I’ve been tasked to make a new banner for another site, Endgame Farming. With the deadline looming on Dec 31st, I’m starting to crack down on this project and here is where I’ll start on this project.
I’ve been collaborating with the author, Ahtchu throughout his move from blogspot to wordpress, with bits of troubleshooting here and there. He finally asked me if I would make a banner and I said yes! It was funny, I mentioned that I was Canadian in our discussion in the making of the banner and the first half of the email he sent back were written in… French! Yes, the part where all the instructions for the banner were laid out in French.
Making light of the situation as a non-French speaker, I cranked up Google Translate and attempted to read the instructions. This is what I’ve made sense of so far, with the pictures he so kindly provided:
Amongst the instructions are specifics about what part of each picture he’d like to see on the banner. Luckily, I own a copy of Photoshop that will do the trick for this job. Smashing Magazine is a great resource for learning how to play in Photoshop, and it’s something I would recommend to anyone looking to improve their skills. I frequently visit this site for inspiration or to check for latest news that might be floating around in the design community.
My initial thoughts is that I’ll probably end up using a layering technique where I use multiple layers of different images overlaying each other at the edges and have them merge. It’s the merging that’s the big question for me, do I want to use the blending mode available in the layers’ options, or play around with perhaps cutting an image out and using drop shadows? What sort of compositing techniques should I use?
Here’s a link to a post on Smashing Magazine on different methods of compositing images in Photoshop. A must have in your arsenal of photo manipulation tools if you want to create fantastic images. I completed this picture using compositing techniques as I have described in the process of making this picture. I’m likely going to go down this route for this project.
I may decide to use some of those images and make them into some kind of background for the other images using drop shadows so they can ‘pop out’ more. For example, picture #4 and #5 would look best if they were put in the backdrop. I could take Ragnaro’s mace from picture #2, cut it out and put it on top of the ‘merged’ #4 and #5. Insert a drop shadow on the mace, and voila, we’ve got a fiery mace smashing through the tower in Aion into the picture of the talent tree in Rift. Heck, there’s a lot I could do here, and you know what?
I’m excited! Stay tuned for upcoming updates and the completed banner on the 31st
December 31st, 2011
*Warning: Image heavy! Some pictures are huge, my apologies for that!*
Whew, it’s been busy for the last couple of days! I planned on updating this post as I worked on this banner but I didn’t have the time. Fret not though, I took screenshots throughout the development process and took notes for myself to refer to.
Here’s the final banner after the original composition I made:
Looks great, doesn’t it? Read on for more details on how this was done!
First of all, the book idea itself is not new. I’ve done this project before using similar ideas and when I was approached for making a banner, I knew this method would be perfect for what he wanted to have in his banner. I set out to spend the day on photographing various books until I found one with the right thickness and size for what I needed to do. I needed the book to be wide enough to contain all the images I wanted to use, like Ragnaros’ mace and little figures battling it out on the other side of the book.
At that point, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do for the rest of the project. I envisioned a few things perhaps either coming out of the very pages of the book, or hanging out on a patch of grass. I considered leaving the pages bare but I found that it just made everything look ‘busier’. I felt that using grass on the pages on the book allowed for more focus on the items so I ended up opting for the grass. Using my trusty graphic tablet, I cut out the background leaving only the book and the table. I wanted to preserve the gorgeous reflection of the book that I managed to capture on my camera, so that would be left largely untouched for when I added the mage in the foreground later on.
For the wall texture behind the book, I used a couple of filters in Photoshop to create my own textured background using this image from my collection of textured backgrounds and colored it a rusty brown to give it that rusty, antiqued look. I used masks on just about everything, painting out unwanted parts of the images and keeping only the parts I wanted to be visible on the banner. For reflections and shadows, like with the mage, I used duplicate copies of the mage to cast a shadow on the table and to add the reflection onto the table. This consisted of having to flip the duplicate image upside down and darkening the image to match the table. The same was done for the Aion tower, which I definitely needed to do because I wanted to add a bit of color to the table.
It started coming together very nicely but I decided to run it by Ahtchu to see if he liked what I was trying to do so far. There’s nothing worse than finishing something and having to start all over again because your client hates your idea. So it is always a good idea to keep your clients in the loop as you work on projects to make sure everyone’s on the same page. I forwarded the first in-progress image to Ahtchu and I think he was blown away
He mentioned he wanted the Aion image and the Rift talent trees to be a bit brighter, but other than that, he was stoked to see the finished picture. After recieving my blessings to go full stream from him, I proceeded to add the rest of the images to the book and bring everything to life. This is the second draft:
This is where I ran into my first problem. I was having trouble deciding where to put the monkey due to the scaling and sizing it properly in relative to everything else in the picture. Ragnaro’s mace is supposed to be enormous and the trees needed to be slightly bigger than the battling figures on the left page but not any bigger than the mace itself. It was like putting different pieces together to make a puzzle fit! I sent the second draft to Ahtchu and explained that I was having trouble with the monkey. In this picture, I put him behind the book because the monkey looked like he was sort of looking at something and thought it’d look okay looking over the book. But the size still bothered me and something was lacking in the picture.
He suggested making the monkey bigger and moving it to the backdrop somewhere in the middle by the sun. His suggestion helped, except that I also wanted to add a flock of birds (or dragons, thanks for the idea, Ahtchu!) so I couldn’t put the monkey in the middle. I suddenly had a genius idea, “Why don’t I put the monkey by the planet?” Yes! The monkey could be looking over everything on the table!
This was my third draft before I pushed it to the final copy:
I consulted Ahtchu once again for him to look over everything before I could make the final copy for any last minute changes. Otherwise an excellent piece of work, he suggested moving the trees a bit away from the mace since it looked a bit busy there. I agreed with him and removed the smaller tree after I moved the larger one to the right closer to the mage.
Once I was satisfied with the final copy, I went to resize it for the actual banner and oh boy, was I wrong. I was confident I could resize everything to the constraints of 940px x 198px but the top part of the image were being cut out. This meant I had to rescale everything to a smaller scale for it to fit properly in the banner. Luckily, Photoshop is awesome in the way that you can link layers and it’ll resize all the layers at the same time. To account for the extra width, I had to add in mountains on the left of the table and moved the monkey/planet slightly to the left.
This is the final result:
I enjoyed making this banner very much, because I got to really push the limits of my creativity and think out of the box. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and it’s definitely going to have a place in my portfolio! I hope you enjoyed reading how I arrived to the final composition. If you want to see more of my work, you can check out the rest of my work here. I’ve decided to open shop for commissioned work, so if you are ever interested in getting something done by me, feel free to contact me as well. Enjoy