Vasjen Katro Does a Lot With a Little

Vasjen Katro simultaneously worked on two ambitious creative endeavors. One allowed him the freedom to start with a blank slate every day; the other came with guidelines that, paradoxically, were their own inspiration.

In 2016, Katro challenged himself to create a poster every day for a year. What started as a crazy idea (his words) has expanded into an ongoing project that has allowed him to explore vibrant colors, digital design apps, and acrylic paints.

While continuing his daily posters, Katro recently delved into another project: CokexAdobexYou. It’s a joint effort from Adobe and Coca Cola that challenges participants to use Creative Cloud tools to create art that celebrates movement, strength, unity, and other elements. To meet the brief, you must use two colors—red and white—and incorporate a red circle in your piece. (You can try it yourself by downloading the brief and Coke assets.)

Katro embraced the challenge with gusto. Because he employs many colors and gradients in his daily posters, the CokexAdobexYou project’s limited color palette pushed him into new territory. In his quest for inspiration, he researched Japanese architecture, musical instruments, and Coke history.


Katro believes that circles are the perfect shape to add any design element to while still keeping the essence of the circle. So to begin, he printed 30 copies of the circle, cut out the shapes, and drew elements he would reuse throughout his designs. Below, you see the tools and methods he used in those early stages. 


Much of Katro’s process is an experimental roundtrip workflow between Adobe Illustrator CC and Adobe Photoshop CC. From the designs on paper, Katro took his favorite elements and digitized them in Illustrator. (He reused these elements throughout the sixteen compositions he created for the project.) He imported individual elements into Photoshop to add colors, masks, and shadows. 


One of Katro favorite Illustrator features is the ability to clone objects with the Drag and Duplicate functionality to quickly create repeating shapes.

How-to tip: Choose the Direct Selection tool, select one or more shapes, hold ALT and drag to duplicate, then Control+D (Windows) or Command+D (macOS) to repeat the step. 


Another favorite is the Blend tool, which lets him make flowing, liquid-like elements he weaves through his works. 

How-to tip: Create two shapes with a color fill and stroke. Draw a path such as a curved line. Use Shift+click to select the shapes, and then choose Object > Blend > Blend Options. Choose Specified Steps and set a number such as 200. Choose Object > Blend > Make to create the blend. Use Shift+click to select the path and blended shape, then choose Object > Blend > Replace Spine. For a fun, one-minute tutorial, check out the How to Make 3D Lettering in Illustrator tutorial.


If you look at each at each of Katro’s sixteen creations, you’ll see the same elements repeated throughout, yet through the use of color, masks, and shadows, each is distinctive.

Design with Color. Variation of color, even when you’re working with just three colors, can do a lot to change things up. Katro’s limited color palette nevertheless results in strikingly different designs.

Design with Clipping Masks and Layers. Katro uses clipping masks throughout his creations to incorporate the design elements into the main circle shape and into additional abstract shapes. Each clipping mask creates a unique look for the element. Layering clipping masks with other shapes and elements from Illustrator adds depth to each piece.

Enhance with Shadows and Layer StylesYou can create the illusion of dimension in a composition with shadows and gradients. Katro often employs shadows to seemingly lift shapes from the page and add depth between layers. Katro manually adds shadows with Photoshop’s  Brush Tool and uses Layer Styles to add gradient overlays to shapes.


Once Katro finished his sixteen designs in Photoshop, he imported the PSD file of each, with its individual layers, into Adobe After Effect CC, where he animated them separately before bringing them together into the final piece. Check out Select and animate layers to learn how to animate layers in After Effects.

Click above to watch Vasjen Katro's final creation.

For more of Vasjen Katro’s work as a visual designer and creative director, follow him on Behance.

December 11, 2017

Videos Kendall Plant

Text Maile Valentine