A montage can make an excellent design element for nearly any type of material – print, web, or even a beautiful piece of displayed art. For the designer or artist, this type of project may be a little challenging, especially the first time. However, with a little practice and a keen eye, the final product can turn out to be a masterpiece.
I have been in the graphic/web design industry for over 8 years. One of my most challenging and rewarding creative endeavors was that of the montage. I found that the elements that go into the creation of a montage are far less important than the ability to place them and seamlessly blend each element into one another. After trial and error, I finally managed to get it right. I learned that I could take digitized photos, no matter what quality, subject matter, or else and combine them into an interesting piece of art.
In addition to skill, the designer must have the right tools. There are many pieces of software available to designers, I happen to prefer Adobe Photoshop for this type of work.
So, where do I begin? Photos. I like to select three to four photos to begin with. After selecting the photos, I place them on the stage. This is one of the important steps. When working with multiple photos, the designer must be sure to balance them. (fig. 1) There should be a natural flow in the focal points of the photos. If there is not, rearranging may be in order, or try selecting a more compatible photo.
Once the photos are posed, the fun begins – masking. Layer masks in Photoshop are an effective way to produce different results that can be manipulated on many levels. It might sound easy at first, but…there is a trick to it that a person must discover for their self through trial and error. Even now, it often takes me 2 or 3 tries to get each photo exactly the way I want it. I start by selecting the photo that I want the others to blend into. For this project I chose the center photo. On the other two photos, I added a layer mask and used the airbrush tool to create my blends. After airbrushing, I put a ‘screen’ on the middle image in order to complete the effect. (fig. 2)
So far, the composition is nice, but there is still something missing. Notice how the color differentiates between the photos a little too much and does not create the streamline effect I am looking for. At this point, I am going to merge and convert the photos to grayscale (fig. 3) so I can then add a filter, to get the “rustic” look I’m going for.
I’ve added the filter, and now have decided to add some text to the montage. At times, I may add only a word or a symbol or I may add a large quote, it all depends on the montage theme. For this piece I’ve included a small quote and title that fits well with the rustic theme I was going for. The text breaks up the piece as a whole and also adds a design element to the composition. (fig. 4)
In the end, my composition turned out exactly how I wanted it to. Any designer can realize the ideas in his or her head and at the same time have fun creating it. The end result is well worth the effort.
About The Author
Leslie Fredericks-Leamon has been in the web design business for 8 years. During that time she has freelanced as well as taken full-time in-house design positions. Currently Leslie runs a freelance operation under the name of Muz Media, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What started out as primarily a web and graphic design studio, Muz Media has turned focus onto other aspects design and development, such as multimedia, SEO and online marketing, and integrated them into the business, bringing many important elements of web-presence to our clients without the politics of a large advertising agency. www.muzmedia.com