Create Rich, Intricate iPhone Pieces with a ‘Slow-Build’ Layering Technique


Create Rich, Intricate iPhone Pieces with a ‘Slow-Build’ Layering Technique

If you want to create mobile art with intricacy, depth, and interest, you’ll want to make use of a variety of apps, and a variety of filters and tools within the apps. I create digital art in much the same way that I like to paint. I add thin layers, one on top of the other, always allowing parts of the lower layers to show through. With digital art that I make on my iPhone, I usually use no fewer than five apps per piece, and I build up subtle layers slowly, always reducing the strength of each layer, allowing the piece to become a composite of altered layers. Sometimes I use a particular app’s Masking feature to scrub away parts of a layer, to more clearly reveal what’s underneath, especially if it’s a special element that I don’t wish to lose in the process.

In this stepped-out tutorial I’ll give you an over-the-shoulder look into my creative process as I construct a purely iPhone piece with what I like to call a ‘slow-build’ technique… 

The Process:

  • Step 1: Compose your scene and take the photo. I placed the flower on a black sheet, posed my left hand, and took the photo with the right hand using the Camera+ This app has a handy built-in self-timer that makes photos like these possible, without a tripod. It also has an image stabilizer feature, so it will only take the photo if it senses your hand is completely still. Using this same app, I adjusted the exposure via the ‘Scenes’ feature, and applied a black and white filter.


  • Step 2: Create interesting highlights and shadows with the app Noir: This app is one of my favorites, as it allows me to create a simulation of beautiful dramatic lighting contrasted against dark, rich shadow. In this particular example, I used Noir to illuminate both the flower and the reaching, grasping fingertips. My manipulations also created a gradual fading of the light into mysterious shadow, adding instant emotional depth to the piece.


  • Step 3: Add a sepia-toned filter with Camera+: At this point in my process, I decided I wanted a softer feel, so I opted for applying a sepia filter in Camera+ (with reduced opacity). It gave the image a more vintage, antiqued look that infused it with a more light-hearted sentiment.


  • Step 4: Add a subtle grungy texture with Stackables: In the next three steps of this project, I add subtle texture layers from a variety of apps, slowly building them up to achieve the desired result. This is the ‘Split Wall’ texture, with reduced opacity, and Screen blend mode applied. The light-toned texture in combination with Screen mode works well against the dark background.


  • Step 5: Add a second texture with ScratchCam: This app has a fun randomizer feature (just tap the pair of dice and see what you get). I like to use this feature as a starting point, and if it finds something interesting for me, I’ll then go into settings and tweak and polish it up until I get just the right effect. I reduced the strength of this applied texture quite a bit, so it’s super subtle. You may have to study it closely to notice the change.


  • Step 6: Add a third texture with PicFX: I added a final, very mild application of texture using the app PicFX. I applied one from the ‘Scratches’ filter set and heavily reduced the opacity.


Further Example #1: Apps Used: Camera+ to snap the photo and add a black and white filter, BlurFX to heavily blur the entire scene, Noir for defined highlights/shadows, Mextures for the simulated light leak, and Stackables for texture


Further Example #2: Apps Used: Camera+, Leonardo‘s clone tool to clean up natural debris on the snow, Vintage Scene for toning and texture, SkipBleach to lighten tones, Stackables for subtle texture layering


Further Example #3: Apps Used: Camera+ (B+W filter), PicFX for toning, BlurFX, Noir, Stackables and Mextures for textures


Further Example #4: Apps Used: Camera+, BlurFX for the edges, Vintage Scene for toning, Stackables and Mextures for textures, and Image Blender to add the .PNG gold element


Susan Tuttle

Award winning iPhoneographer and DSLR photographer from Maine, USA. She is the author of four instruction-based books (published in the US and abroad by F+W Media, North Light Books) on the subject matter of digital art with Photoshop, mobile photography and DSLR photography, and mixed-media art. Her latest book, Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual and Make Creative Photos (about DSLR photography and mobile photography) was recently released by North Light Books and has been a best-seller in its category on Amazon.

Susan currently offers two online photography courses — The Art of iPhoneography Self-Portraiturehttp://fineartgrunge.com/iphonecoursespecial/?orid=4849&opid=2 and Co-Lab: Paint, Paper and iPhoneography Magic http://www.colabartistry.com/ (co-taught with best-selling author and mixed-media artist Alena Hennessy). Susan is currently the Technical Advisor for Somerset Digital Studio Magazine. You can view more of her work, explore her blog, and find workshop details at her website SusanTuttlePhotography.com Instagram: susantuttle Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susan.tuttle.144

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