Inspiration for a cover design can come from a number of places. Usually it has a lot to do with what resources are available.
With this audience recording of the 1999 Slovenia show I had very little to work with. The footage image quality wasnâ€™t good enough to get a nice still I could use. Being an older show it’s a lot harder to find audience photos. In this case the best thing to do is to create something from scratch. The key to making this sort of cover work is using strong design elements.
DeviantArt is an amazing community of extremely talented people that inspire and challenge each other.
The resource section there has been indispensable. Not only am I using DA resources on more work (See Storytellers, Warsaw and the new Springsteen set) but I find it is an inspiration for new covers. The Slovenia cover is a perfect example. Knowing I had no photo resources I was on the look out for a striking image or texture. I found a great image that I loved but I couldnâ€™t get a response from the DA member on whether I could use it on my non-profit work. So Slovenia was put on the shelf, at least for a couple of weeks while I worked on the Springsteen â€œLove, Tears & Mysteryâ€ CD cover set. I browsed the DA resources section daily and last week a post just leapt out at me. It was a texture posted by asunderstock which was described as â€œA grunge texture I made using a ton of my brushesâ€. You can see the texture below, click on it to go to it’s DA page.
Software: Adobe Photoshop CS2
The first thing I did was to add the text. I used one of my favourite typographic layout techniques of scaling the type to fixed widths. This produces a block text that’s very easy to work with and is very strong as a design element. Luckily, REM is a short word, meaning it’s always a larger size that the other type.
The typeface used is “Hit the Road” by Matthew Welch.
To get the layers to blend I turned the layers blend mode to overlay.
Multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the base color. Patterns or colors overlay the existing pixels while preserving the highlights and shadows of the base color. The base color is not replaced but is mixed with the blend color to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original color.
– Photoshop Manual
Basically, this blends the layer into the image behind it in a certain way. Below you can see the original type on a white background. Below that is the text on the final background with ‘overlay’ on. This gives a really good old scuffed type look, but not really good for the main titles of a DVD cover. I had to duplicate the text layer two more time to build up the type to an acceptable level which you can see in the third image. It’s a lot darker but has kept the distressed look and because the distressed markings are based on the background layer the two blended together more naturally.
So here is the type over the original textured background. I have flipped the background because this created a better distribution of ‘white’ space for the rest of the design.
I then filled a layer above the texture with an earthy skin tone and set its layer mode to ‘darken’. This means any colour darker than it will show through the layer. See below.
I worked with the design like this for a while but it was just missing something. In my daily browse of DA I always check out the work of texturemattic (amazing texture photographer). He had posted a retrospective of some of the older textures artists on DA. One image was by thespook, a simple distressed wall texture but exactly what I was looking for.
I changed my original background colour to 30% and then added the new layer also putting its layer mode to darken and I was extremely happy with the result. It gave the image a beautiful colour and gave it a bit more depth. If you compare it to the previous version you’ll see how flat it looked.
At this point that was all I was going to do for the cover. The problem was apart from the titles it didn’t really tie in with the band at all. It actually looked like a poster for some post apocalyptic horror film. To solve this I need to use an image related to the band. An archive shot wouldn’t work. It would be very tough to work it into the design and colour. After looking at the design again there was only one thing that was going to lend itself to the design…silhouette. I went through the photo archive and found a photo of the band members standing in a full-length photo. Each band member was traced in Photoshop. The black suits made it easy to select and fill in black (although that wall pattern made it a longer process than it needed to be) and then using a layer mask I added or subtracted the other parts. I had to scale Michael down a little to match the others in the band.
I then added the silhouette to the design using the same process at the text.
The overlay mode worked beautifully making the silhouettes look like they had been hatched into the original texture, and the imperfections just add to the look. I love the complete drop out of colour in Mike Mills head.
So that was the cover done. Time to start on the back of the DVD. This time I used the texture in its original orientation because it suited the required layout of elements. As there was going to be smaller elements and more of them on the back I didn’t want as much of the dirty texture. Using a ‘colour dodge’ layer blend mode I duplicated the background several times to reduce the amount of ‘noise’.
I wanted to ‘lift’ the tracklisting off the cover somehow. My first experiments were with pieces of scrap paper and notepads, but as my girlfriend pointed out it really wasn’t matching the feel of the design. The cover was industrial grunge and a notepad just didn’t fit. In the end I had to agree with her. Hate it when she’s right!
So if not paper then the next logical choice was metal! I sourced Stock Xchange for all manner of metallic signs looking for a suitable one. I tried a number of completely eroded factory signs and a number of street signs but none felt right. Then I found this small dirty machine plate (photo taken by Jeremy Bank). I did a standard ‘clone tool’ job to remove the text from the original and then had to do some copying and blending to get it to the right size.
Next came placement on the back cover Since most of the other elements were going to be standard horizontal text I rotated the plate just so the design wasn’t perfectly aligned and linear.
I then needed to make the plate look more like it was part of the scene rather than just sitting on top of it. First was a dropshadow to lift it off the page a little. I always change the opacity setting of the shadow to about 40%, the Photoshop default is always to harsh and drop shadows need to be subtle.
I wanted to add mildew or slime down behind the metal plate. I knew this would give the impression it was more anchored to the background rather than just sitting on top. I knew the exact effect I wanted and after unsuccessfully looking on Stock Xchange I decide just to make it myself.
I selected a rectangle in Photoshop and filled with the extremely useful ‘render cloud’ filter. Next I applied a ‘wind’ filter to get the jaggered line effect. I then had to skew the image so it followed the angle of the image but still have the streaks going straight down.
I also needed a dark area to put behind the DVD info box. Originally I just had a black square at 50% opacity so it was just darker brown but it was a little too rigid so with a splatter brush I painted some extra areas bleeding out into the page.
For both of these I applied the ‘overlay’ layer mode to blend them in with the background. This worked beautifully for both, giving the exact look I was after (see close up below).
The last thing I did to work the plate into the image was to overlay some of the background texture over the top. I used the ‘selection’ tool to select the black portions of the background image and paste them on a new layer above the plate and used a layer effect to soften it off a bit.
For the tracklisting I wanted a handwritten typeface. After testing a few I settled on Notepad. Most of the other typefaces I tried looked a bit to…… ‘friendly’ is the only way I can describe it. I like the way the black texture crosses over and covers up parts of the text. It’s still ledgeable but isn’t just straight forward.
I had to lighten up the texture where the credit text went because it was a bit hard to read. The DVD info box is a template layout that I use on most of my DVD covers because it’s a nice concise way to present the technical information. The screenshots I needed to desaturated a little to tone them back because they were a bit too bright and colourful for the other colours used on the cover.
You can download the DVD from Murmurs BitTorrent tracker. This is a P2P service that trades in non-commercial REM material.
Hope this entry has been informative and help some people get ideas. Thanks to all the people who’s resources I have used.