Monday, February 28, 2011

Digi Tip February 2011: On the Edge

Good day!  Cathy here to share this month's Digi Tip.  Today I'm going to show you how you can make some cool edges for your photos in Photoshop Elements. You can also do this in the full version of Photoshop, but since many of you use Photoshop Elements, I thought I would use that for my examples today.

If you recall, in last month's Digi Tip post we created clipping masks for photos and elements with rounded corners. Well, the idea of "clipping" is going to be used in today's lesson as well.  Only this time instead of clipping to a shape, we are going to clip to an adjustment layer!  Ready?  Here we go....

Open a photo in Photoshop Elements. Now select File>Save As and save a copy of your photo with a new name.  This will keep us from accidentally overwriting our original photo. This is a photo of my darling bull dog. Isn't she the cutest?

If you want to crop your photo, go ahead and use the crop tool to do so, Just be certain to leave enough room around the subject of your photo for your decorative edge.

Double-click your photo layer in the Layers palette to make it a regular (not background) layer. The above dialog box will open. Just click OK.

Next hold the Ctrl key and click the Create a New Layer icon on the Layers Palette. This will add a new layer below your active layer.  Or you can select Layer > New from the menu, then drag the new layer beneath your photo layer in the Layers Palette. Click this new layer to make it active.

Choose white for your foreground color and press Alt-Backspace to fill this layer with white.
What you have now is two layers: Your photo layer and a layer of white as shown above.

Now we are going to select an area of the photo that you want to draw attention to. Click the photo layer in the Layers palette. Using the Marquee tool, (looks like dashed lines) make a selection around your focal subject in your photo. Leave a bit of margin so you don't cause your edge treatment to infringe on your subject.
Note: Turn off the Feather option in the Options bar by setting it to 0 pixels before you make your selection.

Click the icon for Create a New Adjustment Layer. It's a half-black half-white circle in the Layers Palette tools. Choose Levels and click OK without changing anything. You're not applying any adjustment to your photo so it will not change, but the selection markers will go away.  Your Layers palette will look like mine above, with your selected part showing up in white on a black background on the square next to your Levels icon. That square is going to be your clipping mask. Basically in this clipping mask, the white area allows the item clipped to it to show, the black area will hide those parts of the clipped item.

Now clip your photo layer to the adjustment layer by positioning your mouse in the layers panel on the line between the photo layer and the adjustment layer, press and hold the Alt key, you'll see the mouse cursor change to a symbol of intersecting circles, click and you will "clip" the photo layer to the clipping mask (adjustment layer). 

Now comes the really fun part!  You are going to choose a filter and apply it. But first... I know that you are going to want to play with different options and try several of them. To make it easier for you to compare how they look. I'm going to suggest that you first make copies of the clipping mask so you can apply different filters to each.  To copy a layer, click on it in the layers palette, then press and hold the Alt key while you click and drag the layer in the layers palette to a new location. This will copy the layer and place it in the stack where you have dragged it to.  You can also copy a layer by selecting Layer> Duplicate Layer from the menu or by right-clicking on the layer in the layers palette and then select Duplicate Layer and click OK. There is often more than one way to do things in Photoshop/Elements.  Just get comfortable with what works best for you.

Make several copies of the adjustment layer, then turn off the visibility on all but one of those layers. Click on that layer to make it active.  You'll need to un-clip your photo from layers you are not currently using (simply pressing alt-click between the layers will also un-clip/un-group them) and then clip it to the active mask layer.  Now let's try applying a filter!

In my first example, I created a simple vignette, by selecting Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. I set the radius to 45. You can play with that by sliding the selector in the preview panel that displays.

When I was ready to apply a new filter to my next clipping layer, I ungrouped my photo from the blur layer, turned off the visibility to the blur layer, then dragged my photo layer down to be directly on top of the next clipping mask. I turned on the new clipping mask visibility and clipped my photo to it.

For this example I chose Filter>Pixelate>Cyrstalize
 I have a rather large photo so I set the cell size to 75. But you can use the slider in the preview panel to decide how you want yours set. 

In this sample, I chose Filter>Distort>Glass

Once you have an edge treatment that you are happy with, you can trim down the white border around the photo.  Use the crop tool to outline the area that you want to keep.  Save your newly edged photo.

I hope you have fun trying out some new edge treatments for your photos.  Join me next month for another Digi-tip.  If there are any Photoshop or Photoshop Elements techniques that you would like to see featured in the monthly Digi-tips, please email me at:


  1. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [01 Mar 12:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  2. This is such a cool tutorial Cathy! Thank you very much for sharing. I totally want to borrow your dog and cuddle with him. LOL She's SO cute!