David Waters is studying graphic design at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, where he switched from a course in electrical engineering during the first year, after realizing he was spending most of his time creating digital artwork and designs instead of studying maths and physics. He is focusing on digital photo-illustration.


“The piece was created for the art collective EvokeOne for its Unity art exhibition,” says David. “The unity in the piece is achieved visually with the proximity and relationship in the forms. I had an idea of having these containers inhabited by different plants and organisms, but mimicking a scenario of a scientific experiment gone wrong. This was good practice for me with perspective and lighting – two areas I don’t quite feel confident in yet.”


“My inspiration for the piece came mostly from print work, especially from designers such as Herb Lubalin, who labour over the finest details in their type so that the final product is fluid, yet tight and organized,” says David. “I took their obsession with detail and relationships and applied it with my work in photo-illustrations.”


“When I started the piece, no stock photos were used aside from maybe one or two for texture,” says David. “I began the piece by blocking out the structure and getting the basic lighting down. Once I had an idea of what I wanted to be in each letter shape, I did searches for stock images and saved any that might be useful.”


“I began with brainstorming, writing my ideas on a board,” says David. “Normally I tend to jump right into my pieces, but I did quite a bit of brainstorming prior to opening Photoshop. When I had the idea of using the type to create a solid block, I began by arranging the type within the shape of the block. I then used a grid for my perspective plane and cut out the letterforms and made adjustments so that the letters made sense in the perspective. After the basic shapes were blocked in, I began by getting a rough idea for the lighting and background. After that I started to bring in stock photos and worked more closely in detail with each shape.”

1. The glass shapes
“I first used a typeface to get an idea for the shapes of the letters and arranged them as tightly as possible,” says David. “Then I went over each letter with Photoshop’s Pen tool and put each letter in perspective. Once I had the flat shape filled in with the Pen tool, I went back to each letter and used the Pen tool to cut out the shape so that you could see the sides, tops, and bottoms of the letterforms. Once I had all the shapes in, it was then easy to use the shapes for selections to achieve the lighting effects.”

2. The interior 'T'
The clouds and liquid ooze inside the ‘T’ shape were all painted, says David. “These were difficult because I’m not a great painter and I don’t have a lot of experience painting. The mushroom was a stock photo that I cut out, added a few adjustment clipping masks, and then painted on top of to get the right lighting effects. The earth was created from two stock photos I found, one of grass and the other of soil. I adjusted each quite a bit with some adjustment layers and then blended them together using layer masks.”

3. The barrel and water
“The toxic barrels were stock images I cut out, adjusted, and painted over slightly,” reveals David. “I knew where I wanted to feature barrels and then from there I looked through all the stock images to find barrels in similar perspectives. The water was a mix of painting and stock imagery. I used Photoshop’s Pen tool to define the shape of the water surface and a large soft brush to get the general lighting effects. To get the murky effect, I just found some dirty, textured images and set the blending mode to Multiply.”

4. Textures and lighting
The sky was created by blending together various cloudscapes from stock images, says David. “The cloudscape images were all taken during daylight hours, but I set the images about as dark as I can go and the contrast high with a contrast and brightness adjustment layer. For the texture, I used various scans of old paper, set them at high contrast, and the layer mode to screen. A lot of lighting was created with the soft brush. You can get some really nice effects with just the basic soft brushes with a little patience.”