Photoshop tutorial: How to create explosive dance music graphics

Learn how to build abstract shapes and add vibrant club colours to create eye-catching EDM visuals.


In this Photoshop tutorial, music industry graphic designer Mart Biemans will take you through some of his favourite festival graphics techniques – showing you how to create a poster that mixes an attention-grabbing explosive motif with club culture tropes of candy-coloured lights and mixer sliders – plus some abstract shapes for visual interest.

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Festival posters use very bold imagery because you want people to look for the important information such as date, location and lineup. Not just when passing by the poster on the streets – but also when scrolling on social media. These vibrant graphics are a good way to get their attention, and when combined with strong typography and good use of colour – you can make sure potential attendees will be drawn into what’s on the poster.

Project Files

Please visit the desktop site to download the project files.

STEP 1

As we're creating a fictional festival poster, I first had to come up with a name. To save time and purely focus on the techniques covered in this tutorial, I used an old sketch I had lying around as the base; I created this quick experimental, A3-sized illustration of a grenade around a year ago and never used it.

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We'll be naming our festival 'Xplosion'. It sounds pretty apt for a hard-dance event and has some interesting letters which we can design in a cool way. I created a really quick sketch to get an initial idea for the layout.


STEP 2

I like to have any major typographic assets ready before I start creating the final composition of my artwork. I already have the sketch and a basic idea in my head of what I want the final artwork to look like. So I just need the logo.

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I cleaned up the sketch in Photoshop and then created a grid in Adobe Illustrator to base the logo on.

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STEP 3

Next we are going to prepare some of our other assets which we will need later in the tutorial. We will focus mainly on the abstract shapes in the artwork as these can be used for a wide range of projects, not only festival flyers.

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I like to create these shapes in a separate document as I can then save them and perhaps reuse them for other projects later.

Start by creating a new project. As our poster is A3, create something at least as big as this.


STEP 4

In this new document, create a circle and center it. Apply a radial gradient to it and move the middle of the gradient slightly to the top left or right. This will make the circle appear 3D.

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STEP 5

Next comes the fun part, as we are going to create a wide range of black and white patterns. These we will later use to overlay on the circle. Feel free to download mine from the Project Files or create your own.

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One example of what I created is the checkerboard pattern in the screenshot. It’s simple but, after I apply some other effects to it later, will look very nice.

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STEP 6

Copy and paste all of these patterns into the document with the circle; the patterns will be clipping masks above the circle. Next, make them all invisible.

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This group of elements (circles, patterns) is purely for backup. We want to make sure to always keep these layers intact in case something goes wrong during the next steps.

We don't need the Adobe Illustrator file with the patterns anymore, so just save it and keep it for later. Maybe you can reuse the patterns in a future project.


STEP 7

We have 6 patterns on top of the sphere. Put them all on overlay and unhide one at a time. Each time you have one of the patterns unhidden, select all layers and duplicate them.

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After this, merge them. You should end up with 6 spheres which each have a different pattern.


STEP 8

Now select all spheres individually and go to Filter > Distort > Spherize. This will give the spheres even more of a 3D effect.

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You can apply the Spherize effect once or twice to each pattern depending on what looks better. For some only once might look better and for some twice.

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STEP 9

The result already looks quite dope but we're going to distort these shapes even more. The fun part about the next step is that the results can be quite random and surprising; the key is to play around with the settings and if you don't like the result simply repeat the step.

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We will be creating as many shapes as possible so it might be smart to duplicate our 3D shapes a couple of times. You can delete the ones you don't use later. Go to Filter > Distort > Wave and play with the settings.


STEP 10

We now have a couple of shapes on the same layer. As we want to be able to move them all separately once we create our final artwork, we're going to cut them all loose and put them each on their own layer inside this group. To do this, simply select the shapes and press Cmd/Ctrl + X then Cmd/Ctrl + V.

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STEP 11

Repeat the steps above with all the spheres until you have a nice amount of distorted shapes. You won't end up using them all but it's nice to be able to select your favourites.

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I've made mine available for download, so feel free to use them for your artwork in combination with your own if you don't feel like repeating this step too many times. It's a bit time consuming but worth it.

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STEP 12

Next we are going to create some colourful spheres and repeat the previous steps. We'll be using a couple of the same patterns but once you overlay them, set the opacity to 15% to make it very subtle.

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You should now repeat steps 6-11, from putting the patterns on top of the gradient spheres to transforming them and putting them on a separate layer.


STEP 13

For now I think we've created enough of these shapes. It's time to start combining what we have.

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Lets reopen our A3 poster which contained the original sketch. I've placed in the logo at the top, the X of 'Xplosion' in the middle, and at the bottom a box which is the same size as the logo. This will be where we'll place our fictional lineup.

I've used the size of the small 'O' in Xplosion to create my borders, copying and pasting the letter around the picture to determine bleed space. You don't want to place elements too close to the border as they might get cut off when printing.


STEP 14

Next open up your illustration; in my case I'll be using the illustration I created in Adobe Illustrator around a year ago.

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As this tutorial has mostly focused on creating multi-functional abstract shapes, please feel free to use mine in this case to practice, or use your own illustration.

I've placed my illustration of the grenade inside my canvas and made sure that all parts of the grenade are movable. I did this because I want to displace them in the next step to give the impression that the grenade is exploding. I also want to be able to recolour or modify each part individually.

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STEP 15

Obviously the grenade image is a bit big right now; I made one backup and moved it to the bottom of the various layers.

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I then resized the grenade so that it fits better between the festival title and the place where the lineup will be put. Duplicate this group, so the grenade has 2 sides; once we start moving all individual parts we also want people to be able to see the pieces layered at the back to get a proper 3D feel.

In the layer panel, above the 'Grenade Back' folder, create a new layer and fill it with white. Now create a clipping mask upon the group and put the blending mode to 'Difference'.


STEP 16

Hide the 'Grenade Back' layer; we'll use it later.
 To create the exploding effect on the grenade we're going to move around all individual pieces. The distance between each piece doesn't have to be exactly the same, as a grenade exploding in real life wouldn't have its fragments bursting out at the exact same time.

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I also decided to recolour each individual piece using a Hue/Saturation layer with a blending of Colour. I did this by simply moving around the bar on the top slider (see far right hand side of image).


STEP 17

Now it's time to do the exact same thing to the 'Grenade Back' group. Move around the pieces, then recolour them by using the Hue/Saturation layers.

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Keep hidden the group of the top part which has the pin of the grenade as there's only one of these in a grenade. Make this entire group slightly smaller then the 'Grenade Back' group.

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STEP 18

By using Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness / Contrast with the shown settings I made the background elements darker as I don't want them to be too dominant.

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As you'll notice, I also rotated my grenade slightly because I don't want the composition to look so static. I then made it slightly smaller so it doesn't come too close to the text.


STEP 19

Once rotated I moved around some more of the elements; this is something you will probably keep on repeating in the next step as the composition will change, as you'll see.

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For now we are done with the grenade. In the next step we will start adding our abstract shapes which we created in the beginning of this tutorial.


STEP 20

Its time to start putting everything together. Open up the file with all the abstract shapes, then simply grab the group with the black and white distorted layers and drag it into your poster file.

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Make sure the group is located between the 'Grenade Front' and 'Grenade Back' groups in your layer panel.

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STEP 21

Typing with a Pixel font, I added a fake lineup to the box we already put in place earlier. I did it at this stage because once I start creating the composition I don't want any shapes to get in the way of the text as it should remain readable.

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I also added a few logos at the bottom as festival posters almost always contain logos of sponsors or partners, of course. In this case I simply used the logos of the companies I'm writing this tutorial for, along with my own logo.


STEP 22

Unhide the group with the black/white abstract shapes. One by one you can start by unhiding the shapes and moving them around inside and around the grenade as if the shapes are exploding from the inside outward.

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I noticed that the white was a bit too dominant so I inverted the shapes by adding a solid layer of white above the group, with a blending mode of Difference. But, do use a clipping mask so that it doesn't affect the rest of your layers.



We've only used about 10% of the shapes we created but I think it's already starting to look very nice.


STEP 23

Repear steps 20 + 22, this time using the coloured shapes we created.

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These should be less dominant, so place the group underneath the black/white shapes. Make sure you spread them out nicely and zoom in/out a lot to see if your poster looks balanced.

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STEP 24

Now we'll work on the background a little after which I'll leave it up to you to finish the rest of the artwork.

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First we're going to brush some very simple stars in the background. I simply used a round hard brush with maximum spacing between each dot to paint stars at various sizes.


STEP 25

Grab the big X we placed in the middle of the poster at the start. Drop it above the black background layer, then put the layer in a group by pressing Cmd/Ctrl +G.

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Now open the Background AI file and place it below the X once, and also once on top of the X with a clipping mask.

Above that fill the canvas with white and put this layer on 'Difference'. Also clip this layer onto the group which contains the X.

Group all layers and change the opacity to 15-20%.


STEP 26

Using the shape of the background we just created I added a couple of explosive effects. These are very simple triangular shapes starting in the middle and growing towards the sides of the canvas.

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The middle of them is black and by using a white inner glow you can give them a cool glowing effect. Put these shapes on 50% opacity.

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STEP 27

For now we're done. The main focus of the tutorial was to create some cool abstract shapes but also to show you how you can apply them to your illlustration and create a cool festival poster from it.

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I usually spend a lot more time on my artworks than this. As it stands now it's far from finished, but the foundation is strong and you can go crazy to finish it.

During the final phase of finishing the artwork I added shadows and highlights on the grenade and shapes to give it more depth. 
I also added smaller grenade fragments around the grenade
. For finishing touches, I added a background gradient and some noise
.