Have you seen these retro-looking abstract album covers that are becoming extremely popular these days? Lately it seems that the design trends are running backwards and have gone all the way back to a hypermaximal Y2K era. Social media posts, event flyers, album arts – this style is everywhere!
Seeing how heavily this trend is becoming popular, it would be the perfect opportunity to learn how to create graphics like these – doesn’t matter if you’re a full time designer or a music producer doubling up as a designer for yourself.
In this article I’ll give you a complete breakdown of how I created my Retro series of artworks just by using my Phone! Before we dive into the step-by-step process, let’s take a quick overview of the apps we’re going to use.
What apps to use?
The apps I used were –
- Pixlr: For double exposure
- 500 Fonts or Canva: For the text
- VSCO: For the filters
Let me take a moment to mention that these apps are just a matter of personal choice. The reason I mentioned the use of each app above is so that you can decide which app you want to use. If you’re used to any app that can do all this, no need to switch. Even though in this article I will describe the process using these apps, you can substitute them for your app(s) of choice.
1- Early Steps
Before we start, make sure you have 3-4 high-resolution images ready. You can use any image, but if you plan on selling your artworks, always make sure to use copyright-free images. Unsplash is an amazing website to download stock images.
How to choose an image?
Ideally, you can use any image to want. However certain images (& image combinations) give better results than others. The sequence in which you use these images practically doesn’t matter much, but if you’re having trouble selecting images, try to use –
- A really busy, colorful image
- An image with high contrast (bonus points if it’s black & white)
- An image with complex structures
You can of course use your own combinations. After-all the abstract and random look is the essence of this style
The first app we’re going to use is Pixlr. Mainly we need to use the double exposure feature of this app. If you like another app that has the same feature, feel free to use it.
2.1 – Open the first image in pixlr. This will serve as the base of your artwork.
2.2 – Go to Tools > Double Exposure, and select your second image
2.3 – You will now be presented with various Blend modes. You can choose any one you like, but I personally prefer to go with some hard blend modes like Difference.
2.4 – Now you simply have to repeat the steps above: Go to Double Exposure > Select your image > Choose a blend mode.
Keep repeating these steps as many times as you want, with as many images you like. The sweet spot usually lies between 3-4 images, but you’re free to experiment with it.
2.5 – Once you’re satisfied, crop the image to a square.
2.6 – Using double exposure, finally add another image. This could be any image. Now make this image completely dark (so that it’s just a black solid).
Use it to make the margin of the artwork. This is where we’ll place the text later
2.7 – Save the image
3- 500 Fonts (or Canva mobile app)
In this example, I used 500 fonts. However, Canva is another great alternative to follow these steps. Both of these apps have a great collection of free fonts.
3.1 – Create a new design with a 1:1 aspect ratio
3.2 – Import the image we just created in Pixlr
3.3 – In the bottom menu, select the “Add new text” option (T button)
3.4 – Now add the text you want to add. I named this artwork “Dystopia” due to the harsh colors
3.5 – Go to the bottom menu again and scroll to the right. You’ll find the Rotate options. Now click on the counter-clockwise rotation button
3.6 – Change the font to something you like. I prefer to go with a serif font style (for example – Times New Roman). Place the text in such a way so that it fits inside the black margin.
3.7 – Now add some glow to the text. You can find the glow option in the bottom menu, along with other effects
The glow gives the text a retro look & makes it fit in better
3.8 – Export the image
VSCO is my favourite app for adding filters & grain to images. Since we only need to add a subtle washed-up look, the free filters work fine.
4.1 – Import your image in VSCO & open the filters menu.
4.2 – Select the filter you like. Choose a filter that gives your artwork a moody/washed-up look. This helps with the retro look.
Now decrease the opacity of the filter to almost half.
4.3 – Now go to the adjustments menu and select Grain. I usually keep the grain around 5-6, but you can experiment with it and find something you like.
4.4 – Export the image. That’s it, you just made your own abstract album cover using just your phone!
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