A while ago, Scott Kelby did a tutorial on some different ways to present ones work. The basis of what it was – open an image, create new blank layer, use rectangular marquee tool to create the shape you want, fill with any colour, copy and paste/duplicate 2 more, move original image above the rectangles and clip the top layer to it. An example of this is below, although I haven’t done any background design work etc., I’ve just added a drop shadow and some type

Corey Barker came along with another variant to this, where he used the warp tool to get a different take on it.

So I starting thinking that there really is endless possibilities to this technique, using shape layers and even brushes. You could use the pen tool set to ‘shape layers’ to create your own unique shape. You could hunt the internet on a rainy day and download some shapes, brushes etc., The is one technique that is only limited by your own imagination.

You’ll have to ignore the image I’ve used here – but remember that you are not limited to one image. For instance, you may have some flowers lying on a table that you could use for the faded b/ground and another one for the highlight. You may have a nice shot of a pride of lions and have a head shot of a lion that you want to highlight.

So lets take a look at how very easy it can be to create a design for a card or even a larger framed print.

Here is the start image if you’d like to mess around with this first, just click through for the larger image.

The first thing you are going to do is double click on the background layer and a dialogue box will appear, click OK to accept the default Layer 0 or name the layer first. Duplicate this layer. Click on the bottom most layer to make it active, hold down your Ctrl key (Cmd on a Mac) and click the create new layer icon at the bottom of your layers palette. This will force the new layer to be created below your b/ground layer.

Your layers palette will look something like this.

Make sure that you are working on the newly created layer and fill that with a colour of your choice. I’ve used white, but it will be image dependant.

Still working on this newly created layer, I want you to click on the create new layer icon at the bottom on the layers palette. Because we want this layer to be above our filled layer there is no need to hold down the Ctrl key. Turn off the 2 top layers (with your image/images on them) and working on the newly created layer, grab your rectangular marquee tool and draw out something similar to the image below.

Now go ahead and fill that selection a colour … any colour, I used black. You can go ahead and deselect now. Turn on the image layer directly above the layer with the filled rectangle. You can turn off the background layer with a solid fill if you like, it doesn’t matter. If I’m starting to sound confusing, refer to the image below.

To get the effect you want, you are going to clip the image layer with the rectangle layer. Now there’s a couple of ways that you can do this, so I’ll just run through them. Click on your image layer above the rectangle layer and go to Layer>Create Clipping Mask – you can also use the keyboard shortcut Alt + Ctrl + G or a much simpler way to do this is Click on the image layer to make it active, hold down your Alt key and place your mouse on the line that seperates the image and rectangle layer, a small icon will appear, then click and you will get the same result.

If I’ve been explaining this properly, you should end up with an image similar to this

You can still move around the image inside the clipping mask. Grab your move tool and position which part of the image you would like there. You can make the rectangle layer active and move that around independently of the image. If you would like to move both of them around together, click on one of the layers and then shift click on the other, grab your move tool and both of the layers can be moved to position them anywhere you like.

This is where you’ll start moving into the ‘individual options’ part 🙂 I took the opacity of the image down to 40%, I then make the rectangle layer active, clicked the FX icon at the bottom of the layers palette and chose Stroke – and I used black at 3 pixels.

So lets move on to the shape layer and do exactly the same thing as you did here.

Make sure that the active layer is the image that you were just working on and then go to the shape tool, and from the top menu bar pick a shape – I picked a heart – and draw out the shape where you would like it to be. Had I clicked off the shape layer before I took the screenshot, that nasty black edge wouldn’t be there 🙂

Make the top image layer active and go ahead and clip it with the shape layer – see above for how to do that. Grab your move tool, and working on the image layer, place it where you like inside the shape. The you could make the shape layer active and give the shape a stroke.

I would go and refine the image by making the rectangular part of this image smaller. Click on one or the other of the first edit you did, then shift + click on the other layer – go to Edit > Transform > Scale and scale it down – or use Ctrl + T on the keyboard and then right click and choose scale. I might even go in and give the heart shape a drop shadow, perhaps even the rectangle and add some text. What you’ll notice in the next image, is that I went back to the first image you clipped with the rectangle and moved it inside the rectangle so that my son was visible, of course I used that part of the image as the highlight.

I did say at the beginning of this that you could probably also use a brush to do the very same thing …… lets go and try it 🙂

Do the first part of the tutorial again, but because you aren’t going to be using a shape layer, we will have to create a new blank layer. That will be above the image for the first clip and below the second image that you have turned off. Now go and choose a brush. I picked the leaf brush 95. Once you have that, you will need to go into the brush engine and turn off all the dynamics except smoothing. Referencing the image below, uncheck all the green ticks, but leave smoothing.

Make the brush the size you want it to be and click severla times in the one spot to make sure you have a good coverage – I used black as the f/ground colour. Now, with the tragic …. oops, magic wand tool click in the transparent area, then inverse the selection and fill it with black. Inverse the selection again and grab your eraser tool to make sure there are no pixels floating around. You can deselect and turn on the image above and clip the image with the brush shape. Go ahead and click on the FX button and stroke the brush layer if you like. I grabbed the transform tool and rotated the brush shape, then clicked on the image layer, grabbed the move tool and positioned the image where I wanted it. I then used some text.

And here’s the final image using one of the brushes to make a shape.

The possibilities for designs are endless …… just go and have some fun with it all 🙂