Third Thursday Challenge: March
“A person might be able to play without being creative,
but he sure can’t be creative without playing.”
Kurt Hanks and Jay Parry
This month’s challenge delves into the post-processing world. Oh, yes – for me, any day spent playing with Photoshop is a good day indeed.
I know many of you do not have an interest in post-processing. But it has always been a key part of my photographic process, so I wanted to share with you my latest Photoshop experiments.
I tried my hand at two techniques: transforming my city scenes into graphic silhouettes and creating my own digital textures. The image above is a combination of both. Below is the starting point for this creation – a shot of the Pittsburgh skyline and an abstract macro:
Once I got started with the graphic silhouettes, I couldn’t stop. I now have a large collection of architectural images converted to black and white bitmaps. The process is fun and easy:
Graphic Silhouette – Photoshop CS6
- Increase the overall contrast – Image>Adjustments>Levels. Pull the black stopper to the right and the white stopper to the left, using the histogram as your guide. Adjust the midtones slider as desired. More detail can usually be retained by moving the mid-tones slider to the left, lightening the image.
- Image>Mode>Bitmap. Set the METHOD parameter to 50% Threshold and hit okay
- Use the History Panel to undo the previous two steps and repeat, using different settings in the Levels Adjustment if the desired look is not achieved
- Image>Mode>Grayscale. Click Okay
- Image>Mode>RGB Color. Click Okay
- Save the bitmap image to a new file name
Of course, this technique can be used with subjects other than architecture. Anything with a recognizable silhouette shape, such as a tree, a flower or a person, could be converted to a black and white bitmap image and combined with textures for a unique result.
As far as creating textures, the primary ingredient is a willingness to play. Generally, I begin with one of my abstract or texture photographs – such as a sandstone wall or stained concrete. I then make a copy of the background layer and convert the new layer to a Smart Object – working with Smart Objects provides the ability to adjust filter settings at any time. Then I begin applying Filters (Filter>Filter Gallery) – some of my favorites include Spatter, Underpainting and Ocean Ripple – stacking them in various arrangements, experimenting with the settings.
I often add other images on top, adjusting blend modes and opacity. A levels adjustment brightens a muddy or dull result. I always save as a Photoshop file (.psd) with the layers intact so I can make future changes. In order to use the finished result, I create a Stamped Merged layer (Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E) at the top of the layer stack – this single merged layer is then copied into the image to be textured.
There is no standard recipe for creating digital textures. Many of my experiments were duds. In some cases, I came up with an interesting result – but it didn’t work as a texture. But it was all part of learning and experimenting and exploring and, yes, playing.
And in the spirit of play, I want to offer you one of my textures, available for download here.
And now I turn it over to you – what is your challenge for the month? What are you exploring? Add your link below – you can join up through the end of the month. I can’t wait to see what you take on.
(Additional texture by Pixel Dust Photo Art – Vintage Craquelure)