photoshop creative
Sep
22

Marble in Photoshop

Posted in:
Interviews, by Mark White
September 22, 2017

When Martine Strøm was asked to create artwork for a magazine spread, she chose to boldly go where she’d never been before: combining marble textures and Photoshop

When Martine Strøm was commissioned to create some artwork for a magazine article about space, it gave her the idea to use one of her favourite real-media techniques. A long-time admirer of marble images, Martine created all the textures that she needed for the project using ink and paper, before letting it dry and photographing it in high resolution. From here, she used the textures for the planets. ‘Marbling Space’ has been viewed around 40,000 times now, and has been featured by two Behance galleries. But how did Martine get into marbling and what was the inspiration for this project?

How did this project begin?

The brief for this project was to create illustrations for the magazine A New Type of Imprint, for a piece about the universe. I was free to choose both motif and illustration style. At first I drew lots of small sketches of ideas and then I found illustration styles I thought might fit well with them. I sent three ideas to the magazine (hoping they would choose a detailed pencil drawing I had started on), and they wanted me to further explore the marbled planets idea.

Had you used marble textures before or was this something completely new to you?

Before this project I had recently attended a weekend class in paper marbling, or ebru as it is traditionally called. I had only seen it inside very old books and in various Pinterest posts before that, and was thrilled to find a class for it in Oslo. I discovered that the textures and patterns on the planets (as seen from Earth) greatly resemble marbled paper and was finally able to make use of them. Since childhood I have always loved to draw and work with my hands. I remember my mum taking me to her job and letting me play with Paint on one of the computers in her office. That is probably my first encounter with digital tools. I got my first laptop and a license for Photoshop Elements 5 through school and it was love at first click. I spent hours trying all the different filters and effects, and I started drawing with the touchpad.

So how did you go from the sketches to the finished project?

I wanted to create something simple, inspiring and visually pleasing. I created the marble effects and realised I needed to take pictures of my marbled paper in higher resolution. Some of the sheets were a bit wobbly and needed some extra adjustments in Photoshop to look good. I made a dark-blue background and painted lots of stars with the Brush tool. Then I pasted in a sheet of marbled paper and masked out a circle to make a planet. This already looked quite nice, but it appeared very flat. To enhance the feeling of a round planet I painted some shadow in separate multiplied layers. Finally I did some small colour- corrections to make it pop, and sent it to the magazine for print.

You then took the project even further, didn’t you?

At first I drew lots of small sketches of ideas and then I found illustration styles I thought might fit well with them. I sent three ideas to the magazine (hoping they would choose a detailed pencil drawing I had started on), and they wanted me to further explore the marbled planets idea.

Had you used marble textures before or was this something completely new to you?

Before this project I had recently attended a weekend class in paper marbling, or ebru as it is traditionally called. I had only seen it inside very old books and in various Pinterest posts before that, and was thrilled to find a class for it in Oslo. I discovered that the textures and patterns on the planets (as seen from Earth) greatly resemble marbled paper and was finally able to make use of them. Since childhood I have always loved to draw and work with my hands. I remember my mum taking me to her job and letting me play with Paint on one of the computers in her office. That is probably my first encounter with digital tools. I got my first laptop and a license for Photoshop Elements 5 through school and it was love at first click. I spent hours trying all the different filters and effects, and I started drawing with the touchpad.

So how did you go from the sketches to the finished project?

I wanted to create something simple, inspiring and visually pleasing. I created the marble effects and realised I needed to take pictures of my marbled paper in higher resolution. Some of the sheets were a bit wobbly and needed some extra adjustments in Photoshop to look good. I made a dark-blue background and painted lots of stars with the Brush tool. Then I pasted in a sheet of marbled paper and masked out a circle to make a planet. This already looked quite nice, but it appeared very flat. To enhance the feeling of a round planet I painted some shadow in separate multiplied layers. Finally I did some small colour- corrections to make it pop, and sent it to the magazine for print.

You then took the project even further, didn’t you?

Yes, because I found this project fun and very inspiring to do, I decided that I would make a poster series with all the planets in our solar system, and also some fantasy planets in various compositions.

How was Photoshop key in bringing your marble art to life?

My favourite tools in Photoshop are probably the Brush, Content-Aware, masking and Clone tools. For this project I think I used the masks (for cutting out the planets from marbled paper) and the Brush tool (for adding shadow/ depth to the planets and background) the most. Aside from the digital aspect of the project, my advice for people who want to work with marble textures would be to experiment a lot with colour combinations. And for making the marblings, it takes a while to get the hang of it, so collaborating with someone with more experience might be a good idea. When you have made enough patterns, be sure to take high-quality pictures of them before going into Photoshop.

The project has been seen by thousands of people now: that must be satisfying for you!

When we look up at the stars, or see images of planets and nebulas, we can’t help but feel small and filled with wonder. I think a lot of people draw inspiration from space, and naturally a lot of people enjoy projects inspired by the universe. This one in particular was an interesting mix of traditional and digital media, and the client was very happy with the result; they loved that the illustration in itself was like an abstract piece of art as well as an illustration to their article. They also posted it on their blog, and told me people contacted them asking where they could buy posters. So yeah, I’m very happy that some people appreciate my exploring of techniques, and so much more than I expected.