Mixing Analog & Digital Illustration With E.L. Kludge
Hey there fellow art weirdo. I'm Kevin Bergquist. I'm an artist of sorts working under the moniker of Kludge out of Saint Paul Minnesota. My art practice mixes cut and paste collage, typography, graphic design and screenprinting techniques in a process I refer to as Kludge Poetry.
In this tutorial, I'm going to show you my process for making a band poster from start to finish using a mix of analog and digital techniques. I'll show you some practical stuff plus talk about finding inspiration along with a few insights into my approach to art-making.
True Grit Tools & Apps Used:✓ Fast Grit Brushes
✓ Beat Tones Brushes
✓ Nasty Copy Tiff Textures
✓ Atomica Paper Texture Overlay
✓ Adobe Photoshop
✓ Adobe Illustrator
Analog Tools Used:✓ Home Printer/Scanner (Nothing Fancy)
✓ Exacto Knife & Cutting Mat
✓ Old Magazines/Clip Art Books
✓ Scotch tape
Software skill level:
I'll be breezing through some of the technical stuff but if you've got a handle on the basic functions of Photoshop and Illustrator you'll do great!
Research & Absorb
Let's get into it. No idle chit-chat.
The poster we’re going to be making in this tutorial is for one of my favorite bands right now, Tongue Party. They are a punk band out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Super heavy and a great soundtrack for making art or destroying capitalism.
To begin, get the details straight
Start by listing the date and location of a show and the band’s name. This bit is kind of boring but you want to make sure you have all the information and spelling correct from the beginning. It's also good to know what copy you're working with because typography is fun.
This part is more fun. Dig in a bit and listen to the band’s music. Maybe read a lyric or two but don't think too hard here. Reference other flyers and art that you like. It's all about getting in the mood, not about any specific idea generation. Just chill and enjoy absorbing art. You don’t have to have it all figured out yet. Art is easy.
Seek other kinds of inspiration
I’m a big fan of Sister Corita Kent and her theory that it’s more interesting to create things by accident because you end up building new ideas and connections that you couldn’t have thought of. Her approach inspires me to let things happen as they will. As a result, I've found that my poster work really benefits from not planning imagery and ideas out in advance.
Now that we’ve gotten in the mood and we are really feeling the vibe of the band, we can move forward and start collecting junk. And when I say junk, I mean junk.
Collect the aforementioned junk
Dig through old magazines, newspapers or clip art books for images, textures or anything that feels interesting and you could see fitting in with this band and this poster you are going to make. Don’t overthink. Seriously. Just take photos, make scribbles, crumple, tear, rip, and scan it all into your fancy computer.
Tip: It’s always good to have a box full of scraps ready to go at a moment’s notice, or a shelf full of old magazines. I spend a good amount of free time collecting junk or taking photos of weird things I see. This way, when a project comes up, I have a bountiful harvest of weird images to play with right away, which speeds up the whole process — it's important when you are as impatient and twitchy as me.
"THIS IS ART, NOT SCIENCE! KEEP IT LOOSE, WE’LL TIGHTEN THE BOLTS DOWN LATER".
There are lots of right answers, not just one. I’m always surprised at the weird junk I end up using in the final poster. Sometimes the images I use are interesting specifically because they DON’T make any logical sense with the band or music. Other times the imagery makes perfect sense and that’s okay too.
Pick and mix
Play around with different images and things you cut out. Try putting monster heads and skulls on innocent looking things. It’s really fun and really easy to get into. Just play around and see what happens. If something excites you for any reason, tape it together see if it works.
Insight: By combining the hand and building (in the image above), it changes the context of both things and a little story starts to happen, and most importantly, it looks cool! Remember, I’m not thinking too linear here or trying on purpose to build some super clever concept. Worrying about making work that is always the most clever is just a thing insecure narcissists have to do to convince themselves they are smart or important. If something is meant to be clever, it will be.
"YOU CAN'T FORCE IT. OUR JOB AS ARTISTS IS JUST TO BE PRESENT AND READY FOR WHEN THE INTERESTING BITS PRESENT THEMSELVES, CLEVER OR NOT".
Let’s set all that great imagery aside for a second and get us some letters. Typically a poster has a band name, a date, a location, maybe a few other bands, maybe some sort of weird cryptic message to freak out the normies.
It is my firm belief that typography need not sit at perfect horizontal angles, have perfectly smooth edges, or adhere to any so called rules of kerning or leading we learn in design school. It’s not that those rules are wrong, it’s just wrong to call them rules because that implies that there is a right and a wrong way to work with type. There isn’t. Furthermore, we shouldn’t let our typographic tendencies be defined by the things a computer does to them by default when we first type our words on the screen.
Experiment with fonts
Grab a few choice fonts, print them out, and then find ways to mess them up. Try crumpling, tearing, or scanning them improperly. Come up with some crazy sorts of letters with an existing font, or by drawing your own with a broom and bucket of paint. There is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” font for any given project.
"THROW AWAY THE RULES AND GET WEIRD"
One of my favorite tricks is scrambling my type on a photocopier or scanner. Don't limit yourself to just this though, there are almost limitless ways to mess stuff up so let your freak flag fly.
Prepping analog elements for digital use
Once you've made a whole mess of crazy fonts and illustrations, select your favorites to use going forward. We're going to be using these elements to create a digital layout in Adobe Illustrator so we want to make them easy to work with first.
Scan each graphic element separately at 1200ppi in grayscale mode. If you don't have a scanner, try taking a photo of each element in decent light instead.
Convert to 50% threshold
In Photoshop, go to Image > Mode > Bitmap . Then choose 50% threshold from the Method dropdown.
If you're getting too little contrast in the resulting image (or not enough), try adjusting your Levels first (Image > Adjustments > Levels).
Crop and save as a .tiff file
Finally, crop your images using the Crop Tool and save as a .tiff file.
Saving your graphic elements in this format means when you place them in Illustrator, the white background will automatically be ignored and only the black artwork will appear. This makes it easier to layer elements and re-color them. Plus you get that sweet photocopied aesthetic as a bonus.
Insight: Wondering why I'm prepping my artwork at 1200ppi?
More on that here.
Our graphic elements are prepped and all the ingredients are here! Mise en place! Now we’re going pull up our graphic designer pants and put on our stylish thick-rimmed glasses because we’re going digital for a bit.
A computer is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. So, let’s use this tool for something it’s really useful for — LAYOUT!
I find I can save a lot of time and headache by getting my layout and hierarchy nearly finished digitally. It’s so easy to move type and images around and change their size in Illustrator.
Create a composition in Adobe Illustrator
Create a new poster-sized document in Illustrator and import all of your .tiff image files (File > Place).
Then experiment with different type and image combos and layouts until you find a composition you are really happy with. This will be the foundation of your poster.
As you can see, I messed around with about 3476 versions before I settled on the one I like. No big deal though 'cos this is quick and easy to do in Illustrator and that's why we're here.
Add typographic details
Here’s where you add additional typography and any other fun details the band might feel are important like the venue, show time, ticket info and all that kind of stuff.
It’s really easy in Illustrator to move things around, resize them quickly and find a hierarchy you really like.
"THIS IS THE PART OF MY PROCESS THAT IS EITHER A VERY SMART TRICK OR JUST SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME TOTALLY INSANE BUT INDULGE ME, I BEG OF YOU!"
Even though we pretty much have a final composition and the poster looks nearly complete, we’re going to print it out, chop it up, and rebuild it analog nearly exactly the way it already was.
It sort of feels like faking it a bit here, but I love all the extra cut/paste textures I can bring in to the final image by doing this. How dirty or clean you want to make this is totally up to you.
Print, cut up and rebuild
Print out each element of your composition and cut them out. If you like, you can also print the full composition in yellow to use as a guide (see below).
Hint: Sometimes I really crumple and wipe dirt and ink on these, and sometimes I build them as cleanly as possible and add just a tiny sprinkling of added texture that you can hardly even notice.
Scan it back in
Once you've reconstructed your poster, scan it back in ready to add color and more texture.
Back to the computer!
We’ve scanned our poster back in and we have a Photoshop file to mess with.
Our poster is pretty rad already, and if we want to — or if we’re just super lazy that day — we could leave it black and white. Seriously, black and white flyers are rad too. But in this case, let’s say we’ve got a second cup of coffee on hand, and we’ve got a hankerin' for some color. To the swatches panel we go!
On a new layer, start coloring in between the lines. You can do this using the Magic Wand or Lasso tools to make selections, then fill with the Paint Bucket tool . Or, if you're a Wacom kinda' gal, use a brush to paint your colors in manually, adding some brush stroke flair at the same time.
Don't forget to add a new layer for each element so that you can easily experiment with different colors. There are endless options but in this case we're just going to stick to two colors.
"THIS IS WHERE ALL OF OUR TRUE GRIT TEXTURE SUPPLY TOOLS REALLY GET A CHANCE TO SHINE."
Final Tweaks & Adding More Texture
Pat yourself on the back. Your poster is looking so rad, you can’t even wait to send this thing out to the band or post it on your Instagram. But hold on to your horses, let’s get this baby tuned up just right and then we’ll really blow people’s doors off.
Dropping in a nice photocopy texture, or adding some extra depth with some halftone brushes is the sort of thing that will take your poster from “dope” to “super-ultra-holy-shit how did you make that you’re a friggen genius" sorta dope.
Let's start with some Fast Grit
To begin, I'm selecting the main letterforms with the magic wand tool .
Then on a new layer, I'm using the TGTS Fast Grit brushes to add some grain inside the letterforms. If you're feeling really smart, you might even convert your selection to a layer mask by clicking the Layer Mask button in the Layers Palette. This way you can experiment without needing to reselect over and over.
I usually experiment with a few different brushes first and then pick my favorite – in this case, Grainy brush #3 .
Add depth with Beat Tones
I'm using my TGTS Beat Tones Halftone Brushes to add depth and form to the smoke portion of the illustration.
I'm layering the matching 15% and 45% tone brushes from the Dot 1 brush group.
Now drop in some Nasty Copy
I want to enhance the photocopied aesthetic of my poster so I'm going to drop in a couple of TGTS Nasty Copy tiff textures.
Just open a Nasty Copy tiff texture, select all (or just the section you want to use) then copy and paste into the poster file and set the layer blend mode to Multiply.
In this case, I've used sections of Photocopy-001 & Photocopy-010
Don't overthink this too much. We want to keep it wabi-sabi. If you get fussy with it and edit too much, the result will look overworked rather than an accidental blemish caused by using a burnt-out photocopier from 1992.
Finally, add some paper texture
Since this flyer is going to be mostly seen on social media or as a digital print, I've added a Butchers Paper texture overlay from the TGTS Atomica Print Effects Kit.
This gives it a little bit more of an analog feel when viewed on-screen or printed on cheap coated stock from the local digital printer.
That's it! We're done.
Here’s the final poster, ready to command the attention of every fellow weirdo who passes by.
A declaration of stubborn punk independence on full display stapled ruthlessly on each and every light pole and boarded window across town, ready to be gazed upon in all it’s gritty, messy, kludgey glory!
Thanks a bunch for following along.
Now you can sit back and admire your handiwork, go skateboarding or hang out with your pals knowing you've already made some magic today!
Kevin Bergquist is an artist and graphic designer from Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Find more of his work and "Kludge Poetry" experiments here.