Lee Woodgate’s signature style mixes clean graphics, grungy textures and desaturated photos to great effect, with contrasting muted colours for a look that’s reminiscent of aging screenprints.
In this tutorial, he takes us through a variation of a recent commission by a national newspaper on the subject of using travel apps abroad. Lee was tasked with bringing together elements of travel and technology using a collage style. He uses a mixture of his own and supplied photographic imagery.
Tim discusses how to cut them out, and arrange and blend them with each other and the background. This will create an energetic montage of images that have a textured and loose feel.
Time to complete
I began by making a new layer above the background and used this as the colour base and background structure for the illustration. The source images I’m working with have quite strong architectural qualities and sharp angles, so I’ll be echoing this a little with the blocks of colour.
I needed to create a compass-like image. For this, I drew a circle with the Elliptical Marquee tool (
M) and gave it a Stroke ( Edit > Stroke). Next, I added triangles for the cardinal points, and labelled them. I used the Eraser ( E) to create a dotted line, and then Stroke again to fatten up the line.
To cut out the photos I used a Wacom Cintiq, opening each image in turn and creating a new layer above it. Using the tablet’s pen and the Freeform Pen tool (
P), I traced around the elements I wanted, then highlighted the area inside the lines with the Magic Wand tool ( W). Next, I copied the cutout and pasted it into a new document.
I arranged the elements over the background as I saw fit, echoing the angles of the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, the Sydney Opera House and the blocks of colour behind. The strongest image – the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro – presides over them all.
At this point, I worked on the hands holding the iPhone in the foreground. I wanted to make them more prominent, so I added a white outline. I used the Magic Wand tool to select the borders of the hands, created a separate layer above them and applied a Stroke to give a white line inside the dotted line. I made this line 10 pixels wide for extra emphasis. I filled in the screen on the phone with a block of blue to make it stand out, and added the app icons.
I wanted the hands to have more contrast, to colour them red and also blend them a little better with the background. I first used a Curves adjustment (
Cmd/Ctrl + M) to make the hands punchier. With the Eyedropper tool ( I) I picked a red from the flag and set the background colour to white. I then applied a Gradient Map adjustment ( Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map) to the hands and iPhone, which automatically used my selected foreground and background colours for the gradient, so this made the hands red and white. I blended the layer into the background a little using a Colour Burn blending mode.
To improve the Paris Metro sign’s black-and-white contrast, I used a Threshold adjustment (
Image > Adjustments > Threshold). I selected part of the sign, and copied and pasted this onto a layer above. Next, I used the Paint Bucket ( G) tool to colour the block red. I merged the layers together and gave the resulting layer a Multiply blending mode to blend it with the background. This gave it the screenprint look I was after.
As in Step 7, a Threshold adjustment layer was used on the US flag to flatten the colour. The Paint Bucket tool filled the black areas with red. I then highlighted the stars on the flag with the Polygonal Lasso (
L) tool. Using a Hue and Saturation adjustment ( Cmd/Ctrl + U), I recoloured the area blue.
To adjust the picture of the girl holding the phone, I used the Magic Wand tool to select the edges and then added a Stroke as a white outline. Next, I applied a Gradient Map to colour her yellow, so she blends in with the background a little more.
I used the Threshold tool (
Image > Adjustments > Threshold) to give the Sydney Opera House more contrast. This layer’s blending mode was left as Normal as I wanted it to appear bold in the image.
Next, the Louvre Pyramid’s contrast was increased using Curves. I then desaturated this (
Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U) and changed its blending mode to Screen. This made the pyramid appear as a white cutout, pushing it into the background.
I now moved on to the Christ the Redeemer statue. Here, I used Curves to create stronger contrast and desaturated the image overall. I then gave it an Overlay blending mode to blend it into the background. Once again, this has the effect of highlighting the white areas of the image and pushes it nicely into the background.
It was now the plane’s turn. For this I used the Threshold tool to pull down the colours and a Linear Burn blending mode so only the darker parts are visible against the background. I left these parts black as it balances the tonal palette out better.
I took a look at the whole composition and noticed a small area that I wasn’t happy with – the base of the Sydney Opera House. It wasn’t integrated into the composition, so I cleaned it up a little and added more blocks of white, plus another Wi-Fi symbol to loosen up that part of the illustration a little and allow the composition to look more balanced.
A new layer was added over the top of the entire illustration to apply some texture. I brought in a scan of a piece of parchment and placed this over the image. I gave it a blending mode of Color Burn, which allows all the imagery below to show through with some of the texture of the parchment layer applied, but without affecting the white, graphic elements.
Finally, I saved a flattened version of the image and opened this up as a separate file. Often I like to do some final colour tweaks at this stage using the Selective Color (
Image > Adjustments > Selective Color) or the Color Balance adjustment ( Cmd/Ctrl + B) until I’m satisfied.
Lee Woodgate is a freelance illustrator based on the south coast of England. He’s been working full-time within the editorial, design and advertising industries for over 14 years. Lee has worked with many clients over the years including Saatchi & Saatchi, McCann Erickson and British Airways, plus publications such as National Geographic, The Guardian, Wired and GQ. Contact