Don’t let Instagram likes and followers define your art

You can bet on the fact that we at @launchdsigns are fans of anyone that we feature here on “The Creative ones” Diogo Sampaio or @strongsidesigns is no different. Diogo definitely has his own style in what he creates and a very interesting view on visual artists and Instagram.

Lots of artists on Instagram are what I call “Like Chasers” and rightfully so because likes are the currency of Instagram, However its always great to interview another designer that understands that there has to be a balance between posting to get lots of likes vs posting amazing content that’s true to yourself as a designer.

Diogo’s account has some truly spectacular pieces that illustrate — that there’s no limit to where your imagination and creativity can take you.

How long have you been using Adobe Photoshop to edit?

I started using Photoshop around 10 years ago when I went to a school of arts but started to use it professionally 5 years ago, after I left college.

How did you get into digital arts?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved watching speed arts about digital manipulations. And I’ve always liked design in general, so I dropped my studies in science to start investing in an artist career. I joined the school of art, then I got into a good college and got a degree in Communication Design.

What inspires you to create?

Everything! Literally, everything does. Since I like to bend reality in my artworks, a simple landscape of an ordinary city can be enough to inspire. Also, I do A LOT of research on Behance, Pinterest, design articles, Exhibitions, etc…  Even some Instagrammers are a good source of inspiration. 

Who are some of the creative artists on Instagram that inspires you?

There are a few good artists on social media, like Erik Johansson or Beeple are just insanely good! Beeple manages to post every day, and each post is something that really needs to have a very high skill in C4D. On the other hand, Erik is by far one of the most skilled digital artists that I know, because he creates everything from scratch, he has an incredible control with lights/shadows, incredible surreal manipulations, and you can only see what I’m talking about if you watch his creative process on youtube. You will be surprised by the number of people and time that he invests to make a single image.

See example below


With Instagram being so saturated with talent right now, how are you able to stay unique and fresh?

Instagram is saturated because nowadays we have a lot of free stock photos websites. I am also a user of stock photos in many of my works, but I try to make compositions and blends that actually require a certain level of skill to do them. People tend to make advanced manipulations without understanding the basics of photoshop first. This software requires an insane amount of time to master because if you want to make realistic images, you need to understand how lights and shadows can be combined, positions, blend modes, how to use layer masks, and most important, how to combine different images with different perspectives and lights. If people don’t understand those steps, it will not be possible to create something unique, and people will end up creating something that another 50,000 people already created. Photoshop takes years to master, I still have a lot to learn, even though I already have experience with it. 

Another great tip is: Ignore the numbers of likes and followers. If you join social media begging for attention or hoping to make your images go viral, you’re already doomed to fail on creating an image that will be good enough to stay unique and fresh. 

How do you educate yourself and keep learning?

I’m always looking for inspiration and new ways to improve my skill. I usually look at some images and wonder how they were made, so I sit at my computer and try to understand how the artist did some specific effect or manipulation. I try to search for speed arts and creative processes, you can learn a lot by watching those step by step videos that some people do. I tend to avoid tutorials because I rarely find anything that actually makes me learn something new. Tutorials can be a real help if you’ve never done anything specific before, but once I understand it, I rather watch how professionals work.

Also, I work as a freelance communication designer and art director, which forces and motivates me to have specific schedules for work, Instagram, social life, procrastination… Making a plan for my tasks for the following day or week is extremely helpful    

What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started editing using Photoshop?

Probably the shortcuts. I hate losing time searching for the options in the menus, so, memorizing shortcuts in my keyboard was definitely a time savior. When I started to use photoshop I was way slower than what I am today (obviously)  

Do you use Adobe Lightroom? If so for what specific purpose?

I used to give the final adjustments in Lightroom. But then Photoshop came with the “camera raw filter” and it was absolutely perfect for me!

I barely use Lightroom nowadays…

Take us through your workflow from beginning a project to posting it on Instagram? 

I always try to dedicate a maximum of 3 hours per project. Some projects take that amount of time, and others are made in literally 15 minutes. For me, Instagram is the place where I have total control of the artwork, so, most of the time I go to Unsplash or Pixabay, pick a few photos related to the theme that I have thought about and then I do the magic in Photoshop.

I don’t follow any specific process every single time I create something for Instagram, but if I had to make a quick progress timeline it would be something like 1- Thinking of a theme 2 – Finding good images that will fit my composition or shoot them myself 3 – Work with them in Photoshop 4 – In the overall composition work, do the final adjustments like color corrections and add details 5 – Upload the image to my phone and copy / past my script with all the hashtags I usually use 6 – Tag relevant feature pages 7 – Answer people’s questions and comments.

What do you hope to achieve from posting on Instagram? Are you just posting for the fun of editing or are you hoping to use your Instagram gallery as a portfolio for bigger opportunities?

I do it because I love what I do, for me, it’s a great way to run from the professional work. Instagram has no rules to follow in terms of work, no briefings, no limits, no deadlines. It’s obviously a great gallery to show to my clients and friends, and of course I use it as a “secondary portfolio”. Even if this is not what I usually do as a graphic designer, it’s always nice to show what you can do if a big company need a surreal manipulation.

I know from experience that photoshop files many layers can take up lots of space on a computers hard drive, How do you back up your original work?

Space is not an issue at all. Files are heavy sometimes, but with my computer hard drive, external disc and google drive, I think it is more than enough to save everything I need. (I have around 4 terabytes of storage)

How important is getting likes and comments vs just posting as an artistic expression?

Likes and comments are the “Instagram currency”. Even though I don’t really care about the number of likes or followers that I have, I appreciate the comments and feedback that people leave on my projects, in order to improve something that I might have done wrong or simply because I enjoy getting “paid” by my time and effort on Instagram. I tend to avoid answering comments like “nice” or “good job” or “nice pic” because I try to give more attention to people that actually care about the work and ask me anything or write me something special an useful. If I wanted to post just as an artistic expression I wouldn’t even bother to look at the comments, I would just upload my work, leave it there and be happy to know that my duty was done.

If there wasn’t an Instagram, where would you showcase your work?

Behance, of course. That is where the real clients are. Actually, that is the place where I have my professional work, and on a physical portfolio 

Have you gotten any financial opportunities because of Instagram? 

Yes. Football teams, Bands, Fashion artists and a few private clients that just wanted to edit their pictures the way I do

Do you think that Instagram has helped or hurt digital artists?

Both. As you said before, Instagram is full of people who call themselves “artists” and full of actual good and professional people. Everything is online nowadays, and I think many people have no clue of what getting into a museum like “Prado” (Madrid) feels like. If people could go more often to exhibitions, they would have a much deeper understanding on what the artwork message, the proportions, the colors, the physical contact, everything is better in person than in a tiny rectangle in our phones. Also, even though Instagram can be used to get clients and financial opportunities if you know how to take advantage of it, it also has a bad side. The bad side is, for example, is people not having the awareness of how much effort and how much time some pieces take to be created, they don´t search for the “behind the scenes”, because they are too busy liking the picture of the woman or man with one million followers making a “duck face” in front of a mirror. 

So, basically, Instagram helps artists push their limits if they want to stand out from the others and create something unique, and it can also hurt because sometimes you will lose so many hours to create a great image and you won´t be noticed because you have only 600 followers but the guy with 300k made a bad composition and still he is going to be the one considered good for having a bigger audience. 

That´s why numbers are irrelevant, but sadly, it became important to many people to have big numbers. I’ve always been a guy that believes quality is over quantity, and always will.

What State/Country do you live in?

I was born in Porto, Portugal. Currently living in Lisbon

Is there anything else that you would like your followers to know about you?

 Well, my name is Diogo Sampaio (born 1990) I’m a graphic designer and art director from Porto, Portugal and

currently living in Lisbon. My work can be described as surreal scenes created by combining different photographs usually shown in my Instagram. I work on both personal and commissioned projects with clients all around the world. In contrast to traditional photography, I don’t capture moments, I capture ideas with the help of my camera and imagination or stock photos. The goal is to make it look as realistic as possible even if the scene itself contains impossible elements. In the end, it all comes down to problem-solving, finding a way to capture the impossible. I have been featured on AdobeStock’s Official Instagram, Enter Imagination, and Cultura Colectiva, LaunchDsigns, and I am a moderator for Pr0ject Uno, which has a combined 2M+ followers on Instagram.

I had the pleasure to work for “The Rolling Stones”, “Guns n Roses”, “Imagine Dragons”, “Machine Gun Kelly”, and so many other music artists around the world! I also am passionate about branding identity projects and editorial services

Thank you so much,