*** Website Landing Page Image ***
This contest originally involved retouching a cloud image and combining it seamlessly with a separate horizon image. However, we'd decided the dark horizon wasn't such a good idea (see the November 16 update below, in the all-designer comments).
The contest consists of rendering two stacked words (font: Impact, non-bold) in 3-D silver such that the bottom word looks like it is resting on the clouds. The winning image will be a two-layer PSD file: The seamless background image as the first layer, and the stacked letters-with-shadows as the second layer. Although the composite, two-layer image is the object of the contest, the layers need to be delivered to us as separate files (the stacked letters having no background, aka a transparent background). Because the website will be size-adaptive (iPhone-compatible), we need to give the website developer the background image and the "stacked word pair" image as separate files.
We held a contest back in April for this landing page image and awarded a winner because we liked the background photo, the "stacked words resting on clouds" concept, and the lighting/shadow effect. But we knew we wouldn't be using that actual image on our website, because the letters didn't look right to us (being white on the front as well as the sides, there is not enough contrast, i.e., the words have a "washed out" appearance). We later hired a designer directly to redo the image from the same background photo, and although it's much improved, we still aren't quite satisfied with it.
Here is the above-mentioned winning entry, from designer nathasa:
Contest title: Other design for John8197
The image we hired another designer to render is being used as a placeholder image until our website goes live next year. To view it, please Google the two words shown in all the contest entries. It will be the top search result in Google, with the phrase "Coming this January."
In addition to being displayed on our website landing page, the winning image will also appear (in cropped form) on a book cover and as the header on many of the individual pages at our website.
The first step is to download the background image:
We think we'd rather not see any changes except in brightness, contrast, definition, and perhaps the level of blue color.
The finished background image should be 4,000 pixels wide and 2,700 pixels high, at a density of 300 pixels per inch.
Next, create the 3-D letters. The letters should appear to made of silver, and the fronts should be some shade of gray and should have at least a subtle texture.
Now add a lighting effect, which should cause shadows. The shadow underneath the letters should be tight and dark, as in nathasa's winning image. This will make it appear that the bottom word is resting on the clouds.
It is essential that the shadows be part of the second layer, i.e., the shadows must be part of the independent image of the letters, so that the shadows are visible on whatever file the second layer is superimposed on. We're not software experts, but we doubt this project can be done successfully with only PhotoShop; we suspect that advanced 3-D image rendering software will be needed.
We will guarantee the prize if/when we see something we can envision using (and the designer of such an image can assure us the image of the words is a separate PSD file with the shadows included in it).
Thanks, and good luck!