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Photoshop CS2 Illustrator CS2 or later

Graphic designer James White shows you how to give retro-style graphics your own modern-day spin

Creating the new retro

Remember the dawn of the home computer system? This was a colourful time when the kings of the castle were Commodore, Atari and an infant named Nintendo. Given that distinctive time period and the design cues that were so prevalent during it, how can we use modern programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator to represent the pasts interpretation of the future? The two keys to this tutorial are to experiment and to have fun. There is no single, linear way to achieve this composition when so many variables are at work, so each small alteration can throw other elements into ux. I will offer you some guidelines and pointers, but it will ultimately be up to you. So, throw on some Zeppelin and lets get rockin.

James White A visual artist and graphic designer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, James has worked with a variety of exciting clients including Toyota, VH1, Red Bulletin and Armada Skis. You can nd out more at www.

On the disc The les you need to complete this tutorial can be found in Disc Contents\ Resources\New Retro

Time needed 4-5 hours Skills Using vector objects Blending Modes Gradient colour overlays Layer masks

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Rough out your idea in Illustrator. Construct some simple layouts to generate ideas for colour, composition and general aesthetic. This step is very important and will give you a decent guideline for building the nal piece.

Create your vector assets. Using the Pen tool in Illustrator, create some simple polygon shape groups in random assortments. Keep these shapes as greyscale for now, and feel free to adjust the brightness of each shape individually using the colour slider to add variety to the groups. Make the shapes quite long.

Open the Main.psd le on the Computer Arts CD. Using the shape assets you created in the previous step, copy and paste the groups into Photoshop, bearing in mind the layout you created in step 1. Paste six layers of shapes on top of one another.



Create a layer mask in Photoshop on the folder containing the shapes you just pasted. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool while holding the Shift key to ensure your mask lines up properly with the shapes everything should be a 45-degree angle. Give the mask a slight Gaussian blur.

In the layers palette drop all of the opacities of the pasted shapes down to 30%. This step will give you a lot of interesting variety as the shapes start showing through one another. Adjust the opacities at random to show more or less of the shapes.


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Create a new layer below your shapes, ll it with solid white and drop its opacity to 30%. On the three topmost shape layers, set their blending mode to Overlay. This will add more interest to the form. Try Soft Light, Color Dodge and Screen to see different varieties.

Now its time to overlay colours. Create a new layer in the Layers palette over all the shape layers, and then using the Blending Mode dropdown menu (in the Layers palette) set the new layer to Overlay. Using the Gradient tool and a full spectrum palette, apply a gradient to cover all of the shape layers.


To adjust the colour, right/Ctrl-click on the colour layer you just made and select Duplicate Layer. Create ve new colour layers and experiment with opacity settings, blending modes and gradients. This step will give your colours more versatility to experiment with. Try to keep your opacity levels around 50% on every layer of colour.



Create new a section by duplicating the folder containing your shapes. Slide this new layer down and ip it horizontally. Adjust your layer mask to make the new section ow with the previous one. You can add a bit of a shadow behind this new section and over the initial section to add a bit of depth.


In the new folder of shapes and colours, experiment with colour opacities and blending modes to achieve a different consistency. You can also slide the shape assets around within the layer mask to create a different aesthetic than the previous folder.

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Once again, duplicate the rst folder containing your shapes. Make sure this new folder is above the previous two folders in your Layers palette, and drag the new shapes down to the bottom of the canvas. As in step 10, adjust your layer mask, opacities, blending modes and shape placement.


Select the layer mask of the third section. Using the Polygonal Lasso tool, roughly select the area then, using the Gradient tool with the foreground set to black, apply a gradient to the bottom portion to fade it out. Shift your lines around to make the fade more effective.


Open Burst.tif from the CD and place it on the canvas on the lower left. In the blending mode dropdown menu, select Screen. Duplicate this layer and adjust sizes to add more ares.

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For the streaks, make a new layer and, using the Rectangular Marquee tool, select an area the height of the canvas and apply a white to transparent gradient. Set the blending mode to Overlay, and duplicate six times to ll in the bottom. Using the Brush tool, apply airbrush touches to add glows.

Once the foreground elements are complete, you can add some simple space imagery to the background. Photos of nebulas, clouds and stars will do nicely. Paste them into the bottom-most layer and set them to Screen. Adjust the levels and opacity accordingly.

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