Sunday, March 27, 2011

Creating Abstract Backgrounds with the Gradient Tool - Tutorial

Recently I came across an interesting podcast tutorial over on the website for Layers Magazine showing how to create Gradient Backgrounds and had to give it a try.  I spent hours playing around with this process and created a large selection of background which I posted over on my deviantART account for free downloading.

I like to take funky backgrounds and use them as a coloring layer or to add cool effects in my Photoshop projects.

Sunset scene using one of my Gradient Backgrounds
 Here is a project using PaperWhimsy products a Victorian die cut rabbit image
and the below pictured EKD Gradient Background.
(Listing of products for this framed scene will be given below the Gradient Background Tutorial).

This EKD Gradient Background was used in the above scene to
color the background image and is the subject of today's post.

 Here is a Photoshop screen shot of how I used my Gradient created background 
to color the PaperWhimsy image scene that is the background image of my projects.

Here is how I created the Gradient Background.

There are many ways to do things in Photoshop.
This is the just the steps I took to create my background.

Creating Gradient Backgrounds using this process is fun to do 
since you never know what your end result will be.

I started by creating a NEW Document in Photoshop.
I made it a 12 x 12 inch area at 300dpi.
Color Mode was set to RGB and 8 bit 
so I could later save it as a jpeg file.

Next I selected my Gradient Tool,
found a gradient pattern I liked,
choose the Radial pattern and 
changed the Mode to Difference.

Then it was just a matter of using the gradient toll to draw lines 
across the page and watch the magic. 

Playing with the gradient options, where you place your strokes 
and the length of those strokes will alter your results.  
No two backgrounds are ever the same.

My 1st stroke went from the top left corner to the bottom right corner.
This is what the background looked like when I was done with that stroke.
The green line is just to show the direction and length of the stroke I made with the gradient tool.

My 2nd stroke when in the opposite direction and the colors became darker.
This will continue through the process. On the even number of passes the colors 
will be dark like this and on the odd they will be lighter in color.

My 3rd pass is shown with the green arrow and the resulting 
background is starting to get more complex.

My 4th pass with the gradient tool.

For the 5th pass I made a slight change in the settings.
I changed the Gradient Pattern type from Radial to Reflected.
This gave me some interesting lines to mix in with my circular patterns.

This was the 6th pass and I'm still using the Reflected Gradient setting.

The 7th pass, I went back to the Radial setting and made
a short stroke as shown by the green arrow.
When that was done, this is what the background looked like.

 The 8th pass looked like this after following the path of the green arrow.
The shorter the stroke when using the Radial setting the more evident the bulls-eye will be.

The 9th and final pass I made was straight across about 3/4 of the way down.
I like the effect I had and went ahead and stopped here.

The finished EKD Gradient Background 

Many of the Gradient Backgrounds I have posted over on my
EveyD deviantART account
have 20+ passes to get my final effect.

Currently I have about 22 of these type of background posted and
ready to download so drop by deviantART and check them out.

I was inspired to create this and other backgrounds like it from the 
Ask Dave Podcast on Layers Magazine website.
Click HERE for link.


Now to finish off the framed Project

 The Girl, Scenic Background and Frame are all from PaperWhimsy.
The Bunny is a Victorian paper scrap image I have in my collection.

All the PaperWhimsy images I used came from their
Hybrid Images - Digital Artists line of images.

 The Maiden 03 - from PaperWhimsy's Beautiful Faces Collection

 I removed the background and colored the image in Photoshop.
Click HERE to see my previous post on this process.

The Country 03 - from PaperWhimsy's Beautiful Places Collection

I used my Gradient Background to color this image in my project.

Pastel Frame - from PaperWhimsy's Elements Collection

 I turned the image on it's side and used only the outer portion
of this frame around my scene.
I made a few FX changes in Photoshop to this layer of my project.
 Drop Shadow - Inner Shadow - Bevel and Emboss

Victorian Paper Scrap Bunny
I removed the backgrounds in Photoshop before adding him to my scene.

With everything put together this was my final scene.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look at my latest creation.
I hope you drop back in again soon.

Grins and Giggles,

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pretty in Pink with a Spring Bonnet - Book Cover Art and Colorizing Tutorial

Pretty in pink is my latest digital compilation using Photoshop. 
 I'm continuing to teach myself how to use Photoshop, so I've documented how 
I created her below for those who would like to know how I did it.

I always seem to be reading books that have three in the series; so I decided to create a third Book Cover Art project to complete my own creative trilogy.  I'm continuing with my Spring theme and PaperWhimsy products so they all coordinate quite well.

Pretty in Pink with Spring Bonnet by EKDuncan 2011

This is the 3rd and final installment of my Spring Book Cover Art series.
Click HERE to see the 1st in the series - Framed Lady
Click HERE to see the 2nd in the series - Country Lass in Blue

All three projects were inspired by a recent tutorial by 
Gale of PaperWhimsy and I can't thank her enough for 
lighting my fire to create these fun Book Covers.
Click HERE to see Gale's tutorial  

or go to 
click Blog and then scroll down to the March 20, 2011 entry
to see Gale's great Stage Art Project and link to her tutorial.


 So, if you are a curious cat like I am and wondering
"how did she do that" ...

 Here's How

Please remember there are many ways to do things in Photoshop;
This is just how I got at my end result.

The PaperWhimsy products I used all came from the 
 I started with this great vintage image titled The Maiden 04
from the PaperWhimsy Beautiful faces Collection

 I removed the background in Photoshop using the erase tool.
Zooming in allowed me to clearly see what I wanted to remove 
and what I needed to keep.
I also changed the size of my erase tool depending if I was working close 
to the figure or erasing the surrounding background.
I then cropped out all the extra areas including the title and saved my lady 
with transparent background as a PNG file

 I then added a background layer so I could do some fine tuning and get her just right.
This solid background will help me see any areas I missed and also where 
there might be some sharp corners or areas that are just not aesthetically appealing.

Once I was pleased with her appearance I removed the background layer 
and re-saved the PNG image with transparent background.

 This is a trick I recently learned from Gayle at PaperWhimsy.
Thanks Gale this Inverse trick has made colorizing images so much easier.

I started by using the Magic Wand tool and clicked on the transparent background.
This caused the "marching ants" to dance around between the figure and the edges.

 Next I chose Select - Inverse from the menu.
This caused the "marching ants" to only dance around the figure of the lady, providing a border 
so that when I add in my layers of color; the color does not run outside of those lines.

I still have to be careful coloring withing the image 
but I no longer have to worry about having stray color in the transparent areas.

 I add a new layer for each item I color and I title each layer with the portion of the 
image I'm coloring and also list the color key code I used.

Having a separate layer for each area being colored will allow for easy cleanup's 
and color changes at any time.

Listing the color code I used on that layer will allow me to know the exact 
color used should I need to make any corrections later on or if I want to 
use that exact color on another layer.
(I find this to be much more accurate that relying on the eyedropper tool 
if I need to make a correction later on)

I also find coloring in a darker color helps me to make sure I have full coverage everywhere
I need it, after I'm done with the layer I can adjust the color via the blending mode and opacity 
or I can change the entire color completely with a click or two and the paint bucket tool.

So here she is all colored in and pretty in pink.
Her skin tone is much lighter now that I've changed the Opacity to 51%

This screen shot shows all my colorized layers and having the name of what they colored 
and the exact color codes came in most handy several time since I would move on to another layer 
only to find out I missed a spot here or there and that I needed to erase this or that from another layer.

Also by keeping separate layers I am able to change the blending mode and opacity 
so that I can get the coloring effect and shade I'm looking for.

Examples of some of my color layers:

Eye Color is color code 448d0f 
blending mode is Overlay
Opacity is 100%

Hair Base Color is color code 90571a
blending mode is Multiply
Opacity is 55%

Hair Highlights is color code daab78
blending mode is Soft Light
Opacity is 75%

Bodice and Skirt are color code ad1360
blending mode is Soft Light
Opacity is 68%

Sleeves and Collar are color code fad6e8
blending mode is Multiply
Opacity is 42%

 These separate layers allow me to make quick and easy color changes going forward.
The trick is to remember to save my psd file and not accidentally trash it as I have done in the past.

To change a layer color all I need to do is:
select the layer -  find a new color - select the paint bucket tool 
and then click on that area of my project.

It only took a few clicks to change her eye color to blue.
If I wanted to keep this change I would also click on the opposite eye
and change the color code number on the layer description.


 So now that I have my fair maiden colored for a spring party 
I put the rest of the book cover together.

Rose Mat from the Old Mat 01 Sheet
Part of the PaperWhimsy Old books and Papers Collection
I removed the center of the frame, 
making it transparent, so it became a window for my other elements.

Pastel Buttercup Frame from the PaperWhimsy Elements Collection.

I cropped away the edges of this image and saved it as a new PNG file 
so that the inner portion of this image became a new frame.
This new inner portion of this fame became the outer frame of my project.

How I changed the color of the frame to work with my other elements:
  • I added a new layer, used the eyedropper tool on the Rose colored mat.        
  • I then applied that color via the paint bucket tool to the new layer.                
  • I clipped the new color layer to the frame via Layer - create Clipping Mask 
  • I changed the blending mode to Color and the Opacity stayed at 100%         

Damask 05 from the PaperWhimsy Background Colletion

This is the background wallpaper for this project.
I sized it down when I placed it behind the pretty lady and altered the color.
The color change was made by selecting the layer for this item.
Then from the main toolbar I selected 
Image - Adjustments - Hue/Saturation
I edited  Master with
Hue:  -5           
Saturation:  -75
Lightness:  +31
This changed the image to a nice soft rose color.

The Lady image is the Top layer in my layers pallet.
I lined up her bottom and side edge with the window cut out and
I sized the mat so her hat would overlap the left side.
This gave her the appearance of peeking out the window,
like my other cover girls.

 The final touch to this project was the drop shadows 
I added to each frame layer and for the image of the lady.  
This gave it that great dimensional effect Gale wrote about in her Stage Tutorial 
over on the PaperWhimsy blog section for March 20, 2011.


Many thanks to Gale and PaperWhimsy for inspiration and great digital images.

I hope you have enjoyed my continuing Photoshop create Quest.
Please drop back in again and fell free to leave me a note if you are liking what you see 
or if there is something more you would like to know about a previous post.  

As always...

 Grins and Giggles,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

County Lass in Blue - Book Cover Art with PaperWhimsy Products

I had so much fun with my last Book Cover Art project that I decided to make another one.
I searched my PaperWhimsy stash of images and came up with this nostalgic spring scene.
I love the way it looks like a fancy cover for an old fashion book.

Country Lass in Blue by EKDuncan

As always there are several ways to create and alter digital art projects.  
I'm learning Photoshop so it is currently my toolbox of choice for crating digitally. 
So far it has been a great adventure and I'm glad I've finally decided to
put some time and effort into learning how to use it.  
I still have a long way to go; however creating fun pieces like this one keeps me in the game.

I used 4 digital images from PaperWhimsy to create this whimsical piece of Book Cover Art.

These are the PaperWhimsy Images used in my project.
All the images came from the 

The Maiden 03 - from PaperWhimsy's Beautiful Faces Collection
I started with this great Victorian image of a country lass.
In Photoshop I removed the background and colorized her.

I did this by creating a separate layer for each part of her I colored.  
There is a layer to color her skin, another for her hair, another for her scarf...
and on and on till I had every part of her colored the way I wanted.

Keeping a separate layer for each element will allow me to easily change 
her colors later down the line should I want to give her a different look.

As I created each coloring layer, I named it with the part of her I was coloring and the color code I used to color that layer.  This allowed me to have an easy reference for what layer I was working on and so I would know the exact color for that layer.  It's just a handy trick that helps me keep things straight when I'm working.

The Country 03 - from PaperWhimsy's Beautiful Places Collection
 The right hand portion of this scene became the background of my project.  
I did a super fast coloring job on it by added a gradient overlay layer in Photoshop.

Starburst 02 - from PaperWhimsy's Background Collection.
I added this starburst pattern as a layer over my scenic background.
I changed the Blending Mode for this layer from Normal to Darken 
and brought down the opacity to 44%

I then added a new layer and brushed in some light blue in the sky area.
The Blending Mode was changed to Multiply and the Opacity to 67%

Pastel Frame 01 - from the PaperWhimsy Elements Collection
This great frame was used to finish off my Book Cover Art project.
I adjusted the sizing a bit via the Edit - Free Transform Mode in Photoshop.
I also changed the color a bit to match my Country Lass via:
Adjustment Layer - Selective Color
I changed the Greens to be
Cyan  +95
Magenta  +45
Yellow  -46
Black  0
Method - Absolute
This changed my frame color to the grayish blue I wanted.

Finally I used the burn tool to darken the edges of the entire frame.

 The finished project

In putting it all together I decided I wanted the girls arms outside of the frame 
so she is the top layer and then I erased out any part of her skirt that stuck
out over the frames edges.  
This gave the illusion as if she was standing behind the frame with just her arms poking through.

Drop Shadows were added to the Country Lass and the frame 
to give the piece a more dimensional feel.


How I was inspired

Both this and my previous Book Cover Art project were inspired by 
Gale of PaperWhimsy and her recent Stage Tutorial for this great scene.
This whimsical stage scene is by Gale of PaperWhimsy
 Gale's PaperWhimsy -  Stage Tutorial for this great composition can be seen HERE

A special thanks to Gale of PaperWhimsy for inspiring me to create 
my Book Cover Art projects based on her latest tutorial.

Click HERE to check out the great PaperWhimsy images and inspirational ideas.

Many Thanks to those who have dropped in to see what I've been up to!

Grins and Giggles, 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Framed Lady - Book Cover Art with a Shrine Art effect

I've created a fun piece of Book Cover Art thanks to the latest tutorial put out by Gale at PaperWhimsy. I love her use of Drop Shadows and how much dimension they add to a project.
Here is the PaperWhimsy project she inspired me to create.

This project has my lovely lady standing in a window as if she has just stepped off the dance floor and has been captured in time peering out of a book cover.  It's what I would call a mix of  Book Cover and Shrine Art combined.  It makes me want to pop in my Jane Eyre DVD, and I probably will.


In her latest PaperWhimsy newsletter (March 20, 2011) Gale showed how she created a great piece of stage art using PaperWhimsy products and Photoshop Elements.  I loved the drop shadow effect of her work so much I decided to give it a try too. I created my Book Cover Art in Photoshop based on those instructions and using similar PaperWhimsy items for a slightly different look.

Thanks of the inspiration Gale!

 Gale's PaperWhimsy Stage Tutorial for this great composition can be seen HERE
This was created by Gale at PaperWhimsy and is the inspiration of my latest project.
It's as if you are looking into a shadow box display and is so cool!


As always I'm tinkering around with digital products to give them a different look 
and this project was no different.  
I originally started this project using the PaperWhimsy products as they appear 
when you purchase them; but being new to Photoshop I like to try out new skills as I learn them 
and could not resist using a new clipping masking trick I recently learned.

 This is what my Book Cover Art looked like before 
I started my clipping mask alterations.

Then I decided I wanted a bit more zing and decided to use 
this great PaperWhimsy texture for a new look on the frame 
and all the architectural elements.
PaperWhimsy Texture 07

PaperWhimsy Hybrid Images - Digital Artists: Overlays & Textures -Texture 07 
There are many ways to alter items in Photoshop; 
this is just how I arrived at my end result.
I choose to make my changes through 
Layer - Create Clipping Mask as follows. 

This example shows how I altered the frame and architectural elements in Photoshop.  
I repeated this same process for every item layer I wanted changed and am only showing
one layer here for simplicity sake.

I started with the outer frame layer.
I then added the Texture layer over the frame.

I selected Layer - Create Clipping Mask
which cut the new layer to the form of the frame below it.

I changed the mode on the clipped layer from 
Normal to Color and adjusted the Opacity to 55%
This allowed the details of the frame under it to show through and 
gave me the color change I was looking for.
I repeated this process on the layers for the inner frame, floor and background.

 This was the finished project after all they "yellow" layers 
were transformed with the pink texture.
Here is a listing of all the PaperWhimsy Products 
I used to create my Book Cover Art project.

all the items I used came from the PaperWhimsy:

 Pastel Frame 08
I used only the outer portion of the frame for my project.

Background - Pastels Buttercup 02
This became the floor behind the lady in my project.

 I used the Photoshop function of 
Edit - Transform - Perspective 
to narrow the top portion of the background
Edit - Free Transform
to squish the image down and become a floor.

 PaperWhimsy Background - Pastels Buttercup 06
was the wall background behind my lady

Elements - Old books and Papers - Old Mat 01 Sheet
 I used the golden image as an inner frame and made the 
center transparent so my other images would show through.

Beautiful Faces - Singles - Genteel Lady 20 PNG
I made some color adjustments to her brooch, eyes and dress.
Also, to get her arms to appear on the outside of the frame I created a 
duplicate image and erased all the skirt area below her arms.  
The first image of the lady is in a layer behind the frames 
and the duplicate with only the arms and above is the top layer 
in the Photoshop project so her arms rest on the outside of the frame.

Originally when I started the project I had not added in the Drop Shadows 
since I wanted to get all the elements in place and then decide how much 
of a drop shadow I would want on all the various layers.

Here is what the project looked like without the Drop Shadows
It is a bit flat looking at this point. 
I also later removed the upper diamond pattern.

and here is the final version with the Drop Shadows.
The shadows give a lot of depth to the piece and create a great
Shrine Art effect.
For the Outer Frame I added a Drop Shadow of:
Blend Mode: Multiply
Opacity: 55%
Angle: 90 degrees
Distance: 5 px
Spread: 27%
Size: 128 px

For the Inner Frame I added a Drop Shadow of:
Blend Mode: Multiply
Opacity: 75%
Angle: 90 degrees
Distance: 6 px
Spread: 17%
Size: 73 px
For the Floor I added a Drop Shadow of:
Blend Mode: Multiply
Opacity: 75%
Angle: 90 degrees
Distance: 26 px
Spread: 20%
For the Lady with arms over the frame I added a Drop Shadow of:
Blend Mode: Multiply
Opacity: 75%
Angle: 90 degrees
Distance: 5 px
Spread: 0%
Size: 5 px
 I enjoyed playing with Clipping Masks and Drop Shadows in this project 
and definitely agree with Gale of PaperWhimsy that Drop Shadows add 
a lot of magic in a Photoshop project.


Many Thanks again to Gale of PaperWhimsy for inspiring me to create 
my Book Cover Art project based on her latest tutorial.

click HERE to see Gale's Photoshop Elements Tutorial
and click HERE to check out the great PaperWhimsy images and inspirational ideas.

Till next time...

Grins and Giggles,