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Creating a festive greeting with Affinity Designer for iPad

The insanely talented illustrator and designer Tobias Hall has come up top once again during a recent commission to celebrate Christmas. Never one to disappoint, he certainly delivered with this 3D woodcut effect greeting.

Here he gives us the low-down on how it was done using Affinity Designer for iPad. Check out the process video, followed by a behind the scenes look at each stage of his workflow.

Sketching the lettering layout

I start by sketching out rough ideas on the iPad; at this stage, I’m only really thinking about layout and how the letters are going to interact with each other. I’m also paying attention to the compositional balance and looking to get that right early on. But the lettering style itself is less important at the moment.

Sketching out the layout in Affinity Designer for iPad.

Refining basic letterforms

Once a rough design has been chosen, it’s time to refine the basic letterforms and bring more accuracy to the composition. At this point I start to focus on the general shape and style of the letterforms; for this particular approach I’ll eventually add a lot more ornate form to the letters, but that comes later.

Creating clean lines

Once I’m happy with the general form and composition, I then turn down the opacity of the outline sketch to create a guide to work from and start on a new layer to ‘ink up’ the pencil sketch so that I have clean lines to work with. The lettering will actually end up looking pretty different to this, but I still need clean lines to work from—I’ll explain why that’s important at the next stage.

Before I move on to the next step I’m going to use the Flood Fill Tool and add a layer fx colour overlay to add an outline (I’ve used a red overlay with around a 35-pixel radius). Once again I’m going to turn the opacity down in the layers panel and start a new layer to use as a guide once again.

Adding flourishes and details around the sketch overlay.

Adding ornate detail and flourishes

Now that I have those clean basic letterforms, it’s time to go back into pencil and start adding that extra floral ornate quality to each letter. Essentially I’ll be adding a kind of stroke/keyline to what I’ve already got, but that stroke will be adorned with flourishes and floral shapes that provide energy and detail and general fancy-ness. That starts out life as a literal stroke though; this provides me with an accurate guide to work from. This also explains why I needed those clean lines to work with earlier—applying a stroke to the original pencil sketch isn’t going to work. I add floral shapes to both sides of the stroke (the ‘inside’ of the letter and the ‘outside’ of the letters/composition).

Once I’m happy with the shapes I’ve added in pencil, it’s time to work them up in neat ‘pen’. For this, I use a simple mono-weight brush that’s going to give me a nice consistent line throughout.

Adding finishing flourishes to the lettering outline.

Creating the 3D effect

The next stage is to create the three-dimensional extrusion effect. For this, I simply duplicate my clean lines and move them down and to the right at a 45-degree angle. Once I’m happy with their position, I use that duplication as a guide for the edge of the extrusion and draw the rest of that effect manually on a new layer.

Adding detail, tone and shadow

I then add detail and tone to that 3D extrusion using some gritty Affinity brushes from a Turbo Textures brush kit I downloaded from Retro Supply Co.

Next, I wanted to create the shadow that the piece will cast on the ‘ground’. To do this I used the Outer Shadow layer effect to create a directional blur, tweaking as needed to form my guide. Once happy with the guide I use those same textured brushes as previous to create the shadow on the floor.

At this point, I decided I wanted to add more detail to the piece, so I started working into the flourishes with a tapered brush to give that woodcut effect. I also used the same tapered brushes to create some original floral ornaments to surround the piece. Finally, I used the textured brush from earlier to create a gradient within the inside of the letterforms.

Adding texture and tone to the lettering.
Experimenting with colour ways.

Colour and finishing touches

The final stage was to add colour and I created a series of colourways for the guys at Affinity to choose from and perfected the piece from there.

The final Christmas greeting.

About the maker

Having initially started out life as a conceptual illustrator, Tobias started working with typography and lettering soon after graduating in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. His versatility has meant he’s been lucky enough to work on an eclectic mix of projects for a growing list of international clients.

To learn more about Tobias you can read our interview with him here or keep up to date with his latest work on his Instagram, website and Behance.