Following Rob Shields’ guide to how he created his artwork for the latest exhibition by the Designers Against Child Slavery campaign last month, here we see how Parisian illustrator François Leroy created one of three pieces for the collection. First, François will explain how to create simple textures in geometric vector shapes in Illustrator as the basis of an artwork and grow them into organic forms. Second, he will detail his Photoshop method for making the shapes look like drips.
François, who was the featured artist for the exhibition, says that the process is flexible enough to allow you to really bring your own touch to the final product. “I always encourage artists to create materials such as textures and shapes to evolve and map out their own style.”
Next month we’ll bring you a final DACS artist.
Time to complete
3 - 4 hours
Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Adobe Illustrator CS5
Files for this tutorial are downloadable from
To begin this piece, open Illustrator and create a new A4 document. The first step is creating a basic element to grow your forms. Using the Ellipse tool, hold down
Shift and drag out a simple, small circle. Edit its appearance to give its stroke a weight of 0.5pts and a black-to-white gradient as Fill Color. Duplicate the ellipses many times, resizing as you go to produce a seemingly random wriggling line.
To make the shape seem more organic, we need to blend between the circles. First, set your blending options by double-clicking on the Blend tool, set Spacing to Specified Step and the value to 3. Select the first circle, then the second, and so forth until you have a shaded line.
Repeat steps one and two to make a snake of lines which form an almost complete ring. Leave the central area empty for the face. I made eight lines but feel free to make more.
Open Photoshop and create a new document at 3,000 pixels wide by 4,500 pixels tall – high resolution is always better when working in detail.
Go back to Illustrator, select a line and copy and paste it into Photoshop as a Smart Object. Import the rest of the lines one at a time so they are separate elements in Photoshop.
Select one line in Photoshop and rasterise it (
Layer > Rasterize > Smart Object). Apply the Liquify filter ( Filter > Liquify). Then use the Forward Warp tool ( W) to make it look more organic and less geometrical. Repeat this for all your lines.
Pick a few lines that sit behind others and make them darker by applying a -150 Brightness adjustment (
Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast). This boosts the contrast of the whole and adds depth.
Now you have your shapes organised, we must create a texture which we will apply in another Photoshop document. Open a new document in the same resolution (3,000 x 4,500 pixels) and apply a very dark colour (such as #161616) with the Paint Bucket tool.
Filter > Render > Reticulation to add some black and white noise. Now apply some white in the middle with the Brush tool, changing this element’s blending mode to Layer Style > Overlay. Merge all the layers, then go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and add more contrast.
Apply more white strokes with the Brush tool, using a blending mode of Layer Style Overlay. Now merge all the layers and copy and paste the flattened texture into the first document.
Place the texture layer just above the background. Duplicate it and hide the second version. Change the opacity of the first texture layer to 20%.
The hidden texture layer will be used as a base for applying texture to other shapes. Using
Cmd/Ctrl and clicking on one of the line layer’s thumbnail in the Layers panel to select only the line, click on the hidden texture layer and select Layer > New > Layer Via Copy (Cmd/Ctrl + J). Place the new texture layer directly above the related line layer and use a blending mode of Lighten. The texture now appears on the line. Repeat this step for all line layers except those you darkened in step five.
Now it’s time to create the drip shapes. Using the Pen tool, draw a black shape with blobby ‘stalagmites’ and ‘stalactites’ in the bottom left of the image. Repeat the process from step eight to apply the texture.
Draw more shapes around the structure (I made 11) and apply textures to them. As with the lines, some variation in lightness would be better. To create the lighter versions, duplicate the original hidden texture layer, unhide it, jack up its brightness, hide it again and then use that instead of the original texture in the procedure detailed above.
Download the free Female Stock 47 from the excellent Katanaz-Stock on Deviant Art at
bit.ly/tTrmem. Open this in Photoshop and select only the face (the Lasso tool is fine for this as the selection doesn’t need to be detailed). Copy and paste the face in your document under the other layers and above your hidden texture layers. Use Image > Free Transform to fit it to the structure.
Select the middle part of the structure with the Lasso tool, go to the first hidden texture layer and hit
Cmd/Ctrl + J. Paste it above the face using a blending mode of Overlay. Desaturate the face layer and use the Eraser tool to remove anything that sticks out beyond the lines.
The first step in adding colour back to the piece is to apply it to some lines. I’ve chosen a yellow (#ff7400) but you can try it with a blue, red or green.
Cmd/Ctrl and click on the line layer thumbnail to select only the line, then use the Paint Bucket tool to fill the selection with colour on a new layer above. Give this new layer a blending mode of Soft Light.
The shadow is simple to make. Take the Brush tool, select a near-black shade and paint it on a new layer. Then go to
Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, then reduce the opacity to 20%.
The last part of creating this artwork is to fine-tune the overall look. Go to the top of the layer stack and select
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance. Set magenta at -8 in Midtones, blue at +12 in Shadows and yellow at -10 in Highlights. Then select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Channel Mixer and select the Black&White with Yellow Filter (RGB) option. Change the layer’s opacity to 50%.
Next go to
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and edit the curves for more contrast. To do this pull up the top right a bit and pull down the bottom left a bit. Change the layer’s opacity to 60%.
This has left the artwork looking a little cold, so let’s warm it up a bit. Go to
Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color, choose a mid-red (such as #ff0000). Change the blending mode to Saturation and the opacity to 5%. Duplicate this layer, change the blending mode to Exclusion and you’re done.
FranÇois Leroy is a self-taught freelance Illustrator and graphic designer. He hails from Paris, France and belongs to the international art collective Slashthree and the Keystone Design Union. Digital art has been his passion for four years. “I define myself fully in this dynamic, in which internet and interactivity are major factors,” says FranÇois. Contact