Design insights & tutorials.

Logo Design On A Budget

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I am frequently asked to put together logos or promotional materials for independent bands, which is fantastic, except they don’t have the budget of a signed or sponsored band. Through the years I’ve found ways to cut corners to limit design time without limiting the overall design quality. In this tutorial I’ll break down my creative process used on a logo design for the UK hip-hop duo Second Nature.

The Brief:

Second Nature had a clear vision of what they were wanting in a logo design, which can be good or bad. It does somewhat limit the designer’s creativity but on the plus side it saves the designer time trying to hit the correct style and layout. During the initial brief the group had stated that they wanted a logo that included an illustration of each member but they wanted a layout that had the focus on the text. They wanted the text to be huge and pay respects to the old school RUN-DMC logotype and layout. I started putting together some ideas and when they chose their favorite layout I had them snap some poses that would work with the layout.

Tools Used:

  • Wacom Intuos3
  • Photoshop CS4
  • Illustrator CS4
  • GoMedia Destoy 2 Vector Pack

The Illustration: Losing the Background

After I received the images I brought them in to Photoshop and made a selection using the pen tool.

I created a path around the bodies and then Cmd-click (or right click -> Make Selection) on the path to make a selection of the path.

After the image was selected I then used a layer mask to drop out the background.

I then applied the same process to the other member’s photo and saved both out as .tifs with transparency’s turned on and then placed them both into a new document in Illustrator.

The Illustration: Live-Trace

Because I was working around a budget it did conflict with my normal illustration process, which would be to illustrate in either Photoshop or Illustrator fully and if needed then live trace the Photoshop Illustration. I did not have the time to do this, so I decided to take an easy way out and then try and give it a hand drawn appearance.

I selected the image I wanted to live-trace and then opened the live-trace dialogue box from the Object menu.

The tracing options I used varied between photos, it really depends on the designer on how much or how little you want to use, as it will affect the amount you’ll have to draw in later.

The Illustration: Hand-Drawn Effect

After I had my image traced I began shading and filling in the empty spots with line work. I used a single brush preset for all of the illustrations to give it a uniform feel and make it look more hand-drawn. I placed the image in a second time and used it as a reference for shading.

(Tip: When drawing a lot of lines in a close area in Illustrator the default presets can be very annoying. It defaults to “Keep Paths Selected” and “Edit Selected Paths”. If you draw in a line close to where your last was drawn, it will disregard your last line and keep the new one, as it thinks you’re trying to edit the original. You can shut this off by double clicking the the brush icon in your toolbar and uncheck “Edit Selected Paths”.”

Once I have my brush set up and my reference image in place I create a new layer for my linework. I begin filling in and shading as you would any other drawing, but I start where the the live-trace leaves off, using that as my maximum shadow source. I shade densely from the shadow outward letting my lines get more and more sparse as they reach the light sources.

Though, it may look tedious, keep in mind you do not need to be a perfectionist. The customer was wanting a hand-drawn look, therefore uneven lines, messy shading and little oddities sometimes add to the design rather than take away from. They weren’t wanting a clean precise vector piece, so get I got messy, had fun and went really really quickly.

Within a few minutes I was done with the first illustration and moving on to the other member. I used the exact same presets and technique for the second illustration to keep them consistent.

Once both were done I was extremely happy with the result. I knew from my sketches of the layout that the illustrations were not going to be the focal point, and they would never be viewed at very close range compared to the rest of the logo, and these would work just fine.

The Layout: Implementing Text

As I had mentioned above, Second Nature was wanting some giant bold text in similar respects to the old school RUN-DMC logo. They had only wanted a solid color, but needed the text to stand out more than anything. I knew I wanted a bold sans-serif that paid respect to RUN-DMC, but I also knew I wanted some minimal distressing that would reflect the hand-drawn feel. I’d don’t frequently use stylized typefaces, however when designing on a budget I didn’t have time to do the custom distressing. I took a look on and found Uptown, which is exactly what I had in mind when I began the search.

I put the text in place and inverted the colors within a bounding box, that I created out of two shapes, to help pay homage to the RUN-DMC logo. Though, the font could use some adjusting on the tracking, I really didn’t want to adjust anything as I thought the inconsistency between the letters added character.

Once I was happy with the text layout I dove in to the GoMedia Arsenal to add some quick character to the type. I wanted to enhance the type treatment so it didn’t look so much like a free font. The Arsenal packs are great for when you’re working on a budget and don’t have the time to custom draw in type treatment or create paint splatters.

I grabbed the first one in the destroy 2 vector pack, which is my all time favorite for distressing type or backgrounds. I dragged the file over to my logo document and sized it appropriately.

Once I was happy with the placement I then used the eraser tool to erase any part of the Arsenal file that was outside of the bounding box. When I created this logo I wasn’t aware of the wonders of Pathfinder, so I chose the eraser route. Once I had cleaned up the surrounding area, the text portion of the logo was done!

I then pulled a vector splatter from one of my archives and used it to show the size and perspective of the text.

The Final Layout

Once I was happy with the text and added elements I added in the illustrations. It all came together and Second Nature was extremely pleased with the final result.

About the Author, Drew Dunlap

I am a daddy, designer and illustrator. I own and manage and I co-own, both catered around specific design styles for the music and indie community.
Discover More by Drew Dunlap


We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Oliver Barrett

    Great write-up. I would add that if you are going to use a distressed typeface, make sure that matching characters are edited. Otherwise, you end up with 2 'N's that have the exact same distressing and it comes across as lazy.

  • Stanley Parrish Jr

    That's simple and amazing. Good job!

  • Jeff Finley

    I think the end result came out pretty good considering budget and the time constraints. I like how you put the splatter in perspective.

    This is also another example of how some clients call this a “logo” when it's much more complex than that. But what else do you call a graphic they want to represent the band that's more than an iconic mark or typeface?

  • Simon H.

    Pretty neat!
    Oliver has a good point though.

  • Sarah @ FlickFoto

    Good point–I've seen that before in other designs and the seemingly random-ness of the destressing is demoted to just an effect.

    Sarah @ FlickFoto

  • Photoshop Clipping Path

    nice tutorial, the result is wonderfull.. thanks

  • Nicola Connolly

    Nice tutorial :) It's interesting to see how you worked around your budget & time constraints (as we all have to sometimes). Also, good point made above about any repeated letters which are distressed needing to be treated separately in order to ensure that the randomness of the grunge remains believable.

  • DefunktOne

    Great work. What was the budget?

  • DefunktOne

    Great work. What was the budget?

  • pks


  • Drew Dunlap

    @Oliver, I totally agree. This was done a ways back, and in trying to save time I skipped out on the detail of the type distressing.

    @DefunktOne, I can't really disclose the cost, but it was the first logo I did when I started my company, so that should give you an idea.

    @Jeff, I agree, it's not much of a logo, but it is what they wanted. They ended up running into trouble screen printing shirts because of the amount of detail in such a small area.

  • endüstriyel mutfak

    nice tutorial, the result is wonderfull.. thanks

  • EKuentz

    Very nice tutorial.
    Wonderful use of the Arsenal elements.

  • Gemma Weirs

    I don't know if you did this, but if it were me having to design their logo I would have explained the basics of effective logo design and the problems of having a lot of details in the logo when it comes to using it on other media (resizing, various printing constraints, etc). Then I would have explained that we start with the basic logo which can then have various effects/treatments (such as distressing/grunge/colour, etc) added as needed for various media. I know their budget was low but even then, I would have gone to the trouble of explaining the basics and sticking to the process. Of course, I agree, for a low budget, there is no room for doing more custom work.

  • axzm

    Great tips. Simple and to the point. Thanks!

  • clipping images

    fantastic tutorial .. I am just surprised to learn how easily do those ticks in a twinkle of eyes.. hats off budyy .. keep going :-)

  • Asha@Health Food Forum

    marvelous transforms,i just love the skill

  • Darque

    4 bucks yesterday

  • Clippingimages

    I had gone through your tutorials. It was fantastic a have no words to describe it.Thanks very much for the this tutorials page :-) . I think people who cannot afford to to join classes can do so in this tutorial.

  • Chrisbaldwin11

    Really clear development thanks!

  • Amanda Smit

    Very easy to follow design tips for logo design on a budget, Thank you!

  • Tim

    It’s interesting to see how you worked around your budget & time constraints with the logo design.

  • Clipping Path Service Provider

    Nice tutorial, very easy to learn logo design tutorial. Thanks for share. :)

  • Domain Registration

    Very easy to understand and nice tutorial for logo designing. Made my work done in no time.

  • Gold rates

    Nice demo and less time consuming job which fits right.

  • Jailbreak iPad

    I would for sure make one of my own Logo like this in a budget. Nice inspiration and idea

  • dr mustafa eraslan

    Great tutorial thanks

  • Panax

    It’s interesting to see how you worked around your budget & time constraints with the logo design.