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Combine Stock Photography to Create an Abstract Poster Layout

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Read Time: 10 min

Today, we will demonstrate how to combine several stock photos to create an abstract poster layout. Let’s get started!

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

Step 1

We'll want to start off with a base outline for our triangle. We're going to use the pen tool to create the triangle, but before we do that, let's bring out the ruler tool (Cmd/Ctrl + R). We want to get the dimensions of the triangle right and even, so we're going to use the ruler lines to help us. Bring down the lines, and secure the dimensions you want the triangle to be. Once you have this tiny grid to help you, grab the pen tool. For the bottom left and right edges of the grid, use the pen tool to chart the paths. Then you identify the center and lead the paths to the upper-middle of the box. Make sure to stroke this path (1px hard round) and not to fill it.

Step 2

This is where the fun starts happening. Remember that this triangle was merely a base outline for our actual one. We're going to make it a lot more interesting. First, let's create some small lines that follow the outline of the original triangle. You can place them in any direction you want, just make sure it follows the size and keeps the form of a triangle. Look at the image below for reference.

Grab your pen tool again. We're going to use it to create and FILL some random shapes for the triangle. Just go wild! Curve the edges, make it weird, abnormal, different. This is where your artistic freedom comes in. Don't restrict yourself. Delete the original base outline when you're finished.

Step 3

Take out your eraser tool. This will help us create some contrast in the shapes. Make the eraser brush a 1px hard round. Use it to erase small little lines that cut parts of the shape off from one another. If you own a tablet, this works really well with the pen pressure settings.

Step 4

We're going to want to create another triangle to add some dimension to the piece. This time, it's going to be larger and far less occupied with the random shapes. Follow step one again to make sure that the dimensions are exact and even. Once you have your new triangle, cut off about a 1/3 portion of one of the line segments. This will be the area where we add the shapes.

Step 5

Now we're going to create another batch of shapes. Once again, don't hold yourself back. Of course, keep the consistency in shapes, but make sure to create originality in every little curve. One thing to take note is to make the shapes larger than the last. This will help add depth to the piece. Once the shapes are finished, proceed with the eraser technique again.

Step 6

Add a new triangle in the center of the piece. This will be the smallest of the triangles, but the focal point of the whole design. This time, the triangle will be filled in rather than stroked.

Step 7

This is where brushes take their role. Download the brushes offered in the tool assets and load them into Photoshop. These will help add to the grungy atmosphere of the design. They will mainly be used to bring more attention to the center of the focal. We're going to place them both in and around the middle triangle. Grab a brush you like and use it on the triangle. I picked one that wasn't too complex and not too simple, just right.

Step 8

The inside of the triangle is our most important focus in this whole design. It absolutely must be attractive as it is your main focal point! Make it look good! What I did was Cmd/Ctrl select the layer, and used the brushes to create some kind of dark place confined only to that one part in the piece. As though it's slowly creeping its way outwards. Mix the brushes up. To add some more value, I duplicated the triangle layer and made it white. Then I created a new layer and pasted my brushes on. One thing to take note of is to make sure that the triangle layer is selected as an outline so that your brushes don't go out of bounds of the shape. Then I grabbed the eraser tool (soft round brush) and erased to darken parts of the triangle. This helped to add value rather than just having the whole thing white or black.

Step 9

Download the roots stock photo from the tool assets. Open it up in Photoshop. We're going to use the magnetic lasso tool to cut the roots we want out. This doesn't have to be perfect. If you've got some clipping that you don't want, just use the eraser tool to get rid of it. Zoom in if necessary!

Step 10

Paste the roots into our document. Place it on one of the shapes in the second triangle. Resize and transform accordingly.

Step 11

Now, I know what you're thinking! That branch doesn't look blended in very well. I told myself the same thing. What we're going to do is create a new layer and make a clipping mask for the root layer. Grab your brush tool with black as your colour and paint over the end where the branch protrudes outwards from the shape. This will help make it look as though it's actually coming out of it.

Step 12

Repeat steps 9-11 two more times. We want three of these root photos in the image.

Step 13

We're going to use the brushes again. Find a brush you like. Erase everything but one splatter. The brush is going to be used as a rap around for the roots. Cmd/Ctrl select one of the roots layers. Make sure that you are on your brush layer! Now erase the part of the brush every other time it laps over the root.

Step 14

Do step 13 one more time on another root. We're not going to do it for all the roots so we can add some contrast in the piece.

Step 15

Let's add a few adjustment layers shall we? Both are set on normal 100% opacity. Make sure that the black-white gradient map is on top of the grey-white gradient map.

Step 16

A little bit of colour would do wonders to this piece. Grab the single row marquee tool and dab it anywhere on the canvas. We only need one. Now, grab the paint bucket tool and choose a nice blue hue. Use it on the line. Free transform the line and make it fall accordingly onto the middle triangle.

Step 17

Duplicate the line layer two more times. Move the first up a bit and the other down a bit. Make sure to add some further effect by changing where the lines end and start with the eraser tool and down a little bit, changing where it ends and doesn't with the eraser tool. Mix it up!

Step 18

Create some circles with low opacities and place them in spots to identify to the viewer a further visual concept. Small things like these make all the difference.

Step 19

Create a new layer and grab the brush tool. Use a soft round brush to dab two soft circles onto the hard ones. Set the layer to soft light. This helps add value.

Step 20

Before we add some perspective to the piece, we're going to want to turn off the layer with the blue line that's furthest away from the others. The perspective tool throws off the angle and makes it look warped since it's so far away from the two other lines. Turning it off, giving it perspective, then turning it back on will fix this. Look at the image below for reference.

Step 21

Now create a new layer and apply image. Use the perspective tool (Edit > Transform > Perspective) and grab on of the two bottom points on the canvas. Bring your mouse closer towards the middle. You'll notice that this changes the image to follow the point paths. Where they go, the image goes, and thus creating perspective. The whole image looks a lot better when things decrease and increase in sizes. Depth in the objects is key to making a good piece.

Step 22

There are some clipping errors here. Using the perspective tool has shown us the other layers (look at above image)! We don't want this. An easy way to fix this is to Cmd/Ctrl select the layer, go to select, and hit inverse. This will make it so that everything you do will only affect what's outside of what was originally selected. Perfect for paint bucketing white in! Grab the paint bucket tool, change your color to white, and click once on the canvas.

Step 23

Turn the blue line layer back on. Drag it to the top, above the perspective layer, and free transform/place accordingly.

Step 24

Here's where everything comes together. Open up the hand stock photo in Photoshop. The magnetic lasso tool is going to be used again to cut the hand out from the image. Don't be afraid to zoom in and get those difficult small spots!

Step 25

Now, there's not as much strain in the hand as we would like there to be, so let's go and touch it up a bit. I used the lasso tool to cut the fingers out and transformed them further away from each other, rotating them when necessary to fit the mood of a hand trying to reach out of the triangle. It's nice to use the clone stamp tool for this part, as it helps blend in areas with others. The dodge and burn tools are crucial for this step. They help reveal certain creases in the hand, and intensify the lighting. Remember that you're going for a dirty, flexed hand look! The image below should help give you an idea:

Step 26

Place the new and improved hand into the original design. We want to get a nice position of the hand in the middle of the triangle, so take your time and make sure it's the best position possible.

Step 27

You want the hand to fit into the triangle and appear as though it's coming out. To do this, grab the pen tool. Create a new layer and outline the middle triangle. Fill it with black. This will be used as a nice base to help us erase the hand. When you have it filled, Cmd/Ctrl select the layer and inverse it. Now select the hand layer and erase the bottom part where it starts to pass the base of the triangle. Once done, delete the black triangle fill.

Step 28

Here's the part where you can go back and do a few touch ups. Maybe add some adjustment layers, transform/erase areas you don't like, etc.

Step 29

We're nearing completion! All we have to do is add a few textures to the background to make it more interesting. Download both of the textures from the tool assets and open them up in Photoshop. Go ahead and change their sizes, rotate them around. Just be sure to erase with a soft brush the middle so it doesn't obscure the design and make it faded. Adding a really light yellow to brighten it up on all ends helps a lot. Once again, this is only for the ends of the canvas, not the middle.


Add a border to bring everything together.

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