Finals Week with Photoshop

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already arrived at the end of the semester, and I am almost done with my VIC 5325 course. Coming into this class, I had very little prior experience with Photoshop, and my web design knowledge was limited. Fifteen weeks later, I feel that I have learned so much and I cannot wait to further develop my skills and continue my training.

For my final Design Showcase, I was assigned to create a e-card that the University of Florida could send out to its students. Our focus this week was in lighting effects, which I didn’t even realize you could utilize in Photoshop before this week. This has been one of my favorite lessons, because working with light effects gives you so much more flexibility with an image and can really transform your final product.

Instead of focusing on a holiday, I wanted to take a different approach with my e-card. Because I know so many students (myself included) are pushing to get through that end-of-the-semester workload, I decided to create an encouraging e-card wishing students good luck on finals. As just about every college student has experienced, finals week is brutal: from balancing projects to cramming for exams, all-nighters are almost a necessity, and coffee becomes your new best friend, even if you don’t normally drink it.

I began by finding an image that I wanted to use for the base of my card. I found a great image on Unsplash of a coffee cup next to a bed, which felt like a great finals set-up. After a while, I know I take to my bed, hunched over my textbooks, to get everything done. The image was a little bright, so I applied an adjustment layer and lowered the saturation until I felt that the image had a nice feel. I also used the color replacement tool to make the coffee cup orange, keeping in line with the gator colors established by the brand. To create a nice, contrasting space for my greeting, I applied a blue gradient at the top of the image, and mirrored it with a smaller one on the bottom for balance.

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I chose to use the typeface Palatino because it is the standard font used in the university’s logo and wanted to ensure that my e-card looked like it came from the school. I placed my greeting on two lines, off-centered, making the “Good luck” text the largest to make it stand out. I applied a drop shadow to all of the text on the card, excluding the logo, to help with readability. On the logo, I used an outer glow. I felt that an inspiring quote would be a nice touch to give students a small token of support in the last minute stress of the week.

Once I had placed everything accordingly, I added my lighting effects. I  first used a white, three-spotlight effect, angling all three to highlight the coffee cup. I adjusted the ambiance to a high degree, ensuring that you could still see the entire image. I also used a soft omni light on the quote, but this one I tinted a slight orange color. This second lighting effect just slightly adjusted the image’s tone, making it slightly warmer.

Bringing in Valentines Day the Right Way: With IMC

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the Francesca’s brand and this is for solely educational purposes.

With Valentine’s Day being just around the corner, many brands are taking advantage of this holiday for lovers. For retail companies, Valentine’s day is more than just a fun holiday–it’s the perfect opportunity to market their products in a seasonal way. The obvious players are brands that sell chocolates, flowers, cards and gifts, but lots of other brands enjoy the festivities as well. One such brand is Francesca’s, a clothing boutique targeted at young women.

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Across the company’s online outlets, such as their website, Facebook, and Instagram, you can see that the company is pushing their Valentine’s Day products. Francesca’s messaging feels young, flirty, loving and feminine, and it encourages women to feel pretty on the special holiday, no matter what their plans are.

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For my Design Showcase this week, I was assigned to create a 600 x 800 pixel graphic that could be used on the web to accompany an integrated marketing communications (IMC) campaign. I chose Francesca’s because I personally am a huge fan of the company, and I thought that their Valentine’s promotions were well executed.

I began by looking through all of their social media profiles to make sure I really understood the feel that the brand wanted to convey to it’s consumers. With any IMC plan, the most important aspect is that the message sent is compatible across all media channels. After I felt that I had a good understanding of the company, I started the process of designing my graphic. In order to keep consistency with the brand’s visuals, I took assets from their websites, including banners from their Facebook profile and examples of dresses from their catalog. Since many of their promotions stress finding the perfect Valentine’s Day outfit, I decided to create a design that could be used on social media channels for last minute advertising.

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I took care to choose dresses that conveyed the “Valentine’s Day” feel and kept within the colors of the campaign. Once I knew how I wanted to organize my graphic, I put in the images on the top and bottom. I lowered the opacity and put in a color balance adjustment layer until I felt satisfied with the look of the image. For the text, I knew that I wanted to keep a romantic tone. I chose Lobster because Francesca’s is a feminine brand that often uses script fonts. To make the text really pop and give it a polished look, I applied layer styles to the text, including bevel and emboss and stroke styles. I used the same styles on the logo, with the addition of a color overlay, since the logo I worked with was originally black. I also changed the color of the text in the “Be Mine” banner by creating a mask and cutting out the letters and placing the new color beneath it. My final step was to add in the hearts to help draw the viewer’s eye down the graphic and fill in some of the white space.

My favorite part of this assignment was having a set tone to achieve and planning out how to create a graphic that would flow with the rest of the brand’s imagery. I created this with the mindset that it could be used as a post on the brand’s Facebook or Twitter to compliment their other messaging. It was also fun to get to work on a brand that I love, though it did make me want to go out and buy a Valentine’s Day dress myself!

Little Bean Coffee Company, Now Open for Business

As a typography enthusiast, I was excited to complete this week’s Design Showcase. Given some background and ornament assets, I was assigned to create a local coffee shop chalkboard advertisement. Of my work thus far, this assignment required the most planning, as I was given many options of where I could take my design. Instead of editing an image, I was to build one from scratch.

I decided that before I could start, I wanted to really know what kind of business I was designing for. I created a list of words that I associated with coffee (such as bean, mocha, cup, caramel, warm, relaxing, etc.) to create a name for my company. Eventually I chose Little Bean Coffee Company because I felt that it fit the vibe of the shop I was mentally creating. I wanted a shop that felt folky, authentic and comfortable, and I began my design from there.

After choosing a smooth board for my background, I added a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to darken the surface. I added the decorative border and lightly adjusted the opacity so that it didn’t feel too harsh against the black. Once I had my basic canvas ready, I began arranging the type and wingdings. I decided to focus on weekly specials because that is what personally catches my eye whenever I see these types of advertisements. Because I wanted the graphic to be versatile, I added social media icons at the bottom. My assignment was to create a graphic to be used on a website, so I wanted it to attract attention to the brand’s other social media outlets. The image could also be used as print advertising, and this would integrate the online presence with the print media.

Once I had laid out my type exactly how I wanted, I added some layer styles to the text. The layer styles helped give the finishing touch to the “chalkboard” feel of the design.

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This is the first graphic I designed and built on my own, so it was fun to see what I could do. I found that organizing my Photoshop file was extremely helpful, as I finished with many different layers of text and ornaments and keeping them all straight proved to be a challenge. Overall, I am very happy with the finished look of my final design.

A Light Amid the Flowers

As I move further into my Photoshop exploration, I am learning how to use more of the core image manipulation tools. This week, my emphasis was on the dodge, burn and clone tools, along with adjustment layers and layer masks. I had a choice of three floral images and given some creative freedom on how I wanted to edit my selection.

The original file I was given to work with

The original file I was given to work with

One of the major points stressed in class this week was the importance of editing without damaging or changing the original file. Keeping this in mind, I started by saving the .jpeg as a new .psd file and resizing it to fit my needs. I then began by using the clone tool to extend the flowers along the length of the image. I took samples from across the flowers to create variation and keep them looking realistic.

After working with the flowers, I decided that I wanted to give the image a muted, vintage feel. I applied a Color Balance adjustment layer and stressed the red and magenta tones. I then used the burn tool to darken the metal on the post and the dodge tool to lighten the actual lamp. After I was satisfied with the colors, I sharpened the llamp-post to make it stand out against the flowers. Though these tools make subtle changes, I enjoyed working with them to see how the small changes affected the overall composition.

My color image was then complete. The second portion of my Design Showcase required me to apply a black and white adjustment layer. I applied the layer at 60% opacity, continuing to mute the flowers. I finished by creating a mask over the lamp-post so that its edited color would show through the adjustment layer, leaving me with my final picture.

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