VSST 108 - Design for Media

Value Graphic Composition and Collage

This project begins with an exercise in composition - letter forms and geometric elements- done on the computer. The upper layer of the composition (in black) will be cut into paper using a laser cutter. The other values will be added underneath - through a collaging technique.

Part One - Creating the Composition

In Photoshop, open a New File that is RGB 8-bit, 12X18 inches @ 300 ppi, filled with white. Name it <sec-name-value-graphic.psd>. (Note that it is RGB and not Grayscale.)

Set guides 0.5-inch from each edge. These will define the outer boundary for forms in the composition. Save.

With the white background active, fill the "boundary" (or border) with black. This is the area that can't be cut by the laser cutter.

Use the type tool and type layers to create ten large letters - in black. These should come from your first and last names. If you don't have ten distinct letters in your name, choose additional letters to get ten total. Create one letter per type layer, so that you will be able to move them around independently. The exact font(s) and letter sizes are up to you.

You can use a single font or multiple fonts. You can rotate letters if you want.

Create an additional blank layer on which you will create your "bridging elements."

Have letters touch each other, and add "bridging" elements so that everything is connected. The bridging elements should be black areas created on the "bridging" layer. You want discrete, not-too-large negative spaces bounded by the black letters, bridging areas and border.

When you're satisfied with your composition, do a "save as" with the filename <sec-name-value-graphic-layers.psd>This file will have 12 layers total - a white background, a "bridges" layer, and ten letter layers. Keep it intact so that you easily make revisions if necessary.

Now, flatten your <sec-name-value-graphic.psd> image. It will have only a background layer that is a composite of all your elements.

Duplicate the background layer. Name this layer "laser cut." Using the magic wand tool (set for zero tolerance and no feathering), select all of the negative spaces and do Edit/Clear to make them transparent.

Make the background layer active and fill it with white.

Some of the negative spaces in the composition will be left white; some will be filled with one of three grays - light gray (HSB: 0,0,65) medium gray (HSB: 0,0,35) or dark gray (HSB: 0,0,20).

Use these four values: white and three grays - to create a tonal arrangement that is both balanced and dynamic.

To fill a space with gray: make the "laser cut" layer active and using the magic wand, select the space. Keeping the selection active, make the background layer active. Edit/Fill with a "color" - one of the three specified grays. This gray will be deposited on the background layer.

Make the "laser cut" layer active again and select another negative area. Fill onto the background layer. Continue doing this until the composition is complete.

Save frequently.

When you're done, save one more time. This PSD file will be submitted to AW Express.

File <sec-name-value-graphic.psd> due in AW Express on Tuesday 2/6.

Part Two - Making the "laser cut" layer into an Adobe Illustrator file - prior to laser cutting

You will need to turn your black image layer into an Adobe Illustrator file to be used on the laser cutter - to cut your black paper.

Open your file <sec-name-value-graphic.psd>. (It should be in RGB mode.) Make the black layer visible and active. Delete the background layer. Flatten file. SAVE as a TIFF file named <sec-name-black.tif>. (Don't save changes to the original .psd file.)

Open your TIFF file in Adobe Illustrator.

Select All.

Choose: Image Trace - Silhouettes.

NOTE: In newest version of Adobe Illustrators, these buttons may appear on the right side.

Click Expand Button in top tool bar - or right-side tool area. Articulation points become visible.

Double Click on Stroke icon (lower left - or right-side tool area). Set Color to R=255, B=0, G=0.

Click on Fill icon (black square). Click on None (stroke-through icon in group of three small icons just below). Black fill disappears.

Go into Illustrator/Preferences/Units and set stroke units to points.

Select All.

Set Stroke Width to 0.1 pt (type in). (May be in right-side tool area.)

Do Object: Ungroup.


Check for any extra-bold lines that could indicate doubled selections. If there is a doubled selection, delete one of them.

Activate Rectangle Tool.

Draw a rectangle from upper left to bottom right corner. Carefully align with your frame.

Set Stroke for 3 pt and make sure that the color is black. Deselect and make sure stroke is correct.

Now, use Window/Layers to make the layers window visible. Open the main layer, it will show two sub layers. Make the sub layer that is the black stroke invisible.

Use the "direct select" tool (lower arrow tool) and select the red rectangle that you used to create the black stroke. Delete it. You may have to delete it section-by-section to delete it entirely. You want to eliminate these red lines so that the laser cutter will not cut on them.

Make the black stroke visible again. Use "Select All" and make sure that the stroke is not selected. Deselect.

Save as an AI file with an appropriate file name. Turn off all three options in the save dialog

Part Three - Laser Cutting (you should schedule a session on the laser cutter)

There will be a laser-cutter demo at the Maker Lab in the URBN Center (just off the ground floor lobby) on Thursday 2/15. If you bring your .ai file on a thumb drive and your grayscale pad and blue tape, you may be able to do the cutting just after the demo. If not, you can schedule a slot to do it at another time.

On laser cutter workstation:

Open file in Adobe Illustrator.

Go into File: Print to proceed to laser cutting.

Carefully place one sheet of black paper onto the laser cutter bed.

Be sure to turn on air flow.

Be sure that your image is centered over your paper.

Do laser cutting as per instructions. The settings are: Power: 80% Speed: 20% PPI (pulses):300 Z=.02

After you've laser cut - before you lift out paper - use pieces of blue tape to attach the cut pieces to the matrix sheet so that they won't fall out. Carefully lift the matrix and cut pieces off the laser cutter bed. Put this back into the pad for transporting it.

Part Four - Making Collage

Using blue masking tape, gently hinge your black paper stencil over a piece of white paper (same size). Remove the "negative spave" pieces of black paper.

Very lightly trace with pencil all of the openings - onto the white paper.

Now, put your light gray sheets under the black paper stencil. Very lightly trace with pencil the shapes that will be cut out of light gray. Cut these out with your scissors, a little larger than the tracing line. Erase the tracing line.

Do the same for the middle gray and dark gray shapes.

Use the rubber cement (sparingly) to glue the gray pieces in place over the pencil-traced shapes on the white paper. Keep closing the black stencil over the gray pieces to make sure that they are correctly placed.

Optional: If you want a perfectly level collage, you could also paste pieces of cut white paper where necessary, rather than relying on the backing paper.

When everything looks good, use some rubber cement (sparingly) to close the black stencil.

Completed collage due 7b Thursday 2/22.

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