Photoshop doesn’t allow for that in an easy manner.
Both of our canvases need to be 18″x24″ @ 300 ppi, in RGB.
They also both need guides. I’m marking the center of the piece, as well as a 1″ margin around the edges.
On Illustrator, don’t forget to give your guides a dedicated, locked layer. Remember that you can also choose your guides’ length in Illustrator, so they don’t extend all over your artboards.
STEP TWO: THE BACKGROUND
Putting the image in place
Here’s our background image. It features a boat in the middle of an empty sea. You can find it for free, in very high resolution, on Flickr.
The kicker is that we will not use it for the boat, but for the empty sea scape. Luckily enough, the image is big enough so we can crop out just a sea shot.
Let’s start in Illustrator. We need to place the image so it follows these guidelines:
From there, we can create a clipping mask to hide the part of the image that’s outside of the document’s boundaries. A simple, transparent, centered 18″x24″ rectangle will do that.
With both the image and the rectangle selected, the right-click menu will allow us to create a clipping mask.
And we have hidden the unused part of the image.
Color palette tangent
Now is the time to pick our color palette, from our background image. We’ll fade the image itself later, but grabbing the colors from it now will help us to achieve a better visual cohesion in the final piece.
I sampled four colors. This gives me a restraint palette, while still maintaining a good deal of flexibility. I grabbed a dark blue (#434c66 – bottom left), a medium blue (#576593 – at the horizon line), a soft gray (#d3d7da – at the horizon line), and a light blue (#89afd1 – top).
Back to assembling the background
Our poster will promote a cruise around the British Isles. Therefore, it makes sense to add an outline of the said isles as a design element in the piece.
There is an asset existing on Wikimedia Commons that fits our needs some, but not entirely. Let’s be honest, we do not want that flag in the design.
To speed the process up, I created a quick freebie for you to download, that features only the outline we’ll need for the piece.
The asset is a stroked shape, within an 18″x24″ canvas.
Let’s paste it in our canvas. It should be centered, and stand at 22″ tall.
From there, we need to change its color to our dark blue (#434c66), and its blending mode to Overlay @ 100% opacity. This will simulate the blending mode we’ll use in Photoshop later.
The stroke weight and its other characteristics should be inherited from the freebie itself: four points weight, round caps and corners, etc.
Fading the background
To fade the background, we are going to use a technique that exploits blending modes as well. We simply have to fill an 18″x24″ centered rectangle with our soft gray (#d3d7da), and change its blending mode to Screen @ 35% opacity.
And from there, the background is ready to go. A bit of layer organization helps us to see things in a cleaner manner.
We can now move on to type!
STEP THREE: TYPE ELEMENTS
What is in our toolbox?
Let’s have a look at the typefaces we’ll use. First is Fenotype’s Skipper. Besides being aptly named for the context of the poster, it’s also a beautiful script typeface, with great alternative lettershapes.
Next is Latinotype’s Magallanes Condensed. It’s a fantastic sans-serif, with a hint of retro.
The following typeface is Outfitter Script, by Decade Type Foundry. It’s a lovely retro script.
Finally, Quincy CF by Connary Fagen Typography will complete our roaster. Its elegant serif letterforms will perfectly contrast Skipper’s exuberance, and Magallanes’ boldness.
What is the copy?
Here’s the messaging on the poster, in the proper case:
CUNARD LINE (the cruise line)
British (line break) Isles (the cruise’s name/theme)
DEPARTURE FROM Southampton
JUNE 21ST TO JULY 5TH 2015 (the dates)
THE BRITISH ISLES CRUISE IS ENJOYED ON QUEEN ELIZABETH (the boat the cruise will take place on)
We are going to create all of the type elements, and fine tune their placement, in our Illustrator document. Afterwards, we’ll transfer everything in our Photoshop document, and add ornaments and textures to polish it.
Writing and placing the elements
CUNARD LINE is written in centered Magallanes Condensed Black, that is 96 points tall. It’s colored in our medium blue (#576593), and the top of its letters are flush with the top margin line (X: 9″, and Y: 1.7″). Finally, the kerning is set to optical, and the tracking to 175.
British starts as written in Skipper that is 600 points tall, and colored in medium blue (#576593).
Next, we need to use the glyph panel (Window > Type > Glyphs) to track down a few replacement characters. They include the capital “B,” as well as the trailing “h.”
Protip: use the Alternates for current selection setting in the glyph panel, in conjuncton with the highlighted character to replace, to view the alternate characters for this lettershape only, rather than the whole typeface.
The next step is to shear the typeface. It will give it an ascending direction, with a slightly different end result than a rise warp effect. The only downside to using shear is that it isn’t a non-destructive effect. Once sheared, elements stay that way. The effect can seemingly be cleared by applying the reverse shear to the concerned object.
After selecting the type element, we can find shear by navigating the right-click menu.
We’ll apply a vertical shear of -6°.
The final placement of British is at the coordinates X: 0.5″, and Y: 6″, with the reference point being in the middle left of the bounding box.
Isles is also written in Skipper, but is sized 672 points tall, and colored in our light blue (#89afd1).
It also requires some character swaps for additional refinement, namely the capital “i,” and the trailing “s.”
The same shear effect (vertical @ -6°) should also be applied.
The final position for Isles is X: 17.5″, and Y: 11″, with the reference point being the middle left point of the bounding box.
The next text block is DEPARTURE FROM (linebreak) Southampton. It’s set in two different typefaces, that are different sizes. Let’s start by writing everything in Magallanes Condensed Black, that is centered, 60 points tall, and colored in medium blue (#576593). The kerning is set to optical.
Next, we need to remove the space between from and Southampton, and to replace it with a line break. Removing the space insures proper centering.
The following step is to switch Southampton to be written in Outfitter Script that is 144 points tall, and to correct it to proper case.
Once again, the glyphs panel allows us to replace the capital “s,” and the trailing “n,” with their fancier alternates.
The last tweak for that object is to change the line height of Southampton to 120 points.
The next to last type object is the date: JUNE 21ST TO JULY 5TH 2015. It’s set in Quincy CF Black (the superscript and “to” parts are set in Quincy CF Black Italic), that’s centered, 72 points tall, and colored in soft gray (#d3d7da).
Switching the “st” and “th” to Quincy CF Black Italic, and to superscript.
The superscript button on the character panel.
The last tweak for that line is to switch the “TO” to Quincy CF Bold Italic, to reduce its size to 36 points tall, and to shift its baseline up by 10 points.
The date line’s final position is X: 9″, and Y: 20.125″.
The last line of copy we have to set before switching to Photoshop is THE BRITISH ISLES CRUISE IS ENJOYED ON QUEEN ELIZABETH. It’s set in Magallanes Condensed Extra Bold that’s centered, 30 points tall, and colored in dark blue (#434c66)?
The only tweak we’ll have to apply is to switch QUEEN ELIZABETH to Magallanes Condensed Black Italic.
Its placement is centered, and flush with the bottom margin line.
And we’ve got our type elements ready! Here’s what our Illustrator file layers should look like.
STEP FOUR: REMEMBER THAT PHOTOSHOP DOCUMENT?
Transferring the layout over, a few tips and tricks
This step is not that exciting: it consists into transferring all of our vector elements over into our Photoshop document.
The rule of thumb is to copy and paste things over as smart objects, and to use the same absolute placement values so the layout is reproduced accurately.
There are however some things that we will not paste, but generate directly in Photoshop. The background image should be placed directly in Photoshop (Scaling it to 78.95% will be equivalent to its 60″ width in Illustrator).
The soft gray layer (#d3d7da) that fades the background should also be generated in Photoshop. A solid color adjustment layer will be perfect.
Blending mode: Screen @ 35% opacity.
Another particularity will take place when copying and pasting the UK outline in the Photoshop document. We’ll need to change its Illustrator blending mode back to normal, and then put it on Overlay @ 100% opacity in Photoshop. Not changing it would not provide the desired effect, due to the way smart objects interact with the rest of their documents.
Blending mode: Overlay @ 100% opacity.
The effect is a bit faint, so we’ll duplicate the outline, and reduce the opacity of the copy to Overlay @ 35% opacity.
The rest of the transfer process is straight forward.
Adding a few ornaments
We are going to add some eye candy to the poster. The first one comes from the extras provided with Cultivated Mind’s True North Textures. It’s a divider, and you can find it in the appropriate folder of your bundle: \cultivated-mind\True-North-Textures\Bonus-Vectors\Dividers\AI.
We’ll use the one at the bottom left of the file.
We’ll paste it so it visually separates Isles and the Departure text blocks. It should be located at X: 9″, Y: 14.7″, and scaled at 135%.
After that, we just need to change its color to our medium blue (#576593). Two options: a color overlay, or the editing of the smart object in Illustrator.
We’ll need a copy of the divider, this time to optically separate the departure and date text blocks (X: 9″, and Y: 19.2″).
The next set of ornaments is a helm. It comes from the Design Cuts freebie area, and was taken from one of our previous tutorials. You’ll find it under the name Make Media Nautical Vectors Sample Pack.
The helm is in the lower left of the file.
We’ll paste it scaled down to 50% in the top left corner of the canvas, using the 1″ margin guides.
After changing its color to our dark blue (#434c66), we simply have to place one in each of the remaining corners of the canvas, still using the 1″ margin lines as guides.
A quick adjustment we have to take care of: optically align the bottom text block about the boat to be visually centered with the bottom helms (X: 9″, and Y: 22.55″).
Finally, after some layer organization, we’ll be able to move on to the next step!
STEP FIVE: TEXTURES!
It’s time to give this smooth digital art a bit more depth by adding some textures. There are none in the bundle, but plenty in the freebies area. We’ll need two freebie packs to proceed, the Mother’s day card freebie pack, as well as the DC Mega Birthday Freebies Pack. You’ll find them in the Design Cuts freebie area, just like the nautical pack.
Once all the freebies are ready and a mouse click away, it’s time to move forward. Well almost. There are a few PSAs we have to take care of first.
Technical notes, tips, and tricks
- Don’t know what a clipped layer is? Glad you asked! This means that the layer is only visible/applies to the layer directly below it. You can very quickly do this by holding ‘Alt’ down on your keyboard and clicking between the two layers. Here’s a quick demonstration.
- Every time we’ll work with textures, we’ll follow this simple process: place as smart object, sharpen, desaturate, enhance contrast with levels, and modify the blending mode.
- Placing the textures as smart objects, and using adjustment layers to tweak them, allows us to stick to a non-destructive workflow. We’ve explored in depth the numerous pros and few cons of such a workflow in this past tutorial: “How to Use Textures The Right Way.”
With these out of the way, let’s proceed.
The first texture we’ll use comes from the birthday freebies. It’s Watercolor6_Version2.jpg.
We’ll need to place it at the top of our Background layer group.
We need to place it centered in the canvas, rotated 90° counter-clockwise, and scaled up to 225% so it covers the whole piece.
Desaturation using hue/saturation adjustment layer.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 50% opacity.
We are going to place the next texture right above this one and its adjustment layers. It’s called 2LO Daydreamer 20.jpg, and can be found in the Mother’s day card freebie pack.
We’ll use it to create a subtle edge effect. To accomplish this, we’ll place it rotated 90° clock-wise, without respecting its aspect ratio, so it fits our canvas.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 25% opacity.
And this concludes on texture work on the background itself. We can turn the ornaments, and type elements, back on.
The next textures will be placed at the very top of our layer stack. We’ll start with 2LO Relic 23.jpg, from the birthday freebies.
This one needs to be placed so it covers the full piece, scaled up to 210%.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 25% opacity.
The following texture is vintage-paper-textures-volume-03-sbh-011, from the Mother’s day freebies.
We’ll place it rotated of 90° clock-wise, and scaled up so it covers the whole poster (450%).
Blending mode: Soft light @ 65% opacity.
The next texture is brush-strokes-textures-volume-01-009-sbh.jpg, still from the Mother’s day card freebies.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 20% opacity.
The next texture is watercolour_pinkback.png, still from the Mother’s day card freebies.
It needs to be placed centerd, and scaled up 235%.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 25% opacity.
The next texture is 2LO Black Screen Film1 4.jpg.
This one needs to be scaled up to 250% so it covers the complete canvas.
Since it’s a black and white texture, we can skip straight to levels.
Blending mode: Screen @ 65% opacity.
The next texture is also a black and white one, screentexture20.jpg, from the birthday freebies this time.
Just as before, we need it to cover the complete canvas (216%).
Blending mode: Screen @ 75% opacity.
The next three (and last) elements aren’t textures per say, but they will contribute to the textural aspect of the piece. We’ll use them mostly to bring some stain effects.
First is 28.png from the birthday freebies.
We’ll place it rotated 90° clockwise, and scaled at 75%.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 35% opacity.
The second of these elements is RGough_S_Splatter15.png.
We’ll use it centered, rotated 90° counter-clockwise, and scaled up to 375%.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 25% opacity.
The last texture we’ll use is 07.png. It’ll help us to add a hint of halftone/print-like texture to the composition.
It’s centered in the frame, and scaled up to 260%.
Blending mode: Soft light @ 25% opacity.
And with all of that, we’re done with our cruise poster!
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Congratulations on completing this tutorial. Awesome job!
Did I leave technical questions unanswered? Please ask your questions in the comments below. The Design Geeks and myself will do our best to reply to them.
We’d love to see your tutorial outcomes! Please share them with us on the Design Cuts Facebook page. We’ll share the best ones with the whole community.
There is less than a week left to grab the collection of 15 professional quality, hugely versatile font families for 99% the regular price (saving you over $1,700 in the process)! If you purchased the typefaces already, I hope that you enjoy them, and that this tutorial gave you a sense of what you can accomplish with them.
That’s it for me today! Until next time, cheers, and have a wonderful weekend.