Saturday, March 9, 2013

Athletic Designs

For the past two years I have been tasked with designing promotional materials for a couple of sports related contests published in our local news paper: SuperSquares publishes in time for the NFL championship and Hoops Frenzy publishes during the NCAA basketball championship games.

There are certain challenges associated with these promotions. For one, we are not allowed to use any messaging, images or logos which are trademarked or copyrighted by the NFL and NCAA. That means we have to come up with names, slogans, logos and images of our own which still tie into those events sponsored by these leagues.

In the case of SuperSquares, I could not use images of the two teams facing each other in the NFL championship. I did find a stock photo of some high school football players which caught my attention.

As always, click any image to see an enlarged view.

Before: These guys don't look so tough! 
I've got a long way to go to get these guys ready for the big game. 

I don’t know why certain images catch my attention when I’m in the planning stages of a project. Something strikes me in the image and I guess I can see the potential in a photo which, on it’s own, is really not strong enough to do what I need it to do. These football players look too young and are not physically impressive or intimidating enough to be professional players. The process I used on this image is more complicated than most of the images I manipulate and the step by step was so involved I am not going to put it in the body of this article. Rather, I’ll just put it at the end of the article as a stand alone. For now I’ll just show you the before and after images and how it appeared in the publication.

After: That's more like it! 

I put these guys through a tough Photoshop training regimen which included subtly altering the colors of their uniforms to suggest the colors of the actual teams in "The Big Game."

Published Final

For Hoop Frenzy, the challenge for me was to create something that lives up to the high energy name of the contest. This also meant coming up with something equivalent to what I did last year, which I think was very high energy.

Last Years Hoops

Last year I designed the Hoops Frenzy logo and I incorporated lots of motion, friction, flames and sparks as visuals. You can read about that here. This year, while keeping the same logo,  I went for a different approach on the other visuals, incorporating a more graphic look with colorful brush strokes. But first I had to find a stock photo that would match what I had in mind.

Original Stock Photo

Final Image as used in a poster.

This time, rather than suggesting motion by using Photoshop motion blurs, I added brush strokes as graphic design elements to suggest movement.

Published Final

I enjoy designing around sports themes because they naturally allow for dynamic, energetic, colorful approaches. Also, everyone seems to be talking about “The Big Game” so it’s hard not to get caught up in all the excitement and to feel like I am, in some small, local way, participating in such big events. 

As promised, below is the step-by-step process (more or less complete) which I used to transform the purple football wimps into intimidating monsters:

1. Filter, Other, High Pass, enter 10

2. Set layer to overlay

3. Duplicate original layer and move to top of layers pallet. 

4. Adjustment, desaturate

5. Blending mode > Hard Light

6. In the Layers drop-down list select Merge Visible  while also holding down the Option key. This will create a new layer which is a merged version of your layers (without losing you original layers).

7. On this layer use the same High Pass filter effect used earlier and set the blending mode to Overlay.

8. Again, Merge Visible with Option key.

9. Choose Layerr > New Adjustment Layer > Levels and move the sliders on each end toward the center until you achieve the desired contrast (in this case 32 for the shadows and 210 for the highlights

10. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layers > Hue/Saturation, Desaturate and choose -40

11. Merge Visible holding down the Option Key

12. With the top layer highlighted, Choose Filter >  Distort > Ripple and set the amount to the maximum of 999.

13. Choose Filter > Stylize > Diffuse with the setting at the default of Normal.

14. Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur set to 5 pixels

15. Filter > Brush Strokes > Splatter with settings set to 9 & 4

16. Set layer blending mode to Overlay

17. Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and move the Saturation slider all the way to the left.

18. In the layer mask for the Hue/Saturation layer, with your brush set to a large size with soft edges, the opacity set to 50% and the foreground color set to black, paint into the layer mask to reveal only the color you want to see.

19. New Layer set to multiply. Paint with a large, soft edged brush set to 50% opacity, using black as the foreground color, paint around the edges of the image.

20. Increase the size of the canvas on top to fit more sky.

21. Drag stormy sky image to the top layer and add a layer mask, carefully painting into the layer mask to reveal only that part of the sky I want in the image.

22. New layer set to multiply with blending mode set to 50%, paint black over the sky to make it look more stormy.

23. New layer with blending mode set to multiply, paint over sky with similar green/blue color from the sky around the football players. This will blend the two sky images together.

24. Add lightning (illustrated or photo composited).

See how easy it is? Of course, each step involved experimentation, trial and error, lots of “Command-Z” and a few choice words.

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