Gig poster process: Octopus

So I got a request to do a gig poster for a buddy’s band.  I actually started doing gig posters for my buddy’s previous band years ago, then went on to do posters for hundreds of other bands, but haven’t done one in years.  So I thought I would give it another go.

Here is the poster (sans text).  The process and other links are below.

The poster is 300dpi, here is the large image, be aware of imgurs compression.

So here is the process, starting from the beginning.

Agree to do the poster… listen to the bands music, read their bio.  Ok, so they aren’t really about anything… I guess that gives me more freedom.  My buddy mentions they want to tackle indie rock hipsters.. ok, I’ve done plenty of those.


1. First my thoughts are to do something with a bunch of woodcut animals floating along in an ocean.  To make it kitschy and indie I use this ocean pattern.

2.  Then start to look for woodcut animals.  I used to be big into woodcuts and engravings and have quite a few collection books to browse through.

3. Realizing that I would have to scan these pages to get a high enough dpi to work with I decide to abandon the woodcut animals thing.  I haven’t used my scanner in years and didn’t feel like looking for the cable needed.  Also my original idea felt like it was for one of those cutesy mousie indie bands, not Glass the Sky.


4. I did find a cool octopus cut in my book so I tried to google image it so I didn’t have to scan it.  Turns out it was Lord Bodner’s octopus as seen here.  But I couldn’t find a version big enough for print.


5. But I did come across this cutie, while using google images and very large sizes.  It’s from some Scandinavian fishing book (shh).   She was facing “off camera” so I had to move his eye a bit.  Clone tool.

6. So this octo was nice and big and didn’t need to share the poster with other animals.  She was magestic enough to be front and center, which also meant I shouldn’t use some stupid folksy ocean pattern.  So I searched deviant art for some ocean photos and textures and came across this stormy loveliness.

7.  I didn’t want to hide my pretty octopus in the water, so why not make her shooting out of it?  Maybe she was too awesome for the ocean, I dunno.  It was going to make for some cool imagery.  Well this poster was 17×11 and it needed a lot more height than that single ocean texture provided.  So I added this sky-like texture by the same person on dA. Layer masks to blend.

8. So I get the background all set and add my octopus.  She is just floating there, which is interesting but not dynamic enough.  So I thought I could photoshop in there some splashing.  I looked for splash and spray images for a while until I found this gem.  It’s a high-res, masked, ocean spray.  Perfect.

9. So turn this bitch sideways and lots of repeated layers and layer masking and you have some great upward moving water.  Some of it was in front of the octopus and some of it behind.  All my masking was done with those soft edge default brushes on 5%-25% opacity.  I also use a Wacom Intuos3.

10.  While it had some upward movement, it felt a bit off at the point where the splash hit the ocean.  So I tranform > warped the background ocean so it too had some upward movement to it.

11. As this is coming a long it’s starting to look cool but all the different images brought there own hues and it was a mess.   Time to unify it.  I adjusted the hue/saturation of each layer until there were in the ballpark then added some cooling photo filters to tie it all together.  This included the octopus, but the light was all wrong on the it’s head.  Way too bright.

12.  So I just painted in some shadows using the soft brush, black, at 1%-5% opacity. Two layers, one set to linear burn, the other to darker color. Seem to look good enough and pull the octopus into the background more.

13.  One thing I like about the original background is that is had this fine mist to it, like rain from a distance.  While I had gotten the upward splash of the octopus how I’d like it, I felt there should be some downward spray as well.  The water falling off the octopus as it went upward.

14. I wasn’t sure how to accomplish this at first.  Looking for photos of fine mist was pointless.  I had the idea to render clouds and squish them but then I saw this render fibers thing.  WTF is that?  Not sure how long render fibers has been in photoshop but it was exactly what I needed.  So I rendered some fibers on a black background set to color dodge, gaussian blur, and masked out the parts i didn’t need.

15.  Well at this point it was complete to the large image above.  But its a concert poster right so I had to cover up my lovely work with text.  Ah well. I used Heptagon French for all the type and set Glass the Sky to color doge and the venue info to vivid light.  I wanted to call attention to the venue and the data, which is the most important info on there so I added an extra design element to do that.  Not sure if it worked.

16. Finally I copy merged the whole thing into a new document and converted to CMYK as I always work in RGB.  It did lose some of that eletric blue impact as expected but wasn’t too bad.  Also when I am done with something I often just play with the levels to see if I can come up with any cool combinations that may be hiding.  Took most of the blue out, added some red drama, looks kinda cool, but not as good as the original.

17. Final poster is below.  I hope you enjoyed this process.  It probably took about 3-4 hours including all the false starts, over two nights.

  • Brian Stegner

    Well done. Inspiring for submarine artists.