A recent OXO Tower brochure had a clever design idea, but unless you live in the London area and have a particularly keen interest in the OXO Tower, it’s unlikely you’d have seen it.
I thought this idea was too good to let slip away into obscurity, so here it is and here’s one way to do it in Photoshop.
As you can see in the image, they have used balloons to outline the negative space in the shape of the OXO Tower. The design is simple, light and colourful and I really like it. The easiest way I can see to do this in Photoshop is to use a brush and play with the scatter and size settings.
To start off, I’ve created a balloon shape. This was done by drawing a circle with the Ellipse Tool, selecting the two middle points and moving them up a bit to make a balloon shape. Then I drew a little knot in the end and combined that with the balloon. Finally, I drew a bit of ribbon tied on the end using the Pen Tool. It took less time to create than it did to write this sentence, actually. But if you like, you can download the balloon Custom Shape, balloon AI vector or just go right ahead and get the balloon brush shape.
Next, I flattened the layers (ALT+L+F) and made it into a brush shape (ALT+E+B). It’s good to have the shape as a decent size, so it doesn’t get too blurry or pixilated at different sizes as a brush, so mine is about 800px tall.
Now, you’ll want something to be in the negative space so that the brush shape (balloons in this case) have something to form around. I happen to have a hot air balloon shape handy, which seems appropriate enough, so I’ll use that.
To set this up, I’ve created a blank canvas and have my hot air balloon shape in a new layer and have set it to slightly darker than white (so I can see the outline) and have a white background. I’ve also put a slight radial gradient on the background to make it show up a bit more.
With that set up, it’s back to the brush. Select the brush tool and go to the brushes palette. The newly created balloon brush should be at the bottom.
Brush Tip Shape
Depending on the size of the document, you will need to adjust your balloon size. The balloons look best far apart, so set that quite high. I’ve done about 300%
If you’re fortunate enough to have a graphics tablet, then you can have size jitter at 100% and control it with the pen pressure. Otherwise, you can set it to fade or just manually adjust the brush size using the [ and ] keys. It’s a good idea to set a minimum diameter so you don’t get lots of tiny 1px balloons. I’ve chosen about 20%. To give the balloons a bit more of a natural look, adjust the Angle Jitter – not too much though, unless you want them going in all directions. I’ve also set the brush to Flip X Jitter so they’re not all facing the same way (Y Jitter will flip them upside down).
To add to the natural, random look of the balloons, adjust the Scatter slider to your liking. 100% is good for me.
Finally, colour dynamics will adjust the colour of the balloons. I’ve set foreground/background jitter to 100% – this way, the balloons will be set to a colour somewhere between the colours you have chosen in the palette.
You might also like to adjust the opacity of the brush to make the balloons slightly transparent.
Now, we can finally paint some balloons! To start off with, it’s good to get some smaller balloons around the shape of the object (hot air balloon in this case). Set the foreground/background colours to black and white (press D) and paint around the shape until you’re happy with it.
Once you have a rough outline, you can go nuts – fill the entire canvas with balloons if you like! Keep in mind that it does tend to look better with some white space.
A moment ago I said to set the colours to black and white. This wasn’t to depress you or deprive you of colours – just the opposite. We can now do my patented (not really) Gradient Map trick.
Make a new Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and start scrolling through the gradients and seeing how they look – you might like one of the colour schemes. Personally, I’d like it to be lighter and brighter, so I set the Gradient Map layer to Soft Light. This will keep the background light while embiggening the balloons with colour. The default Photoshop gradients are okay, but there are some really nice ones in “Pastels” and “Simple” or you can even go to Colourlovers and get some from there.
Here are a couple of quick examples of what I came up with (Click to view 1600x1200px versions).
If you make something yourself using this method, let me know in the comments – I’d love to see what you create.
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