Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tutorial: Photoshop Elements for Photo Transfer Pt 2

Welcome to part two of how to use Photoshop Elements to get your vintage photos ready to use for CitraSolv photo transfers. If you are coming in to this process here I highly recommend that you read through part one. Today we'll work on learning to isolate a figure by selecting it, and a little more about erasing and using the brightness/contrast tools.

Remember the lovely Saharet? This is a copyright free image courtesy of the Library of Congress' Flickr site. In the last tutorial I mentioned that while there is great contrast here, too much black ink might bleed. Just for kicks, let's pick Saharet out of her background and use her all by herself. It's a little painstaking but nothing too difficult.

Step 1 - Select

The main tool that we are going to use is a select tool called the Magnetic Select Tool. You can find it on the bar to the right - something that sort of resembles a lasso. Select that then move up to the tool bar on the top. There is enough of a contrast along the edge of the figure that this tool will work wonderfully well. Click the lasso with the Magnet on it. 

Next move over to Feather and decide how fuzzy you want your edges to be. The larger the number you choose here, the more pixels will be included in a fuzzy line around your image. I think I want the edges to be fairly sharp so I'll choose 2 pixels and a width of 2px. Anti-aliasing will make pixelated curves appear sharper so it's a good idea to leave that box checked. Edge contrast makes the dark side of your edge darker and the light edges lighter - again increasing sharpness.

Now use your cursor to slowly go around the edges of the image. You can click as you go to spot glue the line to the more complicated edges. Remember that if your image is a little too small use the Zoom tool. Click to zoom in until you can see your edges clearly.

If you are careful and lucky you can get all the way around your image then double click to close the loop. You should see a flashing dotted line around your image. If your loop disappears entirely click the Undo button (or use Control-Z) to hopefully bring your loop back. Sometimes my fingers get ahead of me and click one too many times and my loop disappears. Yup. The Undo button is my best friend.

If you have a mistake here and there it's not a big problem. Take this little loop for instance. Instead of going back and redoing the entire select process, you can add in that little part to your bigger loop. Hold down the option/alt key while you use the cursor to to loop around that missing part and it will be added to your loop. You should see a little + sign next to the lasso. If you included something that you didn't want to include you hold down the shift key while you use the curser to trace the part you want to exclude. You'll see a - sign this time. 

Step 2 - Invert

Now you have a lovely flashing line around your image. Find the Select drop down and choose Inverse (shift-control-I). This will choose everything around your image. You'll see two flashy dotted lines now. 

Step 3 - Delete
Easy now. Hit the Delete key on your keyboard. The whole background disappears. Cool huh? Now use the Crop tool (see pt. 1) to get rid of all of the extra white space. Finally, go back up to the Select drop down menu and click on Deselect to get rid of all those flashy lines. You can also click Command-D.

Step 4 - Contrast
Now feel free to use the Brightness/Contrast tools we learned in part 1 to punch up the contrast. Keep a balance between dark and light. Or you might like the image just like it is and skip this step altogether. And there you have it.  Miss Saharet all by herself and ready to be transferred.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 3 and we'll play around with this same image a little more.  I'll show you how to play with contrast and keep the background but lighten it up quite a bit - without losing Saharet in the process. 

Tutorial: Photoshop Elements for Photo Transfer Part 1

The process of moving the ink from a photocopy onto fabric with Citra-Solv is my favorite instant gratification technique in fiber arts. You can find a tutorial on the process here. Sometimes you might have a really wonderful image that isn't quite ideal for the process; either not enough contrast or too much dark ink in the background. Today I'll show you how to punch up the contrast in a photo to help the transfer to come out better.

In the tutorial I posted about choosing an image Miss Maharanee of Kapurthala came out as the best photo because of the plain background that didn't compete with the main image. She does have enough contrast and there isn't too much dark ink. Still - there are some things that you can do to make the image even better.
I'll be using Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 for the tutorials this week. It's an inexpensive program and only a couple of years after I bought it, it's up to version 8.0. It does everything that most digital editing hobbyists will need.

I also use Corel's Paint Shop Pro on our family desktop. It's much more powerful but quite a bit less expensive than the full blown version of photoshop. But then - I'm a digital editing junkie.

Don't despair if you aren't using the exact same program I'm using here. Most any inexpensive digital editing program can do what I'll show you today. Just click on help in the upper bar of whatever program you are using and search the function that you need and the program should tell you where it is.

Now - I could use Miss Maharanee just as she is - I like the vintage photo look. But I think I'll isolate her and make her features a bit more clear.

Step 1 - CROP
If I want to isolate Miss Maharanee I might as well get rid of all the extra pixels to begin with. Find your Crop tool - it usually looks something like this. You can also find it under Image on the upper menu bar.

Look to make sure that the Aspect Ratio says No Restriction, for Free Form. Otherwise the crop tool will only let you crop to a standard print size.

Click and drag the box as close to your image as you can without cutting off any parts you want to keep. The part that will be cropped will be grayed out. If you need to move it a bit grab one of the little boxes on the edge of the dotted line with your cursor and drag the box wherever you need it to be. Double click to select and crop the image. 

Now, if you accidentally cropped something you wanted to keep don't panic. Your best friend in digital editing are these two little arrows.  This are the UNDO and REDO buttons and I use them ALL the time! With these two little buttons at your disposal you don't need to fear messing anything up. Just click the little back arrow and it will take you back one step. You can click it as many times as you'd like to get to where you want to be. If you want to try something out and compare steps you can click back and forth as many times as you'd like to. You can also find the Undo button under Edit on the menu bar. The key command Control Z does the same thing. (Command Z on my mac.)

Step 2 - SAVE
Don't forget the most important part - saving your work. My program has the unsettling tendency to quit on my every once in a while right in the middle of a project. If I haven't saved along the way I have to start over. You should save your work every few changes. 

Under File, click Save As. NOT, I repeat NOT, Save. You want to keep your original as is. If you simply click Save you over wright your original file. Not good. Yes, of course you can always click undo until you get back to the beginning and save your work then, but this is less of a pain. Change the name, choose where to save your file, format it as a jpg and click Save. Alternatively, you could leave the name the same and click the As a Copy box if you'd like. 

Now you'll see a box like this. This is important. Slide the Quality button all the way up to the right. If you don't the file will be compressed waaaay too much and your image will be all pixelated. (Ask me how I know.) 

As I work I try to remember to Save a Copy, or Save As with a different name after every main change. That way I can go back to some place I liked and start from there - AND I don't lose my original.

Under the menu bar click Enhance, Adjust Lighting, Brightness/Contrast. Make sure the Preview box is clicked on so that you can see what happens as you move the slider back and forth.
Play with both of the adjustments until you find something pleasing to you. 

Here I've boosted the contrast up to about +17. Anything above that and I loose the edge definition on her shoulders. The contrast is boosted to about +19. If I go much above that in this particular photograph I loose some of the definition in her dress. 

There isn't anything magic about these numbers and every photo is different so you really do just need to play with the numbers until you find something you are happy with. Remember that you can always click the undo button if you don't like what you just did. Repeat step 2 - Save.

Step 4 - ERASE
Miss Maharanee is looking pretty good now, but I'd still like to get rid of some of the extraneous stuff around the edges of the photo. There are still smudges and markings that will show up when you make a transfer. I'd rather not have hard straight lines on the outside of my image.

Find the Eraser icon on the tool bar and click it. I want to blur things out gently so I'm going to set the Opacity at about %60. Click on Size in the Eraser Toolbar and move the slider up and down. You'll see a circle on your image that expands or contracts. That's the size of your eraser. I've also chosen a Brush (that's the squiggle next to Size) with fuzzy edges so that I don't get any hard lines from my eraser. Now just brush over the edges, clicking often with your mouse to reset. If you brush for a very long time without reseting you might make a mistake. Then when you undo you have to do the whole thing over. Erase things in short bits and then you only have a little bit to do over.

If you need to get in close to an area, such as the small space above her head you can use the Zoom tool to make the picture look bigger or smaller on your screen. (On my mac's sensor pad I use two fingers to scroll up or down to zoom in or out.) 

I've brushed over all of the edges, and the label that was written in the upper left corner so that now Miss Maharanee is unencumbered by edges of any sort. There is still a little ink around her, softening the image for something of a background fade. What do you think?

Repeat step 2 - Save. Tomorrow I'll continue the tutorial with instructions for selecting and deleting backgrounds entirely, or for boosting the contrast in only certain areas. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tutorial: Choosing Photos for Citra-Solv Phototransfer

When you are looking for a photograph to use for Citra-solv photo transfer there are several things to consider. Of course you need to start with a great copyright free image. You can see my post about my favorite source, the Library of Congress here. If you are unfamiliar with the transfer process I'm talking about, or just want a refresher, check the tutorial link at the top of the page.

Consideration # 1 - CONTRAST
The lovely picture of the Baroness De Guestre (below left) captivates me. You know that was one confident and sassy woman just by looking at her! Unfortunately there is not enough contrast in her dress and there is way too much dark stuff all around her hair. Her face blends into the surroundings and her dress disappears. If you squint you'll see a big white space and a blotchy black space. When you transfer the ink to paper or cloth you lose some of the detail so you'll get splotchy black spots on the upper corner and not much on the bottom corner.

The lovely and highly corseted Maharanee of Kapurthala, on the other hand has plenty of contrast in her dress and a plain background that will transfer well and won't compete with the main focus of the image.

Consideration # 2 - TOO MUCH INK
Photos with too much ink

Saharet has enough contrast between the background and her face/dress that you could use the photo just as it is and it would work fairly well. You would know where her face was and be able to see the (also highly corseted) shape of her body. Wouldn't you just love to wear a hat like that?

Unfortunately there is a lot of dark ink. If you transfer your image onto a piece of cotton, a fabric with some absorbency, you will probably be fine. If you are using silk or a synthetic the black spaces, especially in the lower right, have a tendency to bleed and blur. It can be done - but takes a little practice.

Now - there are ways that you can manage to use all three of these photos and make them work. I'll show you some photoshop elements  tricks that will make each photo workable over the next three days. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Work in Progress

Some more stitching on my "Family Ties" series.

Gotta say, white on white is hard to photograph.

Had to do some photoshopping to up the exposures.
Any tips for white on white photography would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Copyright Free Vintage Photos: Library of Congress on Flickr

One of my favorite sources for vintage photographic images is the 

You can search the collections by subject or photographer. They list as much of the history of the photograph as they know. The most important part for artists is that many of the photos are listed as "no known copyright restrictions." Those are the ones you can download and use as you wish. Every day I'm amazed and grateful at how easy the internet has made it to access so many very cool things.

Did you know the Library of Congress also has a Flickr page? Every few days they post several pictures from their historic archives, all of them copyright free. That makes it easier to search for the ones you can use. I get so disappointed when I fall in love with the perfect image then realize I can't use it. The thing I like best about the LOC's Flickr page is the comments from viewers. They often add quite a bit of information to the provenance already listed. I download the largest size they have available. 

Next week I'll post tutorials on what to look for when you want to use a photo for a citra-solv photo transfer how to use Photoshop Elements to make it even better. For now, here is a really great example of what can be found on the Library of Congress' Flickr Site. Pop over there to read the comments too!

Bain News Service,, publisher.
Louis & Lola ?-- TITANIC survivors
[1912 April]
1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller.

Notes:Title from negative.
Photo taken before the 'orphans' of the Titanic were fully identified. The boys are French brothers Michel (age 4) and Edmond Navratil (age 2). To board the ship, their father assumed the name Louis Hoffman and used their nicknames, Lolo and Mamon. Their father died in the disaster of the RMS TITANIC, which struck an iceberg in April 1912 and sank, killing more than 1,500 people. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2008)
Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).
Format: Glass negatives.
Rights Info: No known restrictions on publication.
Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
General information about the Bain Collection is available at hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.ggbain
Persistent URL: hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.11222
Call Number: LC-B2- 2486-15 

Where you find your photos?
What do you do with them?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Work in Progress

A little more stitching.
I'm working on a series made of vintage as well as new and recycled linens and other neutral fabrics and laces. When hung together it will be a monochromatic color study in red.
Working title: "Family Ties"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tutorial Links

Here's a quick recap of Art Spark's Tutorial Tsunami. To make things easier for you as well, I've added a new page link to the top of this blog where you can find links to all the tutorials that will be posted here.
Alisa Burke’s Altered Striped Tank

Judy Coates Perez' Printed Tea Bags

Gloria Hansen's Painted Shibori

Tracie Lyn Huskamp – Nature Inspired Greeting Card

Lyric Kinard’s Painted Shoes

Jane LaFazio’s machine felting tutorial

Kelli Nina Perkins – Spoon Poetry

Diana Trout’s Sumi Smoosh

Alma Stoller's Recycled Magazine Pages

Melanie Testa’s Cloth to Headband