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Graphic Design Vets: Does this look tacky, if so, how should I improve it?

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James Roth
Graphic Design Vets: Does this look tacky, if so, how should I improve it?
on Oct 21, 2015 at 6:32:15 am



I am aware that using Drop Shadow in Photoshop is often considered overdone and cliche, esp. using shadows with big spread for logos and web design. I'm doing work for a client who owns a pretty sophisticated business.

However, I can't figure out how I would go about separating this white text from the light blue/white background without Drop Shadow and retaining that clean pro look. The color scheme has to stay (text colors and background). I can't get the Extruded Type look to gel with the 2D silhouettes used in the marketing scheme; it's weird to have 2D shapes next to 3D text. Stroke just looks bad, it destroys the white text look which is part of the design scheme. I also can't get the reflections to look right due to the fact that it is white text so the red overpowers it (and the Drop Shadow is reflecting which doesn't really make sense in a wide open space).

Am I on the right track or should I ditch the Drop Shadow and change the way I do reflections? I am a graphic design newb but just point me in the right direction.

Thank you! XD


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Kalle Kannisto
Re: Graphic Design Vets: Does this look tacky, if so, how should I improve it?
on Oct 21, 2015 at 7:29:13 am

Hi James,

You could try a very thin bluish outline on the white text only, or then make a copy of the text as a sharp bluish "dropshadow". In the latter case I would make it down and to the left so that it looks like the letter has some (but not a lot of) 3D thickness rather than a dropshadow (You may have to do it for both words for it to look right).

You're correct to observe that the dropshadow and the reflection do not go well together, as the reflection gives the impression that the letters are standing upright on a reflective horizontal surface, whereas the dropshadow makes it look like they're laying on a flat vertical surface, so with the dropshadow you are collapsing the depth you are gaining with the reflection.

You should fix the kerning on "York" while you're at it. "Y" and "o" are too far apart while the rest are too tight.

And, getting picky here, the text should be higher up in relation to the center point of the frame so it doesn't look like it is falling off the bottom. Visual center is higher than geometric center.


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James Roth
Re: Graphic Design Vets: Does this look tacky, if so, how should I improve it?
on Oct 22, 2015 at 5:28:44 am



Thank you Kalle for your prompt and helpful response!

Alright, it's looking better already! :) I added a Precise Outer Glow 2px in size of a darker blue, it might not be perfect yet but it's better than Drop Shadow for sure. I fixed the kerning a bit and had the text sit on the center line instead of through it.

I know it has a ways to go before it's finalized, I just need some veteran eyes to examine it and tell me of any glaring failings. I know there's better ways to do reflections but I'm lost there so I'm just reducing opacity and erasing the bottom. A glass surface would impart it's own slight color to the reflection, right? And if there was flooring there would be a faint horizon line but I'm not sure how to do that realistically. There's also a smudginess to the outer glow that I don't quite like...


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Kalle Kannisto
Re: Graphic Design Vets: Does this look tacky, if so, how should I improve it?
on Oct 22, 2015 at 6:59:07 am

Yes, that looks better. Stroke effect would be cleaner than an Outer Glow.

In my view the red reflection doesn't have to be that strong, it detracts from the text somewhat. Could be about 50% of the current value. And the reflection could have a bluish tint to it, since the whole plane does.

Doesn't really need a horizon. The horizon could be above the top edge of the image, so it wouldn't be seen. Unless you want to add depth, it is not needed. (If you do want to try it, it'd probably work better switching the direction of the gradient so that it is blue in the foreground, white at the horizon.)


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James Roth
Re: Graphic Design Vets: Does this look tacky, if so, how should I improve it?
on Oct 26, 2015 at 1:23:23 am

Alright I'm finalizing the graphic now; but isn't it sort of breaking the rules to reduce the red by 50% and leave the white at 100%? A real reflection wouldn't do that, is this going to be subtly noticeable to the viewer?

The blue outer stroke is looking much better, thank you!


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Kalle Kannisto
Re: Graphic Design Vets: Does this look tacky, if so, how should I improve it?
on Oct 27, 2015 at 8:16:23 am
Last Edited By Kalle Kannisto on Oct 27, 2015 at 8:37:20 am

A real reflection is a more complex thing. Especially on a glass surface (the light blue color implies glass), it is closer to the Lighten mode than Normal blend mode. Dark colors actually hardly reflect at all unless the background you see through the glass is dark. So having two different transparency values is not going to look odd, quite the contrary.

If you'd like to get closer to a real reflection (a glass surface), you could make two reflection layers, one at 85% opacity in Lighten mode and another one at 15% opacity in Normal mode, that would be more like it. Also, glass doesn't have that much fall-off, so the reflection would essentially be the same opacity throughout rather than fading off at the bottom. Maybe a slight fade, but nowhere near this much.

Metallic reflection would be another matter.

Although I don't know that realism is even the main objective here, basically going for a pleasing-looking image.


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