Retro Vaporwave Poster
Recently one of my favorite record labels, Anjunabeats, has been promoting artists on their Instagram by posting their representations of their logo After having so much fun designing the Totem EDM event finding app using the vaporware style, I thought it would be fun to really dive into that style and make a poster for submission to the label.
Click through the gallery to learn more about how I build the Vaporware style graphics!
Start a new document in your desired size and resolution. I'm using 1080px by 1350px because that is the standard Instagram size. Then, paste in an image of stars for your background image. Hide all layers.
Find a grid landscape want to use as your foreground, to fill about half of your canvas.
With the new layer selected and all other layers hidden, navigate to the channels tab and Cm-Click on the RGB layer to make a selection.
Back in your layers tab, create a new layer and fill your selection with white and reduce the Fill to 0%.
Turn layers back on.
(To purchase the set of vector graphics I used for part of my design, please visit this link. )
Open the effects panel and select Outer Glow on your new layer. Use a bright, almost white shade of the color you wish to use. I chose blue at #85bcff. Blending mode to Normal, Opacity to max, Spread to 1 and Size to 7.
Open the effects panel for your grid landscape and select Gradient Overlay.
You'll want to choose a darker shade of the color you used in Step 3, fading into another dark analogous color. I chose blue #499bff to purple #320a63. Set the blending mode to Hard Light, and adjust your positioning and opacity to your liking.
Make sure you save this gradient, as it will be used again in a later step.
With the effect panel still open, select Outer Glow. You'll use the same "blue" color from the previous step here #499bff with the blending mode set to Hard Light. Set the Size to maximum, and the Spread to 0. Then lower the opacity to your liking, enough to give a soft glow to the layer.
Select your starry background layer and create a Gradient Fill layer. From the selection menu, choose the gradient you created in step 4. Then check the "Reverse" box and make sure the angle is set to 90 degrees. Click OK then change the blending mode for the gradient to Hard Light and adjust the opacity to your liking. This should create a more natural looking skyline by using the same gradient.
Next step is creating your "sun" or light source. Create a new layer above your stars but beneath your landscape. Using the marquee tool, create a circle in the center at your desired size. (In my design, I chose the Anjunabeats logo instead, but you can use whatever shape you like!)
Fill your selection with a bright color to use for your light source. I went with a shade of pink, using #f53dc3.
Open the layer effects panel on your "sun" and select Gradient Overlay. In this step you're going to use a default black to white gradient, with the blending mode set to Overlay. Make sure the gradient is set to align with the layer and your opacity is set to max.
With the effects panel still open, select Outer Glow. Using the same color you used in step 7, max out the opacity and set the blending mode to Screen. Set the spread to zero and push the size of the glow as large as you like.
Adding another effect to this layer, select Inner Glow. This will be a very subtle effect, so I wanted to select a color that was only a little different than the sun, something a bit more orange #f5933d. Set the blending mode to Overlay and set the opacity to around 50%. I set my choke to 0 and set the size to max, and the range to 50%. Make any adjustments you need so the effect works best with your shape.
The next step is to create the "negative space" gradient on the lower half of the "sun" layer. Create a layer mask on this layer and start removing horizontal sections that gradually get larger and further apart. Feel free to get creative and try different patterns for a more unique effect. Since this is all happening in the mask, it will not be destructive to your original layer.
Create a new layer behind your top landscape layer, and paste in a silhouette of mountains. This gives the composition some additional depth and makes it look a little more realistic. Don't be afraid to experiment with covering part of your Sun layer to give the illusion of the sunrise or sunset.
Open the effects panel for your new mountain layer, and select Outer Glow. I decided to use a color midway between my sun and landscapes, a purple at #e6b6fc. Set the blending mode to Color Dodge and adjust your opacity and sizing to your liking. The desired effect is a subtle fade between your two glow effects as seen in my reference photo here.
In order to give the landscape a bit more of a glowing effect from your "sun," you'll want to create a new layer on top of all your others.
Select the brush tool and set your size big enough to fill the width of the document, and make sure you soften the edges to about 20%. Using the same pink color as step 7, click to create one large circle above it.
Set the blending mode of the layer to Overlay and reduce the opacity to your liking. As you can see the grid landscape now appears to be lit by the rising logo.
The vector pack from Creative Market I used also contains a number of distortion and glitch effects. In this step I selected a circular distortion pattern and pasted it above my star layer to give a subtle galaxy cloud effect. I set the blending mode to screen and lowered the opacity to about 20% to keep the effect from overpowering the rest of the image. Feel free to make your own textures or source from a number of stock photo sites to find what works best for your project!
I wanted to make the Anjuna logo pop a little more, so I decided to add a thin outline in yellow to introduce a little more color.
Duplicate your "sun" layer, and remove the mask so the shape is whole again. Reduce the fill to 0% and open the layer effects panel. Select Stoke, and set the position to Inside. Set the size to your liking, and max the opacity. I chose a neon yellow, using #dff74e.
Click ok to exit, and then right click on the layer and rasterize the layer effects.
Reselect the mask used in Step 11 and delete that section from your newly rasterized shape layer to complete the effect.
The final step in creating this retro vaporware landscape is to add a lens flare to the light source. There are various ways to do this in Photoshop, but my favorite way is to use an existing image of a light flare. Texturelabs.org is a great resource for light and textures you can use in your design. Make sure the image is black except for your light effects.
Once you find one you like, paste the image above your sun layer and adjust your position and size to your liking. Set your blending mode Screen to remove the black space and complete the lens flare effect!
Now your composition is complete! Or is it?! As a designer, you know a project may never feel complete and there's always more you can do to experiment and tweak. In my final design for example, I wanted it to look like it was an old poster on a wall in some urban setting. I added some torn paper effects and paint effects beneath on a concrete surface. But who knows, I might change it again in three days!
Was this tutorial helpful? Have any tips to improve the process? Let me know in the comments!