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An A to Z Smorgasbord of Overused Graphic Concepts and Resources

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With computer graphic being vastly popular with so many people, no doubt that techniques are being copied and re-used. Following are numerous overused computer graphic techniques, concepts, and resources of the last few years.

You'll have to decide which are so overused they've become dull, those which still have life in them, and those that you can breath creativity into. This article is complete with a smorgasbord of resources and tutorials to show you how to pull these ideas off well and increase your stack of resources as well. Let's have some fun!

A - Abstract Renders

Often artists make excellent 3D renders and use Photoshop to add a quick background and lens blur. It sounds easy to blend a 3D renders with a photo, but many artists don't put that extra effort into it. 3D Shards, people, animals and correct lighting help make the piece more photo-realistic. Dynamic blur is a good technique to show a sense of speed or distance and is not used enough.


Artist: MrRoBiN

B - Blender

"Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite" it is the most advanced 3D program which is currently free. Cinema 4D and 3D Max cost huge amounts of money, so this is perfect for those starting in 3D design.

It is becoming increasing more popular with the credit crunch in most countries. "It can be used for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulations, non-linear editing, com positing, and creating interactive 3D applications."


Artist IceVampyr

C - Comic Strips

Comic strips can be drawn, made in 3D, painted and photo manipulated, so know wonder they are very popular on the internet. Some artists go for simple drawings with short funny punch lines, some go for books and make very high quality pieces.

It's often the ideas that are overused, rather than the graphics! There are some great comics out there, such as the "Cyanide and Happiness" comics, which use simple art and short snazzy punch lines, but are great to keep reading.


Artist: Kris-wilson, for Cyanide and Happiness

D - Digital Geometry

Being able to create amazing 3D text quickly in Cinema 4D or any other 3D program has great advantages. They look much better than a simple bevel and emboss effect in Photoshop and often are the main focal in these works.

They are often completely overused by novice graphic designers, although practice does makes perfect. It is very hard to get an outstanding look from 3D text, but when it is done well, it sure pays off.


Artist: Nick Ainley of shinybinary.com

E - Expert Photography

When you can take a photograph of an object, which looks Photoshoped, you are clearly an expert or a very lucky photographer. Photography is an important step in creating most pieces of art, or at least finding photos to use for your digital manipulations. Taking your own picture may take longer, but they should be easier to edit and you can also take photos in front of a green screen allowing for easier extraction.


F - Fonts

Your computer often has a set of default fonts that many use, rather than downloading more each time they make something new. Times New Roman and Trajan Pro are often used. Check out great sites such as dafont for some amazing free fonts to add to your collection. Or if you need better tracking, alternate glyphs, or other pro font features, then you may want to purchase some fonts.


Check out justcreativedesign for their list of fonts you should know.

G - Gradients

Photoshop comes with a set of default gradients but it's good to learn how to make your own. There are countless pieces which are colored by these default color, so consider opening up your gradient palette. Black and white, orange and purple and rainbow colors are some of the most common to break away from.


H - Honest Products

This is the photo manipulation of turning everyday products into the true reflection of what you are actually getting. "Sometimes, though, a company tries to create a brand that doesn't really reflect what the product is really like." This is where Photoshop comes in and you can change the product to your true reflection of it. This is a concept you can have some fun with.

I - Impossible Objects

The Pen rose triangle, also known as the Pen rose tribar, is an impossible object. It appears to be a solid object, made of three straight beams of square cross-section, which meet pair wise, at right angles where the vertices of the triangle form. Have fun making your own impossible objects.


J - Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is the use of differing colors coming together to create different moods in a piece. An example of this would be blues and reds coming together, blue portraying ideas of life, peace and happiness which would juxtapose the red colors symbolizing death, blood and conflict, etc. These pieces can be found in space manipulations, as it is easy to split the colors into two.

Other examples:

Artist: Matkracken

K - Kuler

Adobe Kuler is a well known program, it makes it possible to create, share and explore new color schemes. Kuler is not an overused graphics technique, it is more of a overused graphics tool. It is great for beginners to explore the world of color, as well as experts to try new ideas and keep their work fresh and original.


L - Light Bulbs

What can we manipulate inside a light bulb today? How about a fish tank? There are a large amount of people seeing what they can place inside light bulbs. Fish, forests, spiders, people and cats have all been done. What is going to be next? This is fun to do, as light bulbs represent ideas, so placing things inside them work well for fusing conceptual elements.

Artist: mceric

M - Movement

On a digital camera you can turn the exposure time up, which allows for you to capture light streaks and movement. A good SLR camera will often cost you a good deal of money, so it's more affordable and easier to stay inside Photoshop to add these effects.


Painting with light by stoiclee

N - Nebulas

Where you find a planet you almost always find a nebula. They are often placed in via brushes, but more talented artists can paint their own. The easiest and most realistic way to add a nebula is to get free images. The Hubble telescope web site takes many thousands of pictures of galaxies and is the highest quality source you will find, though be careful and make sure you read the terms of use first!


Artist: thalesduarte

O - Omega Code

The band Omega Code will release a limited number of 2300 posters, which are going to be printed and distributed around the globe along side their music.

23 artists were invited to illustrate, among them you can find names like Joshua Davis, Si Scott, Mike Cina, Michael Paul Young, Mate Steinforth, Matthew Curry, Nelson Balaban, Tom Muller, Motomichi Nakamura, Danny Franzreb, Robert Lindström, Andreas Pihlström, Chris Hewitt, Hello& Hikimori, Sebastian Onufszak, Animatório, Colletivo, Nacionale, Unstru, Tomás Peña, João Oliveira, Peter Jaworowski, Umeric and Doomedo.

The Omega Code symbol is the four overlapping triangles and one of the most popular graphics icons this year. Check out the bands web site. Check out other uses of the triangles here.

Artist: R0GUEART

P - Planets

Blending planets into a photo manipulations is hard work. Many artists make the photos and planet look like two separate layers. The most common solution to blending planets in is to add a thick layer of clouds or to place an amazing fractal on top.


Artist kire1987

Q - Quietus

Quietus is another term for death. Death is often placed inside photo manipulations in the form of skulls. They appear most commonly in a vector format, but you can manipulate peoples faces with skull photos. As well as looking cool, skulls are also a great way to scare a viewer. Adding skulls at the bottom of a dark pit suggests that someone or something is murdering people - always fun!


Artist: iRoot made this spooky wallpaper

R - Reflection

Often if an artist has a space to fill, adding a completely pointless text reflection is perfect - right! Often a simple flip and reducing opacity occurs, but this is totally incorrect. In ordered to do a proper text reflection you have to take the lighting and the surface into consideration, you have to get the correct perspective. It does take some practice to make a good reflection.


S - Splatters

A splatter brush can save almost any artist in Photoshop. If you have ran out of ideas, grab the splatter brush, and you get a instant background! They are also very good to use as clipping masks.


Examples of use:

Or as a T-shirt like above, made by me.

T - Trees

Trees seem to appear in loads of photo manipulations today. They are a good way of showing nature, as well as beauty within a piece. Often the tree flows out of an object or wraps around an object.


"The music nature" is a striking piece by Ethernity

U - Understanding Physics

Understanding physics is one of the hardest things to do in graphics design, often when photo manipulating you are looking to make something impossible or out of this world. When you need to manipulate a picture on earth, getting the physics correct is important. For example, making reflections in puddles, speed of cars, lighting, gravity (not having objects floating), airbrushing and clouds all correct in one piece is hard work.


V - Vectors

"Vector graphics is the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygon(s), which are all based on mathematical equations, to represent images in computer graphics." Vectors are very common but take a lot of time and practice, when starting out don't choose the most detailed object you can find!

As we can see we have another artist who has based their piece on the idea of the shape of a triangle, and then have images appearing to pop-out, or have everything contained within a triangle. There are almost endless ideas which you can use with triangles. Play around and find what is right for you.


Artist: recycledwax made this fantastic vector

W - Water World

Placing objects underwater has never been such fun as with Photoshop! You can take almost any scene you imagine and place it in the depths of the ocean. Add a couple of fish with some bubbles, and there you have it!


Artist: Mandrak made this fishy work

X - X-lines

I was struggling to find anything for X then a friend told me about something he called X lines. These are the abstract renders in general shape of an X. Although there doesn't seem to be a name for them, they are common to see in many pieces. If you know the proper name for them, please let me know in the comments!

Artist: Strangeprogram

Y - Yes it is real....

Some people like to manipulate pictures and make them so real that people cannot tell. They give them a false backstory to go with them as well. These pictures can end up in the news before someone figures they are fake. This story was posted with the picture below:

"There was a family on holiday in Australia for a week and a half when husband, wife and their 15 year old son decided to go scuba diving. The husband is in the navy and has had some scuba experience. His son wanted a pic of his mum and dad in all their gear so got the under water camera on the go. When it came to taking the pic the dad realized that the son look like he was panicking as he took it and gave the ‘OK’ hand sign to see if he was alright.

The son took the pic and swam to the surface and back to the boat as quick as he could so the mum and dad followed to see if he was OK. When they got back to him he was scrambling onto the boat and absolutely shitting himself.

When the parents asked why , he said ‘there was a shark behind you’ and the dad thought he was joking but the skipper of the boat said it was true and that they wouldn't’t believe him if he told them what it was.. As soon as they got back to the hotel they put the pic onto the laptop and this is what they saw"

It took a long time before anyone figured that it was fake and in fact just a photo manipulation.


Z - Zip It

Again where is it possible to add a zip? It is as simple as finding a picture of a zipper and then using the clone tool to create a zipped edge against something. Then add a picture in underneath. Easy and effective, and it makes for a very common manipulation. Awe, so cute, kittens in live alligators luggage!

Credit goes to Caveatscoti for this gruesome picture.


I hope you had fun with this post! There are some ridiculous and overused graphic concepts shown here. Though you've likely found a couple nuggets of visual awesomeness as well! It's up to you to wade through all the clutter of digital graphics and find that creative spark, which ignites your artistic passion!

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