How To Create A Heavy Metal Inspired Album Cover Composition In Photoshop
In this tutorial we will be creating a bone-chilling skull and roses composition, inspired by classic heavy metal album covers. Using techniques such as masking, colour adjustments and layering textures you will be creating artwork worthy of a thumbs up from the Hells Angels.
What you’ll need
- Grunge Texture 1 from Gritty Grunge Textures
- Grunge Texture 2 from Gritty Grunge Textures
- Stained Paper from Vintage Stained Paper Textures
- Scratched Metal from Scratched Metallic Textures
- Human Skulls - 54 Free Images from Media Militia
- Roses from Hans Lellelid
Preview of Final Result
Begin by launching Photoshop and creating a new document. The higher the resolution the better, but the standard size for a CD front cover is 12 x 12 cm at 300dpi, so we will go with that.
Place the grunge texture into your document and resize it to fill the whole document.
Place your skull of choice from the incredible collection into your document, above the grunge texture. I chose skull 015 in the example and used the Burn tool to darken the lower section of the skull slightly.
Create a new mask around the skull to hide as much of the black background as you can. Don’t worry if there is still a bit visible though as we will be adding a heavy drop shadow next which will disguise that.
Apply a nice thick drop shadow style to the skull layer. This should make the skull appear more natural against the background.
To give the skull a bit more definition and bring out some of the details, adjust the levels slightly. This might create some unpleasant orange tones which we will remedy in the next step.
Use Hue/Saturation to desaturate the skull and make it appear more pale and slightly creepier.
Next, open up the photo of the roses in a new document, and create a mask around the head of the rose in the foreground to isolate it from the background. When you have the rose on its own copy it and paste it into the original document.
Convert the rose to a Smart Object and resize it using the transform tool.
Move the rose layer below the skull, and continue to duplicate, rotate and resize the roses as you place them around the base of the skull.
Feel free to experiment with this step, and keep trying different combinations until the roses look just right. You should be aiming to get the appearance of the skull sitting on top of the roses.
Duplicate the rose again and place it in the foreground in the bottom corner. Apply a drop shadow to the rose.
Duplicate and rotate the rose slightly again.
Repeat the last two steps for the corner on the opposite side.
Isolate the original group of roses if desired for this step and merge the layers so that you have a single group of roses. Then using the Blur tool, blur the top half of the roses slightly to add some depth of field.
Apply a drop shadow the original group of roses.
Arrange another two roses in front of the skull (duplicate one of the roses from the corners to get another rose now)
And finally apply a drop shadow to the two roses in front of the skull.
Pop back to the original grunge background layer and blur the top half of image to reinforce the depth of field.
At this point we should have an arrangement that looks something like this: (use this step to tweak any details refine your composition)
Place the stained paper texture on a new layer above all other elements of your composition.
Desaturate the texture completely, and adjust the levels slightly to bring out more contrast and detail.
Set the Blending Mode of the stained paper texture to Soft Light.
Similar to the last few steps, now place the metal scratches texture above all the other layers.
Invert the colours (CMD/CTRL+i) of the texture so that you have light white scratches on black.
Set the Blending Mode of metal scratches texture to Screen and Opacity to 25%.
Once more, add grunge texture 2 this time.
Blending Mode should be Overlay and Opacity around the 50% mark.
Create a new Gradient Fill layer, and create a radial gradient from white to black. Position the layer so that the center of the gradient is near the top of the document.
Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and Opacity to 20%. This should create a subtle light source effect from the top of the document. Also at this point check the arrangement of the last few layers we have added to the document. I found that the gradient looked slightly better below the grunge texture.
Add your chosen band name to the composition, I used the October Crow font and #EBDCCB for the colour.
When you are happy with the arrangement of your text, apply a drop shadow to the layer to help it pop.
Finally, here is a screenshot of the layers palette for reference.
Album artwork that any leather-clad heavy metal band would nod approvingly at! And the best news is that the techniques we have used in this tutorial can be applied to almost any composition-based artwork in Photoshop. Have fun with it!