Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Child's Imagination

Daniel and I share a love of books and Fantasy...we love Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
So, on one of our "date days" we headed to the bookstore. An oversized kids book called "Mythical Creatures" caught my eye and an idea for a digital piece began to form.
I like to gather all the images for my pieces first...sometimes when I have them all open I realize they don't work together. Doing this step first helps me to visualize where everything is going to be placed into a scene, how the lighting and color is in each image and whether or not it will blend together.
I chose a forest for the background. After searching my travel stock, I settled on this image of a sunlit forest taken during my trek of Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland. Working on the background required adding in some additional trees to fill in some spaces and cloning out the branches on the ground and cloning in additional grass.
I next cut out the photograph of Daniel and a stock image of a tree stump and place both into their own layers. More work on the grass is done around the tree stump. Depth is created by using various shades of green.
At this point in the process, I add a Curves Adjustment layer to darken the background layer and take away some of the light coming through the trees. Knowing where I am going to place the dragon, I go ahead and create a shadow on the grass under where he will be. This is done using a grass brush in a deep dark green and adding the effect of a Drop Shadow. This way I get more depth than just using the burn tool.
A stock photo of a broken egg is cut out and placed into the grass. More grass work is done around the egg and additional areas of the image..pretty much until I'm satisfied. :)
I next created the glow by using Photoshop brushes found on DA and clicking the colorize box on Hue/Saturation and adjusting until I found a color I liked and that fit in with the rest of the image. Now it was time to add the dragon.
Searching stock photos, it took me some time to find one that I could work with. The difficulty was finding one that had the head in the right position. Everything else I could manipulate using the Warp Tool which I did as you can see in the final image. I also wanted to change the color, contrast and texture of the dragon. All of these things were achieved using standard Photoshop adjusments. I placed in a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a bit more overall darkness to the entire image and used High Pass Sharpening to sharpen areas of the Daniel and the Dragon.
I then copied the Glow Layer and place the copy above the dragon, lowering the opacity so that the dragon seems to be coming out of the glow instead of just in front of it. I erased the areas I didn't need and in addition erased some of the dragon using a Layer Mask on the dragon layer to bring the glow through and around the dragon.
Lastly, I flatten the image and run a filter over it to cross balance the color and give it a warmer glow. Viola! A child's imagination come's to life! :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Creating a Vintage Collage with Photoshop

Cabinet cards...photographic postcards...vintage photographs. Over time, many of these images end up unwanted showing up in estate sales, antique stores and even on eBay. But, like our own photographs, these images once meant something to someone.

There are people like myself who collect old photographs. I find it interesting, these unknown faces staring at me. What kind of life did they live? What were their thoughts when that photograph was taken? What tragedies did they endure? What happiness graced them? Vintage collages can give new life to an old, discarded photograph and turn it into something creative and artful.

Even if you don't collect old photographs, you can find several resources online where you can download free images for use in your artwork. I currently have a few available for use here in my Vintage Stock Gallery: Whether you are using my stock or someone else's, always remember to follow the rules for use.

Now, let's see just how easy it is to create a vintage collage in Photoshop using layers! First, choose a vintage photograph. Here is the one I used from my own collection to create my image "Exploration":

It's a fantastic find for a vintage photograph having a lone figure in front of this stunning monument. But, let's make it more interesting! One of the easiest ways to do that is to add a texture. You can find textures available anywhere..just look around..peeling paint? brick wall? pile of hay? You can begin to stockpile your own textures or visit a group like Textures for Layers on flickr and download some free textures but be sure to follow the rules of the original contributor regarding use of their texture and be sure to always give proper credit:
For "Exploration", I wanted a texture that had color since the original image is monotone. I chose one from flickr user bernhofen (who posted it in the Textures for Layers group) which is a photo of a corrupted Roman Fresco, perfect for this ancient monument:
When making a collage, there is no limit to how many images you can layer into it. I've seen digital collages with dozens of images compiled into one masterful piece. However, for "Exploration", I didn't want to distract too much from the original photograph so besides the texture I decided on just one other additional item. I chose a map from my own personal stock in keeping with the theme of travel and exploration:
Now that you have all your images open in Photoshop, let's combine them using Layers.
The first step is to make a copy of your original background layer. You can do this by going to Layer-Duplicate Layer-Background Copy. This way your original image stays untouched in case you make a mistake or want to erase something you did.
Next, let's make a new layer above your Background Copy. Click on Layer-New Layer and name it "Texture". You can also create a new layer by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the layer pallet. Click on your texture image and go to Select-All followed by Edit-Copy.
You can now click on your new texture layer and select paste to add the texture. The texture will cover the entire image so you will need to adjust Opacity in order for your chosen photograph to show through. For "Exploration" I didn't want it too light because I wanted some of the color to show through so I chose to lower the opacity to 60%. You can now choose a blending mode...when doing collages or working with textures, I tend to use the following blending modes the most: Multiply, Soft Light and Overlay. For "Exploration" I chose Multiply which gives more punch to the colors in the texture.
With the Texture Layer highlighted in the layers pallet, click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom. Using a soft brush you can erase any areas where you don't want the texture. In my image I erased around the top of the figure so she would stand out a bit more.
Continue to add images by repeating the same step above to create new layers, adjusting opacity & blending modes and softening up or removing any hard edges by using a layer mask with a soft brush. For the map image, I used the rotate tool to angle the image before blending it in with Overlay set at 50%. By placing the map up in the top left corner, I balance out the composition. Any additional images added to this piece would throw that off. You still want to be mindful of composition when creating collages. Be creative but don't overpower your composition by placing too many images into one piece.
I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial and above all, remember to be creative and have fun!