Okay Aardman! Wallace & Gromit Project

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project – flex those Adobe Illustrator muscles. I have a new post to share… kindly, the team over at Paper Engine has now said that I can share and discuss my part in creating some of the packaging concepts for a new range of Wallace & Gromit themed products.

The artwork shown in this post was used to pitch to Aardman for a new range of British designed card products, otherwise known as – Build Your Own, For Paper Engine.

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project - box
Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project Wrong trousers

Aardman Project | The Brief

The Brief | I was commissioned by Paper Engine to help create the core design for the packaging concepts for a new range of of Wallace and Gromit themed paper products.

Aardman had set up an agreement with Paper Engine for them to come up with a range of products, themed around Wallace & Gromit.

If you don’t know Aardman, they are the animation studio behind Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, Arthur Christmas, and Shaun the Sheep to name a few.

Paper Engine got in touch with me and asked for assistance in coming up with the core packaging concept to pitch to Aardman.

I won’t lie, I was excited and honoured.

Under a strict NDA, I was called in to help come up with some of the core concepts for the new eye-catching packaging.

The NDA has been relaxed now, as the products have been released onto the market. So don’t worry. And I asked the crew over at Paper Engine and they were happy to allow me to show my my part!

(All artwork on this page is the intellectual property of Aardman and Paper Engine. Do not copy, save, or download any of this content for commercial use ).


Packaging For Paper Engine… Which was actually for Aardman

To spill the beans on the projects.

Here is a bit of extra information on the project process. Once Paper Engine had sent the brief across to me, and we did all the admin, the project was set in motion!

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project | The design process involved…

  • Coming up with some very early ideas for speech bubbles, titles, typography, backgrounds, and other accents and parts for the project.
  • Creating a variety of packaging front ideas for both products.
  • Developing rough designs into polished designs.
  • These were presented to Aardman ( gulp ).

It should also be said that this project was quite particular and that there were 2 companies involved in the approval process. Nonetheless, it still allowed room for design creativity.

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project
Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project
Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project
Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project
Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project Typography
Background idea

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project | Developing The Design

While I was allowed to work conceptually and creatively, I also had to adhere to 2 sets brand guidelines! One set was supplied by Paper Engine for Paper Engine and, the other was for Aardman!

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project
Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project - 2 rockets

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project | The Delivery

After working on the polished designs, Paper Engine pitched the artwork to Aardman. I was told on the grapevine that they were pleased with the project – with very few changes to the pitch!

Thank you Paper Engine, it was an honour! From there the look and feel for the range was set. It was an awesome project.

How I approached the project

When creating the packaging, I tried to create artwork that was exciting and matched the tone of Wallace & Gromit. I also tried to create packaging concepts that would excite both children and adults if they saw them on the shelf!

‘wow look at that!’

type of thinking with the hopes somebody would pick the product up and purchase it. The product did most of the selling in all fairness, these are very cool products.

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project | Paper Engine Testimonial

‘We worked with Jimm on some early packaging concepts for our collaboration with Aardman on three Build Your Own kits. He delivered some superb designs which enabled us to get ahead of the curve by keeping the client on board with approvals and saved us some valuable in-house studio hours. We would definitely work with Jimm again in the future when the occasion arises. Top marks. 5 stars.’

Geff – Creative Director, Paper Engine Ltd.

Aardman Wallace & Gromit Project | You may be interested in some of the following

Retail packaging projects
Stem Project samples
Snakes & Ladders type board game
Board game playtesting post

Why not read more on my playtesting post?

3rd Party

Jimmsdesign Services

Dragon Bone Games ( Board game website )

Speed tips for Photoshop layers!

Speed tips and shortcuts for Photoshop layers!

If like me you need work layers in Photoshop any time saving measure is a bonus. I have a compiled a short list of shortcuts for making the best use of Photoshop’s layers for both the Mac and PC – Enjoy!

(Swap CMD for CTRL on Windows)

Photoshop Layer Icons
Photoshop Layer icons
Photoshop Layer UI
Layer Graphics

Change the layer order,
move it up and down :

  • Cmd+[ Move Down
  • Cmd+] Move Up 
  • Cmd+Shift+] = to move it to the bottom of the stack
  • Cmd+Shift+[ = Move it to the top of the stack

Direct select a layer

With move tool selected (V) hold Cmd to highlight the layers directly from the art board. This will also highlight groups.

Duplicate a layer 

Ideal for copying a layer! Cmd + J to copy a selected layer! Or you can drag the selected onto the ‘New” icon! OR right click and duplicate – A personal fave.

Colour Coordinated

In addition to organizing you layers into folder and groups, why not colour coordinate the layers so you glance at groups? Brown for dirt, green for sea etc. Right click and select a colour.

New Layer Cmd+Shift + N brings up the new layer dialogue.

Cycle Through Blend Modes

Need to see what a multiply, saturation, or overlay will look like on the fly?

Shift + (Minus or plus, top right of the keyboard)

Layer Opacity
With the layer selected you can quickly change its opacity by pressing >

Shift + (Minus or plus, top right of the keyboard)
Shift + 22, 30, 23 (a number from the top row) typing the number in quick succession will change the layers opacity percentage. Hold shift and then press “22” the layer will be 22% “30” = 30 %.

Very handy for digital painting or retouching.

Group Layers

Select your layers and press Cmd + G to group them together. If you are not grouping your numerous layers… you should start. For sanity’s sake.

The original text for this was created and added to blogger in 2016 (Jimm Odell Blog). This has since been tweaked and added to this blog – the professional blog.

Easiest way to make a Photoshop brush – short tutorial

The easiest way to make a Photoshop brush. This is a short tutorial on how to make a simple Photoshop brush in simple easy-to-follow steps. No fuss, no headaches.
I have used this exact same technique for making brushes over the years as a designer.

It is straightforward to make your custom brushes in Photoshop ( or Adobe Photoshop ) as an overview. All you will need to do in essence is draw your shape or item on a blank document and turn this selection into your new Photoshop brush.

The core steps : Start with creating your brush, defining it, and adding it to your palette! Let us draw a shape on black on a white background and see easiest way to do it.

Now to the steps on the easiest way to make a Photoshop brush.

1 ) New Document

1 ) Open PS and make a new document – 300 x 300 px and 72 DPI for good measure, make sure the background is set to white. ( You also work with other size and resolutions if you prefer )

2 ) Create Your Brush

2 ) Working in black and white (Shortcut ‘D’ for black and white) draw your brush shape (in black) onto your new document. For the sake of this tutorial, I have made mine a solid brush.

Photoshop brush splat - Easiest way to make a Photoshop brush - short tutorial
Create A Photoshop Brush

3 ) ‘Select’ The Brush

3 ) Either by using the marquee tool or Apple + ‘a’ to select all (CTRL + A for windows). And select the area or part you want to turn into your brush. For me, I wanted to use only the black splat in this example.

If you have selected the brush you want to define, you can go to the next step!  Make sure you have selected your brush artwork. With selections, you may see ‘marching ants’ around your selection.

4 ) Define Brush

4 ) Go Edit > scroll down to  ‘Define Brush Preset’ and click on or select it.
label your brush, I called this oneblob and then click ‘OK’

Name your brush | Easiest way to make a Photoshop brush
Label Your Brush

5 ) You have created a brush in Photoshop!

Well done, you should now have designed your very own custom brush and saved it to your library. If you press ‘F5′ to look at your brush palette, you will see the brush you have just made listed at the bottom of your library.

Why not open a new document and test out your newly created Photoshop Brush, I hope you enjoy making more awesome brushes.

Brush library | Palette tutorial on making a Photoshop brush.

If you need a Professional Designer experience in Photoshop come and say hello!

If you are a DIY designer or creator, you may find some of these topics helpful. How to edit text in inDesign for card games. Or how to draw on a computer.

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ ( Posterization ) in Photoshop | Tricks

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ ( Posterization ) in Photoshop ( *updated )

Posterization or ‘banding’ as it is known in Photoshop is a bane to many graphic design professionals or those working in print.

However, ‘banding’ is not limited to just print.

Banding, or posterization can also occur with screen-based imagery but it tends to be more pronounced and commonplace with print-based media in my experience. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing your lush and smooth gradient onscreen only when printed to see the same artwork with segmented bands across your gradient.

Over the years as a professional in-house designer, I have come across banding on more than one occasion. One of the worst culprits for showing banding is when working with greyscale or black. It was a challenge that used to drive me up the wall.

After much trial and error, here is a quick overview of some simple techniques I used to employ to reduce banding in Photoshop.

Some of the simplest techniques to reduce banding or posterization in Photoshop is by either applying ‘noise’ to your brush ( in your brush settings F5 ) or creating a separate ‘noise’ layer and overlaying this on top of a gradient layer to disguise the banding. This will give the illusion of smoother better blended artwork and remove the ‘stepping’ from your gradient. These techniques for handling banding can work especially well when working with mono-colour gradients such as black and white. There are also other tricks I have used in conjunction with this method written below.

It often took various attempts to get it correct before sending it to print so don’t become too disheartened if your first try isn’t quite on par with what you expect.

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ | how I handled it

I often ran into banding situations when creating super smooth blends with colour.

It often took various attempts to get it correct before sending it to print so don’t become too disheartened if your first try isn’t quite on par with what you expect.

*Simple tip! If you have a local home printer or high-quality photographic inject printer, use this to test and measure your artwork.

I found these methods I have written below to make a world of difference when it came to creating a prototype or print production. All these methods I have actively used when working in Photoshop.

Some may call these hacks, others tricks but I like to regard them as ‘techniques’ for fixing a problem in print.

You may need to try various levels and settings, brushes and overlays to cure your banding problems. One solution may be enough, but you may wish to employ more than one if you are struggling to get the result you want.

Here is a detailed overview of some of the simple techniques I used to reduce banding.

Simple techniques to reduce 'banding' ( Posterization ) in Photoshop example banding
Look in the top left of the brush, and notice how you can see the steps/rings on the outermost edge? This is much less obvious in the lower part of the black blob where I have switched the noise on. This is an example of where I have used noise! Take note of the speckly grainy edge of the soft-brush. This brush helps the ‘steps blend better!

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ ( Posterization ) in Photoshop – tricks

Simple techniques to reduce 'banding' ( Posterization ) in Photoshop - how to smooth...
Silkly smoote !!

Before jumping in with the simple tricks you can use. Let us start with the basics. Or if you can’t be bothered reading about banding and when it occurs, you can jump straight to the tricks and hacks for dealing with it.


Banding & Posterisation in Photoshop – When it occurs

If you don’t wish to read about when “banding” has occurred for me, feel free to jump to the next section.

The dreaded banding aka Posterization in Photoshop.

Drawing, digital painting, and creating renders in Photoshop have been a core part of my past and present career.

I have seen the issue of ‘banding’ arise over and over again, so have had to find techniques to better deal with it.

This issue rears its ugly head when it comes to working with radial and linear gradients and tones of black and grey inside Adobe Photoshop.

When working with black as part of the colour palette, I have witnessed these scenarios of when banding tends to happen :

  • When rendering characters like Rufus the rat as ( black and grey ) ( illustrated below )
  • When trying to gain soft curves of light-darker areas
  • When light grey curves around to dark grey
  • It was more common when working with black
The methods above were used on this character – Copyright Satzuma LTD – Rufus Rat.

Trick 1 ) ‘RGB?’

Controversial, I know. But when waging a battle to reduce ‘banding’ in Photoshop, any tool at your disposal can help.

RGB ‘can’ offer a greater degree of flexibility in the beginning when trying to wrestle with artwork to remove banding such as playing with filters or seeing how the art works on screen.

But remember, that once you tinker with filters and have done what you need to do with trying editing your artwork remember to turn your artwork back to CMYK if this for print. CMYK is a common colour format preferred by most UK printers.

Sadly though, CMYK can…
1 ) Offer a more candid look at your colours at the end of the process.
2 ) Make your colours look like a sadder version of RGB.

‘tangent alert’ Using RGB in the early stages is my preferred method for some projects, not all. It depends on the project.

“Isn’t this madness? You won’t see the genuine colours of your artwork!”

Well unless, your screen is calibrated exactly and you’re using pantones, guaranteeing what you see on the screen to print can be tricky anyway. Besides, I work across both mediums of screen and print, hence working with either CMYK or RGB ( digital )

Trick 2 ) Think of the ‘Bits’

I have tested this method in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and CC with similar results from version to version of Adobe Photoshop. There has been some improvement when working to problem-solve banding.

64-bit – 32-bit – 16-Bit RGB to CMYK

The difference has shown to be marginal but still of noteworthy impact when trying to reduce banding in Adobe Photoshop.

Although the steps are unnoticeable between 8-bit, and 16-bit at reducing banding, this can be enough to tame mild banding.

However, at 32-bit, the latter offered tighter rings and hues around the banding and showed to reduce some of the posterization in Photoshop – 32 bit helped the bands to better blend and higher still should only improve upon this further.

Below is a screenshot from the menu option in Photoshop, when with banding.

*Note : Also the colour profile listed below is on an iMac. This is by no means a significant contribution to the final outcome with reducing banding but may be worth noting in case you are reading this as a Windows PC. Although, I am of the opinion that this should make no difference whether on a Mac or PC. But your screen type might.

Beating posterization in Photoshop.
Caption of colour modes

Trick 3 :  ‘Ultimate Trick’ – Brush & Noise

Assuming that you are running into this issue whilst using a soft-edged brush tool in Photoshop, I would advise turning the noise’ on under the brush panel ( as shown throughout – press F5 to bring this window up)

With noise ticked in the ‘brush setting window’ this helps in the blending steps with greys as shown below.

Based on my experience, this improved the overall smoothness and graduation of the tones from light to dark regardless of bit mode or any other trick and hack for beating banding. Texture can help with the blending, and noise can help with texture. You can also dabble with the filters if you are using large radials (That would be a different article ). 

As you can see below, the black brush at the top has rings that appear like tide marks, (banding). The blend below has far fewer rings as I had the ‘noise’ ticked on my brush. The speckled effect will be less obvious once you take your artwork to print. And shouldn’t look grainy.

But, be mindful not to be overzealous with noise. You may need some trial and error to get the balance right and run some text prints for good measure.

Example of Noise and brush in action

techniques to reduce 'banding' ( Posterization ) in Photoshop example of success.

Trick 4 ) Big to small – experiment with scale

Another trick for tightening banding is by shrinking/scaling down your completed artwork, illustration, or photo.

This works well if you use some of the tricks above to blend and tighten any remaining bands before shrinking your work to hide evidence of banding.

Do this.

When you have applied the ‘noise’ to help blend your artwork, then shrink the image to hide some of the messier details.

This is method not only disguises banding when painting or retouching but also gives the appearance of tighter line work and detail in both photography and illustration. This is a principle I have adapted since being taught this trick in college.

In principle, all you need to do is the following.

Start with your artwork at 100%, and then scale the artwork down to 75%.

If you intend to use this technique, do remember to factor this into the sizing of your artwork with a 25% drop in size!

Eg, if you want your artwork to be 150 cm wide for argument’s sake, consider starting at 200 cm to scale down. Or if you want something to be 750mm wide, start at 1000 mm.
Or if you want to 75 px wide start at 100 px.

In other words, knock a 1/4 quarter of the size but remember to factor in scale back at the end. If you don’t, you may end up with an image that is too small.

  • Step 1 piece of art = 100%
  • Step 2 scale art to = 75%

In theory, nothing is stopping you from playing with lesser scale-backs and scale-downs.

How can this work with hiding banding?

When you print the document some of the details and blemishes are hidden away from the naked eye.

This approach can also hide some of the rings in banding. With an added element of noise, you can combine this to scrub out the bands

Otherwise your hard could look like a dirty spill stain!

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’, the final tip

Using a combination of the above has helped me to kick banding into touch. My favourite by far is my experience with noise without going over the top with artwork to make it look fizzy.

You may also find this post interesting :- working the black in print. Or how to edit the text in a card game.

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ – Credentials

My name is Jimm ( Jim ) and I am designer with over 14 + years of experience. I have had to deal the banding. My old college course and grit and experience is what has helped me to deal with banding.

How to get the black you want in print! Some tips and tricks to help

Working In Black In RGB & CMYK

The Great Black

Black can be a trouble to work with when it comes to print, especially with all of the varying print processes, paper finishes and general variations with commercial printing machines, inks, screen calibrations and so on – working with a black is a headache and I’m sure many others would agree! So, I have put together some tips and tricks to assist with your projects – it can be a dark and treacherous path. This post will mostly focus on creative approach rather than the pure technical aspects of Black ( K ). Working with 4 colour printing and spot colours is a detailed topic in its own right which is worthy of a post.

Illustrators, painters, artists and photographers

If you are a designer / work in print skip this paragraph!

Firstly, does it really need to be BLACK? When I say does it need to be ‘Black’ are there many things in the real world that are completely black? Aside from an all light absorbing, all-life-drinking black hole that absorbs all light and colour? Besides… that’s something that;s not of our world as far as I’m aware. Looking at the world around you, you will see come to see how lighting, surface, atmosphere and texture will absorb surrounding colours, including what you would what you would call a black surface. For example, someone is wearing a black t-shirt, more often that not if, even if it is new, light will catch on the folds, the creases and the contours of the fabric giving the black fabric a slight hue or tint depending on the light source and ambience.

Study things! I like to look at surfaces and objects that have an interesting finish for example : gloss surfaces, bottles, matte paint, skin, fur, hair, shadows, animals, sunglasses, cloth, etc. Another good source of reference of how to use light and dark with dramatic effect is Chiaroscuro – do some research online – research Caravaggio (one of many artist’s using this approach) and see what comes back. Caravaggio used light and dark with excellent dramatic effect framing the narrative in light and shadows. This is potentially subjective but hopefully… it will be food for thought – if its jet-black you’re after then please read on! ( I have attached a little image below with some dark but not black shading )

This image shows how tints shades can show some almost black can work. Most things are not strictly jet black


A Preference

Typically, I like to work in RGB first and then convert my files to CMYK afterwards, especially if I’m working on a bitmap illustration or digital painting. Why? Because working in RGB generally gives me more creative freedom in the beginning and it also allows me to move between digital and print at a later date anyway. This is a my preferred method when working on an illustration and by no means a rule, just a preference. I’m not the only one working this way. By doing a Google search I stumbled upon a commercial artist who also likes to work this way – this writer and artist goes into much greater detail about the in’s and outs of color channels on their blog. I recommend having a read at some stage – perhaps after you have read my post.


Unexpected Results – Designers a pleasant accident

I was always taught to work in CMYK for print and RGB for digital. I still champion this for working with professional printers as trying to print from RGB file may produce some erratic results, be it for leaflets printing, flyers, and other mediums. I accidentally ran a test print from Photoshop in RGB (Thinking it was CMYK) and the results were far more superior than the CMYK version. Both were printed on the same satin finish paper, on a Canon Pixma A3 with an impressive result. Despite my efforts and tinkering with the levels in the CMYK version to replicate what had happened In the RGB Version, I couldn’t produce the same results. I will make an assumption that my Inject printer translated the RGB to CMYK and just knew what I was after. I can’t complain too much as this project was sent to print and retained all the vivid colours and strong black colours.  Saying this, I still recommend trying to stick with the CMYK for design and print despite this result as this is typically what is asked – best to be safe, but something worth exploring for the future.

Digital Black Colour in Photoshop – Add a Hue

Unless your are working in RGB and your artwork will remain for screen (digital) only. Then may be best to work with ‘Designer Black’ check the numbers. Although the computer says it black (or you’ve had it calibrated) it is best to drop a bit of colour into the mix – and do test print it.

Photoshop Colour Palette
And Example of using the black in the colour palette

Last Round Up Hacks!

  • Take Notice of the colour warnings when you are in the colour picker window. This could save a lot of headache later on. (Yellow Triangle)
  • Let the printer do the leg work. Send your artwork to the printer and try to let them help you. A printer worth their salt will want to help you and have your return custom. To reinforce your expectations, send them a physical sample from your home printer – assuming you have a good quality home printer.
  • A HUE, if you are working on an image with a lot of dark areas why not add a little hue / tint of colour? 20% cyan for example or some magenta/red for a warmer image.
  • Avoid working with 0, 0, 0, 100 K, as this best reserved for font/text printing and can your work charcoal appearance. Use a ‘Rich black’ or ‘designers black’ instead. 20, 20, 20, 100 k for example.
  • Avoid 100, 100, 100, 100, CMYK as this is reserved for crop marks and using this colour can drown the paper – no one wants drowned paper!
  • Don’t be fooled. Your screen can be way out of the sync with your printer. Do some test’s first and see what results come from your printer (even printing on your home printer cannot guarantee the finish you require when you send your work to print) So take note.

    Yes… black can be painful to work with! And can be tricky colour to tame!

Thank you for reading how to work with black in print!