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Carol Tipping

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Published in Digital Photo User magazine - on September 26th.

Making a multi-layered image, using photos, painting and Blending Modes.

You can build up a picture from as many layers as you want - as many as your computer's memory can cope with! This picture, which will have over 30 layers of photographs and painting, will have the appearance and atmosphere of a Victorian Pre-Raphaelite painting, using present day photographs.



1.Choose a background for the picture. If, like this one, the subject is architectural, you may have to use the Edit... Transform...Perspective. command - to straighten up the verticals. It is a good idea to have a rough plan of the finished picture so that you can choose your photographs from stock, or take new ones especially for the picture. If you want to use an artist's painting for inspiration, this is fine, because it gives you a pre-ordained structure but the components of the picture must be photographed by you. (It is NOT a good idea to scan any part of another person's artwork without permission, because of copyright.)

2. Make a loose selection of a figure, using the Lasso Tool and super-impose, as a layer, on to the background. In the Layers Palette, select Normal blending mode. When making very loose selections, it is easy to clean up the edges by going to Layers.Add Layer Mask.. Reveal All. Now take the paintbrush, and paint around the edges of your selection, which you will see disappearing. If you paint out too much, you can use the keyboard command "X" and paint the edges back in again. Toggle "X" and paint more background and so on. Thus, using also a bit of magnification, it is easy to get a perfect selection.

3. You can make a background sky by cloning across from another photograph of a better-defined sky on to a new layer and erasing the edges to fit the background. You also may have to Edit.Transform.Scale the new sky to fit the picture.

Select a portrait photograph and drag it over the main image to become another layer. In order to see the layer below, make this layer 50% opacity in Normal blending mode and then make the new layer fit as exactly as possible - using Edit.Transform.Free Transform.

4. This new layer is now put back to 100% opacity and applied in Multiply blending mode. You can choose either the Normal blending mode, at a reduced opacity, so that you can see the best fit - or keep the opacity at 100% and use the Difference blending mode, which shows up the areas which are out of alignment. In this particular case, the portrait photograph is not a perfect fit with the background figure, it is therefore preferable to use the reduced opacity to place the layer and then change it to Multiply blending mode. Use the Eraser tool to take out any parts of this layer that you do not want. Already, the image is beginning to have depth and is ready for the application of paint - using Photoshop or Painter Classic/Painter 7. Flatten the image. (Make sure you save the image with layers intact before you flatten.) If you have a Graphics tablet you will find the next step, of painting, much easier because it will flow more naturally.

5. You CAN use brushes in Photoshop for the painting - but in Painter Classic/Painter 7 it is possible to make more realistic painting effects, which can then be saved as jpegs, brought back into Photoshop and added to the picture as new layers. The painted layer can be further manipulated in Photoshop by using the command Edit.Transform. Free Transform to make it FIT the photograph. Save the flattened picture, then open it in Painter. It is much easier to work on a small area at a time because you can see what you are doing. Even at a screen resolution of 1024 x 768, there are so many drop-down menus in Painter's interface that the painting space is very limited. Use the Graphic Paintbrush and choose colours, which will give the image the warmth and richness of an iconic painting. You can repeat this process, of adding a layer, flattening, saving and painting. This is now the third layer of painting - each previous painting session having been saved, opened in Photoshop and added as a layer in Multiply blending mode to the master image.

6. Open a new photograph, and select, in turn, two more faces and drag them over the main image as separate layers, using Normal blending mode. It is necessary to use the command Edit.Free Transform at this point to re-scale and rotate the selected faces to fit the image. Make a Duplicate layer-Layers.Duplicate Layer. of each face and save in Hard Light blending mode because this mode gives the desired effect of the faces being under a spotlight. Once again, selections are completely rough and random and painting the rough edges blends them in smoothly..

7. A great way to make the hands, in various dramatic poses, is to photograph your own in a mirror using a digital camera, selecting and applying, as layers, over your image. In most cases you can get a perfect pose but if not you can use bits from one photo and take other bits from other photos! This is the bonus of having a digital camera. You are never short of a model. The facility in Photoshop, to Edit and Transform is absolutely necessary for work like this.

8. In a similar way to steps 1, 2 and 3, use other photographs and drag selections across to the main image. Sometimes a selection does not look as though it is an integral part of the image! After editing and transforming the selection to fit, if it still does not "blend" you can try making duplicate layers and applying them firstly, in Normal blending mode, then pressing the "Down" arrow key to see the effect of each blending mode in turn. Another layer of painting will also help in the blending process.

9. For the composition of the picture it is sometimes necessary to rotate, or flip a photograph so that it faces the other way. For this, use Image.Rotate.Flip Horizontal. If you have had to do this process, when prompted to save the original, press "Don't Save!" Flatten the image and Save for painting.

10. Keep on adding layers until the desired effect is achieved. Painting can be applied at the end of each layer addition or whenever you like. The build-up of layers, duplicate layers and painted layers can make a very large file. If you find that your computer is going slow because of available RAM, you can go to the Layers palette at any time and click on the "Eye" icons at the left of each layer. (This switches the layer on and off.) Show only the layers with which you are happy and go Layer.. Merge Visible. This will flatten only the layers, which you have selected, bringing down the file size when you come to save it.

11. The finished image should ideally be saved with its layers intact in case you want to make changes at a later date. There is nothing more frustrating than deciding that a certain element should come out of the picture and you have flattened it! Try duplicating every layer you have made - Layers.Duplicate Layer. and look at the effects of changing the Blending Modes for these new layers. Each time you add, or duplicate a layer, you can change the whole mood of the image. If you remember to use the "Down" arrow key, to toggle through the Blending Modes, you will become accustomed to their effects. Experiment, and you will probably find that you save many different versions of the image, which will be tried and tested at the printing stage!

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