Step-By-Step Stage 1: The color comp

This comprehensive color mock-up lays out the placement and style of major elements for the cover design. The art directors notes are laid out in the margins as suggestions to follow. As the design progresses you will see adjustments made to some of the typographical elements at the bottom and top right of the design as well as some background elements. A decision to focus mainly on a customized type font for the word “Cardinal”  carried off a movie poster look and feel in a cleaner fashion for a magazine sized media guide layout.



Step-By-Step Stage 2: Digital test shots

Here are two examples from several low resolution test shots produced with various poses. Ball position, stance, ambient lighting, cast shadow, facial highlights, and backdrop got adjusted at this stage to produce the best possible results in preparation for a final photo shoot.



Step-By-Step Stage 3: Final photo set

The final photo set used in the design incorporated the best qualities of all critera. Each photo had its background removed with a third-party filtering tool called Mask Pro,  which greatly speeds up a time-consuming hand editing process if done with standard tools.



Step-By-Step Stage 4: Additional photo elements

Smaller photo elements provide background objects for better depth in the composition. Exploded basketballs, pulled from a previous “Towers of Power” project done for the same client, and a rusted backboard,  give better depth for the cascading elements added later in the design.



Step-By-Step Stage 5: Players positioned in the foreground

This group of layers build from several hue and saturation, levels, color balance, and shadow layers linked to alpha channels. All the layers except the original player masks remain invisible  in this slide to show contrast with the next slide which reveals the difference these adjustments have when turned on against a white background.



Step-By-Step Stage 6: Shadow and glow

All color, level, saturation, and glow layers are on in this slide. See how they interact differently against a cardinal red background in the next slide.



Step-By-Step Stage 7: Background & cast shadows

The cardinal red background and cast shadow layers are now all visible. The adjustment layers turned on in the previous slide are now interacting with all layers placed beneath them. The glow and cast shadows will interact naturally with sub-layered elements and change accordingly as more textural elements get introduced into the design.



Step-By-Step Stage 8: Asphalt & shadow color

The asphalt texture and shadow color begin to build up solid foreground. The asphalt, rendered from a seamless texture, repeats once across the spine. The color layer in the cast shadow has been re-applied as a color overlay from the original photo to interact with the subtle colors in the asphalt, giving it a slightly purplish hue.



Step-By-Step Stage 9: Background elements

More background elements introduce further expansion of the image depth. All of the background elements have a severe level adjustment that suggests they are partially obscured by a thick haze. Notice the mist-like texture building up at the ground level.



Step-By-Step Stage 10: Final background elements

Several layers have now been applied affecting everything from the shadow in the foreground to the mist and glowing elements in the background. New building elements have also been applied to the background. These were not in the original color comp because they were a client request midway through the design. Digital illustration makes requests like this easier to work into a design than they would otherwise with a more traditional method.



Step-By-Step Stage 11: The cascade

A familiar cascade of code, rendered against the cardinal background, adds a final touch of depth to the composition. In this case the text is not code, but the school’s name and season details. Each spell out details vertically and repeat hundreds of times across the background.



Step-By-Step Stage 12: Final copy

The last group of layers added, and the only group not flattened for delivery, was the copy. The “Matrix” font did not look good with the Cardinal title. Instead, this font was custom designed in Illustrator by converting a normal style font to outlines for the redesign of various type elements. This allowed for font designed specific to the word “Cardinal”.



Step By Step Stage 13: Final design & printed guide

All the layers and design elements (featuring the three most senior players) come together to produce a visually grabbing cover image designed to inspire potential college basketball recruits. The deliverables for this project included two high-resolution Photoshop files (one containing a separate copy layer for the printer to adjust) and an Illustrator file of the copy on the back cover for last-minute schedule changes, or for the option to produce a text knockout.

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