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Jun 03

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop

2008 at 10.25 am posted by Veerle Pieters

Lately I seem to be inspired by geometric forms and patterns in general, and today especially with a bit of an organic touch. I came across a very inspiring image months ago that uses an intersting technique, but I seem to have lost the URL. Today I thought of creating my own version because it seems like an interesting thing to explore. As usual I like to keep things simple. So I experimented a bit and I ‘ve found an easy way to create something that looks rather complex. Take a look at this…

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop

Create the shape

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop - Create the shape

Select the Ellipse Tool from the Toolbox. Draw a circle holding down the Shift Key. Make sure your Rulers are turned on. Go to View > Rulers or hit command/control + r. Drag a horizontal guide from the top Ruler to the middle of the circle. Hit command/control + t to rotate the circle 45°. Hold down Shift Key while rotating the circle or just enter the value of 45 degrees in the rotate option field in the Toolbar at the top.

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop - Create the shape

Select the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) from the Toolbox. Click on the right segment of the path of the circle and hit the Delete Key. Now select the Pen Tool and click in the top right point of the circle where you have just deleted the segment of the path to redraw this part as show above in the image on the right. Hold down the Shift Key and click somewhere on the guide so you draw a perfect 45° line. Click in the bottom right point of the circle shape (that now looks more like a drop of water laying on its side).

Add Linear Gradient Mask

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop - Add Linear Gradient Mask

Add a mask to the layer, by first selecting the layer and then clicking the Add a mask option button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Make sure foreground and background are respectively set to white and black. Hit the D Key once and if needed use the Switch foreground and background arrows so white is your foreground. In the Toolbar make sure the gradient picker is set to Foreground to Background. Select the Gradient Tool from the Toolbox and click on the left of the shape, hold down Shift Key and drag a line towards the other side of the shape. Release the mouse.

Duplicate and change color

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop - Duplicate and change color

Duplicate the layer by dragging the layer over the Create new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Rotate the shape 180° and scale it a little bit. Give the shape a slightly different color. In my example I go from red to hot pink and purple. Move it in place as shown in the image above. You probably need to adjust the gradient mask again. Just select the mask icon in the Layers panel. Make sure foreground and background are respectively set to white and black and that the gradient picker is set to Foreground to Background again in the Toolbar. Select the Gradient Tool in the Toolbox. Hold down the Shift Key while dragging a horizontal line, this time from left to right.

Build a 'pile' of shapes

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop - Build a 'pile' of shapes

Repeat the previous step until you've created a pile of shapes as shown in the image below.

Group in a Layer Set and add a Radial Gradient Mask

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop - Group in a Layer Set and add a Radial Gradient Mask

Select all layers in the Layers panel. Go to the panels menu (located at the top right of the panel) and select the New Group from Layers... option. Enter a name and click OK. Click the Add a mask option button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Make sure foreground and background are respectively set to white and black again. Select the Gradient Tool from the Toolbox and select the Radial Gradient option at the toolbar at the top. Make sure the gradient picker is set to Foreground to Background again. Drag a vertical line (hold down Shift Key) from the center of the pile towards the top.

Duplicate the 'pile', rotate and re-color

Now duplicate this group by dragging the folder icon in the Layers panel over the Create new layer icon at the bottom. Hit command/control + t and enter a value of 180° to turn the pile upside down. Open the folder icon in the layer to reveal the layers. Double click each layer shape 1 by 1 to change its color. I started with green for the smallest shape and changed it gradually to blue. Then I moved my pile upwards so that the smallest shape is somewhere in the center of my canvas. I duplicated the my green-blue pile, rotated it 180° and moved it in place. As final touch I added a radial gradient in the background, using a solid color and a radial gradient mask.

Simple organic shapes in Photoshop - Duplicate the 'pile', rotate and re-color

Finalizing

Last but not least I played around with the layer modes. I've used the Lighten mode on the green-blue piles and used a transparency of 50% for the top pile and 100% for the bottom one. Oh, and before someone asks, the font I've used is FF Cocon. Hope you enjoy this tutorial. Thanks for reading ;)

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


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permalink this comment Tommy Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 11.03 am

Really nice tips. Thanks. As always, your tutorials are an inspiration :)


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permalink this comment Harold Gay Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 11.09 am

Amazing work. Thanks!


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permalink this comment Roweena Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 11.22 am

Wow, love the colours. What font have you used on the first image “Simple Organic Shapes”?


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permalink this comment David Madden Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 11.35 am

Another great tutorial!

(Wouldn’t it be nice if vector shapes could contain a gradient fill to transparent without messing around with masks)


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permalink this comment Domenic Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 11.40 am

Thanks again for another excellent tutorial! :D


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permalink this comment Erki Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 11.47 am

Very nice work as always.

One question though. Why not do it in Illustrator? :-) I mean, what determines whether you use Photoshop or Illustrator?


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permalink this comment Martin Berglund Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 12.06 pm

That is a nice way to use shapes. Great tip :)

Offtopic:
We made a small article about your site yesterday, over at Kreativ1. We have a weekly site tip, and this week our tip was your blog. I suppose you don’t know a lot of Norwegian, but I can assure you that the article is all positive ;)


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permalink this comment Antoine Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 12.17 pm

Wow, love the colors, very nice one Veerle!

Antoine


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permalink this comment Martin Berglund Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 12.25 pm

David Madden said:

Wouldn’t it be nice if vector shapes could contain a gradient fill to transparent without messing around with masks

You can do that if you set the gradient within the layer-effects and set the fill-color to 0%. Backside is that everything then needs to be controlled through the layer-effects on each layer.


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permalink this comment Veerle Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 01.02 pm

Thanks everyone :)

Roweena said:

What font have you used on the first image “Simple Organic Shapes”?

Because I knew that this question might come, I added it in the article (see my last paragraph) ;) It’s FF Cocon.

Erki said:

Why not do it in Illustrator? :-) I mean, what determines whether you use Photoshop or Illustrator?

I was thinking of doing this in Illustrator first, but then I thought about how layer masks work in Illustrator. It is a bit more complex to explain. Also while experimenting I thought I would have used certain Photoshop specific tools like the brush etc. In the end I didn’t because I really wanted it to keep it as simple as possible.  It’s not always crystal clear which application to choose because there are a lot of things you can do in both, like this example. In general for me it depends on these criteria: if the job will involve a lot of drawing with the Pen tool and it needs to be scalable at all times, then I’ll opt for Illustrator. If the job will involve working with photos and adding effects and certain pattern structures that are hard to do in Illustrator, I’ll work in Photoshop. Then, all elements that need to stay flexible and scalable I place (pasting from Illustrator) in Photoshop via a SmartObject.

This creation is perfectly possible in both applications and both creations would be fully vector-based and so flexible to scale. In other words I could print this out as a big poster and everything would be sharp, because it’s resolution independent.

David Madden said:

Wouldn’t it be nice if vector shapes could contain a gradient fill to transparent without messing around with masks

Martin Berglund is right. Good point btw, Martin :) This is indeed another way of doing this if you want to avoid the masking of each layer. I suppose you’ll need to make sure you use the color of your background in the swatch that has 100% transparency to achieve the most perfect result.

@ Martin Berglund thank you :) I sometimes see a slight resemblance in Flemish (our Dutch dialect) and Norwegian, but very slightly though :)


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permalink this comment billseymour Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 01.05 pm

This is really quite a piece of original thinking on your part (even if, as you said, you were inspired by an earlier site). I really like the concept of using the gradients to create the illusion of ‘object flowing into another object’. I definitely see your Ai orientation being applied to this Ps demo.

This image takes me back to the Lava Light days…


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permalink this comment Ryan Q Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 02.17 pm

It’s great that you told us the font that you used. Too bad I had already gone and searched for the font (and found it) by the time I read the whole article.

I love the pattern that you created here. I think I’ll have to use this idea sometime.


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permalink this comment Gordon Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 03.21 pm

This looks like such a fun technique, will be trying this soon.

Do you release any of this stuff online? as art or desktop wallpaper or somesuch? If not, you really should!


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permalink this comment DazzleCat Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 03.41 pm

amazing… very retro lava lamp like! :-)


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permalink this comment Gen Kazak Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 03.51 pm

Hey Veerle, that was a great tutorial. Very interesting effect that creates and I can see a lot of possible ways to use it! Thanks for sharing!


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permalink this comment revy Tue Jun 3, 2008 at 05.12 pm

Very cool. I’m going to try this with other shapes as well. Cheers!


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permalink this comment Levon Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 12.17 am

You make it look so simple. I tried to follow it, but I think I should stick to the programming. Leave the pretty stuff to the professionals.


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permalink this comment Max Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 02.34 am

Have you noticed this site is poaching your content? http://twotoz.com/tutorials/view/373


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permalink this comment Bry Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 02.43 am

I love the image.  I was sitting here thinking it would be so much more complex that you’ve shown it to be.  Just gorgeous!


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permalink this comment fhviid Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 03.40 am

Fantastic, as always. So simple in nature, yet so compelling. I too see many applications for this. Thanks Veerle.


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permalink this comment saljo Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 07.48 am

as always Vee.
its informative


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permalink this comment Anders Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 08.13 am

Cool work Veerle!

I’m a huge fan of yours and of course a long time subscriber to your blog. Just wish I had some more time to play around with Photoshop…


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permalink this comment Arnaud Alves Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 08.54 am

Really cool i love thanx veerle !


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permalink this comment Niels Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 09.47 am

Really cool result you get with this tutorial. Thanks Veerle.


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permalink this comment Veerle Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 10.01 am

Max said:

Have you noticed this site is poaching your content? http://twotoz.com/tutorials/view/373

Thanks for catching that. It’s already been taken care of and the site is no longer online.


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permalink this comment davansy Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 12.30 pm

cool imagination and very nice skills! thank you veerle!


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permalink this comment T.Knobloch Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 02.28 pm

Wow awesome result! This really gives me motivation to experiment more with Photshop and luckily delivers an idea where to start from. This technique is like made for 70ties psychedelic-art inspired grafix - very beautiful!


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permalink this comment Devon Young Wed Jun 4, 2008 at 05.40 pm

Wow cool! I’m starting to dive into image making a little more lately and this is just way too cool. Thanks for sharing.


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permalink this comment Melanie Thu Jun 5, 2008 at 02.31 pm

I read all your articles but never comment. This time, I just wanted to say that as usual, this is very inspring and I’m looking forward to try it out later tonight. In the meantime, it has been a very welcome reading break (this new interface / style I’m working on is giving me headaches!)


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permalink this comment John G Thu Jun 5, 2008 at 02.51 pm

Inspirational, thank you. Off to get the cocon font too!


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permalink this comment jonef Fri Jun 6, 2008 at 03.58 am

Wow, that cool, inpired me to create more creative artworks,photos, website and Im always learn new things in this site.


Thank you
:D


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permalink this comment Matt Radel Fri Jun 6, 2008 at 02.29 pm

Ooooohhhh….very nice! I think I dig the single line of shapes though (about the 6th image). Still a great effect. Kudos and thanks for sharing!


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permalink this comment Jackie Fri Jun 6, 2008 at 04.12 pm

Wow.  You are a master at coming up with new shapes and ideas!  I love the colors, too, and how the shapes blend into one another through layering. The font just goes perfectly with the whole round organic feeling. It looks like it could be a brochure or report cover for a bioengineering firm, or something. ; )


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permalink this comment Robert Sat Jun 7, 2008 at 10.58 am

Inspiring as always - even with basic shapes you succeed in achieving your personal touch and flair.


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permalink this comment Narration Sun Jun 8, 2008 at 05.25 am

Veerle, that is really nice.  You contribute a lot, and I appreciate it.

Regards,
Clive


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permalink this comment Shelly Sun Jun 8, 2008 at 08.59 am

Totally amazing stuff you do with graphics, you are truly a inspiration for any artist.


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permalink this comment Rainer Sun Jun 8, 2008 at 01.45 pm

I concur with Erki, I wouldn’t do this in Photoshop. Plus, Illustrator allows you to add the transformation (scale, mirror, move) as an effect, which in turn you can re-use on other shapes, and re-iterate as often as you like.


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permalink this comment Andi Sun Jun 8, 2008 at 06.55 pm

Found your site in the “Principles of Beautiful Web Design” book from SitePoint, and I think it’s the most impressive design they’ve linked to so far.


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permalink this comment Aram Sun Jun 8, 2008 at 09.34 pm

Very good result you get with this tutorial. Thank you Veerle.


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permalink this comment jane bush Mon Jun 9, 2008 at 10.31 am

Nice work done… thanks for info. dear :)


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permalink this comment Eric Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 01.21 am

This is *just* the tutorial I needed.  I am so glad to have subscribed to your rss feed!  Thanks - Eric


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permalink this comment Noah Furlani Tue Jun 17, 2008 at 02.08 am

Great tutorial! Thanks a lot!


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permalink this comment Tobias Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 12.05 pm

Have you noticed John Nack picking up your work on his blog recently?

http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2008/06/the_color_the_s.html


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permalink this comment billseymour Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 01.58 pm

I wanted to ask if you might add a mini-tutorial postscript on accomplishing the transparency effect using Illustrator. I also feel that Illustrator is the more ‘natural’ application for multiple shape creation and manipulation, but I am not familiar with how the ‘fading to transparency’ is achieved.

(I have done several Ps experiments with the original tutorial idea, and the results are quite interesting- thanks!)


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permalink this comment Magda Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 10.12 am

Although I hardly ever use Adobe Photoshop (simply because I’m not good at it), I gave it a try and followed your advice. Thanks for the lesson :)



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