P1: Conceptual Space

Project 1 : Photoshop “Conceptual Space” Compositing

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  • Date: Please check Blackboard’s “Due Dates”


For the first project, you will be challenged to create a composited visual space that illustrates your interpretation of one of the words listed in Project One Keyword List. This space can be dreamlike, surreal, painterly, and/or photo-realistic, and it can represent a real space, tangible landscape, or mental landscape state. It must, however, maintain the following formal artistic criteria:

  • at least a suggestion of believable physical space (foreground, middleground, background)
  • consistent or believable light sources
  • use of color / deliberate color scheme
  • movement via manipulation of compositional formal elements (line, color, scale, etc.)

A special note on “believable space:” because you are allowed to create surreal or fantasy styled images, you do not need to conform to the absolute rules of perspective. You can use multiple vantage points to create a sense of visual unrest or illusion, but you are still required to use conventional physical world assumptions within sections of those vantage points (i.e. consistent light/shadows, fore/middle/background principles, etc).



Where to start? Some suggestions for ideas….

  1. Think about whether or not you want to keep the feeling of the space light or serious. You can interpret most of the words on the list in many ways, so you can filter your design ideas though the lens of other ideas as well, like “foreboding,” “tragic,” “free,” “relaxed,” “comfort,” etc.
  2. Focus on color scheme. You can convey A LOT through use (or intentional misuse) of color. Some color combinations make people uneasy or anxious, while other combinations are calming and peaceful. You can also communicate by altering the conventional color of objects for which people have standard expectations.
  3. Focus on line placement and line quality. People have fairly predictable reactions to certain line styles. You can communicate feelings via line manipulation in images. Some standard associations are as follows:
    • diagonal : dynamic, movement
    • spiral : depression, confusion
    • crossed lines : fear, anger, frustration
    • vertical : hope, uplifting, peaceful motion
    • horizontal : calmness, stability
    • zig-zag, squiggles : erratic, energy, commotion
  4. Consider how your composition engages the viewer relative to the image’s formal perspective. For example, if the main view of the image was shot from the horizon level (base ground level), how does it affect the audience to be looking up? How would it affect them to be looking down from a very high point? Or at eye-level? Also, consider how the manipulation of depth of field affects a viewer, and how scale of objects can be used to manipulate depth of field.


Technical Requirements:


  1. You must use a minimum of 4 (maximum 6) high-resolution images to composite for the final work.
  2. Set the base image to RGB color mode since we will be presenting these online. If later you wish to print them, you can convert them to CMYK if you wish.
  3. Although we are not submitting printed work for the critique, you will be creating the project AS IF it were for high resolution printing so you can learn about the pitfalls of resolution. The images you choose must be high enough resolution to print the final output at 8″ x 10” with AT LEAST 200 ppi. Remember: not all images will need to be full scale because you are likely to use smaller selections from some of the images. If I zoom into the image at 100% and see any pixilation or “artifacts,” you will lose points for poor resolution/print quality.
  4. At least one image needs to significantly consist of a texture or pattern.


  1. Make separate .psd layers for each original image resource
  2. Organize layers into appropriate groups
  3. Layers must be named (not Layer 1, Layer 2….)
  4. Use at least 2 layer blending modes
  5. Modify the opacity on at least 2 different layers
  6. At least 2 layer masks


  • Make, save, name, and use at least 2 masks that appear in channels


  • Use at least 2 custom brushes in the composition


  • Use at least 2 of the following:
    • Clone Stamp
    • Healing Brush
    • Spot Healing Brush
    • Patch Tool


  • Use at least 2 filters (be subtle!)


  1. You must use at least three of the following: marquee, lasso, magic wand, quick select.
  2. You must save your selections and name them according to function.
  3. These must be saved in the original PSD so I can see them.


  • You must use at least 3 transformations within the project (scale, flip, skew, or rotate).


  1. DO NOT USE ANY VISUAL DISPLAY OF TEXT in this work. The only exception is in the event that you use a handwriting brush or long text copy as a faint background texture, or an image with a word on a sign, etc. Do not create any words in Photoshop to display explicit meanings.


  1. You need to use color correction tools for all image resources (levels, curves, color balance, brightness/contrast, etc.)
  2. Use color enhancement tools (dodge, burn, sponge).


  1. Final product needs to be 11.5″ x 8.25″ at a minimum of 200ppi.
  2. You will submit the original PSD to the instructor via the Blackboard link “Turn In Assignments” (the upload may take a long time!).
  3. You will also submit a flattened jpg file to the critique discussion board for your peers to view.
  4. You MUST submit BOTH file formats as described above to receive credit.



Grading Structure:

  1. Design and Composition: 50%
    • layout visual heirarchy, successful communication/ impact, color choices, movement, form, imagery choices, inventiveness and creativity
  2. Technical Competency: 50%
    • Followed Instructions (see above requirements), successful use of required PS tools, formal presentation and craftsmanship

Examples of Student Work

View the student example page for this project here.

Getting Started: Visualizing the Process

Download and view this brief PDF presentation to get an idea of how to approach starting and completing this project.

Digital Art, Design, and Communication Education