How to create artistic prints in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements

edges 8
Credit: iStockphoto/Denis Jr. Tangney

Printed images make the perfect, yet personal, last minute gift. In this column you’ll learn how to spice up your prints in Photoshop and Elements by adding a painterly edge or by creating a digital matte with text underneath it. Both techniques are fabulous for framing your own prints, too, whether they’re destined to hang on your own walls or those in a gallery.

Painterly edges

Both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements includes a Refine Edge dialog box that makes selecting hair and fur easier than ever before; however, you you can also use it to add the look of hand-painted edges to a photo. Here’s how:

Step1: Open a photo and press M to activate the Rectangular Marquee tool. Click and drag diagonally atop the photo to draw a box inside the document margins (the pixels outside the selection are the ones that’ll be affected).

edges 1

Step 2: In the Options bar, click the Refine Edge button. In the resulting dialog box, choose White from the View pop-up menu. Turn on the Smart Radius checkbox and drag the Radius slider rightward. This slider tells Photoshop (or Elements) how far away from your original selection it should refine, which affects the width of your painterly edge.

For softer edges, drag the Smooth and Feather sliders slightly rightward. For hard edges, set the Smooth and Feather sliders to 0. For sharper edges, drag the Contrast slider rightward. When everything looks good, choose Layer Mask from the Output menu at the bottom of the dialog box and click OK. This makes Photoshop (or Elements) create a mask from your newly refined selection, meaning your original photo remains intact.

edges 2

Step 3: From the half black/half white icon at the bottom of your Layers panel (it’s at the top of the Layers panel in Elements), choose Solid Color. From the Color Picker, choose white and click OK. Drag the resulting layer to the bottom of your layers stack.

Step 4: Choose File > Save As and pick Photoshop from the Format pop-up menu. The beauty about this technique is that you’ll produce different edges with each and every photo—no two will ever be exactly the same due to differences in color and contrast.

edges 3

Quick digital matte

Instead of buying a matte for your print, try creating a digital one yourself. This technique also enables you to print a small image at a larger size and add text underneath it.

Step 1: Choose File > New and enter your paper size in the width and height boxes (be sure to choose inches from the pop-up menus). Enter a resolution between 240–480 ppi for glossy or matte paper, or 180–240 ppi for regular or textured paper. Choose RGB for Color Mode and click OK.

edges 4

Step 2: Open a photo, press Command-A to select all, and then press Command-C to copy it to your Mac’s clipboard (temporary memory). If you’re image is comprised of multiple layers, create a stamped copy of visible layers by activating the topmost layer in your Layers panel and then pressing Shift-Option-Command-E and then copy that layer to your clipboard.

Step 3: Activate the new document you created in step 1 and press Command-V to paste the photo into it. If necessary, press Command-T to summon the Free Transform tool and resize the photo by Shift-dragging any corner handle inward (in Elements you don’t have to use the Shift key to constrain proportions). Press V to activate the Move tool and then position the photo in the upper quadrant to make room for text (or center it in the document if you don’t want to add text)—just eyeball the photo’s positioning as we’ll employ alignment tools momentarily.

Step 4: Click to activate the photo layer and then add a new, empty layer beneath it by Command-clicking the “Add a new layer” icon—it looks like a piece of paper with a folded edge—at the bottom of your Layers panel (it’s at the top of the Layers panel in Elements). Double-click the resulting layer’s name and enter “matte.”

Step 5: With the new “matte” layer active, press M to grab the Rectangular Marquee and draw a box around your photo. Try to center the box between the edge of the document and the edge of the photo.

edges 5

Step 6: Click the half black/half white icon at the bottom of your Layers panel(or top of the panel in Elements) and choose Solid Color. From the Color Picker, choose white (just enter ffffff into the # field) and click OK. This gives you the ability to experiment with inner matte color later on by double-clicking the Solid Color adjustment layer’s thumbnail.

Step 7: In Photoshop, click the fx button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Inner Shadow. Set the opacity to 50%, the angle to 90, increase the size to at least 70, and then press OK. In Elements, click the Effects button in the toolbar at the bottom of the interface and at upper right, click the Styles button and then choose Drop Shadow from the menu that appears. Double-click a drop shadow thumbnail to apply it.

edges 6

Step 8: Press T to activate the Type tool, click beneath your photo and add some text. Use the Options bar to format it (Trajan at 39 and 24 points were used here), and use the Move tool to scoot the text beneath the photo. Try to pair thick fonts with thin, and use a larger point size for the first line than the second. Instead of using black for text color, try to use a dark color that exists in the photo (brown was used here).

Step 9: Activate all the layers in your Layers panel by choosing Select > All Layers. Press V to grab the Move tool and in the Options bar, click the “Align Horizontal Centers” button.

Step 10: Choose File > Save As and pick Photoshop from the Format pop-up menu. Now you’re ready to print your new masterpiece!

edges 7 iStockphoto/Maxim Bolotnikov

As you can see, both techniques produce a beautiful printed piece. Until next time, may the creative force be with you all!

PhotoLesa.com founder Lesa Snider is the author of the best-selling Photoshop: The Missing Manual books, coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, author of The Skinny Book ebook series, a founding creativeLIVE instructor, and regular columnist for Photoshop User and Photo Elements Techniques magazines.

To comment on this article and other Macworld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.