May 2014 Photoshop SIG Notes

Virtual knitting!

Virtual knitting!

You can view these notes online at and also download them as a pdf.

This month
In this month we will have a look at:

Part 1 – A bit more on composition (Using a square shape for your photos)
Part 2 – Using selection, masks and the gradient tool to create composites
Part 3 – A bit of creativity
Part 4 – The June Photoshop Challenge

Next Month 
How to restore images using PS/PE (by popular request)

Resources that may be helpful
(1) How to “See” is a series of ten short articles to get your creative vision juices flowing and on to the boil. I keep on writing about the need to learn, use and apply the basic ideas of composition to any image that you are working with in PS or PE.

(2) Barbara has written a set of notes on how to use PE layers to create the composite image from last month’s Photoshop SIG.

(3) An adobe video (13 minutes) on How to use masks and the refine edge command –

Part 1 – more on composition
We started the 2014 SIG with a discussion of the Rule of Thirds as applied to images in a rectangular shape such as a 6 inch by 4 inch – like the ones that you used to get printed up for a family photo album. ( I may think metric in most things, just not in print sizes!)

When you compose an image to photograph or crop, you are making three basic decisions:

1. The shape of the print/image – rectangular, square, or panoramic.
2. Whether it is horizontal or vertical – for example, most portraits tend to be vertical because you get more of the face to fill up the frame.
3. Your decisions as to how to compose the story that you want your viewer to see.

When you choose to use the rectangular frame, the eye is encouraged to move from side to side (in the landscape format) or up and down (in the portrait format).

The square format gets your eyes moving in a different way. A square is a perfectly balanced shape. Each side is equal in length. Using the square format encourages the eye to move around the frame in a circle.

For the May SIG, we are going to look at a square format. Once again, credit for the thoughts and images goes to Darren Rouse and his website Digital Photography School. (

Let’s start with this is a quote from a post by Andrew Gibson.

“Here are some more reasons that I like the square format:
1. It changes my approach to composition. The square format is different, and there seems to be a certain inherent beauty to well composed square format photos that other aspect ratios lack. Shapes become more prominent, there is little wasted space and the balance between the elements changes.

2. It works well in black and white.”

Here are some examples of using the square format for either shooting or cropping. You can see more of these on the website listed at the start of the notes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For further information and inspiration, have a look at these short articles from Digital Photography School:


Part 2 – How selections, masks and a gradient fill can work together.

Exercise 1 – Select an object from Photo 1 and add it to Photo 2 (Eh?)

A selection lets you isolate and protect areas of an image while you edit the rest of the image.

(1) Open up Photo 1 in PS or PE. This is a selfie shot in my office.
(2) Open up Photo 2 in PS or PE. This is the energiser bunny from Google images.
(3) Use one of the selection tools to select the face or the head of your victim in Photo 1. I used the Magnetic lasso tool for this one.
(4) Click on Edit/Copy to make a copy of your selection.
(5) Click on window/Arrange/2-up Vertically.

2-up Vertical
(6) Click on Photo 2 to make it active.
(7) Click on Edit/Paste. The victim’s head will now appear in Photo 2.

Bunny Photo 2 with my head pasted on.

Bunny Photo 2 with my head pasted on.

(8) Click on Edit Free Transform to make the head bigger and move it to cover the bunny head.

what do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit warren? Hot cross bunnies.

what do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit warren? Hot cross bunnies.

This month’s SIG notes have been a frustrating task. There is little pay off for the time spent reading, watching and listening to different resources about how to use masks. Seldom have I been able to get the same result twice in a row.

So what follows is a few of my own notes as well as notes taken from Practical Photoshop Level 2, Chapters 3 to 5.

Exercise 2 -Using the Gradient Tool.

For this topic, I’m just going to use a short video for the introduction and then show you some of the things that you might try in the May PS Challenge.


Exercise 2 – Part 1 (A quick look at creating a gradient fill.)
(1) Open a new document in PS that is 800 by 600 pixels.
(2) Have a play with the Gradient tool. after each try, Use control +Z to go back to the start.

Now that you have the hang of that, let’s try combining a gradient fill on one layer with an image on another layer.

Exercise 2 – Part 2 (Adding a gradient fill to an image.
(1) Open up an image that you like (or hate) in PS/PE. This will be the  background layer.

(2) Create another layer by clicking on Layer/New/layer.
(3) Click OK on the dialogue box. This gives you a Layer 1 on top of the background.

Exercise 2B Layers Panel

(4) With Layer 1 as the active layer, create gradient fill and apply it.

Exercise 2B - Gradient layer added

(5) Now click on the layer 1 Opacity slider and vary it until you are satisfied with the way that it looks.

Exercise 2B - Opacity slider

Exercise 2 -Part 3 (Using blending modes in Layer 1 to get some weird effects)
(1) Click on the layer 1 box that has Normal spelled out.
(2) Use the down arrow key to see the different effects of blending the two layers. I am going with the dissolve blend Mode. It comes out like this.

Exercise 2 C dissolve blend mode

Exercise 3 – using masks.
These are a summary of the steps in the video The Wonder of a Cow on the Beach. You can find it here. (

(1) Open up the images of the cow and the beach in PS. Give each layer an obvious name.
(2) Select the cow.
(3) With the cow layer active, click on the Mask Panel pixel mask button. This gets rid of the background in the cow layer. Cool!
(4) Click on Image/Trim.
(5) Save the file as mycow.psd.
(6) Change over to the beach image.
(7) Click on the Mask Panel pixel mask button.
(8) Save it as mybeach.psd. Or name it anything that you like!
(9) Click on the arrange document icon in the Menu bar and chose 2 – up Vertically.
(10) Now click a blank part of the cow layer and drag it across and into the beach image next to it.
(11) Close the image of the cow since you no longer need it.
(12) Click on edit/Free Transform and make the cow a tad bit smaller and shift it to a spot  that looks good to you. You can always flip the cow around to face to the left if you like.
(13) Save the combined image of the cow and beach as beachcow.psd.

Exercise 4 – adding a gradient fill to the beachcow.psd image
These are a summary of the steps in the video The Wonder of a Cow on the Beach. You can find it here. (

(14) Click on the beach layer to make it active.
(15) Click on the mask button of the beach layer.
(16) Use the elliptical Marquee tool to create an ellipse.
(17) Click on Select/Transform Selection to adjust the ellipse.
(18) Click on Edit/Fill and Use black and then OK.
(19) Click on Select/Deselect.
(20) Click on Image/Adjustments/Invert.
(21) Now let’s add a gradient layer. click on the Create a new fill/adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel.
(23) Click on Gradient and choose the orange, yellow, orange preset.
(24) Whoa! Where’s my beach? Since the beach layer was active, the gradient layer covered it up when it was created.  Just click and drag the gradient layer below the beach layer. Voila!! Now we can see the palm trees again.
(25) Now let’s add some feathering by clicking on the pixel mask icon.

Part 3 – a bit of creativity
This is to introduce you to some of the things that you can do with your brush.

(1) Open a new document.
(2) Press B for your brush tool.
(3) Click on the drop down arrow in the size box.

Part 3 - Dropdown list

(4) When you click on it, you get another dialogue box to give you a lot more choices. Try out the three brushes marked in red. Just have a play with them. Change your foreground and background colours as you go along.

Part 3 Brushes

(5) Now try creating three different layers – Layer 1, Layer 2 and Layer 3 by clicking on Layer/New/Layer.
(6) On Layer 1, I am going to choose colours red and blue and use the dune Grass brush to swirl around once or twice.

Part 3 layer dune brush effect

(7) On Layer 2, I am going to choose colours green and orange and use the Grass brush to swirl around once or twice.
(8) On Layer 3, I am going to choose colours pink and yellow and use the Maple scattered leaves brush to swirl around once or twice.
(9) I want to give a light background instead of the plain white one that is there now. Click on the background layer to make it active.
(10) Click on Edit/Fill/Colour and choose a nice soft colour for your background.
(11) Cycle through the blending modes on Layer 3 to what other effects that you can come up with. Here is my final effort. Just in time to print off and use to wrap a Mother’s Day present. (How many A4 sheets are needed to  cover a new vacuum cleaner?)

Part 3 Completed drawing.

(12) There is a whole bunch of resources for creating your own brushes and for using PS and PE as artists tools for painting instead of image improvement.

Part 4 – The June PS/PE challenge

Since the last few challenges have  gotten such a limited response, I will try to offer up a few challenges in this month so that there is hopefully something for everyone to try.

June Challenge 1 – Using a square format (Introductory skill level )

  1. Go out with your camera and take a few photos in your backyard.
  2. If you know how, you can set your camera to a square format (RTM!).
  3. If you don’t know how to set your camera to a square format, then use PS /PE to crop your image into a square format.
  4. Please send your final square .jpg image to me at (

June Challenge 2 – Take a part of Photo 1 and add to Photo 2 (Introductory skill level )

  1. This was shown in Part 2 of the the post for May.
  2. Select a face from Photo 1. by either using Copy and Paste or by creating a mask.
  3. Copy this into Photo 2.
  4. Use free Transform to resize/rotate the part that you have added to Photo 2.
  5. Save it as a jpg and send it it to me  at (

June Challenge 3 – Open a photo in PS/PE, duplicate the layer, and use blending modes to create an image effect (Intermediate skill level)

  1. The title tells you the first two steps .Or you could use a layer fill effect instead for Layer 2.
  2. Go through the blending modes until you find one or two that you like.
  3. Use the opacity slider to reduce an effect if it is too strong.
  4. Save it as a jpg and send it it to me  at (

 June Challenge 4 – Create a composite image using blend modes and opacity slider (Intermediate skill level)

  1. Open up Photos 1 and 2 in PS/PE.
  2. Use the blending modes and opacity slider to get an effect of one image showing through the other.
  3. Save it as a jpg and send it it to me  at (

That’s all, folks!


About woldham

Concise! Retired and loving it!
This entry was posted in Brushes, Composition, Gradient fills and backgrounds, Masks, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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