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Tips and tricks: CompositionHow do you put a graphic together?

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#1 Lady Plantagenet

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 07:34 PM

Developing a good base for a graphic is really important. What do you do to get your graphics going? What are your secrets of composition? Please share so we can learn from your amazingness! :D

#2 Violet


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Posted 13 July 2013 - 10:46 PM

What I try to start with is a colour scheme based on either the request or on the central image I want to use.  For instance, if the image I want as the focus of my graphic has a blue-ish tone, I'll use base images that also have a blue-ish tone.  This is especially helpful when requestors are particular about the colour scheme they want, but it also just generally saves time with blending and colouring. 


Every base I make starts with a single image that covers the whole canvas, even if it means duplicating the image and blending the parts together.  Textures are excellent for this stage because, if you find the right one, you can use its features (lines, colours, etc.) as a guide to structuring the rest of the graphic. This is image ends up being the furthest back, so you could also easily use landscape stock or architectural stock (of doorways, hallways, columns, etc.), anything with either lots of dark or light areas so that, when you add other stock, building the graphic outward, you can create an illusion of depth.


Another tip is to always be flexible. Sometimes you'll have to change the whole background just to fit a particular foreground image you want to use, though it's surprising how easily it is to switch out images and find the right ones, even once you've already added text and colouring. At other times you might just need to flip the canvas so that the text fits correctly or because a person's face looks better facing a different way. Keep moving things around - you never know when you'll land on the perfect place for everything.  :)

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#3 Lady Plantagenet

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 12:25 AM

My composition is a little erratic, but it tends to go this way:


  1. choose 2-3 faces (of the same person)
  2. choose 6-7 stock photos -- I like the idea of narrative, so when I choose stocks, I like to think of what story they will tell and which ones will go best with 1-2 of the faces I already picked out.
  3. I lay out 2-3 of the stock photos arranging them and blending them in a way that makes sense. I leave space for where the face will go, and I also keep in mind where I would put text. YOU MUST ALWAYS KEEP A BLANKISH PLACE FOR TEXT.
  4. I decide what face will go, and put it where it will look good--that can change throughout the composition process.
  5. I add 2-3 textures, both on top and behind the face. It just depends on what's needed. The textures must add to the composition and not become a distraction. I think of textures as minor actors that enrich but don't dominate a graphic.
  6. Then I just keep fiddling around until it looks right.

A few principles to keep in mind:

  • continuity--if you have a stairway, for example, it should be visible on both sides of the face/s on the graphic--otherwise the graphic looks cut in half
  • light vs dark--consider your light source and look at the lighting on the face/s you're using. You can't have facial shadows against background light. Be logical and a bit scientific
  • size of faces--the size should be "just right," which of course can mean anything. But, say you have a chapter image--the face shouldn't be so huge it dominates the whole image, unless there's some thematic reason for it. Otherwise, be reasonable about the sizes of faces so that you balance it with the stock images/textures in the base
  • where will the text go? Text should be a part of your composition and not an afterthought. So often I see graphics where the text is sort of slapped on at the end. Things like font should factor into your overall composition.

#4 abhorsen.


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Posted 31 July 2013 - 03:38 PM

One thing I tend to do a lot (as in, with pretty much everything I make these days) is "blend" some of the stock I use primarily using screen, multiply, or hard light (with some actual blending with a soft brush on a low opacity, and maybe a black/white brush behind the stock to bring details out, if I used multiply or screen). I find it helps with matching colors together, which is important, and it can give the graphic really interesting depth. It doesn't work with everything, of course, and you definitely need to experiment a bit, especially while you're still getting an eye for what works, but it's definitely something I find really useful and do in the majority of my graphics.


Of course, it's entirely possible that that doesn't really work at all, and everybody's been too polite to say, "Branwen, what on earth is wrong with you?" :P

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#5 Rica


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Posted 31 July 2013 - 06:52 PM

Choose people pictures carefully

This to me is one of the toughest parts of making a graphic :P It's very important because people are usually the main focal point. Avoid choosing pictures with the person look straight on. If you do, they probably need to be the main image because that straight on pose with eyes at the camera demands a lot of attention. But also, it's very symmetrical and I feel like interesting composition comes from asymmetrical images, but placed and sized so that they're balanced on the graphic. Try to choose interesting poses, and also only at most one image, where the person is looking directly at the camera.


People first, stock after

Again, as people tend to be the focal point of a graphic, I always ALWAYS select the pictures of the people first and place, resize. I'll be thinking a lot about composition and planning it out in my head when choosing the people images. Then I'll choose and place my stock around the person, placing and resizing and blending so that it's integrated with the people images, as in, so it doesn't look like a stocky-background with a person or people slapped on top. Duplicate stock on both sides, and make sure the background doesn't seem cut in half by people images.


Don't leave text til last

At the same time as I'm choosing people/stock and planning on where to put it etc., I'm also thinking about where to put text. Very important, because I feel that text is almost as important as the person that is the focal point (especially in story graphics where the story title is of course quite important). I think we usually tend to look at the main person, and then the text, and then the smaller people, and then everything else. So while you're composing your graphic, make sure to plan where you want your text and leave some space for it/make the background not as busy. Also think about font - it makes a huge difference. Not only must you think about what font suits the mood of your graphic but which one fits best in terms of shapes and lines. Sometimes you'll have to forego the font you wanted or alternatively change the text, because that particular combination of letters in that particular font don't look very good.


Hope this is useful to somebody ^_^

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