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Amazing Retro Rainbow Curves
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to design some amazing vector based Retro Rainbow Curves using Adobe Photoshop. These retro artifacts have become a popular trend in modern design!
What We’re Making
You can get an idea of what we’re going to be creating in the example below. You may want to touch up on your abilities with the pen tool before getting started, although I will try my best to be perfectly clear with all of the steps taken to achieve this effect!
Before getting ahead of ourselves, it’s probably a good idea to pick out a color scheme for our design. If you’d like to stick to the colors I’ll be using in my demonstration, check out the example below. Otherwise, if you need help coming up with some good ideas, COLOURlovers is probably a good place to start looking.
White – FFFFFF
Background – 312620
Go ahead and Create a new Document (I’ll be creating a 600x480px document), and fill the background with your background color using the Paint Bucket Tool.
Enable the grid display, and setup your grid to have a gridline every 20-50px, with 1 subdivision (I’m using a grid line every 30px since 600 and 480 are both divisible by 30).
Creating the First Line
We’re Teaching a Technique Here!
In this tutorial, we’re trying to teach the technique used to create these wonderful designs. While reading through this lesson, try to understand what it is we are doing rather than simply following our guide word for word. If you understand how this works, you’ll have an easy time creating your own unique designs later on!
To draw the lines in our design, we’re going to use the Pen Tool, and use the grid as a guide. First, make sure Snap to Grid is enabled (View > Snap & View > Snap to Grid). Select a Foreground Color for your first curve shape (I’ll be using #c9402d). Use the pen tool to create the first curved line. I’ve provided an easy to follow template below if you’re following along with my demonstration.
A few things to take note of here. First, you’ll probably notice that all concave curves (or the areas that should be curving inwards, like a dent) are all 45 degree angles. This is correct, and will be fixed later. You may have also noticed (as pointed out in the diagram) how the curves create points that line up with one another).
You’ll also notice that wherever there is a curve, the inner and outer points are directly adjacent to one another. All of these things are important factors in creating this effect.
Now, let’s deal with those inner curves.
Grab the Ellipse Shape Tool. In the Options Bar, select “Subtract from shape area“. This option will allow us to subtract from the area of our currently selected shape (so be sure your line path is still selected from your layers palette).
With the Grid and Snap still enabled, create the following circles to create the inner curves of your line (Hold Shift to create perfect circles, and use Space to move your shape while drawing it. Additionally, you can hold Alt to draw your circle from it’s center point if you find that makes things simpler.)
Once again, take note of the explanations in the diagram. These will help you create your own curves in your future designs! Your First Curve is Done!
Creating the next Curves
The curves following the first one are a bit easier to create (especially now that we have the technique down), because we really only have to create 1 side of the curve. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
Create a new Layer UNDER your first curved line to create your new shape on, and select the Pen Tool again. Select a new color (#a9362f), and follow the template shown below.
As you can see in this diagram, we can be pretty sloppy with this curve compared to the first curve we created. Any areas that overlap with the first curve won’t show, so we don’t have to be careful with our points (although, you’ll still want to keep your points to a minimum, considering more points will require more space and processing power). If you’re having trouble understanding, look at how I created the shape in the diagram above — I created the nice, curved path along the outer edge, but where they two shapes touch, I left a jagged path for the new shape since it’s not visible from underneath our first shape.
You can continue this process for any subsequent curves you want to include in your design!
What if This Happens?
If you try to create another curve underneath the blue line, you might run into a small inconsistency. When you try creating curves with less than 1 diagonal grid segment in spacing, your curve spacing will end up being off. This can end up in a curve with a more blocky appearance than the curves surrounding it… which might be undesirable — or perhaps it could be what you’re going for.
Anyways, to fix this, you either need to create bigger curves to start out with, OR create the curve on the other side (providing that their isn’t a curve that causes this on the opposite side as well).
I’d like to leave final touches up to you, the designer. To get you started, here are a few things I like to do:
- Keep in mind that in their current vector based form, you can’t do a whole lot with your curves besides playing with the layer style and color. I typically will Merge the curves together into one single raster layer. To do this, Select all the Curve Shape Layers in your Layers palette, and go to Layer > Merge Layers(Ctrl + E). It might be a good idea to make a copy of your original shape layers first so you don’t lose those!
- Try to render some lighting effects over your merged graphic (Filter > Render > Lighting Effects). It’s a great way to add lighting and shade to your entire graphic in just a few simple clicks.
- Change the angles of your curves. Rotate the whole thing 45* to give it a whole new look!
- Add some type to compliment your lines. If you add type, try working with the same colors as used in your lines so that the text and lines harmonize with one another.
- Throw your lines into other artwork or photography of yours. Use the distort feature of Photoshop to give your retro curves some depth. Additionally, add some depth of field!
- Combine several different sets of curves together to create intricate line work, and more complex designs!
If you’re having trouble with any of the steps, feel free to Download the PSD for this tutorial!