February Photoshop SIG Notes

These notes can be downloaded as a pdf by clicking here.


Who do you know that has done this?


This month

This month we will look at:

  1. The rule of thirds in cropping and composition
  2. Introduction to layers
  3. A creativity exercise for the March challenge.
  4. When you are through with a selection, simply click on Selection/Deselect in the Menu bar.

Survey Results

Thanks to everyone for filling in the survey.

One third of you regard yourselves as beginners. The other two thirds rate themselves as intermediate skill level. And there is one advanced user. I’ll have to get Barbara and Pat to fill out the survey so that we have three advanced users rather than just the one.

The order of topics chosen was adjustment layers (11), masking (9), selection (8), composites (6), filters (6), and smart objects (6).

So thanks to everyone for your feedback. This will give me a starting point for the next three or four months.

March Challenge Entries

The March challenge is to take what we have gone over today and to create a colourful floral composite. Or some other subject of interest to you. Just have a go!

We will show the ones that have been submitted at the next meeting.

Please send entries to 0woldham8@gmail.com.

Things to remember

  1. If you complete an action and everything goes pear shaped, sit back, relax. Then use
    Control +Z  (Command + Z on a Mac) to undo your mistake and you can start from where you were before.
  2. These notes will work fine for Photoshop Elements. I have only just gotten version 12 from JB Hi fi for $112. They give Seniors and AUSOM members a great discount. So there won’t be any thing specific on PE until next month.
  3. If you are using your own photographs, go through them three times so that your hundred shots is reduced to ten really good shots. Then have a system for saving them so that you can find them easily. And please remember to back them up.

Part One – What is the Rule of Thirds?

For a quick introduction, click on this video link to about.com (http://video.about.com/photography/Rule-of-Thirds-in-Photography.htm).

One of the better definitions that I came across is from this website – http://www.photographymad.com/pages/view/rule-of-thirds

“The rule of thirds involves mentally dividing up your image using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, as shown below. You then position the important elements in your scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet.

Image 1 Version 1

A rule of thirds grid. Important elements (the shed, and the border between the ground and the trees) are positioned along the lines and at the intersections. Image by Martin Gommel.


The idea is that an off-centre composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than one where the subject is placed right in the middle of the frame. It also encourages you to make creative use of negative space, the empty areas around your subject.”

How can I use this in Photoshop?

The way that we can use this in Photoshop is to open up an image and use the crop tool set to the rule of thirds to see if we can improve the photo. Here is a photo that I took in my garden. I have got the flower right in the middle of the image. I would like to use the rule of thirds to see if I can make it more interesting.

Image 2 - Flower

Note for Bill – where did you put that image? Which folder, which computer? Arghh!

Steps to use the rule of thirds.

  1. Make a copy of your original to work with. This will save you a lot of embarrassment. (Remember where you saved it to as well!)
  2. Click on the crop tool.
  3. Select Unconstrained.
  4. Select Rule of Thirds
  5. Leave the Delete Cropped Pixels box unchecked.
  6. Click and drag the middle of the sides to get your new composition
  7. You can also click and drag on the image itself

Here is my image after I have moved it around a bit to get the centre of the flower in the lower left hand intersection of the lines. I was also able to use the bud on the right to help pull the eyes of the viewer from left to right as they look at the image.

Flower again.

Centred on lower left intersection and bud the on right to direct your attention across the image.

You will find further useful information on these websites below:

Part 2 – Intro to layers

The advantages of using layers in Photoshop range from non-destructive image editing to keeping all your image versions in a single file. Have a look at Richard Lynch’s The Adobe Photoshop layers book for everything that you could want to know about layers.

Today’s intro will be to take an image of a flower, select it, and then copy it to several layers. Next we will move the layers around to create a floral bouquet.

This is the image that I am starting with. It is a copy right free image that I found at http://www.clker.com/clipart-4371.html. Have a look at the site to find an image that you might prefer.

Another flower.

Flower to use for layers

(1) Open a new document in Photoshop by selecting File/New. Use the settings below.

Setting up a new document

initial setup for document

(2) Create a single  new layers by selecting Layer/New/Layer. It should look like this from the lower right hand side of your Photoshop window:

Layers list in Photoshop.

Layers list in Photoshop.

(3) Click on Layer 1 to make it active.
(4) Open up your image of a flower that you have saved. It will open in a separate window in Photoshop.

(5) It should look like this.

fower opened up in Photoshop

Flower opened up in Photoshop

(6) Click on the magic wand tool to select the leaves and centre of the flower. Be sure that you click on the Add Selection box at the top of the menu bar

where to look for the Magic Wand and the Add to selection boxes

Where to look for the Magic Wand and the Add to selection boxes.

(7) With everything selected (petal by petal and the centre), click on Edit/Copy.
(8) Click on Window/Arrange/Two Up Vertically. This will give you the flower in one part of the screen and a blank white page on the other side. Hopefully it looks like this.

Image 8 - Side by side

Windows/Arrange/2 Vertical

(9) The next step is to right click on Layer 1/Duplicate layer.
(10) Double click on the name and rename as layer 2. Press Enter.
(11) Select the Move tool and click and drag the flower to another part of the canvas
(12) Do you see the eyeball of death symbol at the start of each layer? You can turn this off and you cannot see the layer. This is quite handy as we will find out next.

(13) Now create another four layers by duplication Layer 1 and renaming them As Layer 2 Etc.

(14) Have a play with the Move Tool on each layer to create a composite.  Mine looks like this:

Six flowers on six different layers.

Six flowers on six different layers.


(15) Every time that you create a new layer in Photoshop, it increases the size of the file. Right now the file is about 1.4 MB in size. To reduce the size of the file, click on Layer/flatten image. Note that it is best to first save the file as a .psd format. Next, do a File/Save As and then flatten the file and give it another name.

Part Three

Now that you are familiar with layers, selection and the rule of thirds, let’s add a bit of colour and see hat you can come up with for the march Challenge which is to create a composite image using either Photoshop or elements.

Here is one way to get started.

(1) Create a new document say 800 by 600 pixels.

(2) Create a new layer and add your flower to it. Remember KISS (Keep it simple).

There are several ways to work with colour. For this challenge, we will just use the Edit/Fill/Colour commands to add some vibrance to our flowers.

My plan is to use purple and pink for the petals and a light blue for the centre. Let’s give it a try.

(3) Select roughly every second petal on your flower.

(4) Click on Edit/Fill. You should get this

Image 10 - Edit-Fill Command

Click on Edit/Fill/colour

(5) Next, click on the drop down box and select colour. It should look like this:

Colour Picker Box

Colour Picker Box

(6) There is a vertical strip of colour in the middle of the box. Click on the colour that you want to use. It should look like this.

Clicking on the vertical colour bar.

Clicking on the vertical colour bar.

(7) Now click in the square on the left and look in the top box labelled New for the shade that you have chosen.

Image 13 – Pick colour in left hand box.

Image 13 –a lovely light purpler

Setting the colour of your petals.

(8) Click in the two boxes and you should have some purple added to your flower petals.

Image 14 - purple petals

Use Edit/Fill/Colour to add colour to the petals that you have selected.

(9) Now repeat this for another colour and the other petals. I’m using a light pink this time.

purple and pink flower with black centre

Purple and pink flower with black centre.

(10) Click on Select/Deselect to remove any Magic wand selections that are left.

(11) Use the Magic Wand to select the centre and make it a light blue so that you get something like this. You may find this easier with the whosiewhats – the Lasso tool. (Yes, I did leave out a few steps there!)

Completed flower

Completed flower



Well folks, that should be enough to get you started on the March Challenge!


About woldham

Concise! Retired and loving it!
This entry was posted in Composition, Creativity, layers, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to February Photoshop SIG Notes

  1. woldham says:

    Another lovely article!


  2. AUSOM Editor@ausom.net.au says:

    How does your Mum KNOW it was another lovely article?

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