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Freestyle c4d tutorial

Written by AEGIS of


I. Introduction
II. The tutorial
a. A crash course in basic artistic theory
i. The rule of thirds and basic composition
ii. Making an impact with colours
iii. Flow – bringing elements together
b. The tag
i. C4d and Clipping Masks
ii. Overexposure effects
iii. More c4d
iv. Splatter effects
v. Ink Pen line
vi. Custom Patterns
vii. Adding depth and contrast to the tag
viii. Recolouring
ix. Effective lighting
x. The finishing touches
III. Notes
IV. Credits and acknowledgments
V. Contacts and copyright information
Welcome to my first tutorial. I’m going to be showing you step-by-step how to
make a tag like this:

As a part-time graphic designer, I used to read a lot of tutorials, and most of

the time, those tutorials only scratched the surface of the topic at hand. I very
much dislike that, so I’m covering everything, but if you don’t want to sit
through all of that waiting for one aspect to come up, I’ve hyperlinked
everything in the Table of Contents above so it jumps right to wherever you

As you read and follow this tutorial, branch out and incorporate some of your
own techniques and style into the material. I love to see people demonstrate
their individual tastes and be unique. The tutorial is there not for you to follow
word-for-word, but instead for you to use as a loose guide.

I would like to apologize in advance for the hyperlinks used to show the
effects of each step. Unfortunately, Microsoft Word seems to dislike high-
quality JPEG images, and compresses them ridiculously. It also seems to like
enlarging them, for some reason, and because I simply cannot denote the
size of the pictures in pixels, it’s impossible for me to fix.

Since it’s my first tutorial, I can almost guarantee that I’ll be doing things
wrong. Even so, I hope you enjoy the tutorial.

~ Aegis

a. A crash course in basic artistic theory

The rule of thirds and basic composition

The rule of thirds states that a picture can be divided into nine equal parts by
“slicing” it into three equal portions both horizontally and vertically. Doing so
outlines four areas of the image to consider placing elements of interest in.
The theory holds that placing objects at intersections or along the lines gives
it a more balanced feel. The human eye naturally goes to these intersections
first rather than to the center of the piece, and thus placing elements of
interest in those area lends energy.

I used the Grid in GIMP and positioned the man in the stock along the left
vertical line to add interest. His face is being used as the focal point, so I took
the center of the face, the nose, and set it near the top left intersection.

Of course, not following the rule of thirds isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and
doesn’t mean that your piece is unbalanced or boring.

Making an impact with colours

This is the colour wheel. I can

guarantee you that if you ever took a
respectable art class in grade school, it
will look familiar.

There are three primary colours – red,

yellow, and blue. When you mix two of
these colours together, you get the
secondary colours, green, orange, and
purple. A tertiary colour sits between
each primary and secondary colour. A
lighter version of a colour is a tint, and
a darker one, a shade.

The use of colour schemes can help to make an impact.

Monochromatic – different tints and shades of the same hue. You don’t see this
in artwork a lot, because it can often make a piece look dull. However, light
application in an artwork can help unify the piece.

Complimentary – two colours directly across from one another on the colour
wheel, like blue and orange. This colour scheme is used to make a work stand

Split complimentary – one colour on one side of the colour wheel, with two
colours equidistant from the first colour’s complementary, such as orange,
coupled with blue-violet (BP) and blue-green. It’s useful for adding diversity to a
piece’s colours.

Analogous – Colours situated next to one another, like purple and violet-red (RP),
can sometimes give a sense of light unity.

Triad – Three colours equidistant from one another, such as the three primaries,
are excellent for making elements of an artwork contrast.

Flow – bringing elements together

If a piece has good flow, it means that the human eye is drawn smoothly from
one element of interest to the next. Flow can be established by the careful use of
light and dark areas, elements of the artwork itself, the position of focal points,

Flow is important because it makes it possible for a person’s eyes not to get
“strained” trying to go from one thing to the next. As you can see, in my tag, the
way my focal point is positioned contributes to the linear flow, as do the extra
touches like the line to the right of the focal point.

b. The Tutorial

We’re going to start the tag. Really.

C4d and Clipping Masks

Make a new canvas (Bet you didn’t see that coming). I’m using a canvas of
321px by 99px, so I can easily apply the rule of thirds. Paste in your stock. If you
don’t like using stocks, just take a render and put it on a nice background.

Now take a couple of c4ds and drag them into your canvas on new layers. Scale
them if you feel the need. Since I wanted to give the tag itself a strange feel, I
chose c4ds with bright colours that contrasted one another. Erase around the
parts you don’t want or you think look bad with a soft round brush, 50px or so in
diameter. Set those c4d Layers that you want to be less visible on a low Opacity,
and set their mode to Lighten only.

I dragged in a line-art/wireframe c4d and erased most of it, leaving a large

portion and a smaller one to the sides of my focal point to help establish flow.

Now drag in another c4d (preferably one with a good, intricate shape) and scale
it if you need to, but don’t do anything else. Instead, open up your Layers dialog.

Select the Layer containing the c4d you just dragged in. Right-click it and select
Add Layer Mask…. When the dialog opens, select “Transfer layer’s alpha
channel.” This will create a Mask of the Layer in the shape of the c4d. Select the
Layer instead of the Mask, and Clear the Layer. Copy Visible and Paste it, and
move it around until you find something you think looks good. Anchor the Layer
and set its Mode to Lighten only.

Since I didn’t like the look, I duplicated the Layer with the checkered object,
dragged the duplicate above the Masked layer, and set it to Darken only.

I added in two more c4ds on Lighten only and erased what I didn’t like.
Repeat the step in which you made Clipping Masks with c4ds a few times. I did it
three more times with the tag itself, and one more time with a vibrant CG
wallpaper. Set the Mode to Lighten only. When you erase, preserve some areas
of the background to make it look “fuller” and help with blending.

Overexposure effects

Now get a couple of good-looking overexposure effects and Paste them into your
tag on new Layers. Set the Layer Modes to Lighten only. If you would like to add
a nice touch, erase their ends with a soft round brush and taper them.

More c4d

Make a few more c4d Clipping Masks with the tag and set the Modes to Lighten
only. I also added in two more c4ds and set them to Lighten only.

Splatter effects

Make a new Layer and get out a set of splatter brushes. Brush in a colour with
Saturation at 100 and Value at 50. Erase around your focal point and in any other
areas you think the brushing looks bad.

Make another Layer and brush again, but with a different colour. Set the Layer on
a low Opacity and bring it to the top.

Ink Pen line

Make a path with the Paths tool that goes alongside your focal point. Because I
wanted to add a bit more interest, I gave it a “bounce” shape. Set your
foreground to a colour you like, and Stroke the Path with the Pen.
Custom Patterns

Take a custom Pattern, like dots or boxes, and fill a new Layer with them. Go to
Alpha to Selection in your Layers dialog, and drag in the colour you stroked the
Path with. Select None and erase what you don’t like with a soft round brush, and
set the Mode to Lighten only. I also added in some scan lines on another layer in
black and erased.

Adding depth and contrast to the tag

Depth and contrast will help to bring out elements in the tag, since right now it
looks bland.

Make a new Layer. Copy Visible, Paste, and Anchor it. Reset your colours to their
defaults, a white background and a black foreground. Go to Filters > Colours >
Gradient Map to convert it into a black-and-white version of the tag. Set this
Layer to Multiply at 30% Opacity.

Make a new Layer and again Copy Visible, Paste, and Anchor the tag. Use
Levels or Curves to enhance the light and dark areas of the piece. After a little
while, you’ll probably find that you prefer one or the other, so use whichever you
have experience with.


Gradient maps are useful for Recolouring because after one inputs the command
for it, they can use Layer Modes to achieve all kinds of effects. Copy Visible and
Paste your image on a new Layer and experiment with Filters > Colours >
Gradient Map until you find something you like. Since I want you to experiment,
I’m not giving you the Gradients I used, but here are some hints to achieve
similar effects:

• I used four Gradient Maps in all.

• Two of these Maps were used to further enhance depth, and one for
Make a new Layer and fill it with a “cool” colour, such as a tint of blue-green. Set
this Layer’s Mode to Soft light at 20% Opacity. It doesn’t make too much of a
difference, but it helps keep the colours in the tag from seeming too intense.

Effective lighting

Lighting is used to help bring out certain elements in a tag. Since the focal point
needs to be accented most of all, we should place our lighting so it brings the
focal point out more. Look at the lighting and shadows of the stock. The lighting
is coming from above the man’s right cheek, and because the transition between
light and dark is so short, the lighting has to be close.

Take a 200px soft brush and, in the colour you used to stroke your Path a while
back (if it’s not in your palette, just click the Pen Layer and use the Eyedropper
on the line), place a spot of lighting where you think it should come from. Take
your colour and lower the Saturation so you have a paler, brighter version of the
same colour. Brush in the center of your first spot with a 100px soft brush to
make your lighting more dynamic and realistic. Lower the Opacity to 75% and set
the Mode to Screen.

Make a new Layer and Copy Visible and Paste the tag. Get out the Dodge/Burn
tool. With a small soft round brush, Burn the shadows of the tag to reinforce your

The finishing touches

Copy Visible and Paste the image on a new Layer. Go to Layer > Transform >
Flip Horizontally.

Again Copy Visible and Paste on a new Layer. Now go to Filters > Enhance >
Sharpen…. Sharpen the tag by about 45. Erase everything that is not around
your focal point or that you don’t want to bring out, and lower the Opacity of the
Layer until you like the look.

A border is a nice finishing touch. Fill a new Layer with black. Select All, and
shrink the selection by 1 pixel. Clear the selection and lower the Opacity to 80%.

I can’t believe I just wrote my first tutorial, and that it ended up being that long.
Even so, I hope somebody got something out of it, and I’m glad people like the
style. If someone sees something I do and asks for a tutorial, then maybe I’ll do
another. I guess it all depends on the response I get from this one.

It’s also hard to believe that I got good enough over nine months that people
would even ask me for one. It makes me feel special.

Since it’s my first one, I’m looking for feedback on it. I know it’s long, but if
anyone actually reads over everything and I see some outcomes, I’ll be pleased
very much.


I want to personally thank .Genesis at Gamerenders for the awesome
overexposure effects. When I find the link back I’ll post it.

Acknowledgments and thanks

All the guys at Gimptalk for putting up with me for so long

Fileden for hosting this tutorial, because it’s big.
And I’d like to thank anyone who reads this tutorial. It makes me happy.


Email –

This is mine. You like ripping? Well, I don’t. If you post this tutorial anywhere and
don’t have written consent from me, I will hunt you down and politely ask you to
take it down. And if you don’t, then it’s my right as the original author to contact
your server people and get them involved, and we don’t want that. So to clear
things up:

Copyright © 2007, Eric Lockett, All Rights Reserved.

This document may only be posted at If you would like

to post it elsewhere, contact me.