TUTORIAL: How to Create an Incredible Typographic Illustration
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In this two-part tutorial, we’re going to learn how to bring a simple proverb into a complex typographic illustration that achieves a level of realism without actually using any photos. Yes, we’re going to build this idea from the bottom up. In the first part, learn how to model your own objects in Cinema 4D and prepare them for isolation in Photoshop.
A random sighting of the famous proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is what sparked off this idea. Rather than seeing work and play as two separate activities, I sought to reconcile the idea in a single typographic treatment, while still exposing their peculiarities. Eventually, I settled on creating a work environment in a very playful way. To do this, I used a variety of contrasts. For instance, the rather plain perspective and frontal camera position makes this a very plain, static environment. This however is broken by the two words that float around the scene and add a sense of motion. There is also a contrast of light. The work side is somewhat dark, while the play side is well lighted. All in all, this is typically organized working environment that has somehow lost control of itself, in a good, entertaining way.
The program we’re going to start in is Cinema 4D. The first thing we’re going to tackle is the word ‘play’. If you feel you need a reference for the letters, it’s a good idea to open Illustrator and trace the basic paths over an existing script font. In this case, I made a few basic lines that will become the base of the word. To create your own, enter the front view in C4D and trace the letters with the Bezier Tool.
In order to turn this into a paint-like material, we’re going to use Metaballs. You can find it under Objects > Modeling > Metaball. To activate it, just drag all the paths you make on top of it in your objects menu. At first it will look rather odd, because we haven’t edited the paths with a Metaballs tag. You can use this tag to fine tune your results. Firstly though, click on the Metaballs object in the Object menu. Now click on the Object tab and change the Editor Subdivision to 3m and Render Subdivision to 0.2. The lower the number, the more precise result, and the longer it will take your computer to process the information. Also, as we add more paths and spheres to the metaballs object it will get harder and harder to update. Make sure you turn it off when creating new paths for it by clicking the tick mark in the Objects menu.
Now we’ll add a Metaballs tag to the paths. For any paths you create, drag one of these over it.
For each path, specify a strength of somewhere in between 1 and 4. You’ll have to be very specific though, as sometimes you may need a 1.1 or 1.2 value.
Start adding extra paths to the letter P.
A few extra ones should mimic a splash. Remember to edit the points of each of these paths so that it doesn’t end up looking flat. You can drag this in three-dimensional space to achieve that look.
Move on to the letter ‘y’ and repeat the process.
Now we’re going to switch over to spheres. Create a few spheres that intersect the paths. There’s no need to create tags for these. Just make them smaller or larger, as needed.
Repeat this process and add some more across the word.
These next few spheres shouldn’t be within the Metaball object. These are spheres that appear to have detached from the main word. Place these near the ends.
It’s time to add a material to the word. You’ll need to download this free material. Open the C4D file you’ve got and make the following changes. First of all, change the Diffuse Color to a bright red: R:244 G:13 B:13.
NOTE: You can find the final material in the download folder.
Now change the Specular to a simple white.
Specular 2 should be yellow: R:255 G:255 B:98.
Specular 3 should be a slightly darker yellow: R:247 G:206 B:43.
Change the Reflection color to white and the Reflection Edge color to pink: R:250, G:209, B:209.
All you need to do now is copy the material and paste it into the scene. Note that your cursor needs to be over the material in the Material Menu for this to work. Then just drag it over the Metaball Object and over the other spheres.
Now add a Sky Object. There’s no need to give it a material. It’s normal white will do just fine, as we don’t want it to be too bright.
Our paint material has a double coat. The inner coat is not visible, because we need to activate it with proximity lighting. Add a first light to the scene, and use the second screenshot to edit it. Don’t forget to enable Falloff – this limits the range of the light to a specified amount.
Add a second light in the same technique. I’ve numbered it here, as it gets a bit confusing.
Add a third light near the last two letters.
Add a smaller one to the same side now.
And one last light should do it.
We now need a background. In the side view, create a rounded L shape spline.
Go back to the Perspective view and Extrude it with the Extrude NURBS object. Once you created one, just drag the spline on top of it inside the Object Menu. Use the settings shown below.
Find an angle you like, and create a camera. Don’t forget to edit its settings as shown in the second screenshot.
That’s it for this word. It’s time to edit the render settings (Render > Render Settings) and render this thing! Use the following settings.
The Output is where you decide the size of the final image. This one should be 1688 x 1050 px.
Next, choose the format you want. I always save the in psd format, and tick Alpha Channel so I don’t forget it when I actually need it. But since we have a backdrop that’s also an object, the Alpha Channel is redundant here. You’ll need it later though!
I’m always obsessed about anti-aliasing, and so I use 2×2 over 4×4, though 1×1 over 4×4 will do fine as well.
Enable Global Illumination and change to these settings. This part will affect your render time the most. If you want a quick render, changing the diffuse depth to 2, minimum Resolution to 5 and Maximum to… say 45 should cut back quite a bit.
And finally, uncheck Auto Light from the Options menu. Don’t render just yet, as we need to create one more element.
I usually create the more complex paths in Illustrator just because I’m more familiar with it. You can create this in C4D or Photoshop as well. What matters most is that you have a vector path file that you can merge in C4D.
Here, we’re going to create a paint can. Create this shape that we’ll revolve in C4D.
Here’s a close up on the top.
When you’re done, save it as an Illustrator 3 file somewhere. Go back to an empty new scene in C4D and go to File > Merge. Place the path into your scene.
Add a Lathe NURBS object and drag the path in the Object Menu over it.
Add a Circle Spline and position it as seen below.
Add an Extrude NURBS and drag the circle path over it. Add a large Fillet Cap as seen in the second screenshot.
Copy the first knob and make it larger. Push it into the bucket, and change the Cap to a very small one.
Copy these two, rotate them by 180 degrees and place them on the other side as well.
To create the handle, draw a Bezier Spline in the top view.
Use a Sweep NURBS and a small circle spline to give it thickness.
This is what your Object Menu should look like. Select them all and Group them.
We’ll now create a simple material for the bucket. Use the following options. In Color, select Noise by clicking on the Small arrow button in the Texture field.
Click on the Noise Tab to bring up these settings.
Splendid. Now just copy the bucket into the first scene and scale / rotate it in place.
In order to render the scene, we need to transform the Metaballs object into a Polygon Object. This is basically like when you rasterize a vector shape in Photoshop. By doing this, C4D no longer needs to calculate the Metaballs process during rendering. First of all, copy the Metaball into a separate blank scene and delete everything except the letter P. In the Object Menu, Shift + Select all the layers and Right-click > Current state to object. This will take a while, so hang on while C4D kills all your RAM for a few minutes.
Once you’ve done that with the rest of the word, paste it back into the scene and render it. Your results will vary but my configuration took about 11 hours to render. That material is an absolute pain.
Let’s move on to the second word now. As a guide for the screws, I created a mold, if you will. You can create one yourself by creating a Text Spline, applying an Extrude NURBS, and knocking off the Caps in the Caps tab. Create all this in a new blank scene.
Download these free nuts and bolts. This whole part is simple in concept, but very laborious. Resize and rotate several bolts into the first letter.
Add more into the mold, but try not to make them touch or intersect.
Here is the first letter, all done. Add smaller bits and pieces to fill in the blanks.
Repeat the process for the rest of the word.
We’ll now move on to creating the ventilation shafts. Nothing fancy, just a couple of multiplied objects. The first one is a Tube Object.
Apply the following settings to the ventilation shafts.
Now go to MoGraph and add a Cloner Object. Drag the two objects on top.
Let’s create a frame now. Create a very long Cylinder.
Let’s create a second frame now. Create a very long Cylinder and Multiply it in the same way.
Copy the frame Cloner Object, resize the tube and place it as seen below.
For this part, I used a few objects from Greyscalegorilla’s Light Kit Pro. You can model all these things yourself, but this one’s a real time saver. If you have it, drag a StudioL object into the shaft scene.
Make it large. Very, very large
Also from the Light Kit, open WindowLightStudio and copy the white backdrop.
Paste it in our scene, and delete a few endpoints to turn it into a straight, white plane, rather than an L shape.
Make it smaller and place it in the scene.
Make a second copy and position it as seen below.
One final thing we’ll use from the Light Kit is the blue softbox. Copy it into our scene.
Turn it into the mother of all softboxes!
In order to darken the left side, I created a black ceiling and wall. Create two similar planes and apply a new material that only has 0% Luminance.
Time to add a Sky Object. Add a light Gray material to it, as seen in the second screenshot.
All done! Here’s a final render of the scene. Still, we’re going to have to make changes to these objects in Photoshop. To do that, hide everything, except the backdrops, uncheck Global Illumination to get a much faster render, and save the render as a psd file with Alpha Channel included.
When you’re done with that, repeat the process to isolate just the shafts and make an Alpha Channel file.
Still, you’re probably wondering what happened to the first word (work+). We’re going to use this exact scene, but alter it slightly. First of all, paste the word into the scene and find a proper place for it. Copy some of the bolts and paste them around the scene. Hide the backdrops, ventilation shafts and giant L shape backdrop. Leave the black walls, sky object, and softbox in place. Below you also have two images that show the final render and its alpha channel render.
Final Image Preview
With a bit of stitching together, here’s what you’ll get.
Alright, let’s jump into Photoshop and get this thing started! Open the render you made of the backdrop and ventilation shafts.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. Create a Gradient Map similar to the one below. The color sequence from left to right is: #350606; #752136; #ef5054; f5f7c3; eff0dd.
Set the Layer Blending Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 70%.
Add another Gradient Map with the following colors: #000000; #781212, #d86651; eda5aa.
Now we’ll start to include objects into our scene, by isolating them with an Alpha Channel. I’ll demonstrate this process with the first word. First of all, open the render you’ve made.
Now, also open the render you made that contains only the object, and no backdrop. If we would render the word with the backdrop, then the backdrop itself would show up in the Alpha Channel, leaving a selection of the entire canvas, instead of the word itself. Now open the Channels Tab and Command + Click on the Alpha 1 Channel to make a selection of its contents.
The problem with isolating objects like this is that you get a very thin over exposed outline. To cut this out, we’re going to shrink the selection by 1 px. Go to Select > Modify > Contract. When the dialog appears, make sure the field says 1 px, then click OK.
We’ll now save this selection, so we can load it up in the final ‘work+’ render. Go to Select > Save Selection.
In the Destination Menu, select the final render that you have of the ‘work+’ word. Then name it something, like alpha channel and click OK.
Head over to the final render, go to Select > Load Selection, and under the Channel Menu, find the one you saved. Press OK.
Before I turn this into a mask, I need to fix something I didn’t notice in the render. I’ve left a part of the black ceiling in the view, so grab the Marquee Tool, hold down Alt and drag over that area to make sure it’s not selected. That area will be completely dark later on and you probably wouldn’t even be able to notice it, but it’s a worthy precaution.
In the Layers menu, press the Add Layer Mask button to isolate the object quickly.
Drag this into the project and find a spot for it.
To simulate a Depth of Field, we’re going to blur some of the bolts that are floating around. Make a wide selection (leave room for the blur to spread) and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. I’m not using Lens Blur in this case, because that will lighten the edges of the render significantly. Since this is a dark area, we don want that. I would advise to use Lens Blur over Gaussian in most cases though.
After you applied the Blur, you may notice that the edges of the bolts aren’t blurred. That’s because you may be blurring only the contents of the image, and not its mask. After applying, don’t deselect. Go to your layers menu, find the layer you’re working on and click on the layer mask box to the right. Blur again.
Repeat this process and cut out a version of the backdrops. Over these though, add a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (make it a mask so it only affects the backdrops and no the background) with these colors: #222c48, #b6bac1.
Just like in the previous two steps, isolate the vents. I find the left side a bit too bright, so I’m going to darken it with a black-to-transparent gradient. Make it a mask so it’s only seen within the ventilation shaft render. I’ve highlighted the gradient with red in the second image.
Add the final render to the document; the word ‘play’. Isolate it the same way you did with the rest.
Make a selection of the layer, and while holding alt, remove most of the selection with the Polygonal Marquee Tool so you only have the bucket selected. Right-click inside the canvas and hit Layer Via Copy. Move this layer underneath, and don’t forget to remove the bucket from the original layer as well.
On the ‘play’ text layer, Create a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer as a Clipping Mask and change the colors to these: #1c1b1b; #ffffff.
Set the Layer Blending Mode to Hard Light. This will increase the contrast of the type and bring out those lovely reflections.
There’s one last adjustment that needs to be done to this text. Because of the pure white backdrop that we rendered this over, there’s a white reflection that’s too strong on the bottom and left side. Since we’ve isolated this from the bucket, we can just add a red soft bevel on that side, that will eliminate that white reflection. Just add a Bevel and Emboss Layer Style with these settings:
Add a new layer as a Clipping Mask for the ‘play’ layer, and Create a few soft, white strokes that brighten the right side just a bit. They’re highlighted with blue in the second screenshot.
We now need to add a few paint blobs around the scene. With the Elliptical Marquee tool, make a selection of a round blob from within the render.
Copy and Paste it into a new layer. Put it on the far, right side.
You may notice that it’s considerably darker than the rest. That’s because the right side should be much brighter than the left. Create a New Blank Layer and make it a Clipping Mask. Fill it with white and turn down the layer Opacity to 30%.
Add a few more around the scene, and remember to blur some of these out.
Add a couple of smaller ones on the left side.
Making a black layer here on top won’t be enough for a realistic look. We also need to keep the highlight in place in order for it to look realistically darkened. Use a Curves Adjustment Layer as a Mask.
The trouble with curves is that it also affects the colors. To tone down the color intensity, create a Black and White Gradient Map Adjustment Layer as a Layer Mask and turn down the Opacity to 40%.
Another issue we need to fix are those tiny little highlights on the backdrop. From boosting up the contrast, they’ve all but disappeared. Use the Pen Tool in Path Mode, and on a new blank layer, trace a path over an existing highlight.
Grab the Brush Tool (B) and change it to a soft, 6 px diameter round brush.
Add these highlights all over the scene, where needed. As usual, I’ve highlighted them with blue for easy spotting.
Don’t forget the right side. You may need to make these stronger, since this is the well-lighted side.
The bucket felt a bit lonely, so I re-rendered it in a different position and darkened it a lot.
We’ll now darken the background just a bit, so right above the first render of the scene, create a New Blank Layer and fill it with White. Go to Filter > Distort > Lens Correction.
Create a vignette effect by using similar settings.
Change the Layer Blending Mode to Color Burn and Opacity to 60%.
For this step, we’re going to make a quick hop into Illustrator to create a pattern of Squares. Just create one, duplicate it as many times as needed to get this pattern. You can do this Photoshop as well of course.
Paste the boxes in Photoshop as a raster image, but make it really big before you flatten it.
Free Transform it until you match the perspective of the floor.
After you’ve positioned it, change the Layer Blending Mode to Screen and Opacity to 10%. Add the following Layer Effects.
Add another one over the back of the scene. No need to change the perspective for this one.
And in order to finally finish this off, we’ll add a Selective Color Adjustment Layer on top of all the layers. With this, we’re going to change the colors up a bit. In the Reds menu, change Magenta to 6%, Yellow to -4% and Black to -3%.
Switch over to the Neutrals tab and Use these settings: Cyan: +2%; Yellow -21%; Black -11%.
And the final one for the day is Blacks: Cyan: +5%; Yellow: -10%; Black: -2%;
That’s it, finally, I know! I hope it’s been a good read, that is if you’ve read a single word of it of course!
Posted on October 25, 2010, in Repost, Tutorial Photoshop and tagged How to Create an Incredible Typographic Illustration. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.