How to Create a Striking Typographic Illustration


There's not much I can say, other than the fact that I absolutely love type treatments. The strangest part though is that the words I choose in my experiments are just an excuse for all the tools and techniques I use. I can quickly decide between 2D and 3D letters, sleek or harsh textures, dark or light environments, ornate or simple styles, but can't for the life of me decide on what to write! So in this one I wrote exactly what was on my mind at the time: I can't get enough of this.

Step 1

For the first part, we'll create the type in Maxon Cinema 4D. Start it up, find the Bezier Tool. If you're familiar with it, you'll know it's similar to the Pen Tool in Photoshop, but not quite identical. Click and drag every endpoint, including the first one. Start to draw the first letter.

Step 2

To edit the endpoints click on the Move Tool (E) and the Use Point Tool on the left menu bar. Then click on one of the endpoints to move them around, or adjust the handles.

Step 3

After you draw out all the letters use the Move Tool (E) in combination with the Use Model Tool to change the positioning of each individual letter.

Step 4

Adjust the position of the endpoints so that they curve in 3D, not just 2D. Move some further or closer and adjust the handles to get a smooth transition through space.

Step 5

This is what your letters should look like now.

Step 6

Click and drag on Add HyperNURBS Object and select Sweep Nurbs. You should see it in the Objects Menu.

Step 7

Select one of the letter paths and drag it underneath the Sweep NURBS.

Step 8

Now add a Rectangle.

Step 9

Drag that one underneath the Sweep NURBS as well. Click on the Object tab when having the rectangle selected and edit the fields as shown below.

Step 10

Now click on the Details drop down menu. Edit the Scale and Rotation in a similar way. Depending on how you drew out your letters, you'll have to adjust these accordingly.

If the corners are too sharp, you need to stretch out the handles of the endpoints, otherwise you'll get bugs like the one below. The Scale and Rotation of an object can also lead to such bugs. It may look like these letters were easy to create, and they were, but smoothing them out took a lot longer. You'll have to fine tune all the endpoints, scale and rotation until you get something you're happy with.

Step 11

Repeat the process until the entire word is finished. This is a rendered example.

Step 12

Now we need a simple, white background. Create a Plane for now.

Step 13

Rotate it so that it's upright.

Step 14

Use the Scale Tool (T) to make it very large and move it backward. Moving it back a lot will cause the final render to have a grayish background, instead of a simple white.

Step 15

The positioning of the letters will only look good from a certain angle, so it's important to have a camera in the scene. Go to Objects > Scene > Camera to add one once you're happy with at a certain angle.

Remember that moving the point of view from now on will move the camera itself too. To be able to view the objects from different angles without affecting the camera, click on the white square icon on the right side of the layer from the Objects Menu (see the first layer in the screenshot of the next step).

Step 16

You can see here that the camera is now deactivated and has a black icon. Here is where I suggest you place it.
Why a low angle? I really like how viewing things from the bottom seems to give the elements a sense of domination. They're bolder and more difficult to ignore. At least that's how I see them from down here :)

Step 17

It's time to add a material to the text. In the Material Menu, go to File > Shader > Nukei. Make just one adjustment to it. Change the Specular 1 A color to cyan (R:0, G:217, B:255) and the Specular 3 A to a brighter version (R:125, G:255, B:230). You can find these by double-clicking on the material from the Material Menu.

Step 18

Now go into Photoshop and type the first word using the MOD font. Use the text settings shown below.

Step 19

Right-click on the Layer Icon from the Layer Menu and click on Convert to Shape.

Step 20

Then go to File > Export > Paths to Illustrator...

Step 21

Go back to the C4D file and go to File > Merge. Locate the Illustrator file and place it in the file.

Step 22

Add an Extrude NURBS and drag all the text paths under it. Change the Object and Caps settings as shown below. To see both tabs simultaneously, Shift + Click on both.

Step 23

Rotate and move it into position. The intersection with the curved text is intentional. You can keep them from doing that if you like, but the glass reflection will make it interesting.

Step 24

Now we're going to create the material used for the glass text. From the material menu, go to File > New Material. Double-Click on it to bring up the Material Editor and use this sequence of images to edit the settings.

Step 25

Drag the material onto the text and repeat the process to create the other words as well.

Step 26

Now add an Area Light.

Step 28

Position and rotate it into place.

Step 29

All we need to do now is render the type. Go to Render > Render Settings (Command + B). Use the settings from the following images.

Don't forget to specify the Path (where you want it saved).

Step 30

Once all the settings are in place, render it (Shift + R). Before you head off to Photoshop though, you need to create another version that you can use to make a selection of the text.

Step 31

Duplicate the Scene and delete all the materials from the Material Menu, the Light and the background object (the Plane). Don't change the angle or zoom of the camera and go to Render > Render Settings again. Click on the Save tab, change the Path so that the name is different and check the Alpha Channel field.

Step 32

Open the Photoshop file that contains the simplified version of the scene. Go to Window > Channels and Command + Click on the Alpha 1 layer.

Step 33

Go to Select > Save Selection and save it as "type."

Step 34

Now open the first Photoshop file that contains the actual scene. Name the Background Layer and Duplicate it (Command + J). Hide the first one and make sure the that the active layer is the visible one. Go to Select > Load Selection. From the Document drop down menu, select the simplified scene. From the Channel drop down menu, find the "type" channel. Invert the selection (Command + Shift + I) and hide it (Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection).

Step 35

Make the first layer visible again. Make a swatch of the lightest and darkest point of the scene as the foreground and background color. Use the Gradient Tool set on Radial to recreate the background over the same layer.

Step 36

Open the "clouds.psd" file from the "source" folder and insert them into the scene.

Step 37

The document size is identical so positioning them is a matter of snapping it to the top-left corner. Just change the layer order so some of the clouds are above the text and most behind.

Step 38

Desaturate them (Command + Shift + U) and alter the contrast by using the Curves Tool (Command + M).

Step 39

Add a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer over one of the "cloud" layers (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map). Use these three colors from left to right: #2f324b, #cccccc, and #ffffff.

Step 40

Create a new blank layer above the "type" layer. Now use the Pen Tool (P) and trace a similar curved line in Path Mode. Select the Brush Tool (B) and change the brush size to somewhere around 100 px and Hardness to 0%. Use white as the foreground color, get the Pen Tool again (P) and right-click on the canvas. Select Stroke Path, check the Simulate Pressure box and press OK. You should have something similar after you erase portions that you want underneath certain loops.

Step 41

Use the same technique again but use a dark purple instead (#5b6171). Play around with the Opacity of each layer and keep them around 70%.

Step 42

Add another using cyan (#71dce5).

Step 43

Add a final white one to finish the first... whatever it is.

Step 44

Repeat the process to create another on the right side.

Step 45

Hide the beginning of the stream with a small cloud. Create a New Blank Layer over it. Make it a clipping mask and paint a purple and cyan glow near the stream.

Step 46

Next, download this Aurora Borealis brush set. Use it to paint a few glows in the background. See the placement in these images below.

Step 47

Just like in Step 45, color all the clouds in the scene.

Step 48

Don't forget the small ones that cover the beginning of each stream.

Step 49

Add a few stronger and smaller glows on the bottom cloud. We're going to add some lightning there in the next few steps.

Step 50

For this part you'll need Arsenal's Lightning Vector Pack. Use one of these and place it over one of the streams. Double-click on the layer to add a few subtle glows. Use the second screenshot below for that.

Step 51

Now create a second blank layer and make it a clipping mask. Paint a soft cyan glow inside this one.

Step 52

Add another lightning bolt that begins inside the first. Use magenta for this one's inner color.

Step 53

Add another one on the left side.

Step 54

Now add the one we mention earlier on the bottom.

Step 55

Right now we'll make a few adjustments to the type. I feel that the contrast is too high, as opposed to the soft feel of the scene, so first of all, add a Selective Color Adjustment Layer and make it a clipping mask. From the drop down menu, find the Cyans tab and change it accordingly.

Step 56

Now from the same drop down menu, find Blacks. Change it as shown below.

Step 57

It's a bit too saturated at this point so add a Hue & Saturation as well. Change to Blues and drag the Saturation slider to -56.

Step 58

The scene should now look like this. It may lack some contrast right now, but we'll get that fixed with a little temperature change in the next few steps.

Step 59

Click on the top layer of the project and add a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. Click on the Gradient and from the Gradient Editor Menu click on the first one of the bottom row. Press OK on both menus and drag the Opacity slider of the layer to 15% and change it's Blending Mode to Color Burn.

Step 60

Add another Adjustment layer: Levels and drag the highlights pointer to 243.

Step 61

Now it's time to add one final detail. I've seen a lot of line brushes that consist in repetitive, parallel lines. I like those a lot, but wanted to create a slightly different version by using gradients and different line thicknesses. Illustrator's Blend Option makes this all possible.

To know where we're going to place these lines though, we'll copy a flattened image of the scene. To do this, press Command + Shift + C. Start up Illustrator and paste the image (Command +V). Create a new layer and use the Pen Tool to draw a first line. Edit the stroke width to 0.5 weight and color to black.

Step 62

Copy it (Command + C) and paste it in place (Command + F). Transform it by dragging the top middle endpoint upward. Change its color to white.

Step 63

Select both of them by Shift-clicking on both lines. Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options. Change the settings as shown.

Step 64

Now blend it (Object > Blend > Make).

Step 65

Create one in a similar way but change the steps to only 15.

Step 66

Repeat the process to create all sorts of details. They seem to overcrowd now, but we'll fix that in Photoshop.

Step 67

Copy the first we created and paste it in Photoshop as a Smart Object. Place it in the bottom-left corner.

Step 68

Add a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and make it a Clipping Mask for the line layer. Change the colors to pink (#e9bad6) and cyan (#d9f4f7).

Step 69

Paste a second line detail as if coming from within the clouds.

Step 70

Repeat the process and add them all over the scene with different colors.

Step 71

Play with your colors. Use different shades of pink, magenta, blue, cyan, purple etc. Just keep a soft overall feel.

Step 72

I felt that the glass text wasn't readable enough, so I added a white reflection on the face of each letter. Use the Pen Tool (P) to trace the face of each word and chose white as the foreground color.

Step 73

Turn down the Opacity and erase (E) portions that are too bright.

Step 74

Do the same for the bottom text as well.

Final Image

And we're finished! It's been a journey through quite a few apps, but I hope it's been a worthwhile read. Thanks for stopping by!

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