Photo Montage Fun

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.



Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

When I first began my own business, Short And Sweet Web Design, I needed some mock ups for my website to show my clients what I was capable of. As my business caters to both corporate and personal websites, I felt that a page of illustration and customised graphics would help sell the personal website services.

I decided to make up a page showing my baby’s first Christmas, which would allow for lots of colour and design possibilities. While I have been partly university educated in art, I usually find that I put paint to paper a lot less these days, especially when software programs such as Adobe Illustrator CS can help me do the job even quicker. So long as I remember to press the SAVE button…..but that’s another story!

Obviously, being a Christmas webpage, I thought I would use Christmas colours and a few complimentary colours. The first thing I did was to close my eyes and imagine a very colourful page. Initially, I tried experimenting with red and green page backgrounds but it looked a little too gaudy, so I finally settled on making the illustrations gaudy and the background a lighter blue.

As illustration takes a lot longer to do than almost anything else in design, I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of a traditional pine Christmas tree, I created a topiary tree and decided to follow the style of Bob Staake ( which had interested me in the past.

After perusing Bob’s website once more, I decided to come up with the elements of the design (eg, Christmas tree, elves, holly etc) and drew up a few disjointed illustrations in Illustrator (see page of bits on right). My usual process is to sit, look and play with the bits until they form a coherent whole. For example, I believe it took an hour to make up my mind to have the topiary tree, the background and the elves as part of one illustration.

Once the separate parts I had created were combined, I was able to fill in the blank bits, such as adding the box of presents, the lollies and the plum pudding.

Illustration is one of the most relaxing forms of design, especially if you have time to do something for yourself! Often I find with creative projects like this that some sort of image comes to mind before I even begin (in this case it was a bit of a hazy image but worked in the end). I would definitely recommend using digital media as a medium as you can resize the images for print and web, and easily put them into any setting, especially if you don’t want to be bothered taking out the background!




Blister Packaging

One of the best things about working in an advertising agency is the variation of work available. I was able to work on blister packaging for Wattmaster tools as part of a product-launching campaign.

Questions I asked myself before starting the job included:

1. Was there any corporate branding or style manual I was to use?
2. What materials was the packaging to be printed on?
3. Were there any specifications/cost limitations regarding printing?
4. What size and shape were the items to be packaged?
5. Were there any other requirements for the packaging?

1. Style Manual

In this case, decease I was furnished with a style manual which provided me with CMYK corporate colours, the logo typeface and examples of how to implement the corporate banding (see image). Formulae were created to help adjust the corporate banding to the size of the package.

2. Materials

Printing was to be in Asia on a four-colour printing press as it was cost-competitive. The CMYK printing was on a card backing and the transparent plastic blister would seal the item to the backing.

3. Printing Limitations

I felt that by printing in the least amount of colours possible (ie, the corporate colours on the front and black on the back) would help cut additional plate costs, hence by converting all CMYK to spot colours, were were able to use two inks and two plates instead of four of each. This process can help with most printing jobs except digital ones. It is also handy to use spot colours to get the exact hue and shade of colour that is required.

4. Item Shape & Size

The client provided the actual items to be packaged, so it was easy enough to measure the items and create mockups to sit the items on. The main problem was fitting the subheadings aroung the blister packs, so we made some backing larger or text smaller and maintained the rest of the corporate style for all packs.

5. Other Requirements

The packaging was destinied for a retail environment and required barcodes, product line numbers and hooks. I used a simple program like Barcode Pro to create the barcodes (the client supplied the number) and designed the rest in Adobe Illustrator CS as it helped to have vector images available for resizing. I designed the hooks in white on the front and black on the back to help them stand out in mockups. The client provided the product numbers, which I typed in on the bottom of the packaging. For the final version, I removed the hooks after printing a draft for the printer, and also added bleed on all edges. The files were sent as Illustrator .ai and .eps files, along with a hard copy to the printers.

Packaging was a fun experience for me as it was the result of months of cumulative work for the same client and it was great to get mockups organised quickly by using formula and specifications for a change instead of free art. There was always an oddly shaped item which made everyone rack their brains for packaging ideas, but we got there in the end!



Fitness Business Radio Media Kit

Throughout my seven years in the design industry, I’ve worked with many clients who directed me through every facet of a project from typesize to colors used. So when a client places their 100% trust in me and my abilities, and gives me creative carte blanche, it’s always special. This was the case for my recent collaboration with Fitness Business Radio.

Fitness Business Radio launched in the Fall of 2005. It is a weekly podcast (which can be downloaded at that focuses on all aspects of the fitness industry, from management to PR. They were in need of a complete media kit, as well as a stationary set (business card, letterhead, mailing label & envelope). When researching the competition, I not only focused on other businesses in the same sector, but also educated myself on what other people were doing to promote their podcasts in general, as the technology is relatively new. After reviewing everything and taking into consideration the audience, I decided to incorporate bold hues and dynamic shapes & graphics to not only emphasize the fitness aspect, but also to hint that listening to Fitness Business Radio can add new energy to any pre-existing business plan. The topics discussed and ideas presented on the program are definitely lively and beneficial in that sense. Each insert page in the Media Kit was stacked and color-coordinated so that when opened, information was easy to find. Pull-quotes and large taglines were also added for visual interest to those just skimming the pages (which is more common than people actually reading every word). The stationary set borrows design elements from the Media Kit, and the end result is a coordinated, consistent piece that has garnered high reviews from everyone who receives it. Fitness Business Radio is consistently rated the number one podcast in it’s field and is now on it’s way to reaching over 40,000 listeners each week.

About The Author

Deborah is an award winning designer who has seen her personal work featured in gallery exhibits around the world, as well as in coffee-table art tomes. She currently operates Oblada Creative (, a creative boutique that caters to many well-known international clients. Her focus is on providing unique solutions for unique individuals, coupled with “white glove” service.