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Carolina Niño’s Abstract Digital Collages

By Charles Purdy

Designer Carolina Niño, the founder of Buenos Aires–based Carolina Niño Büro, creates in a stream-of-consciousness way, allowing her work to reflect the way she sees the universe: “sometimes a little abstract—radiant, mysterious, and energetic.”

I introduced myself to Niño after admiring her recent work from afar (thanks to her Behance portfolio). I wondered how she created her pieces—and what she called them. Does she define them as collages?

“My latest works can be defined as collage, without doubt,” she answers. “They represent a mixture of different digital techniques, using elements generated in Photoshop and Illustrator, mixed with photos and scans of real watercolor splatters.” Her newer work, she explains, is a change from the symmetry that characterized her previous designs; these recent pieces are less structured and freer.

A digital collage created by Carolina Niño for the Wander Project
A digital collage created by Carolina Niño for the Wander Project
A digital collage created by Carolina Niño for the Wander Project

Images from Niño’s series for the Wander Project.

Niño starts her designs by choosing a background: a base layer with a defined texture and color that will unify subsequent elements. Although she doesn’t sketch out a plan before she starts, she does begin with an idea of what she wants the result to be.  

“I like to experiment with various techniques,” she says. “I often amaze myself in the process.”

She creates geometric and abstract shapes in Adobe Illustrator CC; then she composes the elements in Adobe Photoshop CC. Each element is placed on a different layer, so she can easily move things around. She adds effects, colors, and textures, using color and juxtaposing objects in unusual ways to create focal points.

A digital collage created by Carolina Niño, called Complex.
A digital collage created by Carolina Niño, called Hide.
A digital collage created by Carolina Niño, called Paradox.

Niño’s Complex, Hide, and Paradox

Other effects are the result of blend modes and vector masks; Niño experiments with them to find out what works best for a particular piece or series. “Sometimes when I’m creating a series of designs and I want to generate the same sense of color or tone, I apply my own created actions,” she says. “And I regularly look at online tutorials if I want to create different effects. I like to use every tool possible because the creative options are endless, and there is always something new to learn with Photoshop and Illustrator.”

The series Mineral is one she especially enjoyed creating. “I learned a lot about energy and how it can influence our lives, and that gave me inspiration to change my thinking, so I think this series pretty much reflects where I am. The series is like a tribute to the power of energy. There are some other pieces of my work that represent my spiritual growth, and ultimately this is the message I want to give—to inspire others to be the best they can be.”

A GIF from Carolina Niño's series Minerals.
A GIF from Carolina Niño's series Minerals.

Animations from Niño’s Mineral series.  

Niño grew up surrounded by art and music, and she has felt called to create since she was very young. “I always trusted my vocation without doubt,” she says. “It’s part of my nature, and I think because of that strength of character, I always had full support. But most important was that I always trusted my intuition.”

Currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Niño was born in Colombia, studied graphic design in Guatemala, and studied photography in Spain. Her distinctive style—the use of abstract or geometric elements, strongly defined color palettes, and an intriguing use of space—developed over time. “My approach has always been guided by my basic principle of composition,” she says, “which gives more importance to space itself, so the elements can flow and create the perfect balance and therefore create something visually harmonious and meaningful.”

Among artists and people who inspire her, she lists Robi Joeleht, Leif Podhajsky, Carly Waito, Moebius, Maiko Gubler, Björk, and her “family and their beautiful minds.”

Two of Niño’s album-cover creations.

“I find inspiration in everything around me, in the wisdom and mystery of nature, in people’s minds, in the collective consciousness,” she says. “I find great inspiration in the mysteries of outer space, the stars and the moon, and in animals, because they are beautiful beings and they teach us something new every day. I find great inspiration in moments of sadness and joy. Travel inspires me, and music because it is a global language. And of course, I’m inspired by love.”
 
Niño’s professional projects include working with clothing brands and other retailers, as well as working with musicians on album covers and other promotional material. As for her personal work, she says she’s pursuing an ever more abstract style. “I’m discovering another side of me,” she says. “I think I’m going through an experimental stage.”

See more of Carolina Niño’s work on her Behance page.