Turn a Background into a Frame

This is a question I’ve been asked a number of times, and I’ve hesitated to post the answer here because the instructions are for Photoshop, not Elements, which it seems more of you use. Quite often, however, Photoshop instructions are easily translated by Elements users, and so in hopes this is true for these instructions, here’s how to turn a background into a full-screen frame behind which you can display your photos:

1.  Open the background image in Photoshop along with a photo typical of what you’ll be using with the frame.

2.  Turn the background into a layer (double-click it in the layers palette).

3.  Drag the photo on top of the background, positioning the photo where you’ll want the opening in the frame to be. If the photo is too large, press Ctrl+T, and then while holding down Shift+Alt, drag one of the corner handles toward or away from the center to resize the image. Accept your changes.

4.  Using the rectangular marquee, select the area for the opening, using the photo as your guide and keeping the marquee within the bounds of the photo.

5.  In the layers palette, select your background image and press delete to create the “hole.”

6.  Deselect, and in the layers palette, shift your photo layer to beneath the background image so you can see how it will look as you’re creating the frame.

7.  Duplicate the background layer using Ctrl+J. (You’ll see later why this might be necessary.)

8.  Double-click the top layer (the copy of the background) to bring up the layer style dialogue.

9.  Click “Bevel and Emboss.”

10. Use “Inner Bevel,” changing the Size (try 29 px) and Soften (try 8 px). Click OK.

11. Select the photo layer and double-click it to bring up the style dialogue.

12. Select “Inner Shadow.”

13. Set the distance to 0, choke to about 42, and size to about 38. Then click OK. (This creates a vignette around the photo to give it depth.)

14. In the layers palette, right-click the line that says “Inner Shadow” and choose “Create Layer.”

15. The second layer will have an arrow symbol pointing down to your photo layer. Right-click that second layer and choose “Release Clipping Mask.”

16. Delete the photo layer. If you want to keep the beveling on the perimeter of your background image, go to Layer > Merge Visible, and Save As.


16. If you want to eliminate the outside bevel (this is why you made a copy of the background layer), draw a rectangular marquee around the photo frame area, making sure the marquee is outside all the shadowing and highlighting.

17. Go to Select > Inverse.

18. In the layers palette, right-click the top layer and select “Convert to Smart Object.” Right-click again, this time choosing “Rasterize Layer.”

19. Press delete.

20. Merge the 3 layers into one layer and use Save As.


Take the time to explore all the options in layer styles. The frame design given in the above instructions is used only as an example.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm  Comments Off on Turn a Background into a Frame  
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Have a Frame but no Mask?

Here’s how to create a perfectly fitting mask for a frame that has none. The directions are for Photoshop, but most image editors work very much alike.

1. Open the frame in Photoshop.

2. With the Magic Wand tool, select inside the transparent area of the frame.

3. Go to Select > Modify > Expand and type in a number somewhere between 5 and 15. (You want the selected area to expand and cover a bit of the frame’s inside edge.)

4. Create a new, blank layer above the frame layer.

5. With the Fill tool, fill the selection in the new layer with white.

6. Go to Select > Invert so everything BUT the center of the frame area you’ve filled with white is selected.

7. Fill what’s now selected with black.

8. Go to Layer > Flatten.

9. Save AS under a new name. (I usually add “MASK” in caps to the end of original name of the frame so mask and frame stay together in a file listing and it’s obvious which is which.)

You now have a grayscale mask that’s a perfect fit to the frame.

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 7:48 pm  Comments Off on Have a Frame but no Mask?  

Keep Images from Filling the Screen

Drag a postage stamp into a layer on top of one containing an envelope, and what happens? It turns into Godzilla Stamp, and so you have to tame it by reducing the zoom level. That’s not much of a problem, not unless you’ll be using that same stamp (or other small image) periodically throughout the show. The solution is to resize the image’s canvas before ever using it.

I use Photoshop for this, but any image editor can do it. Resize the canvas (NOT the image) so it’s 1792 x 1008 pixels for wide screen or 1552 x 1164 pixels for standard screen, keeping the canvas transparent. You can use smaller numbers, but the proportions must be 16:9 or 4:3. You don’t gain much by using smaller numbers, however. Maybe a few kilobytes.

If you want to size the stamp to match the envelope, open the envelope and the stamp in your image editor. Add the stamp as a layer on top of  the envelope, resize the stamp proportionately to the envelope, delete the envelope layer, and Save AS so you don’t overwrite the envelope file. Now when you drag those two layers into a slide, the stamp will be just the right size.

The stamp is merely an example. The same principles apply to any images that are blown completely out of proportion when you drag them into a slide. It’s so much easier to deal with an image that starts out life perfectly formed at 100%.

Published in: on July 3, 2010 at 11:03 am  Comments Off on Keep Images from Filling the Screen  
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Precision Masks

Precision masks are a job for Photoshop, not Producer, and my favorite mask-creation method is the black & white tool. With the example goal of making a violet leap forward from its background, here’s the workflow:

1. Open the image in Photoshop and press Ctrl + J to copy the image to a layer. (Working on a copy leaves the original intact in case you need to refer back to it.)

2. With the copy in focus, go to Image > Adjustments > Black & White.

3. Run through all the options, choosing the one that creates the highest contrast between the object you want revealed by the mask and the parts you want hidden. (The violet worked best with the High Contrast Blue Filter.)

4. Move the color sliders associated with the filter close to or all the way to the right. (For the violet, I cranked up the blue and cyan to 300%.)

5. For those colors in the photo that you want to block, move the associated sliders well down into the minus range. (For the violet, a slid all the other colors down to -200%.)

6. Accept the changes, and then increase the contrast using Levels or Curves if necessary.

7. You’ll probably need to do black or white touch-ups with the paintbrush. (The violet’s background had white specks to paint with black, and the center of the violet needed to be painted with white. Reducing the opacity of the copy so I could see the original image helped guide me. With this completed, I returned the layer to 100% opacity.)

8. Flatten the image, and to make the file smaller and automatically recognized as a grayscale mask in Producer, convert it to grayscale and perform a Save As.

The original:

The mask:

The leaping violet:

A nice bonus is the cutout that you can use on any background:

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 9:09 am  Comments (3)  
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Perfect Frame Masks

If you have a frame that you want to use multiple times with a variety of photos, it’s far easier and quicker to create a single mask than it is to resize/crop all the photos. To create a perfectly fitting mask, here’s the method I use:

  1. Bring the frame into Photoshop, and if the canvas isn’t already sized for the screen ratio you’ll be using, resize the canvas and Save this version. (Dimensions used for Frame Locker products: 1792 x 1008 pixels for wide screen and 1552 x 1164 for standard screen.)
  2. Select the inside area of the frame.
  3. Create a new layer and fill the selected area with white.
  4. Invert the selection and fill that area with black.
  5. Flatten the image and perform a Save As. (I like to name a newly minted mask so it indicates which frame it goes with.)

The resulting mask perfectly matches the frame, and so whatever you do with the frame, you should do with the mask. Pan the frame left, pan the mask left; rotate the frame, rotate the mask; enlarge the frame, enlarge the mask. Think of the frame and its mask as being attached at the hip.

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm  Comments Off on Perfect Frame Masks  
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