Making a Poster in Affinity Photo

Recently, I switched from using Adobe exclusively to canceling my subscription plan and finding better optimized / stable programs to handle my creative needs. As blasphemous as it seems, I switched from Premiere Pro to Final Cut Pro X, Adobe After Effects to Motion, Photoshop, and Illustrator to Affinity Photo and Designer

My day job consists of directing and producing the hit restoration television show "Graveyard Carz" on Velocity and MotorTrend Network. Because we're entering our tenth season, I thought it would be cool to make a kickass poster and test out Affinity Photo to see if it was up to the challenge. Because this season's theme is Grindhouse, my colleague thought it would be cool to recreate the classic look of the Vanishing Point Challenger poster. 

I took that idea and augmented it into this finished product. 

So how did I create this?

First, it all started with a quick sketch of the layout:

Next, using my Sony A7sii - I shot all the cast and crew on an old Challenger in our Graveyard. Because the talent wasn't available at the same time, I shot them individually with the plan of compositing them together later. 

To get that classic distorted look, I used my Rokinon 24mm in Full Frame mode. Once I processed the RAW photos in Apple Photos (my replacement for Lightroom), I opened Affinity Photo and imported each cast member's picture to begin compositing them together into one shot. 

Anyone switching from Photoshop will be happy to know that their selection and refinement is just as good, if not better. It's certainly faster. 

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After about an hour or so, I was able to see just how well the comp turned out:

Of course, the old rusted car wasn't going to work for this photo. I wanted it to be a mint condition Challenger and not just any Challenger, but the one from Vanishing Point. As some of you may know, the car has a bright white paint job. While it wouldn't be impossible to repaint the car white, I didn't have that much time. 

So, I had my production team find a toy model replica and place it onto a cart in relatively the same light, and I went out with the same camera and lens choice and took two photos. The first focused on the front of the car; the second focused on the rear of the car. I did this because I knew that even if I adjusted my aperture to F22, some part of the car would fall out of focus due to scale. 

I brought the two focused images into Affinity Photo, dropped the opacity for the top layer, lined them up and used the eraser tool where necessary to create a focused stacked image. Later, I discovered Affinity Photo has a process that does this automatically. 

With the model car now in perfect focus, all I had to do is position it to fit over the original car. Thankfully, I shot it very similar to the original photos, so I didn't need to manipulate the image much.

However, because there was a difference in distortion due to how close my lens was to the model versus the actual car, I needed to use the Mesh Warp Tool to stretch the front grill slightly. In the end, I was able to replace the car successfully. 

However, the grille is a dead giveaway to the scale of the model. Also, the deck lid is still rusted and needed to be painted white. Besides Mark's, the car lost all of the natural shadows cast by the talent. So, I finished it off by creating a few new layers between each talents layer and hand painting shadows using the Paint Brush Tool. 

After painting a giant blob of a shadow, I would then switch to the Erase Brush Tool, decreasing the harshness to 0 and erasing bits to feather the edges of what I painted. That technique worked well in achieving a realistic shadow. 

To fix the grille, I went back to the original rusted car, used the Selection Brush Tool and copied and pasted that layer onto the fake model grille. Again, using the Mesh Warp Tool allowed me to adjust it to the exact position I needed. 

Also, while I was at it, I created a new layer and used the Pen Tool to draw a precise selection around the windshield. I quickly converted the vector lines to a selection and filled it with black and dropped the opacity to darken the window. 

The grille ended up looking so good, I jumped back and grabbed the chrome molding from the original car and positioned it onto the model car as well - further creating the illusion that the car was full-scale. 

Staring at the photo for a while, I realized that I wanted Mark to be slightly taller. This way, he could cover more of the car. So, I jumped back in, selected his layer, and used the Mesh Warp Tool to spread him across the hood more. I used the eraser tool to trim the excess shadows. 

Knowing that I was going to run this through an animation script, I quickly and haphazardly used the Inpainting Brush Tool to hide the Nike logos on his shoes and perform a bit of liposuction. 

With the comp nearly done, all that remained was to remove the background which was easy as switching off a layer because the cast, model car, and all of its assets had been previously masked out. By this time, my team had gone out and taken a picture of a road not far from the shop. 

I used the Impainting Tool to paint out a garbage can and then used the Zoom Blur Effect to make it look like we're driving down the road at an incredible speed. 

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The effect provides you with the ability to select your point of origin and nearly instantly produces a great look. I used it again after I hand painted the car shadow onto the road, producing the final comp here: 

Sorry for the lack of layer names. :(

At this point, I was ready to give it an animated look. There are a few ways you can achieve this; the best looking way would be to export the image and import it as a guide to trace inside of Affinity Designer. They've recently released their iPad version and being able to draw in vector is smooth, intuitive, and looks fantastic. 

But if you're in a hurry and maybe you're not much of an artist, there are various programs and scripts to generate an animated image. One way I use quite frequently is Filter Forge, a standalone application that not only creates textures but also has thousands of customizable creative filters to transform your images.  

With a custom built filter, I produced two images - one at a super detailed resolution - another at a slightly lower-resolution, so I can mix between the two as desired. I wanted a more abstract look for most of the poster, but I didn't want to lose detail in the cast faces. 

Detailed one. Flat. No contrast. 

With the abstract version layered onto, perserving the facial detail. 

To combine the two versions, I just used the Eraser Brush Tool to cut out a hole for their faces so that more detailed versions remained while the more abstract layer carried the rest of the image. To enhance the contrast and saturation, I ended up duplicating the original comp and placing it on top of all, changing the transfer mode to Overlay. 

Afterward, I didn't like the brightness of the road, so I used the Pen Tool to create a precise selection and used the Flood Fill Tool to create a black solid. Because the talent was already isolated with an alpha, I selected it's group and went to Select > Selection from Layer. This automatically created a selection based on the alpha channel of that group. Then, I clicked on my road layer with the solid I created earlier and pressed delete. Now my road solid had a perfect cutout allowing the car and talent to remain unaffected by it. 

I performed the same steps to darken the forest. 

Just when I was happy with the results, I noticed that the Hood Pins where dangling off the hood. I knew anyone who knows anything about that would point that out immediately as wrong.

It would be better never to see them, but I didn't want to start all the way over again. So, I used the Inpainting Tool and the Paint Brush Tool to eradicate them.

With that done, all I had to do was degrade the poster just enough to look like a used and abused poster. I already had a ton of digital assets to grunge this up. I opened them all inside of the program and began copying and pasting them into my main project. 

First, I used a green-hued photo border with some torn edges and used the Pin Light transfer to combine them. Of course, this distorted the blacks quite a bit, but there was more to add. 

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Next, I added some severe damage to the image and used the Multiply transfer mode to degrade the image to near imperceptible quality. 

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To bring back the lost detail, I duplicated the original comp and used the Lighten transfer mode and laid it on top of the whole stack. 

The only thing that was missing was paper folds. So I found a nice texture, brought it in and used the Hard Light transfer mode to overlay on top. To prevent a complete distortion of the entire image, I used the Erase Brush Tool to mask out areas where the degradation would be minimal.

Finally, time to add text. One of the best things about Affinity Photo is how easy their text tool is. I find it very frustrating working with text inside of Photoshop, especially when it comes to font sizes. In Affinity, it's as simple as clicking on the canvas and dragging to choose your size. Of course, you can quickly adjust the size by using the layer transform tool. 

I finished off the poster with a white-balance adjustment and a LUT (from Vision-Color) to give it that extra old-school feels.

Phew. Done. 

So, as you can see, at just $50 for a one-time fee, Affinity Photo has proven to be a powerful photo manipulation software - and one that works reasonably intuitively. I was able to jump into the program without much knowledge of how to use it.

Affinity Photo makes it all simple. If I want to add an adjustment to a layer, I drag it onto the layer, and it collapses - keeping everything nice and clean. If I want to add a mask, I drag it over a layer, and it automatically creates a mask. 

I also should mention its super fast and handles large projects like a champ. For this poster, I was working with very high resolutions on a 2017 MacBook Pro, and it never broke a sweat. 

Also, it works natively with iCloud, allowing you to open your projects on your iPad and continue working on them from there.

I'm very impressed with the software, and I feel right about it replacing most, if not all of my photoshop needs.