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Sweeney Todd Entry 1 by blackfender66 Sweeney Todd Entry 1 by blackfender66
I had a great time working on this contest. I used a variety of photoshop skills to create these final results. I'd like to talk a little bit about individual elements pertaining to my design, as well as refer you to each of the images that I submitted as reference to my discussion.

I'm not quite sure of the order these will be posted in, but, in reference to their JPG name, I'll just stick with numerical ordering.

1. Sepia, Blood, Glass
2. Sepia, Blood
3. Sepia, Glass
4. Sepia

Basically, with this project I wanted to use a lot of chiarascuro (emotional lighting) to draw out the drama and time-period that this movie was shot in. In reference to Tim Burton's vision, I also "antiqued' the entire shot by Sepia-toning an adjustment layer. I noticed that in "A Nightmare Before Christmas", that the mood and style was set at a gothic/contemporary/splatter-art type environment. Well, that was a cartoon, and this is a movie. That is one reason I decided to stay away from getting overly-illustrative with my design. Straight-forward imagery from the movie, and simple graphic elements to boost typography and mood-setting.

If you'll take a look at Detail 1.jpg (framework)

This poster-frame took quite a bit more work than a quick-glance might allude to. I actually used the logo in reference to it's "gold-panel" effect to create the framework on the border. I got down to pixel-view, and created a simple pattern from a selection made of the panels.

Then, I "grunged" it up by adding several image-overlays of grunge material (mostly rust and scratches). On most of my layers pertaining to the depth and shading of the border, there are gradient overlays, pattern overlays, inner shadowing, drop shadows, bevels, and a lot more. Especially that of the gold-lining of the border itself. I had to create a raised and visually realistic metallic reflection and gold appearance. I added a quick 7-weight stroke to the outside, added gradient, bevel, etc... and that's how that was made.

Now let's talk about the imagery and layout to the rest of the poster.

First, I started off by choosing the imagery I wanted to use in my poster. It's important to visualize and conceive their layout prior to any alterations.

Next, before migrating all 3 images into the set poster dimensions of 20x30, I vector traced, levels adjusted, color corrected, clone stamped, gaussian blurred, add-noise, and much more....each of the subjects used in the composition. I feel that it is very important to make each image as perfect as possible before you start working on them as a whole in the master file.

Next, I wanted to really capture the chiarascuro (emotional/holy lighting) that I mentioned earlier. You will see a lot of this type of lighting in Caravaggio's work (painter). He's a big influence in a lot of my charcoal and photo-illustration compositions.

To capture this lighting, I had to throw in a good ol' lens flare. Now, I do my lens flares a little bit differently than many of you may, so...try this!

---Lens flare technique---
new layer , fill w/black, filter/render/lens flare
now put this layer above the layer you want to add flare to, and in layers pallet, very top, change blending modes (experiment with them all to find your favorite).
Then, match your flare to the color of your composite (Ctrl + U).

You can also gradient-mask the flare to make it less ambiguous if you need to, which carries true with any graphic detailing you use. In my master psd for this contest I use 5-10 subgroups of one image w/gradient masks applied to each group... then copies of the master group, flattened, blending modes, and all of this for just ONE image. I did most of that with the texturing and accents.

I also did a lot of work in my character adjustments. If you've already participated in this contest, you're familiar with the exposure levels, and amount of film grain that was consistent with each image. Well, in order to get your subjects to work well and appear consistent to one composition, you have to make multiple adjustments to each person.

For example, one person's final image would reside in a group folder full of about 6-7 layers with different adjustments on them. With Johnny Depp, The image used on top was well-overexposed. I had to drop the levels on just his face, reverse mask, and then paint back on the adjusted skin with a soft semi-transparent brush.

*reverse masking is clicking Add Layer Mask, fill with black, and then using soft paintbrush to reveal the adjusted material. I experiment with different opacities and brush-hardness often to maximize effectiveness of adjustment layers.

I also use reverse masking for the clothing, making sure appropriate lighting, coloring, and exposure are accounted for. The same goes with hair, which is quite often a very unique and challenging element that requires unique attention to successfully master.

Now, I am not sure if we were supposed to create our own unique logo for this project or not, so I didn't. Usually, with any major project similar to this (in a business situation) a logo is in and of itself a unique project. However, I was fortunate to find a very high resolution version that I used in my designs. It was from that logo that inspired much of the graphic detailing of the framework.

I also couldn't track down the exact logo-type font used for the movie, but I did look up as much information about it as I could, and found that Albertus MT was suitable as a sub-logo/header font. I also used texturing and gradient overlays to match the typography with the logotype design.

I noticed a lot of the existing entries used heavy blood-splattering in their designs. Now, by nature, I love to splatter everything, and by all means, I know that it is fun. But, over detailing anything is never a means to maximize visual impact. That is why I gave 4 versions for submission. I really liked the version w/out the glass and blood, while others may like them.

I would also like to note that I found a broken glass stock-image pack inside of deviant art that I'd like to thank *nighty-stock for. For that effect, I went to my channels pallet, burned out the blacks, and level boosted grays and whites, and then created a selection from channel...copy and pasted the image layer, and then desaturated it. After that, I added a blending mode.

Now a little bit about the knife. Had I been working on this project from the business end, I'd have requested a high-quality shot of the blade itself. Most of the images that had a blade in it, the blade was quite small, and detail was minimal. But, I had to make do with what I had, and compensate for a few things. For one, the handle of the blade was well overexposed in the source image. It was to the point where no amount of levels adjustments could ever bring back that detail. I masked out the entire knife, and clone stamped the pattern on the knife that I COULD use from levels adjustments. I then simply filled in the rest of the knife based on one source pattern.

I also copied the movie-credits text from the existing poster, and fit it to my own. If I have to, I credit That designer for the body copy I used...but, I'm sure the contest judges understand the limitations (which is why we are to retain the original PSD file for print).

Finally, I used a reverse-circular darkening mask with heavy feathering to encapsulate the entire subject-area.
I've noticed this to be a popular theme in movie-poster design, and also felt it to be a useful way to gain layout room for credits and logo placement.

Well, that's about all I have to say about my designs for now. I hope everyone likes them, and can give me a quick critique if they have time. If nothing more, I hope some of you found my comments to be beneficial to your own designs and work-flow. This is actually my first real post on Deviant Art, (although being a member for several years) and if well received, I'd be more than happy to share any tricks or techniques with you, just send me a message and I'll get back to you.

Thank you Deviant Art for the opportunity to work with a movie company... I've always wanted to do work with a movie poster. This was my first chance.

I'm not sure if I will be penalized for asking, but... if my poster designs are considered in the final running, I am open for employment opportunities!!! Please visit my personal portfolio at [link] and the company I work for now, [link]

All graphic design work and site creation for, and all graphic design work and branding for are my own. You can also see my portfolio PDF if you want, which is somewhat large, but if you're interested [link]

My logo designs can be found at [link]

Thank you for your consideration.
Michael Sim
tjdlegend Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2007
I love your work. Everyone of your entries is top notch.
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Submitted on
December 9, 2007
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