Photoshop tutorial: How these amazing BAFTA 2016 posters were drawn and painted

Levente Szabo reveals step-by-step how he drew and painted the artwork for this official BAFTA Awards poster.


One of the highlights of the BAFTA Awards – alongside finding out who won the craft awards – is the set of beautifully designed posters that are released each year. Commissioned by Shoreditch-based agency Human After All, previous years have seen artworks by Malika Favre and La Boca - and this year it was the turn of Levente Szabo.

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Levente created plus one poster apiece for each of the five Best Film nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Carol, Spotlight and The Revenant (shown here) – plus the main Awards poster. You can see the others at the end of this article, or in this piece on the BAFTA 2016 Awards posters.

The theme of this year's BAFTA campaign was ‘Window to Another World’, which Levente describes as "a concept that speaks of screen as a magical portal we peer through to experience a vast realm of adventures. This concept explores how the experience of cinema is one that takes place not just within the limits of the screen, but within the limitlessness of our own imaginations."

Over the following pages, Levente takes us through the creation of the BAFTA poster for the eventual winner of the Best Film, The Revenant – a creative process that also underpinned the others in the ser. See also: Watch VFX breakdowns of the BAFTA nominees.

STEP 1

The Revenant is primarily a film about revenge. At the very beginning of the project, it occured to me that the protagonist’s dedication to enacting his revenge could be symbolised by a raging bear. Inside this bear is the protagonist himself (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film), who must triumph over continual adversity to achieve his goal.

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Here you can see the original rough drawing I presented to the client. It's quite rare that I present only one idea to a client, but in this case everyone agreed that it was the composition they’d like to see on the final poster.


STEP 2

Once we had an approved layout, I created a color palette to work from and gathered a few reference photos: the protagonist’s clothing, bears in different poses (roaring or attacking), North American woods and mountains.

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I find it’s good to place them on the side of the artwork you're working on, as it gives fewer chances to wander away on the web and waste time on Facebook than if you have them in a browser window.

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STEP 3

The posters needed to have a lot of bleed area to give the team at Human After All options to, for example, crop in different aways to allow the addition of type and logos. It also needed to be in a super high-res format (a 90 x 100cm, 400dpi PSD) - and I’m not sure if I could’ve done it without an SSD upgrade.

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The first step was to block out the basic shape with the Lasso Tool.

??I generally use only a small number of Photoshop's many tools – mainly Layer/Group Masks, Transparency Lock, and Layer Blending, and the preset Brushes – as I focus on giving a a hand-drawn feel to my illustrations.


STEP 4

I added detail to the silhouette by hand drawing the fur – creating a nice little container within which I could draw the rest of the artwork freely.

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STEP 5

Within a frame like this, I usually work in the order I expect the viewer’s eye to wander – in this case from foreground to background, but it varies depending on the illustration.

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First, I blocked out the shapes of the foreground trees, then added rough sketches of the protagonist, midground forest, sky, clouds and the Sun that is also the bear's eyes.

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STEP 6

Usually I restrain myself and I don't spend too much time on the details at first as I work up the rough – but it felt so good to put on those branches, and it assured me that this illustration is going to work well in the end.

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STEP 7

You would have thought it was a straightforward process to capture the protagonist – I certainly did – but I had to redraw the character at least twice until I was satisfied with his motion. It had to look fast, determined and deadly and it had to fit into the composition.

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STEP 8

The midground is the pine forest. I I duplicated a bunch of trees I'd drawn by hand earlier and added more details to their layer edges to avoid repetition.

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STEP 9

The second pine forest line was made the same way. It served two purposes, to add more depth to the scene, and to guide the viewer’s eyes to the character with its V shape.

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STEP 11

I spent a considerable amount of time decorating both mountain-tops - but it was a fun thing to do. Almost everything else is just a flat color layer and I felt it would be a nice change for the viewer to discover the details of these rocky shapes.

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A second foreground of bare trees was added to enhance the decayed winter forest atmosphere.

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STEP 12

The illustration was coming along nicely at this point, but it was time to add another focus point: the Sun behind the clouds that works as the bear’s eye.

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STEP 13

I was concerned that the print would turn out to be too dark, as the brochures were printed on uncoated paper - and so a higher level of saturation and contrast was needed. This could lead to the protagonist disappearing somewhat, so I added a light behind him.

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I also added some details to the foreground to give viewers a better understanding that it's the shape of a hill that they are looking at.


STEP 14

Although I liked the more dramatic, gray-blue colours of the layout – the agency asked me to change it to the cooler, brighter blue that contrasts nicely with BAFTA’s dark gold brand colour.

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STEP 15

The final touch was to add a little grain. After approval, Human After All cropped it and added the the logo and titles.

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And that's what you saw on the night.