Tag Archives: Photoshop

Alpha Map Shadows; Problem?

Link back to old alpha tutorial.

Talk about the option within the render settings to show the correct shadows – three steps, quick tutorial.

Mention compositing for the reflections afterwards.

Show the difference it makes and conclude post.

Reference while writing post:




How to Use Clipping Masks in Photoshop

Learning how to us clipping masks only takes a few minutes and it will be a skill you’ll use again and again.  When you create a clipping mask in one layer, it hides the contents of the layers above.  Your clipping mask can be whatever you like; it could be a shape or text.  I’m using text in this example and here’s what we’re going to achieve:

First thing you need is your background image.  In your finished product this is the image that will ‘shine through’ your text.  I’m using a tropical beach scene.


Next, create a new text layer and write the text that will form the object for the clipping mask.  It’s always a good idea to use a fat, bold font when creating clipping masks from text so you can really see the image behind.  I’m using a great, 100%-free font called Bevan (you can download it here for free: http://www.fontsquirrel.com/fonts/bevan).


Now we need to create the ‘mask’ layer.  Go to you your Layers Palette and click the “Create a New Layer” button.  You need to fill this layer with a solid color.  I chose white but you can choose any colour.


We now have the three layers we need to start the magic!  Go to your Layers Palette again and put your layers in this order:

  1. the beach image
  2. the text
  3. the new, blank layer

Your Layers Palette should look like this:


Now we need to Create a new Clipping Mask.  Make sure you’ve selected the beach photograph layer, then click on the Layers Palette menu button in the top-right of the Layers Palette Window.  Select “Create Clipping Mask”.  Alternatively, you can press ALT + CTRL + G.


Ta-da! It’s as easy as that!  Your clipping mask has magically appeared.


You can now make the final adjustments to the text to make it stand out.  I’m going to add a 3px stroke to the inside of the text.  Double-click on the text layer to bring up the Styles Palette and add a 3px Stroke:


That’s it, you’re done!  Here’s the finished product:


I guess the question that you are all wondering though is where can I use this skill? Well, there are a number of different places that creating beautiful text can assist you. These include:

  • Creating bold and noticeable headlines for pamphlets or leaflets that you plan to deliver.
  • Making a website really stand out from the rest with an attractive and professional design.
  • Using them in emails, so that people are immediately drawn to the design and don’t simply disregard the message as spam or yet another offer for them.
  • Making attractive cards or other handicrafts, either for sale or to send to someone on their birthday or at Christmas.

As can be seen, the use of this technique is only hampered by your own creativity. So, be original and get experimenting – the results can be totally spectacular!

Remove Some Tedium with the Photoshop Actions Panel

Here’s the first of our guest tutorials, starting with a rundown of the Photoshop Actions Panel with Jamie:

Using the Photoshop Actions Panel

Ever found yourself needing to carry out the same repetitive, mundane tasks on lots of different images?  For example, you might have a whole bunch of images that need to be resized before various colour adjustments need to be made.  Doing this for each image individually can take an age.  The Photoshop Actions Panel allows you to record and save these commands enabling you to process a large batch of images in seconds.

Find your way around the Actions Panel

If the Actions Panel is not visible, open it up (Windows > Actions or press ALT + F9).  Let’s familiarise ourselves with the panel.

  1. Action Set (This is like a folder, where you can store similar Actions in groups.)
  2. Action.  In this example, you can see some default Actions that are preinstalled with Photoshop.
  3. Recorded Commands. These are the different steps that make up your Action.
  4. Modal Control.  When some commands are run, a dialog box will pop up.  You can choose to toggle dialogs on or off for your Actions.  Turning off dialogs will mean your Action will use the value for the command that were set when the Action was recorded.
  5. Included Command. You can deselect or select a command from an Action, choosing whether or not it is performed.  If the checkbox is empty, that command will be skipped when the Action is run.
  6. Stop button.  Hitting the Stop button stops Action recording or stops an Action while it is running.
  7. Record button. This button starts recording of a new Action.  You can also append new commands to an existing Action by selecting a pre-existing Action.
  8. Play button.  Pressing play whilst an Action is selected will perform each command in the Action in turn.  If a command is selected within an Action, the playback will continue from that point onwards.
  9. Create New Action Set. A new Set will be created.  You’ll need to give your new Set a name.
  10. Create New Action. This will create a new Action.  You can colour code your Actions and even set up a keyboard shortcut for later use.
  11. Delete button. This deletes the selected Action Set, Action or Command. If you delete an Action from your Actions Panel, this cannot be undone!

Creating a new Action

Now you know your way around, let’s try using the Actions panel using a photograph.  We’re going to do several things:


  1. Sharpen the photograph
  2. Add a warming Photo Filter
  3. Resize the image
  4. Save it for web


So go ahead and open your image.  I’m using a photo of Dr. House:

Create a new Action Set by clicking on the Create New Action Set Button.  You’ll be asked to give the new Set a name.  Pick something descriptive.  Remember the Action Set is like a folder where you can store lots of different Actions.

Once the Action Set is created, hit the Create Action button to begin creating your Action.  Again, you’ll get a popup asking you to name your new Action, plus a few options.

Name your new Action.  It can be whatever you like, but I find it helps to be descriptive to jolt my memory when I see it again in the future.  You can also set up a keyboard shortcut at this point.  If you want to do this, simply select the key you’d like to use from the dropdown marked Function Key.  If you want to colour code your Actions to keep them organised, select a colour from the list.  Once you’re ready, hit record – this is where the magic starts!


You’ll notice the Record button is red, meaning that you are now recording.  Every command you run will be saved as a step within your new Action.

So, let’s start applying some changes to our photograph.  Firstly, sharpen your image: Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen.

Notice how this command has been added to your Action Set.

Now run through the other tasks:

Add Warming Photo Filter: Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter… Select Warming Filter (85) and leave Density at 25.

Resize the image: Image > Image Size… Reduce the image to 80%

Finally, let’s save the image.  File > Save for Web & Devices… save your file into the desired location.


Now you’ll see you have four commands under your new Action.  Hit the Stop button to stop the recording.

That’s it! You have now finished recording your first Action.


To run this Action on other photographs, simply open a new image, highlight your Action and hit play.

If you know how to do something in Photoshop, chances are you’ll be able to add it as a step in an Action.  Play around with the Actions Panel and you’ll soon find it’s one of the most useful tools in Photoshop.

Practical Graphics Tip #1: Easiest way to save time in Photoshop

Have you ever shown a client a design or layout (perhaps for an illustration or website) near the end of a project and had them ask to see a version with one or two elements changed?

Was this after hours of work polishing and perfecting each part, and did you have to re-do most of it to compensate?

If so, I’m probably preaching to the converted. If you’ve already discovered the benefits of using layers then this tip isn’t for you (stop reading!).

Still here? Excellent, we’re about to make your life a whole lot easier.

“Using layers within your projects can give you back hours of time normally swallowed by tweaks and changes.”

Design; The Time-Intensive Way

When we hear about people taking days or hours to re-design and accomodate slight tweaks from clients digitally, I wouldn’t be surprised if we thought their process looked something like this:

After reviewing the project brief (in this example, its a website) they gather as much information as possible about their requirements, becoming confident that they understand the client’s needs. They then hurry off and spend a lot of time getting the layout right, making button appearances and polishing the design – gaining client approval all the way. There may be different variations of the same file showing the buttons in hover or click states as well as the main file showing everything laid out perfectly in place.

The client asks for a slightly different layout. Our poor freelancer rushes off to re-make the main file, moving things around, re-doing parts and polishing it again until it looks ‘right’. It’s presented again, maybe another change is needed, the cycle repeats. This time with a more resentful freelancer.

On the sunnier side…

I can’t give you the magical telepathic ability to see straight into the minds of your clients and produce the project 100% correctly the first time. Using this simple technique I can, however, make alterations less painful (if no less annoying). Wouldn’t it be much nicer to take an hour (at the very most, simple tweaks usually take far less time) instead of a day?

You could be doing something more useful than re-shuffling a design; reading, learning something new, playing video-games, spending time with your family… maybe even (getting a little crazy here) working on a project meaningful to you.

5 Steps to Freedom

Having discovered we love extra time the following steps will show you a really simple way to save some.

1 – Open your project in Photoshop (or your graphics program). From looking at it, decide what the different elements of the design are and make a mental note of them.

2 – Heading down to the layers section, create a new layer for each of the different elements you’ve just identified.

3 – Name your layers! On its own this will save roughly five minutes (depending on the amount of layers) each time you need to make a change. Say what’s on that layer in one or two words.

4 – Cut each of your elements from the main layer, then paste them in place on their own layer. If you happen to have a background to your design, you can patch it up after everything’s been taken off of it.

5 – With your newly split project you can re-design, tweak, and play at your leisure.


Having everything on its own layer makes it easy to tweak layouts, colours, and effects without the need to edit everything else. It also means that you can create alternate layouts within the same file and compare them without constantly moving everything.

Very simple. Terribly appealing.