Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grad Announcement Unmasked...

McKay's graduation announcements were mailed last Saturday.

Thanks for all the kind words about how they turned out. Obviously McKay was a fabulous model contributing significantly to the success of the project. Even so, there were several Photoshop techniques and other tricks I used in designing the layout which I will share here below.

The photo was one of over 250 taken in our living room on November 18, 2009 using our Canon Rebel XTI and a 50mm Canon fixed focal length lens. I opened the aperture to 1.8 giving me a very short depth of field which blurred everything behind her and gave nice "bokeh". She was sitting about 10 feet off the background on a metal outdoor chair. The backdrop was a piece of fabric I picked up in Portland last year.

The photo was originally tagged "reject" and was not edited for use as a senior portrait so it remained in the Adobe Camera RAW format. It was also not what I would consider "crisp" specifically because the eyes were not in focus. Still I loved the pose and I chose to use it in the announcement layout because I thought it could be "desaturated" nicely.

While still in the RAW format and still in color -- I imported it into CS3 and did the following retouches:

- removed stray hairs from her face- healed the lines and darkness from under her eyes
- removed blemishes (albeit there weren't many) from her face
- cloned out the stray hair going horizontal from her face to the left side

To whiten the eyes - I copied the original layer changing the blend mode to "Screen" which brightened the entire picture, then applied a mask to the entire thing (which covered all the brightening) and with a small soft brush and my Wacom, I painted back in only the whites of her eyes. I then lowered the opacity of that layer to about 40%.

To sharpen the eyes - I copied the original layer and applied the "unsharp filter" to the image and like before I applied a mask and using a small soft brush painted in the "sharpness" only on the eyes, lashes and brows. I reduced the opacity to 50%.

Next, I used the Nichole Van Essential Black and White Action Set/Dark Moody to turn the entire photo a rich black and white copy of the original. Because Nichole's Actions preserves the layers you can then tweak to your hearts desire any part of the process. I think I messed with the curves and maybe the brightness and contrast to minimize the mid tone grays.

I loved the background from the photo and wanted to use it as an accent on the announcement. Since it was too blurry I used another photo from the same session (where the background was in focus) to "extract" the pattern and set it up as a narrow ribbon.

Extraction is another discussion altogether. The individual images, once extracted are copied and pasted into a pattern.

The border consists of several layers which are shown here: (just a little digital cut and paste...) You can see the pattern formed from the extracted images above.

When I first learned how text can be manipulated it was one of the most confusing things ever. I had always just accepted text just like I typed it. This is how it looks straight off the keyboard.

But...if you "rasterize" the text you can add effects like drop shadow and bevel & embossing and you can do what is called "kerning" the text making it more visually appealing because you eliminate what's known as "dead space" that traps and holds your eyes. You can also select individual letters (like I did with the first letter "E") and increase or decrease their size. Here's what it looks like after rasterizing, kerning, drop shadow.

Her photo is set on a white background where a gradient is applied bleeding the photo to white. The black border is a digital image of a vintage frame I purchased some years ago from Maria Designs (for commercial use) and the brown layer below is created by using a style in Photoshop called "burned paper".

Finally her name was set on the diagonal to lead the eyes around the layout.
What I intended was to have your eyes first go to her eyes then to the quote then down and back over her name and back up to her face. For some reason -- diagonals are more visually pleasing.

And a nutshell is how I created this project.


Karl said...

I don't understand a single thing you just said.

Matheson Family said...

I'm with Karl, but the finished product is beautiful!

Karl said...

Brenda, pretty much everything after "Thanks" ... I'm totally lost. I never knew Italian could sound so much like English.