Category: Creative images

Emigre and halftones: exploring Photoshop

I’m Ethan Nunn, a first-year student on the BA Graphic Communication course hear at Reading. As part of our TY1 SK module, we were asked to reflect on one of our self-selected tasks we’ve been working on for the last few weeks; I have chosen to write about what I’ve learnt about Photoshop, especially in developing creative images.

I’m unfamiliar generally with developing creative images; I see myself predominately as someone who uses such images, not create them. Thus, my knowledge of Photoshop’s more creative features is lacking substantially. This week, I’ve chosen to start correcting this, to develop a breadth of knowledge across all of graphic communication.

Design ideas and design process

In this task, I had to develop three different designs – they’re shown below. In this article, though, I’ll be dealing with only one – design idea 3.

  • Design Idea 1 was used to develop skills related to curves and image editing generally, with a specific focus on colour in images.
  • Design Idea 2 was used to develop skills related to Photoshop’s Patterns feature, and also to develop skills related to Smart Objects and Filters.
  • Design Idea 3 was this design idea, and will be spoken about at more length in this article.

I’ve selected Design Idea 3 as the focus of this article as it contains by far the most interesting inspiration and goals besides technical improvement in Photoshop. Read on!

Design idea 3: Inspiration

To begin with, let’s talk about inspiration. I was inspired predominately by a YouTube video I’ve recently watched – Dots by Posy, available here here on Below are a few stills that served as particular inspiration, from the same video:

I was also inspired, for this task, by a love of magazines, especially Emigre. The Emigre magazine was published between 1984 and 2005, and was known for its incredibly adventurous design, as well as its more nuanced debate around the interaction between writer and designer. One of our tutors, Eric Kindel, wrote an introduction to a the magazine and the discourse surrounding it in 2017 to promote the Department’s then-running exhibition – it’s well worth a read.

Specifically with Emigre, I was inspired by the enormous blocks of both type and graphic that drew attention to the chaos of the page layout. The rectangular blocks, however, still succeed in bringing some hierarchy to the page: clearly there is a grid involved somewhere, and across pages articles generally remain in the same place and in the same type.

Page 6 of issue 11 of Emigre magazine (actual page number 8), showing clearly large blocks of type and graphic “getting in the way” of reading the numerous articles printed on the page.

[Publishing information: Berkeley, Emigre Graphics, 1989; image credit: Letterform Archive.]

I set about designing an image that adopted the same principle of Emigre in that the work of the designer is above – not below – the content that it works with, but in a pictorial sense. I also wanted to include some referencing to colour halftones.

Design idea 3: Process and tutorials

I started out by assessing which photograph I wanted to use. Eventually I settled on this photograph that I had taken over the winter break of Balfron Tower, located in Tower Hamlets, London, showing detail of its lift shaft. I liked particularly its perspective and colour palette, which is typical of a building in the brutalist style.

Balfron Tower lift shaft, London
My original picture, showing the top of the lift shaft of Balfron Tower, London

I then considered how I – as the “designer” – could become more involved in the photograph. I firstly considered cutting out the photograph using Select and Mask. I used this tutorial to remove the background of the photograph.

A screenshot of Adobe Photoshop with the Select and Mask workspace active
The process of using the Select and Mask tool to remove the blue background

But although this was the most obvious tool, it did not really inspire me – maybe because the background gave the photograph that rectangular framing that used to such a great (and successful) extent in Emigre. In addition, the magazine did unexpected things; removing the background was expected.

Reconsidering it, I came to an understanding – via its brutalist architecture, Balfron Tower represents equality – each floor is laid out the same, and the exterior finishing is the same across every storey – yellow-grey stonework. I thought, therefore, that it might be interesting – and unexpected – to undo the removal of the background and select the only thing in the photograph that isn’t the same – the lift machinery at the top.

To select this part of the building, I used an entirely new tool – the Quick Selection tool (specifically, Marquee Quick Select), using another tutorial I found online. Dragging a rectangle shape over the lift machinery was a simple-enough operation – more difficult was the operation of refining the selection, which I needed to do with the brush tool.

A screenshot of Adobe Photoshop, using the Quick Select tool.
Using the Quick Select tool in Photoshop.

I then created a new colour fill layer and set the layer blend to Darken, after reading article on using blending modes. I was extremely happy with this result. Although I experimented with other colours, in the end I chose a full red: the contrast against the sky worked particularly well to create discomfort in the viewer and achieve the aim of not meeting users’ expectations.

The colour fill being applied to the mask made from the selection; layer blending mode: Darken.

It was time now to insert the colour halftone layer. On the day of designing this poster, I had come across an extremely large billboard; approaching it at a human scale allowed me to take a close-up image of the CMYK dots the printers there had used. I cropped, distorted and enlarged (all three activities being outside the scope for explaining in this blog post) such that I had the following image:

Halftone dots on a billboard
The overlay image source, cropped and edited for exactly this task.
Screenshot of the Layers panel in Photoshop
The final layer tree for the file.

Applying it to the image that I had achieved an incredibly effective result, and resizing and moving the image, as well as setting the blending mode to pass through, yielded the final design idea, which I was extremely happy with.

A recoloured, retextured image of the lift machinery at Balfron Tower, London, with a CMYK "dots" overlay
The final design idea for this task. I believe it hits my aims reasonably well, but the colour halftone perhaps overly takes over the image and excessively removes the users’ understanding.

Reflecting on the design process and my knowledge of Photoshop

My knowledge of Photoshop has definitely increased since I started this task, and I suppose that the idea of going against the norm – through the inspiration provided to me with the Emigre magazine – helped that pheonomenally. I explored masking, selection tools and different types of fills; and perhaps, to me, the most confusing part of Photoshop – blending layer modes – is finally figured out.

Whilst I am happy with the final outcome, and have technically learnt lots, I am unhappy that the dots from the halftone effect perhaps excessively remove understanding from the user. It is a fine balance when positioning oneself as the middle person between the author and user, and here I feel as though I got somewhat carried away in the design I lost sight of the user, who may not even be able to understand that a tower block is being illustrated.

With that all said, my decisions were guided by my inspiration, and it cannot really be argued that Emigre represents the very best of layout and accessibility – indeed, its purpose is to not do this. In this way, my image does work. The likelihood of me using this same graphic style again is limited, but the tools I have learnt will be exceptionally useful as I traverse the world of Graphic Communication.

To develop my skills further, I could take a look at LinkedIn Learning or another online learning platform – but what works for me generally is trawling through the menus of an unfamiliar application and finding out what it can do from that. Now, just to find the time to do just that!

Exploring filters in Photoshop

Design ideas and design processes

For the ‘Editing Images’ task, we had to make a change to an image. This included, but was not limited to, changing the colour of a part of a photo, lightening or darkening an image, or removal of objects from the background of an image.


Idea one

For my first idea, I chose to add the effects of noise and threshold. This effect is quite popular on media such as recreations of vintage horror posters and album cover art, so I decided to give it a go myself. For this image, I added noise through the camera raw filter instead of the filter gallery. This is because the grain on the camera raw filter is more precise and allows the user to adjust the amount of noise they want. I then applied threshold and adjusted it accordingly so that the background and foreground did not blend into each other. The background was fairly dark apart from a couple of bright stage lights, meaning that it was not difficult to get the balance right.  I wanted to add some colour to this rather than leaving it black and white, so I added a blue rectangle that covered the entire image on a layer on top of everything else. To apply this colour to the black parts of the image, I set the blending mode of this layer to screen.

Adding grain to 83 through the camera raw filter.
Adding threshold to the image in order to create a more distressed effect.
Adding a blue rectangle on a top layer, this will be my colour to replace the black.
Setting the blending mode of the layer to screen, this applied to colour.
Final product


Idea two

For idea number two, I experimented with gradient maps. I chose an image that I knew I could incorporate a lot of bright and colours with high contrast into. Going into gradient map automatically inputs one black and one white handle at either end of the gradient bar. I added more so I can add more colours into my gradient map. I chose vibrant colours that make the image look clearly distorted and more interesting. I then wanted to add texture to this image, so I added grain through the camera raw filter and a paper texture I found online on top. For the paper texture layer, I changed the blending mode to screen in order for the texture to be applied to the image. I also changed the opacity of this layer to 28% to avoid it being too overpowering. This is my favourite outcome from this task, as it is very visually interesting and eye catching.

Adding more handles to my gradient map.
Adding my chosen colours for the gradient map.
Going to camera raw filter, I added grain of size 36.
Changing the blending mode and opacity of the paper texture layer.
Final product.


Idea three

For the third idea, I created a duotone image. This involved working with channels, which I hadn’t done prior to this. Before starting the duotone, I adjusted the image using curves to increase the contrast of the image. I did this in order to get an effective final result that provides high contrast between the two colours. After doing this, I navigated to the channels and selected the RGB channel that provides the most contrast. In this case, it was green. I made the green channel a selection by clicking on the dotted circle icon at the bottom and pasted it on top of the background layer as a solid colour. This solid colour would be the highlights, so I chose a light blue. I then selected the background and made it a solid colour which would be the shadows, for which I chose black.

Adjusting the curves of the image to create a high contrast.
Selecting the green RGB channel.
Pasting the green channel on top of the background as a solid colour and choosing a light blue for the highlights.
Repeating the previous process with the background, I chose black for the shadows.
Final product.


Software tutorials

I did not know much about working with channels and how to create duotone images. I used a tutorial ( to help me with this. It gave me an understanding of RGB channels and when to use each channel to achieve different effects. I learnt that in order to create an effective duotone image, the channel with the highest amount of contrast should be selected. To create less visually intense duotone images, channels that provide less contrast should be selected.

To create the gradient map, I followed a YouTube tutorial ( in order to achieve this effect. As I was new to this, I chose a tutorial that used vibrant colours rather than trying to piece different colours together myself. This was so I could get a basic understanding of gradient maps before personalising them completely. This video taught me that gradient maps are quite customisable, as extra handles can be added in places of the user’s choice.


Design resources and articles

Finding inspiration for this task was not difficult, as I took inspiration from images that I commonly see on social media. The work of Jesse Nyberg ( features effects I attempted to recreate such as using noise and threshold. He also utilises gradient maps in his work, that mainly consists of posters. Looking at his work helped me develop my design ideas as it gave me an idea as to how to make my work look appealing. For example, I knew when to stop adding noise in order to make it look not too overbearing, and I chose colours in my gradient map and duotone image that were cohesive.

An article I found ( gave me further understanding into the threshold tool and included links to useful videos.


Learning throughout the module

Throughout this module, I have learnt a lot of new skills. During the first term, I developed basic skills in Photoshop, Indesign, and Illustrator. This was useful as I had no prior experience of using Adobe apps. I learnt how to work with adjustment layers and the filter gallery in Photoshop, along with learning how to deal with paragraph and character styles in Indesign. In Illustrator, I learnt how to manipulate type into shapes. During the second term, I used After effects for the first time. This was challenging but I learnt the basics of the app such as how to use graphs and add effects to texts such as glow. I also became more familiar with different Photoshop tools such as masks, channels, and how to use the pen tool to cut out images. In Illustrator, I learnt how to manipulate type itself rather than morph it into different shapes.


Creative Images – Photoshop

This term, we have undertaken various tasks that have allowed me to improve my skills in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and AfterEffects. The task that I enjoyed the most during this term was the Photoshop Creative Images task. I created three images that I am happy with.



For my first idea, I wanted to create an image that altered reality so I chose to manipulate an image of a man floating through space. To start to design process, I browsed for stock images on Pixabey and found one of a man that looked like he is ‘floating’, and one of the stars that I could use as the background. I removed the man from the background of the original image by using the pen tool to create an outline around the figure. By selecting a new layer via cut, I removed him from the background and deleted the layer that i didn’t need. I then brought the images of the stars into photoshop and placed this layer underneath the figure. I then adjusted the brightness, contrast, and saturation of the images to make them look more authentic, and work in harmony with each other.




The second image I chose was of a woman’s face submerged by water and flowers. The effect that I wanted to achieve was flowers covering one-half of her face. To achieve this effect, I used layer masks and the brush tool to make a ‘shadow’. Firstly, I created a new layer mask and selected the part of her face that I wanted to remove. I then imported a picture of flowers and placed it underneath the existing layer so that you could see the flowers through her face. I used the selection tool to scale and position the flowers to fit the image and adjusted the existing layer mask, using the black and white brushes. I wanted to manipulate the image to make it look like the flowers were on top of the water and her lips were overlapping the flowers. I found it difficult at first but managed to get the hang of it after some time (and some tutorials). When I got to a point where I was happy with the mask, I tried to make the flowers look more realistic by adding a shadow. To achieve this,  I used the black brush tool at a large size and 0% hardness to recreate a shadow around the flowers.




This design was my favourite that I created during the task. My idea for this image was to create a feeling of movement within an image. This was heavily influenced by Şakir Yildirim’s image called ‘crawler’. However, I did not follow the exact technique he uses to create his images. To make this image, I found a picture of a boy walking from a side-on perspective and imported it into photoshop. I then used the direct selection tool to copy his figure into a new layer and duplicate this layer many times and positioned them in such a way to look like the boy is walking from one position to the other. I kept one of these separate and placed it in the middle, and grouped the rest of them together. I merged these layers together and used the ‘motion blur’ filter to blur the figures, and did the same thing with the figure in the middle but made him less blurred to make it look like he was coming ‘back to life’, or transforming from one figure to another. the final figure on the far left and right I kept as normal but used the blur tool to blur the edges. This made the figure blend in more with the background ensuring that it didn’t look cut out of the image.



I found the tutorials provided to us helpful to get started with this task. They refreshed my memory and I found it useful to focus on layer masks and using nondestructive techniques in my work.  Using these techniques made it so much easier to go back on my design choices, and saved me from having to start all over again if I changed my mind. I often find that watching tutorials before taking on a task actually helps with my idea generation itself, and inspires me to get started.

I found the following tutorials particularly useful when working in Photoshop for this task. When using the tutorials, I tried not to follow them exactly but used them to get a rough idea of how to achieve an effect, and tried to find my own way of working. Each of these tutorials provided me with a better understanding of how tools within Photoshop work and inspired me to use Photoshop in different ways.


This tutorial on creating shadows in Photoshop came in helpful for my second design with the flowers to replicate the effect of a shadow. I used this in an attempt to make my image look more ‘real’ so  I tried to follow the way light would naturally behave in real life. This tutorial inspired me to think about the perspective of light, and the depth of the image while I was editing. The tutorial covers how to create shadows on different surfaces. he uses the brush tool at 0 hardness, which is the technique is the technique I used in my own work. He also goes over how to create shadows for a curved surface, and more complex objects, which I didn’t need for this task in particular but will come in helpful in the future.


This tutorial helped me to grasp a better understanding of layer masks in photoshop and how to work with two images, one on top of the other. During the tutorial, she used the pen tool to create a stroke to select the parts of the original image that she wanted to remove, and uses the bevel and emboss layer style to make the cut outs look more 3D. she uses a layer mask to remove parts of the existing image to make the flowers appear on top of the face, giving a realistic effect. This tutorial was helpful to figure out how to make the flowers in my own design overlap with the face of the image.




This tutorial introduced me to the motion blur effect in photoshop, one that I wasn’t already familiar with. I found that it was a really simple and easy way to introduce a sense of speed/ movement in my own image which was precisely the effect that I wanted to achieve. It also helped me with using layer masks, cutting out objects with the quick selection tool.


The second image that I worked on for this task was inspired by the album art for Shawn Mendes’ album cover. I really love this album cover and wanted to create an image with the same sort of feeling. I wanted to edit an image that inspired by, but not a direct copy of the original. I used an image of a woman rather than a man, and only including half of her face instead of placing one half on top of the flowers.

There is a collage artist called Marcelo Monreal who also creates similar portraits, of people and flowers which also heavily influenced this design. I find that his work very appealing aesthetically but also in the way it makes me feel. His portrait creates this feeling of contentedness that implies the subject is at one with nature, which is how I would like to think my image would create too.  You can find some of Monreal’s work here

My third design was inspired by the work of Şakir Yildirim. In particular, the portraits created using the liquify tool in Photoshop. Looking at his work inspired me to introduce a sense of movement, or duplication into my design. Yildirim’s work, specifically in ‘crawler’, creates a sense of motion, or almost a sense of transformation depending on how you interpret it. I find it fascinating that you can capture, or manipulate this very real sensation within a 2D image, which is the idea behind my third and final design for this task. You can have a look at Yildirim’s work here and find out how he uses Photoshop to achieve his portraits here

Overall, I really enjoyed this task. I have been able to improve both my skills and confidence with using Photoshop while creating some fun images that I am quite proud of.





Creative Images in Photoshop

Design ideas and design process:

All photoshop designs here included my own photography, the first 2 being of my dogs. In the first one, I isolated him from the background and used a series of brushes to create an ink splatter effect to show off his colours well. Using the eyedropper tool, I could select the same colour as his fur and would create brush strokes behind him. To get rid of any solid outlines I then applied a layer over the top of him, less intense so that all his details could still be seen, yet he is absorbed into all the ink. This made use of his natural colour tones and exaggerated them as much as I could. Alternately for my second design, and other dog, I went for a more cartoony feel, with a pop art aesthetic, steering away from the more complicated aesthetic from the former and favouring bright vibrancy. It feels blockier and more fun, yet I favoured the image resembling more of the original photo, the first design. Therefore, for the final design, I took what worked best in the former two and applied it to my photo of people this time. Using ink splatter to exaggerate the colours of hair, skin and clothes, with a pop art overlay. I feel the transition between realism worked more seamlessly here than in the second design as it blends with colour more effectively due to how intense the presence of the ink is. The focus on the people aids this greatly as the colour and ink flow around the image in a natural way for the audience to follow with their eyes.


 Designs 1-3


The first image shows the underlying layers of ink brushes and the second shows how awkward the image looked awkward when there was no overlaying ink , as to why i added this later on.


The first image shows the early design process when i realised that the pop art effect didn’t work so well on its ownand the second is where I attempted to add no detail to add to a comic tone but decided against it.

The first image shows all the underlying ink layers without the figures with the second showing the figures with just the smoke which  inspired me to consume them in it as it flowed well.


Software tutorials

The main assets I used here on Photoshop are the brush and eyedropper tool. This allowed me to colour pick the exact colours of elements of the photos so when painted on top of or behind there is a seamless transition. This also worked for colouring the brush the same colour as the background so there were no harsh lines or clear transitions, it all blends into one. This worked for both the first and final designs to great success. This was especially amplified by increasing the vibrancy of the images so that the colours really popped out and became the main features of the original photos;

This is the tutorial I watched by Hass Hasib as the main tutorial in my design, showing how he used brushes in creative ways, something I then wanted to emulate in my own work with my own images.  In the second and third design I also made the images look cartoony by altering layer styles, filters and colour to my advantage as well as learning about colour halftone on Photoshop with Blue Lightning TV Photoshops tutorial;

These 2 major stylistic choices are not usually presented simultaneously, therefore, that Is more of a reason why I wanted to combine the two, taking what worked and abusing it to extreme effects with very harsh outlines and thick strokes as well as vibrant and loud colour brush effects that amplify and flood the image. These skills I had never dabbled in before and by revisiting both of them in the final design worked as a kind of test to me to see how to apply what I had learnt in the tutorials without external assistance the second time around, to, what I think, was a success.


Resources for research and inspiration

After seeing the first tutorial mentioned above by Hass Hasib, I searched for similar looking final designs using the splash dispersion ink effect such as this one;

Although I did not watch the technical elements of this video, I liked how the final image uses colour so violently, in the audience’s face, bringing so much character and excitement. This is a photo where the figure Is moving so it inspired to see if I could bring so much diversity to a stationary image of my dog who has very neutral colours, brown, blacks and whites as opposed to the red and blues present here to see what works well and do the opposite despite the fact to see if I could achieve just as effective results. It became more inspiring when designing the 3rd creative image as here there was much more colour on show I could exploit, make sharper and channel this concept more thoroughly in a playful way as opposed to the more mature and reserved approach I took with the first dog design. For the second design, although not looking very similar, one of my main influences after watching the tutorial was the loading screens for the video game Grand Theft Auto V which present the main characters in a comic pop art version of themselves, still realistic but with more pronunciation on strokes. This Is an approach I took with my second dog, to keep the details but reduce the image to a comic from with bold pronunciation;

I decided to stray away from the more realistic GTA V aesthetic, applying colour halftone pixels with 6 pixel radius creating marks as if the image is printed on old printers like classic comics and 80s pop art.










Creative Images through Layer Masking

Design ideas and design process

Final Design 1

Combine black and white with colour

The idea behind design 1 as a final design is that it shows one of the new skills I learnt for this task. This was my first attempt at working with layer masks and I can now say that I have a better understanding of them after carrying out this design. I feel that this design shows that I understand how to use layer masks to design a creative photo.


Final Design 2

Changing the image in the background

I have chosen design 2 as a final design as it shows another one of my new skills I have learnt from a tutorial. Whilst also pushing my experiments with layer mask; by using layer masks in a different way to the previous design. I am happy with how this design turned out, and feel that I am getting the hang of layer masks and will start to use them more in the future. As they are a really useful tool. I also feel I now know how to better manipulate images by merging two together. As previously when I have tried to get an outcome similar to this it has looked messy, But then again I did not use layer masks before.


Final Design 3

Dripping & Splatter effect

For my last design I wanted to experiment with layer masks to create a dripping / splatter effect. I found this hard to do with one of my own photographs as I have never done this before and I struggled to find a simple picture that was right for this. So I decided to download the file provided for one of the tutorials. I chose this design as one of my final designs as I feel that I am starting to master layer masks and because of this, I was able to create an image with dripping and splatter effects. Also this designs shows a different experiment to my previous ones.

original photo

For my final design I was set to try and experiment with dripping and splatter effect created through layer masks. I watched a couple tutorials on this but I felt I hadn’t quite found the right one to follow yet. I used my last tutorial and downloaded their files to follow their tutorial. I was going to use my own images to follow the them but I found this very hard to do, as I wasn’t sure on how to do it still. So I decided to use their images they provided.

Quick selection tool

I started off by using the quick selection tool to select the girl in the photo, I then added a layer mask to get rid of the background in the image. I duplicated this layer but made one invisibly.

Dripping layer

My next step was adding the dripping image provided onto my art board. I used the magic eraser tool to get rid of all the unwanted white on this layer. (I never knew the magic eraser tool existed so this was a new tool for me to learn).

Mask layer

I then placed the dripping image behind the layer of the girl and resized it to where I would want the dripping on the girl. Whilst being on the dripping layer, I selected the mask of the girl and pressed add mask.

dripping effect

I then made the original layer visible and erased the bottom half of the girl, creating the dripping effect seen as the image above.

Development of splatter

After knowing how to do this, it is quite easy to create the dripping effect using layer masks. Although it is still a long processes. Instead of leaving my design here, I stretched it further by adding splatters into the final design.

Software tutorials

I used a wide range if tutorials for this task; some more useful then others. In this blog I will discuss the more useful of the tutorials I was, focusing on the ones that helped me with my designs.

Combine black and white with colour  Is the tutorial I found most helpful with when creating my Design 1.  I never knew how to properly do this before as I always found a long winded way round this before, so it was useful watching this and learning about an easy way to achieve this. I wanted to try this for one of my designs and follow it step by step to make sure I understand and knew how to achieve this.

Changing the image in the background I used this tutorial for my Design 2. Whenever I have tried this before it has always come out looking messy or unprofessional. So it was useful watching this tutorial and learning how to do it properly and creating a good outcome without getting frustrated along the way as it isn’t working or coming out how I want. So this was a good tutorial to watch as I learnt how to properly do it. Which will enable me in the future to create work that I have wanted to create before but didn’t know how.

For design 3, I watched many tutorials to try and understand how to create this effect. I found that each tutorial taught it in a different way. The tutorial I followed for this design was  Dripping paint splatter. I found it the most easy to follow and one which had all the images available to download to follow each step. What I worked out following these tutorials is that you need images to full-fill the dripping and splatter effect, or your other option is to draw it. There is not one tool (that I know of) out there to create this effect.

I would like to further my skills by putting this into practice and creating more complex designs. I would also practice the dripping and splatter effects different ways on my own photos, as this will enable me to perfect my skills. I plan to do this by watching and following more tutorials.

Resources for research and inspiration

I mainly used tutorials as my resources for research and inspiration. As for this task, it wasn’t just about the outcome, rather it was about learning how to use layer masks to the fullest so in the future I can create unique designs. Therefore, I didn’t spend time looking at outcomes that I could create, rather how I could create these outcomes.

Design 3 was the design that used the most research before creating. I always saw design pieces like this and wondered how to actually get this outcome. Was there a tool? Was it a filter?  I still feel there is more to this then what I learnt for this task. Therefore this is something that I want to explore further in the future. But what I can tell you, is what I know now and what I learnt.

Have a go at the ‘Dripping and splatter effect’ that I linked previously, as I believe this tutorial is a good starting point and the most easy to follow and understand. Along with the way they did it using layer masks just is easy to understand compared to some of the other tutorials that I found.

If you want to experiment another way try Dripping effect. I found this tutorial useful and easy to follower, as the designer talked over his steps of what he did and why. I would recommend trying this after the previous tutorial.


Overall, for this task I learnt how to use layer masks and now that I understand them; they are actually a very simple and useful tool to know and use. Not only do I know how to use layer masks one way, I understand how to do multiple different effects using them. This was through the variety of tutorials I watched.


Diving deeper into the world of photoshop

­­­­­­­­­Design ideas and design process:

For this design, I used my own photograph that I took whilst in New York. I chose this image as it was of high quality, and the composition was interesting. I also chose this because the background didn’t have too many buildings in it so I knew it wouldn’t be too complicated to isolate as this was my first time using the software. I first used the selection tool to select the sky and parts of the background that I wanted to remove, adjusting the size of the tool in order to get my selection as accurate as possible. I then used inverse selection to select the buildings and everything else that was in the foreground of the image so that I could make that selection a clipping mask therefore removing the background. I then fixed some details further on the clipping mask layer with the paintbrush tool using black to take away and white to add back some of the image, again adjusting the size of the paintbrush as and when I needed to. I then went back in with the clone stamp tool to get rid of some of the thin wires that were running across the buildings, as I had removed them along with the sky in the background. The results of this removal can be seen in figure 2.

Figure 1. New York image with the background removed
Figure 2. cables and telephone lines over the buildings, removed

Once I felt I had accurately cut out the background I then went on to place the new background image into the file. I used ‘place embedded’ to do this. I scaled the new background image to half the size and duplicated it so one was on top of the other shown in figure 3. This then allowed me to merge the 2 images into one layer so that I could then use the clone stamp tool to blend them together. Once I had blended the background images, I then moved the layer below the original photograph, leaving that as the new sky for my New York image.

I chose to edit the foreground image as, in real life, if the sky was really that colour you would see pinks and blues in the reflection of the buildings. I first increased the contrast which you can see in figure 5. I then adjusted the colour balance. I left the mid-tones as they were, added more blue and cyan to the shadows and then added more magenta and red to the highlights of the image. This can be seen in the feature image at the top of the post.

Figure 3. The background image prior to blending
Figure 4. The blended background image
Figure 5. Image with adjusted contrast

For my second design, I removed the background of the original image using a layer mask and then placed the 3 butterflies I wanted on to the image. They originally had a white background, so I selected the butterfly using the object selection tool and then made it a mask layer. I then scaled and rotated the butterflies to sit on or around the baby. Next, I placed an image of grass in the file in a new layer making sure it was the very bottom layer. I then edited the contrast and blending effect of the grass so that it fits in well with the rest of the image. Finally, I added drop shadows to both the babies and the butterflies. This is because the original image of the baby had light coming in from the right and so I wanted this to be reflected in the rest of the image, making sure it was consistent and didn’t look like multiple images put together.

Figure 6. Design 2

For my third and final design, I kept it quite simple. I duplicated the image layer and on the new layer selected the parrot and branch to make it into a layer mask. I did this so that I could get the paint splatters close and packed together near the parrot without it going over the parrot itself. I then placed paint splatters using the brush tool around the right-hand edge of the parrot taking colour swatches from within the parrot.

Figure 7. Design 3


Software tutorials: This was a given resource. As photoshop was still a fairly new software to me, it was necessary to teach myself exactly what a composite image is and see how I could potentially go about making one myself. I felt it was important to understand this before beginning my ideation for the edits so that I could start this task in the right direction and with a full understanding of what it was that I was creating. This again was a given resource that was particularly useful for the New York edit. From the beginning of the creation of this edit, I knew I wanted to remove the background of the image, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. This taught me, not only how to remove the background, but to remove the background with as much accuracy as I could. It did this as it showed me how I could remove part of a selection by holding down the option key as well as how to use black and white with the brush tool on a mask layer. I used this tutorial for a task in a previous week. However, I re-watched it to refresh my memory as I knew the clone stamp tool could help blend the 2 sky images together, as well as fix the reflection issues I had in the New York edit.

I think I have largely improved my photoshops skills from completing this task and using the tutorials to aid me. Although there is always more to learn and so to continue growing my skill set, I will use photoshop when I feel it is appropriate with my projects in other modules. I will carry on with experimentations and if I see an interesting image, I will be sure to be inquisitive in terms of how it was produced and even try to recreate it myself with the help of some adobe and YouTube tutorials.

Resources for research and inspiration:

For my edit of New York, I got inspiration from the brief as it suggested to replace the background of an image and straight away I knew I wanted to do this to a city scene so it looked like a scene from a supernatural movie that uses special effects, such as Avengers. This was helpful to look at for the New York edit as it is what made me consider editing the image in the foreground with the buildings as I noticed the reflection of the green and blue light from the sky in the buildings. I think this really helped to tie my image together rather than look like two images layered on top of one another.

Going forward, it would be interesting to explore beauty photo editing in photoshop. I think learning the tools and techniques used for beauty editing will give a new perspective to offer to the conversation about whether it’s ethically right to be editing beauty photos at all, especially when it comes to advertising and beauty products.


Exploring The Creation of Surrealism Through Photoshop

Design Ideas and Design Process

For the photoshop creative images task, we had the option to pick our own theme, whereby I chose the topic of surrealism. In my first design, I focused on demonstrating the ability to create a design that appears to be altered from reality. The design is focused on the illusion of being able to see into the subject’s head, which is accentuated with flowers and leaves sprouting from the cut outs. The design process heavily explored layering, depth and shadow. For my second design, I followed the objective to create an image where the background has been altered from the original. I used a photograph of a tent and replaced the opening with an image of the galaxy to reinforce the surrealist theme. I explored using the lasso tool in this design to remove the preferred area and challenged myself with the concept of the subject being outdoors.

Design outcome 1
Design outcome 2

In my favourite and final design, in response to the objective to create an image that combines black, white and colour, I created a design where I was able to experiment with depth and perspective. I used a stock image of a rendered statue and used the lasso tool to copy and paste each section onto separate layers to allow me to move them with full control. I then used the same tool on new layers to create the inside broken area to the statue. This was a challenging process as I had to experiment with creating the right depth and perspective however I was able to create the desired effect. With the new layers, I used the gradient tool to create colour for the image. Once I was happy with the composition, I wanted to challenge myself further to incorporate more colour in order to compliment the overall outcome. On a separate layer, I created a range of circles and lines with the shape tool and again the gradient tool in reversed colours, I then proceeded to use the smart filter tool and blurred the edges to create a blended effect.

Design Process and Outcome 3


Design Process and Outcome 3
Design Process and Outcome 3

Software tutorials

Across the planning and design process of the task, I utilised a range of software tutorials to support the development of my ideas. Based on my plan, I had a sense of which tools I would require in order to complete the design. I made use of a wide variety of materials such as articles, videos and tutorials. A range of provided resources were used across the designs, beginning with a YouTube tutorial entailing ‘editing in a non-destructive way’. Watching this video helped me construct my designs in a manner that made the surrealism theme not appear obviously edited but interesting to look at. In addition to this, I used another provided resource, in which being a video tutorial explaining how to use the lasso tool to accurately select image areas which was helpful in retaining control of my cut outs in all three designs.

I further gained knowledge from other resources I found which focused more specifically on my designs including a YouTube video detailing the recreation of Magdiel Lopez designs. I was able to learn which tools were best to use for my designs and how to appropriately apply them. After watching the video, I was able to splice content and create realistic 3D effects without relying on a 3D tool which allowed more flexibility. The tutorial further helped me with the usage of colour and gradation. I also used a website called Digital Arts Online which offered a range of article tutorials which helped with all of my final designs in terms of layering, colour and composition. From this photoshop task, I have been able to learn new skills and identify areas where I would like to advance them and obtain new ones. Across my research, I have identified my interest in surrealism, and I would like to explore complex designs which require more layers and closer inspection to detail.

  • There Is One Statue – Photoshop CC 2019

Resources for research and inspiration

Before beginning the task, I devised a plan for all three designs to enable me to pre-identify research and inspiration I would need in order to for fill the design process. Upon researching different artwork on surrealism, I came across digital artist Magdiel Lopez, who I am already familiar with due to previously being inspired by him in another project. I found this task would be a great opportunity to use the newly found skills I have obtained to challenge myself to create outcomes emulating his collections. I was inspired by his portfolio due to the inclusion of colour, layering, composition and of course surrealism. I found all three of my final designs inspired by his work, most particularly my statue design. It was a good opportunity to challenge myself with experimental layouts and backgrounds.

In addition to my artist research, I also referred to Pinterest as a general ground of inspiration due to the wide array of posts available. The most influential search was “surrealism digital art photoshop” where I was able to note down the common attributes of different artists work and what makes their work surreal. I found the commonalities included the use of bright colours, therefore I made sure for this to be a strong element in my final designs. Another commonality was the general aura of the designs being unnatural but engaging. Observing these characteristics was beneficial in helping me develop my design ideas as it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and try pushing my designs further at times where I would usually finish them. I had not really explored backgrounds and how they can influence the main object/attribute of the design so this experimental process was an insight into how they can transform the final piece so this has become a topic I would like to explore in the future.

Magdiel Lopez