Digital Illustration: Designing Custom Vintage Postcards | Connor Brandt | Skillshare

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Digital Illustration: Designing Custom Vintage Postcards

teacher avatar Connor Brandt, Graphic Designer, College Student

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      The Process


    • 4.

      The Pen Tool


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Using Strokes


    • 7.

      Adding Color


    • 8.

      The Frame


    • 9.

      The Sky


    • 10.

      Adding Text


    • 11.



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About This Class

Do you have vacation pictures?  Do you have pictures?  Of anything?  Then you can participate in this class!  In this quick 32-minute class, graphic designer Connor Brandt shares the process and techniques for creating an accurate, eye-catching illustration of your very own photographs.

You will learn how to recognize the basic shapes needed to represent your original image while giving it a more bold, streamlined look.  By juxtaposing the deep shadows of the foreground with a radiating sky, thick frame, and art deco text, you can make even the most mundane picture look like something that belongs on the front of a postcard.

What picture will you choose?  The Golden Gate Bridge?  Your childhood home?  The local Walmart?  There's no limit to what you can do.  So let's get started!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Connor Brandt

Graphic Designer, College Student


Connor Brandt is a 20 year old who enjoys graphic design and listening to music. He sometimes types in the third person.

Hey, I'm Connor. I'm a Junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Even when I was too young to know how to use a computer, I always had logo ideas in my head. Ones that I'd have to scribble on paper with colored pencils. So when I finally found a way to really make my ideas come to life, I was hooked. I started out designing sports uniforms and logos in Microsoft Paint when I was about 12. I've since become interested in all other aspects of graphic design, working first in Inkscape and now in Illustrator. Graphic design is something I enjoy doing both for myself and for other people, and I'm now sharing my skills (see what I did there?) with others on ... See full profile

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1. Introduction: action. Hello, everyone. I am Connor Brandt. I'm a freshman here at the wonderful University of Nebraska at Omaha. Yes, I am a freshman, So you're going to be taking orders from an 18 year old kid, But that's okay. I have been doing this a while, so I've had an interesting design ever since I was a young kid when I'd always be drawing sports logo's or flights of the world. And then around about the age of 12 I discovered Microsoft Pain, which I used to copy and paste logos and change the colors, things like that. Keep in mind all my designs from this time were these awful pixelated messes. But that's kind of where I don't start. Eventually, I moved from paint into escape, where I started working with Vector Art. And then about three years ago, I got Illustrator, and I've been using that ever since. I've expanded beyond sports logos. I do a lot of designing just for fun, like band posters, T shirt designs or just any other random idea that popped into my head. So I had a random idea for this project, and that is postcards. We're gonna be making postcards Why did I do this project? Well, I like going places, and I like taking pictures, and I like taking pictures of places that I'm going. So I end up with a lot of vacation photos on my computer, and I love all my pictures, but I also love vector art graphic art, these kind of bold, almost cartoonish illustrations. So in this class, I'm gonna teach you how to take your own photographs and transform them into a nice, clean, vintage inspired illustration. I think this is a pretty easy and fun project that anyone with the vector program take on. So I hope you join me. I hope you learned something, and I hope you have fun. Thanks, Dutch love listening to your voice. 2. Preparation: Hello, everybody, and welcome back. It's time to get started on our postcards. So first things first, we're gonna have to pick a photo. You know, obviously the most popular choices for postcards are vacation destinations or landmarks. You might see a statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and things like that. But my goal for this project is for you to pick something a little more personal, little more unique to you. So maybe that's a nice photo of your house, your neighborhood, your hometown, whatever. Maybe it's a vacation spot. You and your family go do a lot, but that's not found in the gift shop on a postcard. So you absolutely do the Statue of Liberty, if you want. Nothing is off limits here, but for this example, to prove that really, any picture can make a beautiful postcard. I just chose a bad photo. So one day I stepped out on my porch and took this awful, dreary, overcast picture of the dorms here in Omaha and disclaimer. We do have a beautiful campus. I love it. This is just another Glee Day weather wise with overcast, ugly white sky. Everything's kind of washed out anyway. I chose this photo because I want to show you that you could take this in, Turn it in to something like that. Our finished product. OK, so once you've chosen your picture, you're gonna wanna do some adjusting. So we're gonna copy and paste this into photo shop now. Either want to copy and paste it or make a duplicate because you don't want to ruin your original photo, Obviously. And it's not absolutely necessary that you have Photoshopped for this. We're just going to be doing some basic contrast level adjusting, which can be done in I photo or in Windows Photo Gallery. I believe if you're using that So we're gonna paste this in here and first step, it's probably to do some cropping. So get rid of all the unnecessary detail and things that would be a little harder to trace and illustrate once we get to the next step. So here, I'm gonna take the crop tool. I bring this up, give her those trees. May be that some of this foreground here in the sidewalk and bring the top down and get rid of some of this guy right there. That looks good. So The main thing we're doing here is bumping up the contrast. So this will hopefully make your image easier Trace once it's an illustrator. And if you saw my whips, my final photo has is mostly all shadow with a few overlying shapes on that, so we're gonna want to make these easily defined and easy to trace. So once you've got your image crop where you want it now we're going to adjust the contrast , so go to image adjustments and levels. So we want to give this a lot of deep, dark shadows and do that. Take this black arrow over here and bring it over quite a bit. Do you see how that's working? May bring the white end to give us a nice defined edge here between the sky and the foreground and then last, you can kind of play with this gray arrow in the middle, probably want to bring it over to the white closer. You can see these shapes starting to form here, and you just play around with that to see what works best for your image. But I think that looks good there, and once you've got it done, that's about all we're gonna do in photo shop, and we're ready to move into Illustrator 3. The Process: all right, now you've picked out your image, made some quick adjustments and now it's time to get to the fun part in Illustrator. In this video, I'm going explain the basic thought process that goes into making these postcards. And I'm gonna show you some little tricks and shortcuts you can use to create shapes quickly and easily. First off, before we get started tracing or anything, I want to show you my finished product here and explain how we get to this point. This can all be broken down into about four basic regions, which are this shadow. These highlights the sky and the frame. The first section we're gonna work on is the shadow. This basically right here, which kind of acts like a foundation for the rest of the image, and everything else gets built around that. And when we're done with that, we'll start working on these highlights here, which will add some detail and depth to your image. So now that you have an idea what we're doing here, let's pace the image into illustrator so open a new document. And because it's vector, you can really do any size. You want bigger, small and then resize it when you're done. But I prefer to choose a larger canvas so I can zoom in on some of the detail. So I think 2400 by 1600 is a good size for this. Obviously, if your picture is oriented differently, you want toe flip those numbers around. I'm going to go get my picture from photo shop, copy and paste. And this doesn't have to fit exactly, even though there's some blank spaces here. We'll fix that by adding the frame, the sky and the text all later on. So get your image place where you want it, and to be able to trace this more easily, we're gonna bring the opacity down to about 40 or something. Around there, whatever looks best, and now we're ready to do some tracing. Like I mentioned earlier. The first step is to create this shadow shape right here, which is obviously already finished. But I'm going to redo it to show you some of the techniques I used on this postcard and on my other examples. So you can apply these to your own image and be able to trace other subject matter. Besides, just these dorm buildings 4. The Pen Tool: way to trace is to just outline your shapes exactly as they appear. This works best for buildings or maybe a rock formation that you want to keep in its exact original shape. This is not unlike tracing an image on paper. You're just following the line exactly as you see it, and it doesn't take a whole lot of artistic skill. So to do this, you're just going to take the pen tool over here. And I prefer to use just a nice thin black stroke and zoom in and just click each point like so. And if you noticed, I also went all the way to the bottom of the art board to make sure this shape fills up much space. Is it can. I didn't bother tracing these trees at the moment because I'm going to show you how to do that next 5. Shape-Building: so the pen tool works well for this building here. But what about the trees? I don't want to waste my time outlining every single branch on this tree. And plus it's bear, and nobody wants a bare tree on a postcard. So I'm gonna cheat a little bit here. I'm going to use very basic shapes like circles and squares, which can all be found over here, and I'm going to use them to represent these two trees. So first off, I'm going to use a square for each trunk. I'm gonna take a circle and just kind of estimate where to put it and how big to make it based on the general shape of the tree. And the quickest way to duplicate shapes rather than copy and paste is just hold down, option and drag. And you can always resize these two. So I'm gonna do this for the whole tree. Once you've got all your shapes laid out here, you're gonna want to combine them into one solid shape. And the best tool for that is the shape builder tool over here. So first year, we're gonna want to select them all. Make sure you don't get the background in there, and then it's like the shape builder tool and just click and drag through all the shapes you want to join. So it should end up looking like something like that and see how it's ah, solid shape now. And I'm going to give these trees down here the same treatment. The shape builder tool can also be used to get rid of shapes. So to keep that from sticking out here, I'm just gonna create a rectangle, select them both. It's like the shape builder tool and then hold down option to get rid of shapes. I'm signed, Mrs Spot there, lead those. And I'm going to do the same for this one. Even though the majority of it is down here, I'm gonna trace the whole thing because later on, I'm gonna add some highlights to help this stand out from the ground a little bit And now I'm gonna join these together, and eventually this will all be one shape to. But again, I'm gonna leave this live so I can work on some highlights there. Circles work well for most trees, but let's say if it's a pine tree, you can always use triangles, maybe for something like that or ovals. That's the beauty of it is. You can use any shape from this little drop down box to illustrate almost anything. 6. Using Strokes: Another technique that's important is using different stroke widths to create parallel lines. Because if I'm tracing something like the top of this building here, it would be a pain to try to outline exactly and get everything lined up. See, that ends up looking a little wonky. It doesn't look right. So an easy way around that is to bump up your stroke here. And then, rather than outlining everything, just draw a line straight on middle and it just the thickness later if you need to. And once you have some of the strokes down, you can then select them and then go to object path, outline stroke and again use the shape builder tool to join these altogether. Another area you might use strokes in is something thin like offense. And then for these smaller lines, something that comes in handy is the blend tool. So for something like this, I would create one stroke on this end, duplicate it, bring it down here, then select them both and go to object, blend, make, and you can see there there's quite a bit. So I'm gonna go back to blend options and adjust the amount of steps So if that's 40 right there, I'm gonna want to go down to about 25 maybe less. And once the blend is made, you can always double click in here and adjust the length of these and to create shapes out of your blended object, you would go object blend, expand, object path outlined, stroke railroads to join these together and get rid of this area down here. And there you go. In the next video, I'll discuss a few more techniques. You've been used to refine your image and bring it closer to the finished product. 7. Adding Color: Now that you've got all your outlines made, we need to fill them in with some color. Instead of talking about all my completed examples, I decided to start a new one from scratch so I can walk you through these next steps a little easier. So here's a quick time lapse of the steps I covered in the previous videos. All right, so here I've got my shadow outline, which I had decided to make a little bit thicker to separate these highlights from the sky . Now I'm going to give these highlights a white stroke for the time being. Toe. Help them stand out from my black background easier. And just so I can keep my original version intact, I'm going to duplicate this art board now when choosing colors, I usually start out with black for the shadow, and I'm going to outline this stroke. That's odd. Sometimes with large shapes like this. It doesn't want to outline the stroke for some reason, so if it does that you can always go to expand appearance and then join those shapes together. Anyway, I start out with black for the shadow and then for the highlights. I'm just going to use the eyedropper tool to select natural colors from my original picture . - Now it's unlikely that these will be my final colors, but it just kind of gives me an idea of what it should look like. And while I was doing that, I was grouping together. Similar colors like this blew up here, this white and the stairs. That way, it will all be easier to edit if I decide to change the colors again. So I'm gonna group together all of these. And also, now that it's easier to see this starting to take shape, I'm gonna make some minor adjustments to a few of these shapes. 8. The Frame: Now we are basically done with the core of our image. Aside from adjusting these colors once again, once we had the frame and everything else. So for right now, I'm going to group this all together. Get this out of the way and for the frame. The easiest way to do this is to create a rectangle the size of the art board. Give it a black stroke, make sure it's aligned to the inside. Then bump this stroke with way up to give it a nice, thick border. So I think that probably looks good. Now I'm noticing my canvas and my building here are a little disproportionate. So I'm going to adjust this rectangle to accommodate for the sky and the text that we're going to add later on. And I'm going to resize my art board accordingly. And now that this is all group together, I can resize it and kind of get it centered here. So we have room for this rectangle on the bottom. Where are text is gonna go and make that black to match the shadow. Once you've got your frame in the right place, you're gonna want to select it and then outline the stroke, then give that shape its own stroke. And for some reason, it doesn't want to allow me to change the alignment of the stroke over here. So I'm just going to create an identical shape using rectangles. I'm not sure why it did that. It might just be a glitch, but I want to get this frame shape so that I am able to change the stroke alignment over here. Now that I've got this, I'm going to make the fill color a highlight color like this red. And then have the stroke color be dark black in this case. Then align the stroke to the inside and increase it until you get this nice, thin line here like that. That's just what I like to do for the frame. You're welcome to try something else out on your own. Maybe you want a dashed line, something like this, or you can always create your own brush over here. 9. The Sky: I've got my frame where I want it, and the next step is to add the sky. This is probably my favorite part because it's pretty quick and easy, and it really adds a lot to your image to kind of bring it to life. So first I'm just going to create a rectangle with a sky color and then send it to the back and maybe adjust color a little bit. Then I'm going to take a star shape, and while holding down on your mouse, you can do a variety of things like use the arrows on your keyboard to increase the number of points in the star. If you hold down command at the same time, this will increase the length of each point, and holding down shift will increase the size of the entire star proportionately. So with all that in mind, what I'm trying to do here is create thes sort of sun rays coming from behind the foreground. Which kind of gives you this vintage art Deco vibe? So the fewer points on your star, the thicker your rays will be and vice versa. So I'm going to make my star shape here that looks good and then make it a slightly lighter color than your background and send it to the back with this other erecting a little bit lighter. And once you're satisfied with the shape of this, you can use the shape builder tool to get rid of all these extra points on the outside. Another option for the sky is to use the blend tool to create ingredient from light color to a dark color, like I did here by creating a small circle with a light color and then a much larger circle with the dark color. Then select them both and go to object. Blend blend options, and you can either do a smooth color, which will give you more of a true Grady it look. But I prefer to use the specified steps because with a smooth color, you'll probably end up having over 100 individual shapes. But with the specified steps, I can choose a much lower number like eight and still get the same effect. So then you go to object blend, make, and there you have it. One other option. If you want um, or realistic sky or if there are clouds, you want to include. You can always illustrate the clouds using that same technique we did with the trees just with a bunch of circles here. 10. Adding Text: last but not least, to complete our postcard, we need to add some text. I prefer to use something bold. Maybe San Serif that is readable from a distance to play in with our art Deco Look a little more. You can just go on Google and search for any Art Deco font, and most of them will look good with these postcards. But my personal favorite is just a simple future medium which I used for all my other examples. So I'm gonna type my location down here. This is the make it white. First is the Miramonte Castle in Manitou Springs, Colorado. And if you have a lot of information you want to fit on the bottom. You can always do this sort of hierarchy like I did here and also in this one and again, I had to adjust the size of my frame to accommodate this text down here. So I'm gonna make the art board bigger to match now. No postcard would be complete without a greetings from line at the top. So I would recommend using some type of brush fought for this. I have been using one called carry pro, which can be found on type kit if you're a creative cloud user and I usually like to give this some type of outline to make it stand out more so to be able to outline this, I'm going to hit shift command Oh, to turn into a shape. And then I use future of for the from line, and at this point, you're pretty much done. Maybe you want to do some last minute adjusting of the color. I like to use as few colors as possible. So we have this red, this brown, the very dark brown green off white and blue, and your shadow color doesn't always have to be black. It could be this dark brown like I used here, kind of ah, purple shade or maybe Navy blue, really anything dark, So it's all completely your choice. 11. Congratulations!: So now hopefully you're finished with your postcard. I encourage you to upload your finished product on here so you can get some feedback from classmates in from me as well. Like I said, if you have any questions on some of the steps covered or something, you want me to explain more. Please ask. I'd love to help. I love teaching this class. And I'm excited to see what everyone came up with once again. Thank you. And until next time, goodbye.