Photoshop tutorial: Fuse photography and geometry

Illustrator Simon Cook uncovers the hidden gems of London’s iconic St Pancras station in this photographic collage

This tutorial will show you how to create and control interesting compositions inspired by creatures of the night, decadence and magic. It will also give hints on ways to add depth to your artwork and how to use photographic elements to bring images to life.

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Illustrator Simon Cook – aka Stone and Spear – created four works with photographer Olivia Rose, which were auctioned off for the Variety Club charity at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Simon and Olivia wanted to invite the viewer into a new world, taking them on a journey through the winding Gothic hallways of the hotel and evoking the dark sensations that guests of a bygone time would have experienced.

Here Simon takes us through the creative process he used for all four pieces, focusing on one, Father Dawns. Incorporating collage and original photographic imagery, the tutorial employs a combination of techniques, starting with cutting out shapes and images, and then assembling them on the computer.

As well as using Photoshop, you will need to get your hands messy, so make sure that your art box is stocked full with all sorts of crafty things such as paints, pens and coloured paper.

Time to complete

3 hours


Photoshop CS4 or later


For a piece like this, it’s always best to get out your old camera. As a lot of this composition will revolve around photographic imagery, we felt it important to use traditional film, which could be scanned and edited later. By taking things back to basics, we were able to ensure an authentic aesthetic to the artwork.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials


Start by creating a basic composition with a few simple geometric elements. This will give you a sense of where your lines of symmetry will sit and where your photos will fit.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

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If necessary, scan your photos in at 300dpi to Photoshop. I like to add a heaviness to images, so in Photoshop go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and pull the Shadows Input Level slider to the right and the Highlights Input Level slider to the left until you are happy.

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Its now time to start cutting into your photos by hand using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L). Once you’re happy with the results, copy and paste them into your composition. There are going to be lots of little bits added, so naming all the new layers as you work is a good idea in order to keep everything organised.

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A lot of the illustration consists of handmade shapes, so the next step is to get out the origami paper and have a play. Here I’ve created a little geometric pattern drawing based on graphics I saw at the hotel. Think about what colours and angles complement each other and will lead the eye around the composition.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

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To capture the dark and mysterious mood of the hotel, I decided to use brushed-on smoky textures within each image to add some colour, depth and a sense of mystery. The effect, inspired by the hotel’s Gothic fireplaces, was created using a cloudy sky texture. This running theme also helps to bring the images together as a series.

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When using the smoky brush on the illustration, I wanted to limit its use within my geometric shapes. To do this I used the Polygonal Lasso tool to select my shapes in turn, created a new layer and then painted within the selection.


To finish off, I added extra elements, such as my signature geometric shapes, to tie everything together. Using these shapes like building blocks helped give it that handmade feel.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials


Also known as Stone and Spear, Simon Cook is a designer, and illustrator, who’s been welcoming us into his world since he graduated in 2008. His clients have included The Big Issue, Wired and Anorak. He is now a menswear print designer at Givenchy in Paris.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials


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