Photoshop Friday!

Welcome to another edition of Photoshop Friday! This week (and next week too) we’ll be focusing on WAYS to highlight focal points in your photos. This technique can be used in BOTH digi and paper pages, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

 DISCLAIMER: Sometimes my imagination gets away with me. Now that I’ve got it all down, this tutorial is probably for intermediate to advanced digi scrappers. If you’re just starting out, feel free to follow right along (in fact, that would be awesome) but when I get to the lecture-ey bit about layer masks, just skip that part. You’ll run across it later. And yes, I fully expect to receive a lot of email questions about this week’s technique. Fire away! :D

 Here’s my layout for this week (click for larger):
The Layout.

I created an overlay over the photo with a punched-out section to highlight Rowen’s truck.  This technique will work well  for a photo that has sort of a lot of background space. But you choose your photo. I trust ya.  :D

  1. So first off, create a new document. 12x12, 300 dpi, RGB color, white background.
  2. Open your photo.
  3. Do whatever preliminary editing you would like.
  4. I have chosen this photo here. 722646-443917-thumbnail.jpg I’ve already color-corrected it and cut a bit off of the left and right edges. I plan to expand this photo to fill a big vertical strip in the layout. So go ahead and open your photo and do the preliminary editing now.

    *NOTE* Normally I wouldn’t advocate working on an original photo. It’s just too darned easy to save over your original by accident and lose data. But in this case, for the ease of explanation in this technique, we’re going to do it. But please, please close this file without saving when you’re done with it, or save it off to a different file name. 

  5. Now sample from the photo the color that you would like the overlay to be. I will choose the blue from Rowen’s shirtsleeve. Make sure that your sampled color is your foreground color.
  6. Now go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color.
  7. Your screen will fill with your foreground color. And that’s ok.
  8. In your Layers palette, let’s select this solid color layer and move the opacity slider down to about 50%.

    Now we need to punch out a shape right around our focal point. Mine will be the little tractor down in the bottom right corner there.

    Intro to Adjustment Layers 

    Now, if we were working on a layer we had filled with the paint bucket, we could just draw a circle marquee and erase that and be done. But the blue layer we added onto our photo is called an Adjustment Layer, which is a very special layer type. It functions just like a layer mask, which means that it only accepts the values of black, white and shades of grey.

    So if you want to make parts of the layer invisible, you don’t erase it, you paint it with black.

    Here’s a little rhyme for use with layer masks:

    “White reveals, black conceals.”

    Cool. :D Now you can sing that to your kids when they go to bed at night. And they’ll all think you’re crazy, but only WE will know that you aren’t.. you’re just SMART.


    What we need to do is REVEAL the little tractor. What color would we paint on our adjustment layer (layer mask) to do this?

    If you said black, go grab a cookie because YOU ROCK.

    Okay, back?

    Adjustment Layer with Mask

  1. Now look over in the Layers palette. You’ll see a colored square, and then a little link icon, and then a white rectangle. This means that a Layer Mask has been placed on this particular layer. Select the white rectangle (NOT the blue square) in that layer, we can paint out (mask out) parts of this overlay layer and reveal our little tractor underneath.

  2. Let’s grab our Elliptical marquee tool.


  3. While holding shift, draw a circle around the focal point in your photo. Over in your Toolbar, you should see a foreground color of black and a background color of white (or foreground white and background black). Photoshop knows that you’ve targeted a layer mask and proceeds to give you the two most common options for painting on that layer. Smart Photoshop. :) (If white is the foreground, just hit x to switch foreground and background.)
  4. Now go to Edit > Fill. Choose Foreground from the dropdown list and hit OK. You should see the overlay layer disappear, revealing the photo underneath. NEAT!

Don’t deselect that circle selection just yet. We’re going to need it in a second.  But first, I need to step up to the ol’ podium and explain a little s


Benefits of Layer Masks and Nondestructive Editing 

So what makes this so much cooler than just filling a rectangle and bamming out a circle with the eraser? Well, the main reason is that by using an adjustment layer (layer mask), we haven’t actually thrown any pixels away. So, for example, if you  aren’t happy with the way your circle looks, or decide you’d rather have a square or an octagon, you can re-fill the mask with white and try it again. With a filled layer? You’d have to throw it away and start all over. This is an important Photoshop concept called Nondestructive Editing. I’m a big fan of it because it saves a lot of work and hassle in the long run. The general philosophy is to look for ways to HIDE the data rather than to throw it away. Watch for ways to use layer masks rather than the eraser tool. That way if you need to change things you aren’t backpedaling, or worse, staring all the way over.


 Okay. Let’s keep going with this image.

Stroke a Frame with the Selection 

You should still  have that circle selected. Still got it? We want to create a little outline around this, to kind of frame it and help it stand out more. And it’s always better to use an existing selection than to try to re-draw a selection and not get it exact.

  1. Let’s create a new layer. Ctrl-Shift-n or the New Layer button in the layers palette.
  2. Now go to Edit > Stroke.
  3. Set the stroke to 10 px, white, outside. Hit OK.

So you should have roughly this:

Image overlay with stroked outline

Now it’s time to flatten this image and drag it onto our blank layout canvas that’s watiting for us.

Go to Layer > Flatten Image.

The reason you need to flatten this? The way an adjustment layer, like we’ve added, works - is that it makes an adjustment to everything below it. So if we simply link these layers together and drag them onto our layout, everything (like the patterned paper background, etc.) will be tinted this same color. So just leave this photo open to come make tweaks if you need to.

Drag the flattened image over to the layout.

Now you can scale this image and put it where you’d like it, and make your layout around it. Here again, is the layout I ended up with.  I used the following:

The Layout (Again)

Next week we’ll step up this technique by adding in a bit of digital patterned paper to the cutout selection. Gettin seriously crazy.

And for some additonal ideas, try something like this:

  • This is an especially good time to practice writing text over the top of this photo. In fact, the need to add text directly TO a photo is a perfect reason to create an overlay like this.
  • Try creating an overlay that covers just a bit of the photo (using black-filled marquee shapes on your layer mask to mask out everything but the strip you want to show), and write your title over it.
  • Create this overlay, print the photo out, and then extend the “color scheme” using cardstock. I did that in this layout, using Maya Road chipboard, a little MME paper, K&Co paper and chipboard, Technique Tuesday functuation stamps:
Overlay extended with cardstoc







Happy Photoshop Friday! Don’t forget to link me up when you use this technique! I can’t wait to see! :D