Act 2 – The Process

January 10, 2008

In the spirit of open source culture part of what I really want to do here with Fifty Two Acts is to show a bit about the process of creating the things that I do. In addition to posting the creative parcels themselves and giving conceptual information I would like to make my creative process as transparent and as replicable as possible. I envision this site as part blog, part artwork, part resource and part tutorial. This weeks project was created using original photography, photoshop (including selective colour and brushes), and finished in image ready. I am not going to give a step by step photoshop tutorial as such, rather a general overview of the process, though in the future I may give more in depth tutorials if there is enough interest.

playing girl 2.jpg

dial-up warning – the rest is rather long and image heavy…

To start with I put on some make up, chose my outfit and did a photo shoot. My camera is a pretty good entry level digital SLR – I use an Olympus – and apart from that my only accessories are a tripod, and a remote control, both of which are completely indispensable to me. For the rest I get by with what I can find around the house. I used a combination of household lamps and natural light from a window off to my left (no over head light) to get as much light as I could. I set the camera to aperture priority mode with no flash and stood it around about 2 meters away from me. I must confess that my talents do not naturally lay in the photography itself, improving in that area is one of the goals I have for myself in the near future. Because lamp lighting is lovely and atmospheric, but not really very bright, the originals turned out like this:

pre photoshop.JPG

I was pretty happy with the results, the over all image is close to what I had in mind and the dull tones are easily fixable in photoshop.

Probably the most useful photoshop tip I have to share is to brighten an image without washing it out or losing the detail is to copy the background layer and set the layer mode on the new layer to “screen”. You can do this several times until you get the desired brightness and it is much more effective than increasing the “brightness” level. I added 3 screen layers to my image.


My next favourite photoshop tip is to sharpen the image using a “high pass” layer. To do this you copy the background again and make sure the copied layer is at the top of the stack. With the new layer selected you select “filter” from the top menu, then in the drop down box choose “other” then “high pass”. This will give you a grey embossed copy of your image. You then set the layer mode to “overlay” which makes the grey disappear, and just gives the effect of sharpening up the image’s lines.


After brightening and sharpening the image I decided I really wanted to make the reds on the lips cheeks and dress stand out and to wash out the paler colours. I did this using selective colouring. Rather than recreate the wheel I had a quick look through LiveJournal’s Icon Tutorial community to see if there was a tutorial available with the kind of colouring I was looking for. I chose this one from Static-Romance and roughly used the selective colour settings specified there.


Because I planned to use the image for an icon I cropped it to a square, I then added the brush detail (the bit that looks like a stencil). I used a ready made brush from a set I downloaded some time ago made by Jason Galor at

playing girl 2.jpg

And that is the finished static image. I repeated the process with the five other images. The subsequent images didn’t take nearly as long as the first as I was able to copy the selective colour layers and the brush layers and add them directly rather than recreating them each time. I flattened each of the images and added the text, then created a new file and copied each image as a separate layer.

I then opened the new file in ImageReady, set each layer to appear for 1 second, and saved it as an animated gif file.


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