As a visual person, making an aesthetic is one of my favorite ways to start a new story, or to re-inspire myself for a current one. Plus, it’s extra fun to share those aesthetics on Twitter or Instagram so you can tease all your friends with the awesome new project you’re working on.
But how does one put these magic aesthetics together?
The answer is, it’s very simple and easy to do when you’re using the right tools, and once you know how to do it, the problem you’ll then face is figuring out when to stop!
Most aesthetics are based on the themes of only one you want to do the aesthetic on and let’s get started!
Step 1: Choose a theme
This part is fairly simple, but worth mentioning. You could, of course, decide to choose the images in the aesthetic based upon your story as a whole, but you could also choose one theme in particular if you wanted to. You could do an aesthetic based upon the MC (main character), love, as in the romantic interests in the story, foods, as in the type of cuisine featured in the story, motivation, as in what moves your character or what their ambitions are, the possibilities are endless! And you can utilize the opportunity to challenge yourself to think of different aspects of your story that you might not have considered before, so decide on what your aesthetic will potentially feature before you start!
Note: at this point, also start thinking of the kind of image you’d like to find to represent the ideas you’re coming up with. What represents your MC, love, food, or motivation in your story? What imagery can get that message across? Think about that for a little while, besides finding a nice image, it’s a good creative exercise!
Step 2: Choose the colors
You don’t have to do this, but in general, aesthetics look better with a common color scheme. Making all the colors generally the same, or picking two colors and alternating them throughout the image makes the aesthetic more cohesive. I’ll give a few examples below to show you what I’m talking about. But try to pick colors that represent the mood of the story or the mood of the image as a whole. If you have issues deciding on making colors work, here a general rule of thumb you can go by:
Green/blue/purple colors are cooler, and give off calming vibes, great for portraying trust. These colors work well for giving the feeling of melancholy, sadness, peace, stillness/eerie feels, etc.
Yellow/orange/red: are warm colors, and are more energetic. They call for attention. Yellow in particular can give off the feeling of happiness. These colors work well for showing heat, cheerfulness, coziness, excitement, passion, anger, love, etc.
Black/gray/beige/white colors are neutral, and are great for pairing with another color, more vibrant color to make that color really pop.
Don’t forget black and white, sepia, and monotone are great options as well for color schemes!
Step 3: Choose the images
Now for the fun part! This is the part where you include all of the wonderful imagery you thought of earlier for the aesthetic. Pro tip: go on Pinterest for the image and search for “(whatever your search term is) aesthetic”. For whatever reason, the quality of the images is much better that way. Plus you’ll see a lot of related images that might also go with your theme! If you’re going with a color scheme, try to find images that fit it, but don’t sweat it if they don’t fit 100%, in a few steps we’re going to fix that.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m making an aesthetic around Dragon Bones, and I’ve decided on the theme of dragons (I know, how original). To show how you can manipulate colors, I’ve decided to make my color scheme kind of cool with purple and blue tones.
Now, while picking a bunch of dragon pictures can definitely work, I’m going to also include things that make you think of dragons. Scales, eggs, fire, reptilian eyes, all of these things puts my theme in your mind without actually having a dragon there, and I find that this helps the couple of images you do have of dragons stand out more. It’s like the idea of a big black and white image with a single red apple in the middle. The red stands out more among the neutral themes.
Save about 9-12 images for good measure, then let’s get into the editing!
Step 4: Load up your editing app
You can use sophisticated editing software like Photoshop if you know how to use it, but I personally like using Pixlr on my android device, but you can use any app that allows you to create a collage and basic functionalities that allow you to tweak the photo if need be.
For this example, I’m using Pixlr, but the concept is the same across all applications.
So let’s get started, first I’m going to open the app and select the collage option, as they have clearly marked here.
Then I’m going to select the photos I chose earlier. The app allows me to pick no more than ten, so I’m just going to pick to the max, so I have options.
Now that I’ve selected the images I wanted, I’m going to pick the format that I like best. A lot of aesthetics are done with a classic 3×3 setting, but a lot of them aren’t! The choices are limitless, it really just depends on your preference. So browse through the options to see what tickles your fancy and let’s proceed.
After picking the setting that I like, I can customize it. I can adjust the border, change it’s color, even swap out the images. Play around with the buttons to find out what you like best! I made my border a little thinner, just so you know, if you can’t tell the difference.
Now, I told you that I want a purple-ish/blue theme for this aesthetic, so let me show you how I do that (please note, I’m sure you have this functionality in Pixlr, but I have no idea for other apps, so you’ll have to try and see)
(By the way, I’ve arranged the images so that they’re placed nicely for the theme I’m going for) Now I’m going to tweak the colors of the images that don’t quite fit my color scheme.
I select the image, then hit this little icon that lets me start editing it just like you would any other photo (alternatively you can do this ahead of time).
Now I’m going to heighten the brightness so it stands out a little, raise the contrast a tad, and then go all the way to the hue settings and move the little slider until the image turns the bluish/purple colors that I want. This trick works best on an image that doesn’t have a lot of other colors, otherwise all of the colors get all weird, not just the one you want to change.
But other than that, the image is ready!
Now for this next miss-matched image, I’m going to go an alternative route.
Adjust the brightness and contrast like before, only this time I actually took the contrast down since it was a little flashy before. Then I’m going to the saturation slider and take it all the way down, so it looks black and white.
Then, go into the effects and find one that turns it blue or purple (or whatever color you want). I chose the one called Josh and turned down the affect a little to get the tone I wanted.
Alternatively, you can adjust the brightness and contrast, then go straight into the filters and play around with them until you find one that fits your color scheme. Filters automatically subtly changes all of the colors to meet the setting of that filter, so there’s no risk of the image looking weird in the end, but in order to change them all to be one color like I wanted, just turn it black and white first like in the previous step.
Anyway, the image is exactly how I want it, and all the pictures look good together, so now I just finish up and boom. It now goes with my color scheme.
So, now that I’m satisfied with the collage options, I’m going to start editing the collage like it’s a regular photo instead of a bunch of little ones.
I do the same thing I did to the other photo, I raise the brightness and contrast just a tad because I think it helps the image stand out more. You could play around with the saturation and vibrancy a little to make the colors pop more, so I’m going to do that a little bit, but don’t go crazy with it or it’ll look too artificial. After that, we’re good to go!
Now, you can run the image through a filter or two if you think it looks better that way, because it does help make all the images go together even better. So I’m choosing this one called Sophia and lowered it a lot to make it look more ominous.
And now only thing I’m going to add is a vignette effect, so I’ll go into overlay and get it out of the defaults because I happen to love that effect for collages. Then we’re done!
We now have a pretty aesthetic to show off to our friends or keep to ourselves as inspiration
I hope you found my little tutorial helpful to inspiring your next project!