Creative Photo Cropping
In this technique, I’d like to show you how I use scanned images or paint with artistic brushes to creatively crop photographs. Warning: This technique is addictive. After using this technique a few times, you might get bored with rectangular photographs
II. STEPS TO CREATE THE EFFECT
Step 1 Photo Cropping You can use any image that contains primarily black and white (and not many shades in between). One way of making such an image is to spill ink onto watercolor paper and then scan it. But for my example, I used a large brush, dipped it in black ink and then painted on watercolor paper to create the image. Once the ink was completely dry, I scanned it as a gray scale image. As an alternative, you can paint with one of the creative brushes that appears at the bottom of the brushes palette in a gray scale document instead of scanning an image (although I think it turns out much better with scanned images).
Step 2 Photo Cropping Now we need to prepare the image we’d like to crop. So, open any photograph you’d like to use, double-click on the Background Layer to change its name and then choose Layer > Add Layer Mask > Reveal All. The layer should now have two preview thumbnails in the Layers palette. The one on the right is the Layer Mask you just created.
Step 3 Photo Cropping Now let’s get our scanned image into that Layer Mask. Open the scanned or painted image, choose Select > All and then Edit > Copy. Switch to the image you’d like to crop, Option-click (Mac), or Alt-click (Windows) the Layer Mask preview image in the Layers palette to make it fill the main screen and then choose Edit > Paste. If the pasted image is overly large or small compared to the document you pasted it into, then you’ll want to choose Edit > Free Transform and pull on the corners to scale the image
Step 4 In a Layer Mask, black causes areas of the layer to become hidden and white causes areas to show up, which means that what we have now would hide the majority of our photo. So, choose Image > Adjustments > Invert to make the image a negative, which should cause the layer to only be hidden on the edges.
Step 5 Next, lets make sure the primary areas of this image are pure black and pure white, otherwise you’ll be able to see through the image in the middle (grays=semi-transparent). To do that, choose Image > Adjustments > Levels and pull in the upper left and upper right sliders until the middle of the scan is solid white and the edge of the image is solid black.
Step 6 Now to see how all this has affected your image, Option-click (Mac), or Alt-click (Windows) on the Layer Mask preview image in the Layers palette to hide the mask and show your image. It should be cropped so that it only shows up within the shape of the ink that was in our scan.
Step 7 I think we could make it look even more interesting by adding texture to the photograph. Since the last thing we copied was the scan of that paint, you should be able to just choose Edit > Paste to get a new layer that contains the original scan. If you ended up scaling the image the first time you pasted it in, then you can choose Edit > Transform > Again to scale this version the same amount. After doing that, choose Filter > Stylize > Emboss, use the default settings, and click OK.
Step 8 Now to apply the texture that the Emboss filter pulled out of the image, change the blending mode menu at the top of the Layers palette from Normal to Hard Light and then choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask. If that doesn’t add enough texture, then try choosing Filter > Texture > Texturizer to the layer you embossed.
Step 9 If you’re still hungry for more effects, then click on the layer that contains the photo (not the texture) and experiment with the choices found in the Layer > Styles menu (I like Drop Shadow and Bevel and Emboss).
All it takes is about an hour of free time and a quick visit to the art supply store to create literally dozens of creative crop shapes. You don’t have to be an artist, heck, just spill paint on the paper-it will look more interesting than a rectangular crop job. I can barely draw a stick man and look what I came up with. And since the Photoshop creative brushes can be used as a substitute for all those art supplies, your possibilities are truly endless.