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Create Print-Ready Packaging For a Video Game

by
Gift

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If you have ever wanted to create packaging for video games, this tutorial will teach you all you need to know. We will walk you through the entire process of producing an inlay card and CD surface print design. As far as techniques go, you'll use InDesign, Illustrator as well as Photoshop to create error-free, printer-friendly artwork. You'll also discover how to transform a two-dimensional design into an impressive three-dimensional mock-up. Let's get started!


Tutorial Assets

You'll find outlined font versions of the InDesign artwork in the download folder. I've included some logo files, but not all because of copyright reasons. You will also want to download the following assets before you begin work on this tutorial.


1. Create the Inlay Artwork

Step 1

It's always good practice to communicate with your printer before producing artwork. Some printers may require different set-ups; they may also have templates that will save you time.

For the purpose of this tutorial, we'll assume technical information, such as resolution and dimensions etc. have already been discussed with the printer. I'll also be using metric dimensions throughout.

Launch InDesign and choose InDesign > Preferences > Units & Increments, then set the Ruler Units to Millimeters if you want to use metric dimensions. Now create a new document with the settings shown below.

Activate the chain icon next to the Margins and Bleed boxes to apply the same amount to all fields.

Step 2

Label the default layer Base artwork, select Normal from the Screen Mode drop-down menu (circled). Now go to View > Grids & Guides, then ensure Show Guides, Lock Column Guides, Snap to Guides and Smart Guides are all active.

Select the Rectangle Tool (M), then snap a box to the outer bleed guide. This should have a Fill of 50% Black and a Stroke of None. The grey is only temporary, so the white-out logos and text will be visible.

Use the Reference Point Locator to ensure the box is sized and placed accurately.

Step 3

We'll need some guides to help position our elements in Photoshop, so create a new layer above the Base Artwork and label it Guides. Now lock the Base Artwork layer.

Set your Fill to None and your Stroke to 100% Magenta with a 0.5pt dashed preset. Now grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and snap a box to the inner page guides (A). This represents a safe print zone, so it's vital no graphics sit outside, otherwise they could be cut off when the job is trimmed.

Use the Pen Tool (P) and the Reference Point Locator to position a back cover central guide with the same magenta dashed stroke at: X=63.75mm/Y=2.5mm (B). Now use Smart Guides to position three more for the spine width and centre (C, D and E). Finally, add a front cover centre guide at: X=206.088mm/Y=2.5mm (F).

I've switched off Guides (CMD/CTRL + semi-colon) and exaggerated the magenta guides for clarity in the screenshot.

2. Create the Game Tile

Step 1

I like to treat the title as a logo, so Illustrator is my tool of choice.

Create a new A4 Illustrator document. Grab the Type Tool (T), click on your Artboard and add the first word. I used this distinctive headline font in regular and alternative characters as shown.

Step 2

When using large font sizes, it's vital to tighten or expand the space between character pairs. This is called kerning and should not be confused with tracking (which adjusts the spacing between whole words).

With the Type Tool (T) still active, click between each character pair in turn, hold down ALT/OPTION and tap the left arrow key on your keyboard to decrease the space by 20em until it looks even to the eye. Now kern the remaining two character pairs. When you're happy, press CMD/CTRL + semi-colon to Show Guides and place two vertical guides either side of your text.

In Illustrator's Preferences you can set the default spacing to something lower to adjust the spacing in smaller increments if you wish. Alternatively, enter a smaller amount directly in the Character tab.

Step 3

Add the remaining words as separate text blocks, centre them to your guides and kern accordingly.

Now use the Rectangle Tool (M) to add a black bar to the left of the middle word. Highlight the Selection Tool (V), then SHIFT + ALT/OPT drag to the right to duplicate it.

Step 4

Duplicate your text, then resize and assemble it into one line to create the spine heading.

Step 5

Hit CMD/CTRL + A to Select All, then press SHIFT + CMD/CTRL + O to Create Outlines.

Now use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select both end points of the serif on the A and nudge them to the right to create a small gap. Repeat this on your spine text too.

Step 6

Enlarge the spine text from the centre, then choose File > Export and save it as a PNG with the following settings to a memorable location.

Step 7

Open your PNG file via Photoshop, then duplicate the default layer and disable the visibility of the original.

Hit D to set your Foreground color to black. Add a Layer mask, then use an assortment of grunge_brushes.abr (from the source folder) to add some distress.

The text still needs to be legible, so don't overdo it – if you do, just press X to switch your Foreground to white and paint back. When you're happy, choose Flatten Image from the top-right fly-out menu in the Layers tab, then Save.

My mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 8

Switch back to Illustrator and create a new A4 landscape document. Go to File > Place, navigate to your distressed text file and hit the Place button. Check the Default setting is active under the arrow in the Options bar, click Image Trace, then the Expand button.

The Live Trace command has also created white fills which we need to remove. To do this, select any white shape with the Direct Selection Tool (A), then go to Select > Same Fill Color and hit Delete.

Now Group the main heading, fill with white and Copy to the Clipboard.


3. Create the Inlay Sleeve Artwork

Step 1

Revisit your InDesign artwork, lock the Guides layer, then add a new middle layer called Graphics. We'll use this layer to place all our design elements such as logos and text. Paste your Illustrator heading and resize/position centrally on the cover near the bottom.

Go back to your Illustrator text, Group the spine heading, fill with white and Copy > Paste again into your InDesign artwork. Scale, then rotate clock-wise and position centrally down the spine.

Step 2

Go to your Swatches panel and use the top-right fly-out menu to select New Color Swatch, then uncheck the Name with Color Value option and label it Rich black. Ensure the Color Type is set to Process, the Color Mode is CMYK and enter the following four-color breakdown.

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M), then snap a bar filled with Rich black to the far-left margin and bleed guides.

The reason we've use a deep or rich black rather than InDesign's default black is because it avoids the possibility of the bar overprinting instead of knocking out any elements that run behind it. The other percentages in the color breakdown automatically force a knockout and it also creates a much denser black.

Rich black is also especially beneficial for large type. Mistakes often occur because InDesign's default black is normally printed last, so it overprints the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow inks.

Step 3

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) again to snap a thinner bar below the black one and fill with InDesign's default red (C=15, M=100, Y=100).

Step 4

Go to File > Place (CMD/CTRL + D), then navigate to the GS4_logo.ai (found the links folder) and click on your Artboard away from both boxes. To view placed graphics accurately, choose View > Display Performance and select High Quality Display.

Ensure the Selection Tool (V) is active, hold SHIFT + CMD/CTRL, then enlarge/position the logo as shown within the safe print zone and slightly away from the spine.

Step 5

Repeat the Place command to add the remaining graphics on the cover and spine as shown.

As I mentioned at the start of the tutorial, I was unable to include some logos due to copyright and redistribution laws. Also, the Age_18_logo.ai is not the official version (I redrew it for the purpose of this tutorial), so don't be tempted to use it elsewhere!

Step 6

Now we'll concentrate on the back cover. Grab the Type Tool (T), drag a box within the top and left safe zone guides, then add your text (I used a condensed version of Helvetica). Make selective words smaller, then nudge them up with a small increment of Baseline Shift.

Open the Glyphs tab (Type > Layer Glyphs) and double-click the icon window to add any special characters. I've also set the symbol to a lighter weight of the same font.

Step 7

Now place an additional text box and type some smaller information.

Step 8

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to snap a white filled box to the full width of the back cover, then extend it to the left and bottom bleeds.

Add another text box and choose Type > Fill with Placeholder Text to represent the legal disclaimer. Format this in a small serif font (I used Garamond). Now add 1mm Space After to force a gap after each paragraph, then choose the Justify with last line aligned left option.

To avoid registration problems and because this text is small, color it with InDesign's default Black and not the Rich black swatch you made earlier.

Step 9

Use the Place command to add any small logos across the bottom. To position them accurately, SHIFT-click to select them, then hit the Align bottom and Distribute horizontal centers buttons in the Control panel.

Place the Barcode.ai, then add smaller details such as age restrictions in a box with an 0.5pt Black Stroke.

Step 10

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to place a small box, then choose Object > Corner Options. Enter 4.233mm, then activate the chain icon to apply the same setting to all corners.

Open the Gradient tab (Color > Gradient), set the Type to Linear, then drag the default 100c swatch thumbnail over the right slider. Create a new color swatch (100c/90m/10y) and drag this over the left slider. Now select the Gradient Swatch Tool (G) and SHIFT-drag down within the box.

Next, add some small white dummy text over the box, then add the Gamestation_logo_stacked.ai.

Step 11

Unlock the Base artwork layer and change the Fill to None.

Next, we'll create our Photoshop template. Hit CMD/CTRL + E to Export. Name it Inlay_artwork_template.pdf in the following window and Save to a memorable location. Finally, choose the PDF/X-2001 preset and copy the remaining settings.


4. Create the CD Surface Print Artwork

Step 1

The next stage is the CD artwork. Create a new InDesign document with the following settings.

Step 2

Press CMD/CTRL + R to Show Rulers, then snap in two central guides.

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and snap a box to the outer bleed guide. This should have a Fill of 50% Black and a Stroke of None. Name the default layer Base artwork, then lock it.

Step 3

Add another layer called Guides, then set your Fill to None and your Stroke to 100% Magenta with a 0.5pt dashed preset.

Select the Ellipse Tool (L), hold SHIFT and drag out from the dead centre of your Artboard to create the small circle (A) which should have a diameter of 20mm to represent the non-printing hole. Use the same method to snap a second circular guide (B) to your inner margin to represent the safe print zone. Snap a third circular guide (C) to the edge of your document to represent the maximum print area. Finally, grab the Pen Tool (P) and snap two central guidelines with the same magenta dashed stroke (D and E).

Step 4

Add a new middle layer called Artwork, then lock the other two layers. Open your Inlay_artwork.indd and drag-drop each graphic element onto your new Artwork layer. Use your guides to resize and position these at the bottom, then add some small white-out disclaimer dummy text.

Step 5

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) again to snap a central circle to the inner guides with a Fill and Stroke of None. Now grab the Type on a Path Tool (SHIFT + T) and click on the circle. You can now manually enter some text or use dummy copy.

Select your text and format it in a small white serif font (I used Garamond again), then click the Align Centre option in the PARAGRAPH tab.

Step 6

This next part takes a little practice, so take your time. First, use the Direct Selection Tool (G) and begin pulling the corner points around the circle to reveal any missing text as indicated in the top screenshot. Now pull them all the way around, then snap the middle cursor (T) icon to the central guide.

Step 7

Now apply a small amount of negative Baseline Shift to nudge the text down into the safe print zone.

Step 8

Unlock the Base artwork layer and change grey box's Fill to None.

To create our Photoshop template, press CMD/CTRL + E to Export. Label it CD_artwork_template.pdf in the following window and Save to the same location as your Inlay_artwork_template.pdf. Finally, choose the same PDF/X-2001 preset as before.


5. Create the Photoshop Illustration

Step 1

Open your Inlay_artwork_template.pdf via Photoshop with the following settings and rename the default layer Inlay guide.

We'll be working in RGB Mode, so we can access all of Photoshop's filters etc. To avoid any nasty surprises when the job is printed, it's important to remember certain RGB colors such as vivid oranges, greens and blues are beyond the printing capabilities (or color gamut) of CMYK printing. For this reason it's good practice to activate Proof Colors (CMD/CTRL + Y).

For added peace of mind you can also highlight potential problems by accessing Gamut Warning (SHIFT + CMD/CTRL + Y). These can also be found under the View menu.

Step 2

Now open your CD_artwork_template.pdf in Photoshop, then drag its layer thumbnail across to create a new layer. Position centrally over the front cover and name it CD guide.

SHIFT-click to highlight both layer thumbnails, choose New Group from Layers from the top-right fly-out menu, then label it NON-PRINTING GUIDES in the following window.

Step 3

Place a new layer below the folder and label it Black. Hit D to set your Foreground color to black, then press ALT/OPTION + Delete to fill the layer with black.

Now place the clouds.jpg (from the source folder) above the previous layer and name it Sky. Press CMD/CTRL + T to access Transform and resize as shown. Place these layers into another folder called BACKGROUND.

Step 4

Add a mask to the Sky layer. Set the Gradient Tool (G) to Foreground to Transparent and Linear in the Options bar, then SHIFT-drag a gradient indicated by the length and direction of the arrow to hide the bottom quarter.

Now use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (G) to select the entire back cover and fill with black on the mask too.

My Sky mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 5

Ensure the Sky is the target layer, then choose Levels from the drop-down Create new fill or adjustment layer icon situated at the foot of the Layers tab. In the next window deactivate the clipping icon so the adjustment affects all layers and copy these settings.

Target the adjustment mask, then hide the bottom half with a Linear Gradient (G).

My Levels mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 6

To redden the sky, add an unclipped Color Balance adjustment above the last one and apply the following settings.

Step 7

To darken the bottom of the sky, add a new layer above the last adjustment and name it Base grad. Now SHIFT-drag a Foreground to Transparent Linear Gradient (G) from the base as indicated.

To break up any banding in the gradient, choose Filter > Noise > Add Noise, then from the same filter menu apply a small amount of Median to soften slightly. Finally, change the layer Blend Mode to Multiply.


6. Extract the Figures

Step 1

Photoshop has many tools to help us isolate images from their backgrounds; most rely on a good contrast from the subject and background color. We'll use a channel or density mask to extract all our figures.

Open the first figure and choose Image > Calculations. In this instance, both Blue channels set to Overlay produce the best contrast as a starting point for our mask. You'll also need to select New Channel from the Result pull-down menu.

Step 2

Switch to the Channels tab and you'll see the new channel (Alpha 1) sitting at the bottom and the visibility of the other channels disabled.

The next stage is to produce a clean silhouette. Make sure your new channel is active, set the Dodge Tool (O) to: Range: Highlights/Exposure: 50% and use a medium, soft-edged brush to bleach the outer edge pixels as circled in red.

Step 3

Set the Burn Tool (O) to: Range: Midtones/Exposure: 50% and darken the areas circled in red.

Step 4

Making a clean mask for fine detail such as hair can be tricky unless there's good contrast, so here's a workaround. Target the top RGB composite channel to view the image in color (this also switches off the visibility of the channel mask).

Go to Select > Color Range, set the Fussiness to 29 and the Range to 54%. Click the default eyedropper in the main window and aim for a clean white hairline as circled. Now use the + and - eyedroppers to refine it.

Step 5

With the Color Range selection still live, switch back to your density mask channel.

Grab the Brush Tool (B) and use a medium soft-edged tip to paint with black within the selection. Now hit SHIFT + CMD/CTRL + I to Inverse your selection, press X to switch your Foreground color to white and paint around the outside of the hair.

You'll find this stage a lot easier if you hide your selection when painting (CMD/CTRL + H) > just remember to Deselect when you're done.

Hit X again to switch your Foreground to black, then use a small Brush (B) at around 50% Hardness to fill any grey edges of the figure. To achieve an accurate mask, you'll need to view it in relation to the image. To do this, switch on the visibility of the top RGB composite channel (just ensure your mask is the active channel before painting).

If you find the default rubylith-red mask too strong, just double-click the channel thumbnail and click the Color chip to change it. You can also adjust the mask's Opacity in this window too.

Step 6

By default, white acts as selective channel areas, so hit CMD/CTRL + I to Invert the channel to negative.

Masking a reverse channel, as strange as it sounds will actually reveal imperfections you may have missed. If you notice any, simply repair them with the Brush Tool (B).

Step 7

CMD/CTRL-click your channel mask thumbnail to generate a selection, then target the top RGB channel.

Step 8

Switch to the Layers tab, then click the Refine Edge button in the Options bar.

In the following window select On Layers (B) from the drop-down menu, then set the Smart Radius to 2.5px, Decontaminate Colors to 100% and choose Output to New Layer with Layer Mask.

Step 9

You'll now see a duplicate masked layer and the visibility of the original layer disabled. At this point you can modify the mask if required with some small Brushes (B).

When you're done, drag the mask thumbnail into the trash icon at the foot of the tab, then hit Apply in the following window. Finally, press SHIFT + CMD/CTRL + S to Save As to a memorable location.

Step 10

Open the second figure. Choose Image > Calculations again. In this instance, both Blue channels set to Color Dodge work best.

Step 11

Use the same workflow as you did for the first figure to create a clean mask. We don't need the model's shoes or excess background, so remove with the Crop Tool (C).

Step 12

Create a channel-based selection and run the following Refine Edge command. Apply the mask as before, then Save As.

Step 13

Apply the following Calculations command to the third figure.

Step 14

Run the following Refine Edge command to extract the figure, Apply the mask and Save As.

Step 15

Apply this Calculations command to the fourth figure.

Step 16

After using the Dodge and Burn (0) technique, this figure, because of the darker background proved a little difficult. For an accurate result, set the Pen Tool (P) to Path in the Options bar and draw a closed path around the problem areas (shown in yellow).

Click the Load path as a selection button in the Paths tab (or CMD/CTRL-click the Path thumbnail), then paint with black inside the selection, Inverse and paint with white outside.

Step 17

Now use the following Refine Edge command to isolate the figure. Apply the mask and Save As.

Step 18

Another way to create a density mask is to modify an existing channel. Open the sixth figure, then switch to your Channels tab and cycle through each one in turn to determine which holds the most contrast – in this case it's the Blue channel.

Drag its thumbnail over the Create new channel icon at the foot of the tab to duplicate it. Now hit CMD/CTRL + L to access Levels and set the Input sliders as below.

Step 19

Use the same workflow to produce a clean inverted mask.

Step 20

Generate a channel-based selection, use the following Refine Edge command to isolate the figure, then Apply the mask and Save As.

Step 21

Use this Calculations command on the last figure.

Step 22

Finally, use the following Refine Edge command to extract the figure, Apply the mask and Save As.


7. Add the Figures

Step 1

Switch to your Photoshop inlay artwork and add place a new folder called FIGURES above the BACKGROUND folder. Add the first extracted figure into the new folder and label it Figure 1.

Depending on the accuracy of your initial extraction, you may notice a white edge halo. To fix this, choose Layer > Matting > Defringe and enter 1-2px in the next window.

Now choose Convert to Smart Object from the top-right fly-out menu, then go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and copy the following settings.

The reason for converting the layer to a Smart Object is you can Transform the layer multiple times without any loss of pixel quality. A Smart Object also lets you apply Smart Filters which are non-destructive and remain live. To modify a Smart Filter, simply double-click its thumbnail in the Layers tab.

Step 2

To boost the contrast a little, add a clipped (to only effects the target layer) Levels adjustment to the Figure 1 layer.

Step 3

Clip another adjustment to the same layer, this time choose Color Balance and modify the Midtones and Shadows.

Step 4

Place your second figure within the same folder below the first figure and label it Figure 2.

Defringe if necessary, convert to a Smart Object, then resize/position as shown. Next, hit ALT/OPTION> + CMD/CTRL + F to reopen the Smart Sharpen filter and copy these settings.

Step 5

Clip a Levels adjustment to the Figure 2 layer.

Step 6

Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer.

Step 7

In this step we'll selectively modify colors. Clip another Color Balance adjustment, again to the Figure 2 layer and apply the following settings.

Target the adjustment mask, then hit CMD/CTRL + I to Invert it to black. Now use a medium soft-edged white Brush (B) to paint over the girl's head and gun barrel.

My Color Balance mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 8

Place your third extracted model below Figure 2 and name it Figure 3. Defringe if required, convert to a Smart Object, resize/position as shown, then reopen the Smart Sharpen filter and copy these settings.

Step 9

Clip a Levels adjustment to the Figure 3 layer.

Step 10

Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer.

Step 11

Place your fourth extracted model below Figure 3 and name it Figure 4. Defringe if required, convert to a Smart Object, resize/position as shown, then reopen the Smart Sharpen filter and use these settings.

Step 12

Clip a Levels adjustment to the Figure 4 layer.

Step 13

Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer.

Step 14

Place your fifth extracted model below Figure 3 and name it Figure 5. Defringe if required, convert to a Smart Object, resize/position as shown, then reopen the Smart Sharpen filter and apply the following settings.

Step 15

Clip a Levels adjustment to the Figure 5 layer.

Step 16

Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer.

Step 17

Toggle the visibility of your Inlay guide and CD guide layers, then adjust the size and position of all your figure layers accordingly.

Step 18

Add a mask to the FIGURES folder, then SHIFT-drag a Foreground (black) to Transparent Linear Gradient (G) from the bottom up as indicated by the arrow.

My FIGURES mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

8. Refine the Composition

Step 1

At this point I decided to extend the sky to fill the top space. To do this, target the Sky layer, then use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the top area. Now access Transform and stretch the selection.

Step 2

Add the grunge.jpg (from the source folder) as a new layer below the Sky and label it Distress 1. Now resize it to fill the front cover.

Step 3

Add a mask to the Distress 1 layer, then Invert it to black. Next, use an assortment of grunge brushes to paint back the bottom area.

My Distress 1 mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 4

Use the same technique on the Sky mask to reveal more of the distressed background.

My Sky mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 5

Modify the FIGURES folder mask the same way.

My FIGURES mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 6

Even though the FIGURES folder mask applies to its content, you can still add independent grunge masks to some of the figure layers.


9. Additional Background Detail

Step 1

We'll use the same technique as the figures to extract these palm trees from their background.

Choose Image > Calculations and set both Blue channels to Linear Burn.

Step 2

Rather than using the dodge and burn technique, press CMD/CTRL + L to access the Levels dialogue box. Now click the Whitepoint dropper over any greys a few times to force them white.

Step 3

Repeat the same workflow as previous to clean-up and create an inversed channel mask.

Step 4

Copy > Paste a channel-based selection into your working file to create a new layer at the top of the stack within the BACKGROUND folder and and name it Trees 1.

Choose Flip Horizontal from the Transform menu, then change the Blend Mode to Multiply.

Now mask the base of this layer with some soft-edged and grunge Brushes (B).

My Trees 1 mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 5

Clip a Levels adjustment to the Trees 1 layer and use the following settings to increase the contrast.

Step 6

Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer to boost the reds.

Step 7

Add the fireball.tif (from the source folder) as a top layer within the BACKGROUND folder and change the Blend Mode to Screen.

Duplicate this layer a few times, Transform and position around the figures. Name these layers Fire 1 etc.

Step 8

No explosions are complete without some flying debris, so add shatter_1.tif (from the source folder) at the top within the same folder.

Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light, Transform/position over the first fireball, then name it Explosion 1.

Duplicate this layer, reposition slightly, then choose Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Rename the duplicate Explosion 1 motion blur.

Duplicate both explosion layers a few times and Transform/reposition. Repeat this step using shatter_2.tif.

Step 9

We'll now add a 3D helicopter. First, download the model, then chose 3D > New 3D Layer from File and navigate to the APACHE-24-12-03_recover.obj.

Click Continue in the following window, then accept the 3D workspace prompt. After a short wait the model will import. Position this 3D layer above your last Fire layer within the BACKGROUND folder.

Step 10

If you ever used CS5's 3D tools, you'll know how far it was from being user-friendly. The 3D experience in CS6 has been totally overhauled and is much more intuitive, as everything is built into your workspace. Grab the Move Tool (V) and with the objMesh active, drag to reposition/rotate the object as shown.

Click the Infinite Light color chip in the Properties tab, change it to # eca047 and lower the Intensity to 90%. You can now drag on the light handle to position the light source from above.

Step 11

When you're happy with the model's position, choose 3D > Render and sit back while until the render process is complete.

Now choose Convert to Smart Object from the top-right fly-out menu in the Layers tab, then Layer > Rasterize Smart Object. Next, use the Lasso Tool (L) to roughly select the propellor blades and apply a small amount of Motion Blur.

Step 12

Repeat steps 9-11 to import a second helicopter model. Name these layers Apache 1 and Apache 2, then add some subtle white glows over the lights with a small soft-edged Brush (B).


10. Create the Back Cover

Step 1

Add a new folder above the FIGURES folder and name it BACK COVER. Place the grunge.jpg file again in the new folder and label it Distress 2 and resize it to fill the back cover.

Reduce the Opacity to 87%, then mask with some grunge Brushes (B).

My Distress 2 mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 2

Clip a Levels adjustment to the Distress 2 layer. Target the adjustment mask, then hide the bottom three quarters with a Linear Gradient (G).

My Levels mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 3

Clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer and copy the following settings.

Step 4

Disable the visibility of the NON-PRINTING GUIDES, BACK COVER and FIGURES folders, then switch off all the Fire layers within the BACKGROUND folder.

Place an empty layer above all the folders, then press SHIFT + CMD/CTRL + ALT/OPTION + E to convert the layer to a merged composite.

Step 5

Enable the visibility of all layers and folders including the NON-PRINTING GUIDES folder.

Name the merged layer Background and move it to the top within the NON-BACK COVER folder. Flip it horizontally and resize/position over the back cover.

Add a mask, Invert it, then use a variety of white grunge Brushes (B) to paint back the area as shown. Finally, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (G) to fill any overlap on the spine and front cover with black.

My Background mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 6

Add another explosion layer in Screen mode above the Background and label it accordingly.

Step 7

Place your last extracted character as a top layer within the same folder and name it Figure 6. Defringe if necessary, then convert to a Smart Object.

Resize and position to fill the space on the back cover, then apply a Smart Sharpen filter.

Step 8

Now mask the base of this layer with some grunge brushes.

My Figure 6 mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 9

Clip a Levels adjustment to the Figure 6 layer to boost the contrast.

Step 10

Finally, clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer and increase the Red sliders.

Step 11

To complete the inlay artwork, switch off the visibility of the NON-PRINTING GUIDES folder and Save.


11. Complete the Inlay Sleeve Artwork

Step 1

Switch to your InDesign inlay artwork. Unlock the Base artwork layer, select the empty box and Place your layered file.

Step 2

Ensure the Base artwork and Guides layers are locked, then unlock the Graphics layer. Now add some dummy text and format it as below.

Step 3

We'll now force the text to run around the figure. Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw a closed path with the Fill and Stroke set to None just outside the figure.

With the path selected, hit ALT/OPTION + CMD/CTRL + W to open the Text Wrap window. Now highlight the Wrap around object shape option and the Left Side under Warp Options.

Step 4

InDesign has a really neat feature which enables you to check if artwork will print correctly. In the past this was only available on highly expensive pre-press software used by printers.

To access this go Window > Output > Separations Preview (Shift + F6), select Separations and toggle the visibility of the four inks. When you're done switch on the top CMYK eye icon.

You'll also notice that InDesign has automatically converted the RGB Inlay_artwork.psd into CMYK which is the required format for commercial printing.

Step 5

Substitute any dummy text for actual copy and carry out any amends. After client sign off, switch off the visibility of the Guides layer and Export a print-ready PDF for your printer with these settings.

Your printer may send you their preferred PDF Preset, so it's good practice to discuss this first. To load a different preset choose File > Adobe PDF Presets > Define.

12. Create the CD Photoshop Artwork

Step 1

Now we can concentrate on the CD artwork. Revisit your Photoshop inlay card and switch on the visibility of the CD guide layer.

Set the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to Fixed Size and 128mm in the Options bar, then click on your canvas. Nudge the selection into place, then snap four guides to each edge.

Step 2

Grab the Crop Tool (C), then uncheck Delete Cropped Pixels in the Options bar. Now SHIFT-drag and snap it to your guides. Hit the tick in the Options bar to accept the crop, then Save As CD_artwork.psd.

Step 3

Select the Move Tool (V), target the FIGURES folder thumbnail and press SHIFT + ALT/OPTION to reduce from the centre slightly.

Step 4

Now reposition/scale other elements, such as the helicopters and fire to fit the layout.


13. Complete the CD Artwork

Step 1

Revisit your CD_artwork.indd InDesign file. Unlock the Base artwork layer and Place the CD_artwork.psd in the existing box.

Step 2

Substitute any dummy text for actual copy and carry out any client amends. After client sign off, lock all layers and disable the visibility of the Guides layer. Now Export with the same settings as before, but uncheck Crop Marks and Bleed Marks.

Step 3

Finally, open your PDF's with either Acrobat, or better still Acrobat Pro (which has additional preflight tools) and give them a final check over before handing them over to your printer.


14. Create a 3D Visual

Step 1

Open your Inlay_artwork.pdf file with these dimensions, then use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (G) to select the cover and Copy to the Clipboard.

Step 2

Open the mock_up.psd (from the source folder). This file has everything you need to create the mock-up, apart from the graphics of course!

Add an new layer called Case front graphic below the Highlight 1 layer. Now hit ALT/OPTION + CMD/CTRL + V to access the Vanishing Point filter.

In the following window, you'll see the Create Plane Tool (C) is active by default. Zoom in and click to create your first perspective plane, then adjust the corner points as necessary.

It's important to remember a blue 3D plane is accurate; if it turns red or yellow, this indicates it's invalid to the laws of perspective.

Step 3

Paste your cover selection, drag it over the plane and it will snap into perspective. From here, press CMD/CTRL + T and Transform as you normally would.

Step 4

Revisit your Inlay_artwork.pdf, then select and Copy the spine.

Add another layer below the Case front graphic and label it Spine graphic. Open the Vanishing Point filter again and CMD/CTRL-drag the centre handle of your 3D plane to tear off a perpendicular one. Now Paste your spine selection over this plane and resize to fit.

Step 5

Go back to your Inlay_artwork.pdf, then select and Copy the back cover.

Add further layer called Case back graphic below the Front case shadow layer. Access the Vanishing Point filter again, select the Create Plane Tool (C) and plot a new grid for the back cover graphic. Now Paste and fit your selection over this plane.

Step 6

Open your CD_artwork.pdf file with these dimensions. Now open the CD_template.psd (from the source folder) and SHIFT-drag its layer thumbnail across to create a new top layer.

Step 7

Switch to the Channels tab and create a selection from Alpha 1, target the top RGB channel and return to the Layers tab. Ensure your new layer is the active, then hit Delete.

Finally, press SHIFT + CMD/CTRL + E to Merge Visible and Copy to the Clipboard.

Step 8

Go back to your mock_up.psd file and add another layer above the Case front graphic and name it Disk. Access the Vanishing Point Filter again and enlarge the back cover grid keeping its perspective true. Finally, Paste your selection over the new plane and scale/position accordingly.


Conclusion and Scope

Now you've completed this tutorial, let's quickly recap what we've learned.

  • Using InDesign, Illustrator along with Photoshop to create print-ready artwork
  • How Photoshop's Channels can create accurate density masks
  • Using Photoshop's non-destructive features, such as Adjustment Layers and Smart Objects
  • A basic introduction to Photoshop's 3D features
  • Creating a packaging mock-up for client presentation

I hope you found this tutorial understandable, interesting, and educational. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome.


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