Typographic Portrait Project Intro

Today’s essential question: How can I create a realistic portrait with words?

Our next project will be created with traditional media. You will draw a typographic portrait with black ink pen. You will carefully select words that add to the meaning of the portrait. For example, if you are drawing a musician, you may use their song lyrics. If you are drawing a character from a favorite movie or novel, you may use text from that movie or novel. You may choose to use a speech given by a public figure, or to juxtapose conflicting text and imagery to make a statement (ie. drawing a young child from legislation on standardized testing and the common core).

Here are some examples created by SOTA students:

Here are some other examples that would fit the project requirements:

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Project Requirements:

  • fills an 18×24 paper with a strong composition
  • balances positive and negative space in an aesthetically pleasing way
  • chosen words add to the meaning of the image
  • shows a range of value created with words
  • value created with black ink pen
  • Project Due December 22nd or December 23rd

How to Simplify the Values in your Reference Photo

  1. Download your image
    1. Go to images.google.com and search for an image of your celebrity that is larger than 2MP
    2. Click on the image of your choice until you can view it full size. Then right click -> save image as and REMEMBER WHERE YOU SAVED THE IMAGE
  2. Open your celebrity photo in Photoshop
    1. Open Photoshop (Click on the Windows icon at the bottom of the screen -> All Programs -> Adobe Master Collection CS5 -> Adobe Photoshop)
  3. File -> Open (Select the image you downloaded. You will need to remember where you saved it!)
  4. Turn the image black & white. (Image -> Mode -> Grayscale).
  5. Crop your image.
    1. Select the crop tool. Set the crop tool to 7.5×10 inches. Click and drag the crop tool until the area you want to crop is selected.
    2. Hit enter to crop your image.

Optional: Use the Cutout Filter to Further Simplify your Values to 3-5 Shades

  1. Intensify your shadows & highlights.
    1. Image -> Adjustments -> Levels
  2. Simplify your image to 3-5 shades.
    1. Layer -> Duplicate Layer
    2. Filter -> Artistic -> Cutout
  3. Touch up your image so it looks smooth and has a solid color background.
    1. Layer -> Duplicate Layer.
    2. Use the eyedropper tool to select a color, then use the brush tool (with hardness set to 100%) to color over the image and smooth out any awkward spot. The { key will make your brush smaller, and the } key will make your brush larger. You can use the magnifying glass to zoom in on the image.
  4. Save your file as both a Photoshop (.psd) and a jpg (.jpg).
  5. Upload your original image and your cutout image to your blog.

Today we will:

  • Brainstorm concepts for our typographic portrait project
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • a paragraph describing our proposed project concept (Who are you drawing a portrait of? Why? What words will you use to build your portrait? Why? What materials do you plan to use? Why?)
    • Your original reference photo
    • A black & white version of the reference photo you plan to use. Ms. Lawson will print this between classes. You may choose to use the cut paper filter in Photoshop to simplify your reference photo to 3-5 values. See the steps above earlier in this blog post for illustrated steps on how to do this. Here is the image I used for my example:
    • Copy and paste any text you may use






Final Blog Post: Project + Artist Statement

cat-writing-advice-heroToday is the last class day for the project. We will finish our projects and create a final blog post with the following: a PDF of the final project (that I will print), a JPG of the final project (that allows people to see what your project looks like), and an artist statement about the project that is a minimum of 150 words. Brian, Victoria, Jenna, and Beatrice all have good examples of what I am looking for.

If you are not sure what to write in your artist statement, here are some prompts to get you started:

  • What is your poster about? Why did you pick this topic?
  • What does the imagery in the poster represent?
  • What did you choose your particular lettering style?
  • Why did you choose your particular color scheme?
  • How did you create a clear focal point in your project?
  • What were some things your struggled with over the course of the project? How did you work through them?
  • How do you feel about the project now that it is complete?

Today we will:

  • Finish our projects
  • Create a final blog post with the following:
    • a PDF of the final project
    • a JPG of the final project
    • an artist statement about the project that is a minimum of 150 words.

Visual Hierarchy & The Rule of Thirds

Today’s essential question: How can I use the rule of thirds and visual hierarchy to create a prominent focal point in my poster?

Today we will show our designs to a classmate and make sure they fulfill the following requirements:

  • Clear visual hierarchy with a prominent focal point
  • Rule of thirds

Student Examples

Beatrice and Marina have created aesthetically appealing posters.
How have they created a clear visual hierarchy?
How do their designs follow the rule of thirds?

Lily, Quamae, and Josh’s Posters are also great.
Do you think they follow the rule of thirds in a less obvious way? Why or why not?
What are some small changes you might suggest to make an already solid poster even more aesthetically appealing?

Case Study: The Evolution of Barry’s Poster

We will follow the evolution of Barry’s project to see the importance of using the rule of thirds and establishing a clear visual hierarchy.

Barry’s project was at a point where he couldn’t add anything else (there was already too much going on), but it still felt like it was missing something. If your project feels like this, there is a good chance that the layout is not following the rule of thirds, or that all of your design elements carry equal weight, so nothing stands out as being the focal point.


The easiest way to create a clear focal point is to make your focal point contrast with the other design elements (such as by making it the largest item or making it a different color from everything else) and to place it at one of the intersection of thirds.

To show the intersection of thirds, go to View -> Rulers -> Show Rulers at the top of the screen.

Rulers should appear along the top and left side of your project:

Bring your mouse to the ruler along the left side, and click and drag it to the right to create a guide. Continue dragging the guide until it is at 4″ (if your poster is 12″ wide) or 6″ (if your poster is 18″ wide). Do the same thing again and place the second guide at 8″ (if your poster is 12″ wide) or 12″ (if your poster is 18″ wide).

Then bring your mouse to the ruler along the top of the project, and click and drag it down to create a guide. Continue dragging the guide until it is at 4″ (if your poster is 12″ tall) or 6″ (if your poster is 18″ tall). Do the same thing again and place the second guide at 8″ (if your poster is 12″ tall) or 12″ (if your poster is 18″ tall).

Now your poster should be divided into 9 sections. The 4 points where the guides intersect are natural focal points, and you should consider placing your focal point in one of these spots.

Notice how Barry’s design, despite having lots of design elements, does not follow the rule of thirds by placing any of the design elements at the intersection points:

Barry explained how “Gravity Rush” was the most important element in his poster, and the cats were second. So we hid the paw prints (by clicking on the eyeball next to the paw print layers) to focus on the most important parts first.

Notice how each cat and the text all take up around the same amount of space, and therefore have the same visual weight. Nothing stands out because everything is the same. Also, nothing important is at any of the intersection points.

Upon realizing this, Barry made the top right cat and the words larger so they become the first thing the viewer sees, and adjusted the placement of the items so the cat’s face is at a natural focal point and looks towards the letters, guiding the viewer to do the same. He also made the bottom cat a bit smaller to make it clear that it was second in the visual hierarchy:

Finally, Barry made the paw prints visible, but he made them transparent so they don’t stand out as much, and added variety by rotating them in different directions and scaling them to a variety of sizes.

Notice how now there is a clear visual hierarchy, and we see the poster elements in the following order: 1) large cat and “gravity rush” 2) small cat 3) paw print texture.

How could Barry make this visual hierarchy even more clear?

Today we will:

  • Add guides to our projects at 4″ and 8″ (shorter dimension) and 6″ and 12″ (longer dimension)
  • Consult a classmate as to whether the focal point is the largest item with the most contrast at one of the intersections of thirds
  • Make any necessary changes to our projects
  • Finish adding details and adjusting colors
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • a PDF of today’s work
    • a few sentences describing what you did today
  • If you think you are done, create a final blog post with the following (I will not grade your project until you have published a post with all three items):
    • a PDF of your finished project
    • a JPG of your finished project (open the PDF in photoshop and then save as JPG)
    • an artist statement about your project that is a minimum of 150 words



Poster Color Schemes

Today’s essential question: How can I combine colors to create my intended mood?

Today we will analyze how the colors we use in our posters affect the mood of the poster. A solid color scheme will generally have one dominant color and two accent colors. (Generally, at least one of these colors is a neutral. We will discuss the use of neutrals in more depth below.)

Different graphic design eras are known for different color combinations. These color combinations are intertwined with world events during that time period, as well as the intended purpose of the design.

1930s Work Progress Administration

From 1935-1936, the WPA Federal Art Project created a series of posters celebrating National Parks. These posters (and modern ones created in their style) feature subdued, calming colors and generous use of neutrals.

1940 WWII Propaganda Posters

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, propaganda posters featured stark contrast and lots of red to promote fear and action. Shepard Fairey creates much of his art in this style.

1960s Psychedelia

Posters created in the 1960s, particularly those promoting music and events, often featured bright, jarring color combinations. The lack of neutrals intensified this effect and purposefully obscured text.

Stick stuck on color scheme ideas? Check out the DesignSeeds website for more inspiration.

Today we will:

  • Continue working on our posters, paying special attention to how our chosen colors affect the mood of the poster
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • A PDF of today’s progress
    • The answers to the following questions:
      • What mood are you trying to create?
      • What is your dominant color?
      • What are your accent colors?
      • Do you think you can improve your poster by changing any of the colors? If so, how?

Vector Posters & Principles of Graphic Design

Many of you are incorporating many Principles of Graphic Design, but you may or may not realize it.

Compare the examples in the poster below to the current state of your poster.

  • Which of these principles are you already using?
  • Do any principles give you ideas on how you might further improve your project?

Subash’s poster utilizes most of these.
How has he used the principles of graphic design to create an aesthetically pleasing poster?

We have 3 classes left on this project. Make sure you are using your time wisely, and posting your progress to your blog EVERY day.

Today we will:

  • Continue working on our vector poster designs
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • a PDF of our project
    • a brief reflection on which principles of design our poster already incorporates, and how we might further improve our poster by incorporating other principles of design


Keep Calm and Design On

Today we will continue working on our vector poster designs. At the end of today’s class, please post a PDF of your progress, as well as a brief reflection of what is going well and what you are struggling with.

Today we will:

  • Continue working on our vector poster designs
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • a PDF of today’s progress
    • a brief reflection of what is going well and what you are struggling with

Advanced Illustrator: Creating Compound Paths & Backgrounds

highfivecat Congratulations to Media BD – the class has a record 11 A+s and no one in the class got below a C.
Keep up the fantastic work!

Many of the proposed designs require knowledge of how to create a compound path and/or how to add a background in Illustrator, so I have created a tutorial for both skills. Today you will complete the tutorial and post a PDF of your completed tutorial your blog. You may then resume working on your poster.

What is a Compound Path?

If your design has a strong balance of positive and negative space, there is a chance you will need to put a “hole” in the design so you can see the background. You can do this in Illustrator by creating a compound path.

Why should you create a compound path instead of just drawing a shape that is the same color as your background? Well, sometimes you need the negative space to be transparent (window decals, images in the background, etc).

How to Create a Compound Path in Illustrator

  1. Right click to save this image to your desktop. DO NOT OPEN THIS IMAGE IN ILLUSTRATOR.
  2. Open Adobe Illustrator and create a new file. File -> New. Set up the dimensions as follows:
  3. Place the image in Illustrator. File -> Place.
  4. Double-click the layer to and rename it “reference photo.”
    Click the box next to the eye to lock the layer (a lock icon should appear).
  5. Click the new layer button. new_layer Double-click on the new layer and name it “positive space.”
  6. Select the pen tool. pen_tool
  7. In the colors palette at the bottom left of the screen, remove the outline by clicking the outline icon to bring it forward, then clicking the square with the red line through it.
  8. Double-click on the fill icon (the solid square) to change the fill color to something you like.
  9. Use the pen tool to outline the shape. Open the transparency window. (Window -> Transparency)
  10. Select the black arrow from the tool bar on the left side of the screen. black_arrow
    Then click anywhere on the screen away from the shape you have just traced to deselect it.
  11. Pick a different fill color.
  12. Make a new layer. Name it “negative space”.
  13. Select the pen tool and trace over the negative space shapes.
  14. Select the black arrow from the tool bar on the left side of the screen.
    Click on one shape at a time and make sure the opacity of each shape it set to 100%.
  15. Select all of the shapes by holding down on the shift key as you click each one.
    At the top of the screen, Object -> Compound Path -> Make.
  16. Your “negative space” shapes should now be completely transparent.
  17. Your “positive space” layer is now empty.
    Click on it and then click on the trash can icon to delete it.
  18. Double-click on the “negative space” layer and rename it “rabbit”.

How to add a background:

  1. Make a new layer above your reference photo layer and below your positive space layer.
    Name it “background.”
  2. Click the rectangle tool in the tool bar on the left side of the screen.
  3. Change the fill color to be your desired background color.
  4. Click and drag to draw a box that covers the entire background area.
  5. Save your file as a PDF (File -> Save as -> Select “Adobe PDF” as the file format)
  6. Create a new blog post and upload the PDF.

Today we will:

  • Watch a demonstration on how to create compound paths and backgrounds in Adobe Illustrator
  • Complete the compound path/background tutorial in Adobe Illustrator
  • Post a PDF of our completed tutorial to the our blog
  • Continue working on our poster designs
  • Post a PDF of our poster design progress to our blogs