Design a Gritty, Vintage Airshow Poster
WHAT WE’RE CREATING:
Hello Design Cutters! Simon here for today’s tutorial. I’m excited to share this one with you, for a few reasons.
The main one is that I’ve been looking to find an excuse to use Decade Type Foundry’s Reckless typeface in a piece for quite some time. It’s a gorgeous typeface, inspired by 1940s/1950s era mechanical sports racing.
Another reason why I’m excited, is because we’ll get to make a racing event poster! The previews for Reckless certainly inspired that direction. I didn’t want to do motorcycle race, because that’s the theme they went with. Cars was an interesting one to think about, but the typeface was screaming airplane to me, because of its swashes, and winged letters. So an airplane race/airshow poster it was.
Obviously, these aren’t the only reasons, but definitely the main ones. The bundle’s other typefaces are just as beautiful in their own right. Appleton, for instance, is a typeface I’m hoping to use on a label project.
Either way, it’s going to be a fun ride. Buckle your seatbelt, and enjoy the flight!
STEP 0: CONCEPTUALIZING
As usual, the poster we’ll work on started its existence on paper, in a few strokes of pencil and marker. I tinkered with overall layout, and with the shape for the planes.
I also looked at quite a few posters for inspiration as well. Turns out, there’s quite a lot of material, and it’s awesome. Just research “vintage air show poster,” or “vintage air show memorabilia,” in your favorite search engine/Flickr stream/Pinterest board.
From looking at this, I had a few ideas on how to alter my sketch to create the piece I wanted. Let’s get to it.
STEP 1: RESOURCES GATHERING
We’ll need a few resources to execute our poster, on top of the typefaces included in the bundle that is. The first one is this helpful outline of a Supermarine Spitfire (a World War II fighter plane), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The next visual asset is this map of London, dating back to 1853. It comes to us from The British Library’s Flickr stream, and is copyright-free.
“The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest libraries. [They] hold over 13 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 57 million patents, 3 million sound recordings, and much, much more.”
Next, we’ll need to get our hands on 9 textures. 7 of them are free, and 2 of them come from products I sell on my Creative Market store, The Shop. Do note however that they were included in previous bundles, so there’s a solid chance that you have it already in your library. They are also not integral to the final piece, so in the worst case scenario, feel free to skip them.
BB_AntiqueEnvelope_04 by Dustin Schmieding
Found paper #6 by Lost and Taken
Dirty #2, from the Design Cuts freebies page
This old heavy paper texture by u_l33
Coffee Stains Texture 02 by SixRevisions
folded-paper-textures-volume-01-sbh-002 by The Shop
photocopy-noise-textures-sbh-005 by The Shop
And finally, this photocopy texture by clarisaponcedeleon
The last asset we need to have at hand is our color palette. I spent a little bit of time extracting color palettes from the various references I’ve looked at, and put it up on COLOURlovers. The one we’ll use for our piece is called Vintage air show III, and is based of the cover of the official directory for Cleveland’s 1930 national air race (tenth anniversary).
With all of this at end, it’s more than time to get started!
STEP 2: DOCUMENT SETUP
Our poster will be primarily built in Illustrator. The reasoning behind this is that it’s simple to draw precise shapes , and to manipulate type in vectors as it is in Photoshop. Note that I know that you can create vector shapes in Photoshop these days, but old habits die hard.
Our canvas is an 18″x24″ document, in RGB mode (which is unusual for Illustrator).
You can even place a few guides, in order to facilitate the construction. I have some at 1″ of the edges of the canvas, as well as marking its center. Protip: turn on the grid and the snap to grid options when creating the guides. It’ll help you to make sure the guides are aligned, and be effortless (View > Show grid and View > Snap to grid).
Once the guides are created, give them their own, locked layer. It’ll keep your layer palette neat and organized.
Time to start designing.
STEP 3: PUTTING THE MAIN ELEMENTS IN PLACE
Listing the elements
The structure of the poster itself is simple.
- Background color (tan)
- Illustration area (red)
- Bottom text area (blue)
The layer structure
We’re going to give the elements their own layer. It’s once again a concern for file organization, and makes your life so much easier if you have to get back to the file at a later date.
I started by creating a new layer for each section.
I’m also adding a layer for all the “work in progress” stuff. This is the layer we’ll use when creating the shape of the plane, to place our color palette in, etc. I like to call such a layer the repository.
The color palette
For the color palette, I’m placing the file COLOURlovers generated for me in the document, and also generating squares of the colors. It helps to assign the color to shapes faster, even with the layer locked. I also named the square paths with the hexadecimal color code, should I need to copy it in a hurry.
The plane outline
We’re going to create this one now, so it’s done. Place the file of the Spitfire outline in your repository layer, and trace the silhouette of the plane using the pen tool.
You do not need to be 100% precise, as it’ll make the plane shape more generic. I created a dedicated sub-layer for the task, and went to work.
Remember to use shapes as simple as possible, and that you can get away with only tracing half of the silhouette: a plane is symmetrical when seen from above.
Things that help the tracing process: as little points as possible, and smart guides (CTRL/CMD+U). When it comes down to tracing with the pen tool, practice makes perfect. There are (sadly?) no shortcuts.
Here’s a way of the anchor points, and of their handles.
Once you’re happy with the half silhouette that you have traced, you can turn off (or delete) the source layer.
Proceed to duplicate your shapes, and fuse them together using the Pathfinder‘s “Unite” mode. Select the three shapes we’ve just created, and click on the proper icon in your Pathfinder palette (top left).
From there, select the resulting shape, and bring up the Reflect panel through the right click menu (Right click > Transform > Reflect).
Reflect your shape vertically, and hit the “Copy” button instead of OK. This will create a reflected duplicate of the shape, rather than flip the shape itself.
Once you have both shapes, line them up neatly, and use the Pathfinder again to fuse them together.
Once done, and if you have Illustrator CC, you could assign a small corner radius value to soften the shape’s corners. I’ve assigned a value of 0.04″ to mine. Our plane is now complete, and can be left to rest for now.
The actual background of the piece
This one is simple. In the appropriate layer, create a tan rectangle (#EAE6D3) that covers the whole canvas.
You can even lock it in place for now, so it won’t move as we keep building the piece.
The illustration area background
This one is just as straight forward. In the appropriate layer, create a 16″x18″ red rectangle (#F53A1E). The rectangle should be horizontally centered, and placed at 1″ from the top edge of the canvas.
I actually gave it its own sub-layer, because that area will have many other sub-layers and objects.
The base of the text area
In the proper layer, type out the event’s title: “The National Air Races.” I’m using Reckless of course, set at 144 points tall. Make sure that the alignment of your text block is set to Centered. It should be in blue for now (#283C81). The size allows the type to run across the width of the illustration area.
Our main elements are now in place. It’s time to press on, and to get the illustration part completed.
STEP 4: THE ILLUSTRATION ELEMENTS
The map background
Remember the map of London we got from The British Library’s Flickr stream? It’s time to put it to good use.
Once you’ve downloaded the high resolution version of the map, place it in its own sub layer in the repository layer. As you’ll see, it’s pretty big.
From there, use the live trace functionality to make it a vector object. I have a good computer, which means I can push the settings towards a high quality result.
The threshold setting acts on how dark the result will be. The paths value impacts how precise the trace is. The corners conditions how many curves versus how many shapr angles your design will have. Finally, noise also impacts the precision of the trace. Make sure that the ignore white box is checked, as we want a monochrome result.
Once the settings are to your liking, expand the result.
From there, change the map’s color to our tan color (#EAE6D3).
Proceed to move the map to a dedicated sub-layer within the “illustration area” one.
Move it, and transform it so its height matches the height of the red rectangle.
Move the map around on its horizontal axis, in order frame the area you like best in the red rectangle.
Create a new, transparent 16″x18″ rectangle right above the map. Make sure it’s carefully aligned with the red rectangle.
Select both the rectangle and the map, and use the Object > Mask > Clipping mask > Make menu to hide the map parts that go beyond the rectangle’s boundaries.
Your layers should look something like this
We have our background. Time to add us some airplanes in the mix.
Adding the Spitfire silhouettes to the mix
Start by creating a new sub-layer for the planes.
Grab a copy of the plane silhouette we created earlier, and paste it in this sub-layer. Place it to the left of the canvas, outside of its limits.
Change the plane’s color to our blue, with a 15 points tan stroke. Make sure the stroke features round corners and caps, and is aligned to the outside of the shape.
We’re now going to create the “smoke cloud” trailing behind the place. It’s a triangle that’s as wide as the plane, and as tall as the canvas. Its point is aligned to the center of the plane.
Once the shape is of satisfaction to you, place the “cloud” behind the plane, and change its color to tan. Give it a 15 points tan stroke as well.
We are now going to create two angled copies of our plane/cloud combo. Start by selecting both elements, and through the right-click menu, bring up the rotate dialog box (right-click > Transform > Rotate).
In a similar mindset as when using the reflect dialog box earlier, use the copy button when validating a 15° rotation.
Repeat the process to obtain a second copy, with a -15° rotation this time.
Space out the copies, and rotate them so the original vertical plane/cloud combo has an ascending 45° angle.
From there, place the three planes over the map, with the middle one more or less aligned with the ascending diagonal from the bottom left corner of the red rectangle.
The spacing is obviously too important, as the planes go out of the piece’s canvas. We want the two outer planes to break the edge of the red rectangle a bit for a dynamic effect, but certainly not as much. Manually realign, and adjust the three planes to obtain a configuration similar to the one below. You’ll note that the spacing isn’t mathematically even anymore, which contributes to add an organic dimension to the composition.
The illustration part is done for now. Let’s focus on the type elements a bit more.
STEP 5: TYPE GOODNESS
Making the type visible
At the present, and due to the layers’ order, the planes’ “clouds” hide our type. Simply re-arrange the layers so the “Text area” one is at the top of our layer stack.
Long shadow effect
We are going to give a long shadow to the title. I’m going to adapt a bit a technique found in an April 2014 post from Vectip for this.
Start by duplicating the title, and paste it in place (CTRL/CMD+F).
Change the color of the top copy to tan (#EAE6D3).
Convert the bottom copy (the blue one) to outlines (Right-click menu > Create outlines).
Let’s make that bottom copy thicker, by using the Offset path functionality (Object > Path > Offset path). I’m using a value of 0.1″. The result is a beautiful outline.
Select the group resulting from the offset, and merge it in a single shape using once again the Pathfinder’s Unite command.
Now, for the tricky part. We’re going to make use of the Appearance panel (SHIFT+F6) for the actual long shadow effect. This is what the panel looks like for now.
Start by adding a new fill color with our blue (#283C81). As the tooltip suggests, you’ll need to hold the SHIFT key while clicking on the drop-down menu to be able to have access to this colro-picking interface.
With the vector object selected, and with the fill highlighted in the appearance panel, bring up the Transform dialog box (Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform).
The Move values determine the position shift of each copies of the object compared to the one before it. Because the values are the same (0.01″), the copies will follow a 45° angle. Because the value is so small, the copies will be very close to each other.
The copies value determines how long the shadow will be. In our case, we want it to reach the edge of our piece.
The result? A glorious, fully vector, and fully dynamic, long shadow effect.
More title type
Having a title is nice, but it doesn’t doesn’t convey everything. Let’s start by adding the general location of the event, London. I’m using Parlour Pro, set at 210 points tall. The kerning is set to optical. It’s colored in tan.
The next piece of information is the races’ dates, August 1st to August 15th. I’m using Nexa Rust Slab Black, set at 48 points tall, with kerning set to optical. It’s also tan colored.
The following line concerns the precise location of the event, RAF Northolt Station.
I’ve chosen this military airfield located on the North West side of London because Wikipedia tells us it hosted Royal Air Force Squadrons whose pilots flew Spitfires during World War II. This reminds me of my younger days reading Biggles‘ and Buck Danny‘s adventures. Anyways.
The copy is set in Nexa Rust Sans Black that’s <36 points tall, and in red.
The last line of copy for the main text block announces the event and parking to be free. I’m using Nexa Rust Slab Black, set at 42 points tall, with kerning set to optical. It’s tan colored.
We have all of the copy at hand. Tweak the placement and spacing of the lines as needed.
We have one more text element to add in the poster, and it’s at the top. Basically, it’s “bait ” text, that emphasizes the sensational side of the event: “higher speeds / greater thrills / night shows.”
I’m using Herschel for that, set at 52 points tall. The kerning is set to optical. The text block is right aligned, to visually follow the edge of the red rectangle.
I’d like the color of the text block to be tan, but there’s already much tan in the background because of the map.
The solution is simple: creating a red copy below, changing it to outlines, and using offset path, to give it a red outline to the tan text.
Now that all the copy is in place, it’s time to clean up the layers.
STEP 6: ROUGHING THINGS UP
It’s time to age things a bit. In order to accomplish this, we’re going to heavily rely on Illustrator’s roughen filter. You can access it via Effects > Distort and transform > Roughen. It’s a great tool to obtain a base aged effect in Illustrator, that you’d then complete with a texture pass in Photoshop.
We’ll add the filters on the red rectangle, on the planes and their clouds, and on the long shadow effect.
Illustration area background
Let’s start with the rectangle. Select it, and bring up the effect’s dialog box.
The effect’s values depend greatly of the scale of the object you apply “roughen” to.
Repeat the process for the other planes.
The blue title shadow
And with that preliminary aging in place, we can switch to textures!
STEP 7: TEXTURES
For this part, we’ll switch back to Photoshop. Create a 18″x24″ document, and paste your whole vector composition in it. Place the same guides than in your Illustrator document, as to have some common visual marks.
Actual texture work
Quick note #1: in this tutorial, the term “clipping” or “clipped layer” is used a few times. 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. Photoshop secrets created an handy animated gif demonstration.
Quick note #2: 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.”
Let’s get started with BB_AntiqueEnvelope_04 by Dustin Schmieding
Blending mode: Soft light @ 50% opacity.
Next texture: found paper #6 by Lost and Taken
Blending mode: Soft light @ 75% opacity.
Next, dirty #2, from the Design Cuts freebies page
Blending mode: Soft light @ 75% opacity.
The following texture is this old heavy paper texture by u_l33
Blending mode: Soft light @ 75% opacity.
Now that we have enough paper grain in place, we can add some strong staining effect with coffee Stains Texture 02 by SixRevisions
Blending mode: Soft light @ 100% opacity.
Next, we’ll emulate some fake folds in the paper with folded-paper-textures-volume-01-sbh-002 by The Shop
Blending mode: Screen @ 75% opacity.
Let’s add some noise to the piece with photocopy-noise-textures-sbh-005 by The Shop
Blending mode: Screen @ 100% opacity.
And finally, the last texture is this photocopy texture by clarisaponcedeleon
Blending mode: Soft light @ 100% opacity.
Finally, organize your layers.
And we’re done!
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Phew. I hope you’ve liked following along the tutorial, and that you’ll find some useful tricks in there. If you have any questions please comment below, and I’d be happy to help you.
Don’t hesitate to share your own outcomes with us! Head to the Design Cuts facebook page for that.
The typefaces of the 20 All New Best Selling Fonts Bundle are still available for a few days at $29 (98% off!). I hope that this process post help you to get a sense of the flexibility of the type families in the bundle.
Until next time, cheers!
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