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Working with representational imagery


Designing a Logo

with Nigel French

Video: Working with representational imagery

Now, if you are looking to incorporate some kind of representational imagery into your logo symbol, common sources of inspiration are nature, buildings, and animals. Let's take a look, first of all, at those logos that use nature as their source of inspiration and now let's take a look at those that use animals. Obviously, in this case, the animal suggested by the name of business. In many of these instances at least. And then some examples of logos that incorporate iconic buildings into the logo.
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Watch the Online Video Course Designing a Logo
2h 57m Intermediate Sep 17, 2008

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A great logo is often basic, composed only of essential parts, but simple is not always easy. Designer Nigel French distills over a decade of professional design and teaching experience in Designing a Logo. He discusses the principles and techniques of what makes a logo work, and explains type-only designs, type treatments, and logo symbols in depth. He also explores how to work with clients on defining job parameters and selecting a final design, as well as how to prepare the logo for print and web publication. Nigel demonstrates each of these techniques in the course of designing a new logo for a real client, so viewers can either follow along or apply the techniques to their own work. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Choosing the right typeface
  • Exploring transparency, warped type, and other treatments
  • Working with line, shape, and imagery in a logo symbol
  • Considering current trends in logo design
  • Fine-tuning a design after client selection
  • Drawing up usage guidelines
Illustrator InDesign
Nigel French

Working with representational imagery

Now, if you are looking to incorporate some kind of representational imagery into your logo symbol, common sources of inspiration are nature, buildings, and animals. Let's take a look, first of all, at those logos that use nature as their source of inspiration and now let's take a look at those that use animals. Obviously, in this case, the animal suggested by the name of business. In many of these instances at least. And then some examples of logos that incorporate iconic buildings into the logo.

Now, for the logo that I'm creating, it's for Deep Green, a garden design company, and obviously that is kind of suggesting that I go with the nature theme and that's what I'm going to do. The approach I'm going to be using is to start with a photograph and trace it. And I'm going to use three different approaches to tracing an image in Illustrator. First of all, I'm going to do a Live Trace on this example here and here we see the finished results. So, I'm going to try and get something like this from this beginning photograph.

But we will also see how you may sometimes get a better result from hand tracing in Illustrator, literally just putting a picture on your page and tracing over it with the Pen tool manually. Or kind of a combination of that one combined with printing out your photograph and then first of all, tracing over it with pencil on tracing paper, scanning that and then Live Tracing the result. So, we are going to see three different approaches beginning with this one.

So, I have placed this image into Illustrator, I'm going to zoom in on it now. And I want to vectorize it and Live Trace is going to do that for me. First of all, we'll see that the result I get from what I currently have is not going to be very usable. So, we are going to see that it's going to help before I trace the image if I tweak the image first of all in Photoshop, but let's just see what kind of result I'm going to get from this. I'm simply going to come up to my tool options and click on the Live Trace button and then to adjust my Live Trace Options, I'm going to come and click on this icon, opening up my Tracing Options. And I'm going to turn on my Preview, so I can see any change take effect, and adjust this Threshold. This determines how much of the image results in white and how much results in black when tracing as black and white, and that's the mode I'm going to be using, because I just want this to be a two-color result. I need to go in the other direction; I need to go more towards, lower numbers give me more white as my result.

Now, that's okay. I mean it looks pretty good but I don't want to see any of that black. So, if I were to work with this, I would have to delete all of that black. So, actually what I'm going to do is I'm going to go to Photoshop and I'm going to make a negative of the image and then I'm going to trace that, so that all the parts that are currently white will be black and vice-versa and it's the black part that I'll thereafter work with. So, let's just cancel out there and now, switch over to Photoshop and here, in Photoshop is my original image. So, I'm going to do the following to it.

I'm going to go to the Image menu, Adjustments > Invert. So, it's now a negative and then I want to really pump-up the contrast as much as I can. So, I'm going to go back to my Image > Adjustments, this time Levels, and I'm going to get the black point, bring that in towards the center. I'm going to do the same with the white point and I get this grey point and move that over to the right. Okay, and then I'm going to do one more thing; I'm going to come to the Filter menu and to Sharpen and choose this filter, Sharpen Edges.

Since I only want to trace the bits of the image that I'm going to be keeping, I'm also going to crop the image. Crop tool, draw myself a cropping rectangle around that. All right, I'm now going to do a Save As on there. I call that tracing_image. Pop back to Illustrator. Turns out I actually want -- I want to keep this original image around. I might need this for reference. So, I'm just going to move that over on to my paste board and then I'll choose File and Place and I'm going to come and find that image that I just saved and scale it down; holding down the Shift key and pulling from bottom right-hand corner.

I'm also now going to go to my Layers panel, which I don't seem to have open. So, I open it from the Window menu. I'm going to create a new layer and then make a duplicate of this to that layer. So, I'm going to move this square ahead that represents the selection holding down my Alt key and drag that up to that layer that's going to make a copy of it. And now, I'm going to just turn that off for a moment, we will come back to that. Now, I'm zooming in on my image, going to select that and click on my Live Trace button to trace the image and then click on my Tracing Options to adjust my results. I'll adjust the Threshold, this time moving to the right because I inverted the values of the image turning on my Preview. I want to ignore white; I don't want to trace around any of the white shapes.

That's a very fine line here and I think I'm going to leave it about there and any further adjustments, I'm going to make manually. So, I'll now click on Trace. There's my result. Now, to be able to work with this, I'm going to need to expand it. So, now that I have expanded it, we see that my tracing result is just a series of halts and lots of anchor points. I'm going to move my Layer 6, which is a copy of that flower, I'm going to move that underneath and then turn that on. Now, we can see the original shape and how similar or in some cases, dissimilar it is from my tracing result. I'm going to lock that Layer 6 so I don't interfere with it.

Come and choose my Eraser tool and if necessary, adjust the size of my brush while pressing my right square bracket to go bigger and the left square bracket to go smaller. I'm just going to delete the bits that I don't want, fixing up all these raggedy bits and unnecessary bits over here. Okay, now further adjustments I'm going to make by tracing over that with my Pen tool. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to get in there, I'm going to draw a separate path over to top of this and I want to make sure that I don't actually interfere with the current path that's already there.

So, I think I'm going lock that, I'm going to press Apple+2 or Ctrl+2 that is going to lock that. I'm just going to draw a shape. It currently has a black fill, which I don't actually want, so that I can see the shape that I'm just going to switch that to a Stroke. This shape I'm drawing is just going to overlap with the traced result. I'm going to do the same down here; clicking and dragging with my Pen tool to make control points and close that off there.

Now, you may be wondering why did he not just trace the whole thing manually? And around this point, I start wondering the same thing myself. Now, I think this is going to be a slightly -- well, it certainly going to be a quicker and I think a better result as hopefully we'll see in just a moment. Okay, I want to then select all of this stuff over here is... actually the Trace just didn't know what to do with that. So, let's just clean that up there.

All right. Now, let's turn Layer 6 off for a moment. We'll select that path and make sure it has a black fill and all of these extra bits that I drew, we'll make sure they also have black fills. Then I'm going to select them all. Now, go to my Pathfinder panel and I'm going to add them all together. Add to shape area and I'm also going to hold down my Alt key, my Option key to expand that result. So there, all of those nasty, jaggedy points at the ends of the petals have now been removed.

Obviously, I still have quite a lot of clean up to do here. So, I think I would then just come and click on the edge of my path and using my Pen tool, delete where I don't need those unnecessary anchor points and this can be rather time consuming and I might just want to incorporate all of these into one with a nice graceful shape right there. Select those to add those two together. And then there's a lot more of that involved to finally get the result that we have over here, but when we have that result, it's scalable and kind of raggedy there but that wouldn't take too much to fix it up.

So, that's one approach, using Live Trace to work on a tweaked photograph and then manually fixing up any inaccuracies along the edge. So, another slightly different approach we see here if I turn on the flower 2 layer. This is original image I began with, this is the resulting image after I tweaked it in Photoshop. Let's just have a look of what I did to that in a moment and then I printed that out, hand traced it and then Live Traced the hand traced version right here and this is the result that I ended up with.

So, I'm going to pop out with the Photoshop and to this image, turn off my layers. See, there's my original image. So, I'm going to make a copy of that layer, drag the layer on to the New Layer icon to do that and then I'm going to come to the Filter menu and choose Stylize > Find Edges. Because I want it to be just a gray-scale image to my Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. I'll use the levels as I did before; Image > Adjustments > Levels. This is all about maximizing the contrast. I just really want to retain the main lines of detail, get rid of everything else and I might here with my white paint brush.

With a hard brush. Clean it up as much as possible. I could also rub out any other detail that I don't want. Maybe I could also run that same filter, Sharpen Edges, on there just to pump it up a little bit more. Then I'd print this and the result is this second image that we see here and then I hand-trace that and that's the point on which we rejoin the action. So, I'm going to select my image, click on my Live Trace button. That's my result.

I'm going to then go to my Live Tracing Options, turn on my Preview and rather than tracing as Fills, just I want to trace as Strokes. Let's adjust the Threshold. I'll put them up to about 175 and I also just to kind of clean up the line a little bit, although actually I don't think I need to. I was going to think about blurring it, but I don't think I need to that.

So, I'm now going to go ahead and trace that and to then have access to edit my resulting strokes, only to click on my Expand button. Then choose my Eraser, I'm just coming and rub out any bits that I don't need. I want to make my Eraser a little bit bigger by pressing the right square bracket. How's that looking? It's a little bit hard to tell with those selections lines on. So, I'm going to come to my View menu and choose Hide Edges. I'm going to zoom-in a little bit, rub those bits out there and I could go on refining that and I won't.

I'll leave it at that. And one final thing I want to do is maybe experiment with the style of stoke that is applied to this, so I can click on my Brushes panel and maybe go for a Charcoal stroke. Yeah, that looks pretty good actually, better than I had expected. I'm going to make that a little bit lighter. There's my result. Okay, now I mentioned there are three methods I was going to show you; the third method is the more manual method but it is very, very straightforward.

I'm now going to zoom out. Let's come to my layers. I'll turn off flower 2 now and I'm going to turn on this one, the Rose template, and this one, the handtraced rose on top of that. Now, if we see it without the template beneath, that's my result and the way I got that was placing the rose image, double-clicking on it, making that layer a template, which automatically will dim the image to 50%. I'm going to make a new layer above that and I'll call it trace1 and I'm just going to zoom in and using my Pen tool without a Fill, I'm going have a black stroke for now trace around the shape. That can be a little bit time consuming, a little bit painstaking, but if you are handy with the Pen tool, this may also be your best most reliable option. I'm not going to subject you to watching me do that but that's essentially what I would do.

So, in this video, we have seen three different approaches to working with Live Trace and experimenting with the Live Tracing Options. The first method has been to trace an image, which has been tweaked in Photoshop to enhance this photograph because that's what Live Trace is really going to response well too, and then fixing up the rougher edges. The second method, as we see here in these full images in the center of the page, has involved tweaking a Photoshop image to again enhance the contrast, bring out the edges in the images.

That image was then printed, traced with pencil and then that pencil result Live Traced in Illustrator. And the third example down here has been literally a manual tracing of a template image.

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