This tutorial reveals how artist Dan Mumford creates a poster for a special show by the aggressive and spittle-flecked Watford punks Gallows, where the band played their debut album,
Orchestra of Wolves, in its entirety. The poster was a new take on the albumundefineds front cover, which Dan designed back in 2006.
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The poster is a four-colour screen print on A3, 230gsm card. Dan takes you through how he created the piece, and discusses at each stage how its final form as a screen print affected his creative decisions.
Adobe Photoshop CS or later
Time to complete
Roughly 2 days
Before starting on the image, I collected reference images of wolves. I wanted to go for quite a realistic look -- as opposed to the cartoonish style of the original album cover.
I wanted to reflect the maturing of the band and, perhaps, the darker tone that they had adopted since their second album onwards.
Using the wolf reference images, I started to develop a composition. I created a new A4 canvas in Photoshop and began drawing some quick black line work with the Pen tool.
I did this very roughly to see if the image would work, compositionally. At this stage in my work, Iundefinedm trying to create the right shape and flow, rather than focussing on details.
Next I added in colour on a new layer below the black line-work layer. Bearing in mind this is for a screen print that will be printed by hand, hence the colours must be kept to a maximum of four - plus the white of the card, I kept my tones simple. With this in mind, I created something that's quite minimal in colour and also uses lighting to good effect.
Once this rough version was approved by the band, I opened up an A3 canvas at 400dpi in Photoshop and brought in the rough version at 30% opacity. 300dpi may be the standard for print work, but I like to work quite closely zoomed in at around 6% as I find the extra 100dpi gives me a little more fidelity.
I used a black brush with a stroke width of around 40 pixels. This is the only tool I use to create the black line work because at this stage, I'm only working on the foreground.
With the foreground finished, I created a new layer below and started work on the background imagery. I created the moon by using the Ellipse tool set to Paths and laying strokes on the path with the Brush tool, using a width of around 30 pixels. I then cut into the circle around the edges to create the rougher look.
To finalise the composition of the poster before colouring, I extended the canvas and added a black border using the Rectangle tool and a slight white border -- also using the Rectangle tool -- with an inside stroke set to around 10pts to add some extra depth. Extending the canvas further at the top, I added a second thin white rectangle with a stroke. This is where I plan to add type about the gig later.
When I'm happy with the whole image, I discard the rough imagery and flatten everything onto one black-and-white layer called 'Linework'. It's worth noting here that when I lay down colours, they will be printed under this, as this black line-work is the final layer to be printed. Therefore I need to ensure everything sits below this in my Layers panel, so I get an accurate representation of how my piece will come out.
To finish this top 'Linework' layer, I changed its blending mode to Multiply, so colours will show through in the white areas. I created a new layer underneath and filled this with white, using the Paint Bucket. This layer represents the card and the white base that the print will be created on.
Still thinking in screen-printing terms, I work with the lightest colour first. I created a layer between the 'Linework' and the background called 'Light Grey', and painted in the light grey of the wolves.
I created another layer behind this called 'Yellow', and roughly painted yellow everywhere the wolves aren't, as well as behind the borders and the area where the type will be. I want to use yellow elsewhere, but I needed to create other elements first. Therefore, I'll return to this layer later on in the tutorial.
Next I added a fifth layer called 'Dark Grey', and began painting in the darker-grey shadows. When applying this colour, I kept in mind the light source coming from the moon in the sky and tried to create an effective mood, whilst not overpowering the image with the dark grey.
Then it was time to go back to the yellow as I wanted to add some splatters and bits of texture to the wolvesundefined mouths. I had to keep in my mind that the yellow is the first layer to be printed, so we'll need to craftily remove anything in other colour layers that will get in the way.
To do this, I added on a new layer at the top of the layer stack called 'Yellow Textures' and painted these elements. When I was happy with it, I selected the yellow on this layer using
Select > Color Range, and cut this selection out of both grey layers -- so when the grey layers are printed, there's space here for the yellow to come through.
Now this is done, we need to pop this 'Yellow Textures' layer behind the other colour layers. I dragged it down to just above the 'Yellow' layer. I also used a Stroke layer style to apply a thin, 2pt yellow stroke (using the Layer Style button at the bottom of the Layers panel). This is to leave room for error when the piece is printed, so that no white shines through. I merged the two yellow layers together so they're ready for printing.
To add the type, I first reverted the 'Linework' layer's blending mode back to Normal (instead of Multiply) as I'm going to combine it with this layer. I added in my type in white using the Type tool.
Once I was happy with the type, I merged it and the black-and-white image together. When I set this layer's blending mode to Multiply, the type shines through as yellow.
The image is nearly complete. As a final touch, I added some white highlights to the wolves and the moon. To do this, all I had to do was use the Eraser tool on the yellow and light-grey layers, as I would the Brush tool. By erasing from their respective layers, I let the white shine through.
Before sending the artwork to the printers, I made sure I had layered it correctly – from lightest to darkest up the layer stack: yellow, light grey, dark grey and black.
Finally, I created Pantone references for all the layers – so when I send the file away to be printed, the printers use the correct ink. I used the Eyedropper tool to select each colour in turn, opened the Color Picker, then clicked on Color Libraries to find out which Pantone colour was nearest to what I had chosen.
With everything confirmed as correct, I sent the file away to the printers, decided on the stock – choosing nice, thick 230gsm card, and waited to see if the final result matched what I had intended. Thankfully, it did, and I had an eye-catching final piece.