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Written by Steve Patterson.

In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to easily turn a photo into a beautiful watercolor painting with Photoshop! To create the watercolor painting effect, we’ll use a few layers, filters and blend modes, and we’ll keep the effect fully editable using Photoshop’s Smart Objects and Smart Filters. This way, you’ll be able to go back and try different filter settings when you’re done to fine-tune the results for your specific image.

I’ll be using Photoshop CC but this tutorial is fully compatible with Photoshop CS6. If you’re using Photoshop CS5 or earlier, you’ll want to check out the original version of our watercolor painting tutorial.

This effect works best on images where rich colors and strong contrast are more important than fine details. Here’s the photo I’ll be using (still life photo from Adobe Stock):

The original image. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

And here’s what the final watercolor painting effect will look like when we’re done:

The final result.

Let’s get started!

How To Turn A Photo Into A Watercolor Painting Step 1: Duplicate The Background Layer

If we look in the Layers panel, we see our image sitting on the Background layer, which is currently the only layer in the document:

The Layers panel showing the photo on the Background layer.

Dragging the Background layer onto the New Layer icon.

Release your mouse button, and Photoshop adds a copy of the Background layer, named “Background copy”, above the original:

The Layers panel showing the copy of the Background layer.

Step 2: Convert The Layer Into A Smart Object

Let’s convert our new layer into a Smart Object. That way, when we apply a filter to it, the filter will be applied as a Smart Filter. Unlike Photoshop’s regular filters which make permanent changes to the image, Smart Filters are non-destructive and fully editable, which means we’ll be able to go back and make changes to the filter settings if we need to.

Then choose Convert to Smart Object from the menu:

Choosing “Convert to Smart Object”.

It won’t look like anything has happened to the image. But if we look at the “Background copy” layer’s preview thumbnail, we now see a Smart Object icon in the lower right corner, telling us that the layer is now a Smart Object:

A Smart Object icon appears in the preview thumbnail.

Step 3: Make Two Copies Of The Smart Object

Making a copy of the Smart Object.

Making a second copy of the Smart Object.

We now have three Smart Objects, along with the original Background layer on the bottom:

The Layers panel showing three Smart Objects plus the Background layer.

Step 4: Rename The Smart Objects

Don’t press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) just yet. Instead, press the Tab key on your keyboard to jump down and highlight the next Smart Object’s name. Change it from “Background copy 2” to Dry Brush. Then, press the Tab key again to jump down to the original Smart Object’s name and change it from “Background copy” to Cutout. When you’ve renamed all three Smart Objects, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard:

The three Smart Objects have been renamed.

Step 5: Hide The Top Two Smart Objects

Turning off the top two Smart Objects.

Step 6: Apply The Cutout Filter

Make sure that the “Cutout” Smart Object is selected in the Layers panel. As you may have guessed from its name, the first filter we’ll apply is Cutout. The Cutout filter is found in Photoshop’s Filter Gallery. Go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen and choose Filter Gallery:

This opens the Filter Gallery, with a large image preview area on the left, a filter selection column in the middle, and the controls and options for the selected filter on the right. If you can’t see your entire image in the preview area, press Ctrl+0 (Win) / Command+0 (Mac) on your keyboard to choose the Fit on Screen view:

The Filter Gallery in Photoshop.

Choosing the Cutout filter from the Artistic category in the Filter gallery.

The Cutout filter options.

Step 7: Change The Blend Mode To Luminosity

Back in the Layer’s panel, change the blend mode of the “Cutout” Smart Object from Normal to Luminosity:

Changing the blend mode to Luminosity.

The Luminosity mode blends only the brightness values from the Cutout filter effect, allowing the colors from the original image on the Background layer to show through:

The first part of the watercolor painting effect is complete.

Step 8: Select And Turn On The “Dry Brush” Smart Object

Selecting and turning on the “Dry Brush” Smart Object.

Step 9: Apply The Dry Brush Filter

To add more detail to the watercolor effect, we’ll use Photoshop’s Dry Brush filter. Like the Cutout filter, Dry Brush is found in the Filter Gallery. Go back up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar and once again choose Filter Gallery. Since the Filter Gallery was the last item we chose from the Filter menu, you’ll find it at the top of the list:

Choosing “Filter Gallery” from the top of the Filter menu.

Selecting the Dry Brush filter and setting its options.

Step 10: Change The Blend Mode To Screen Or Lighten

With the “Dry Brush” Smart Object still selected in the Layers panel, change its blend mode from Normal to Screen:

Changing the blend mode of the “Dry Brush” Smart Object to Screen.

The Screen blend mode lightens the overall effect:

The effect with the “Dry Brush” Smart Object set to Screen.

If you find that Screen makes your image look too bright, try the Lighten blend mode instead:

Switching from Screen to the Lighten blend mode.

With the Lighten blend mode, you’ll lose much of the brightening effect but you’ll gain detail. Choose the blend mode that works best for your image. In my case, I prefer the Screen blend mode, but here’s what the effect looks like using Lighten:

The effect using the Lighten blend mode.

Step 11: Select And Turn On The “Median” Layer

Selecting and turning on the Median Smart Object.

Step 12: Apply The Median Filter

The third filter we’ll use is Median, which will remove more of the detail in the image while keeping the edges of objects well-defined. Median is not found of the Filter Gallery. Instead, we access it by going up to the Filter menu, choosing Noise, and then choosing Median:

Setting the Radius value to 12 pixels.

Step 13: Change The Blend Mode To Soft Light

Finally, change the blend mode of the “Median” Smart Object from Normal to Soft Light:

Changing the blend mode to Soft Light.

And with that, we’re done! Here’s my original image once again for comparison:

The original photo once again.

And here, after applying the Median filter and changing the blend mode to Soft Light, is my final watercolor painting effect:

The final watercolor painting result.

Editing The Watercolor Painting Effect

And there we have it! Visit our Photo Effects section for more Photoshop effects tutorials!

You're reading How To Create A Watercolor Painting Effect In Photoshop

How To Create A Signature Brush & Watermark In Photoshop

How To Create A Photography Signature In Photoshop

If you’re looking for the perfect way to watermark your photos, using your signature is a great option. It looks professional, simple, and, most importantly, unique to you! In Photoshop, there are a few different ways you can create a photography signature, whether you want a formal watermark or a signature brush. With the help of a sharpie and a smartphone, you can quickly create either option, even if you’re totally new to Photoshop!

In this tutorial, you’ll learn two different ways of adding your signature into photos in Photoshop. The first method will teach you to create a signature brush, while the second uses a PNG file to save as a watermark template.

That might sound a little complicated at first, but you’ll be amazed at how fast and simple this process is!

Let’s get started.

How To Create A Signature Brush In Photoshop

For this first example, let’s discuss how to turn your signature into a custom Photoshop brush. The best part about this method is that it’s easy to apply to an image or customize your signature later on. Following the steps below, you’ll be left with a new brush preset matching your exact signature!

Step 1: Write Your Signature On White Paper

First, you need to create your signature. Grab any piece of white paper and draw your signature with a sharpie. The goal here is to create a signature with thick lines, so it’s easier to select later on.

If you were to use something with a smaller tip, like a pencil, you wouldn’t end up with a good result.

Step 2: Take A Photo Of Your Signature With Your Phone

Now that your signature is written on the paper, it’s time to break out your phone. With the flash turned on, take a clear and sharp image of your signature written on the paper.

Try to make the signature as large as possible in your frame without cutting anything out.

The flash is useful because it adds more contrast between the white paper and the black sharpie. When it comes to edge selection, later on, this will make a world of difference.

You can take this picture with any camera, but your phone is likely the easiest way of doing things. If you want to break out your DSLR camera for this, feel free!

Step 3: Import Your Signature Photo Into Photoshop

Send your signature photo to your computer or share it with yourself using any of these apps.

Open Photoshop and press Command + O (Mac) or Control + O (PC) to open a file from your computer. Select your signature image from wherever it’s saved.

Step 3: Select & Cut Out Your Signature

To save the cutout as a brush, you need to first remove the background. Since there is a black signature against a white background, channels will be the best method to cut out the signature.

To make a selection, first, duplicate your specific channel by dragging it down to the new channel icon. In this example, I’ll duplicate the green channel since it has the most contrast.

With the duplicated channel selected, press Command + L (Mac) or Control + L (PC) to bring up your levels. Bring up the shadows slider and down the highlights. Continue this until your signature is completely black and the nearby surrounding area is completely white.

If there is any black or grey surrounding your signature, select the Brush Tool (B) and set white to your foreground color. You can then paint over any areas around your signature until it’s completely white.

This will create a selection around the black and white areas in your photo.

Going back to your layers tab, select your signature image and apply a layer mask. Your active selection will automatically be applied to the mask and cut out your image.

Now you’re left with your signature against a transparent background! Since you’ve successfully cut out your signature, it’s time to save it as a brush preset.

Step 4: Save Your Signature Cut Out As A Brush Preset

Name your new brush to whatever you’d like. I’ll keep it simple and call mine “Signature Brush.”

Step 5: Start Using Your New Signature Brush!

Now that your signature has been saved as a Photoshop brush, you can locate it within the Brush Settings panel. Opening this window, you’ll find it at the bottom of your brush list.

How To Apply Your Signature Brush Onto Photos

When you’re using a signature brush, you can customize the watermark’s color or size with ease. To scale the size, just press the [ or ] keys on your keyboard.

To change your brush’s flow or opacity, just use the upper settings bar while your brush tool is active.

You can then pick the color of your brush by setting your foreground color to anything you’d like. There are ways to change the color afterward, but we’ll discuss that in the next section.

To ensure you’re editing non-destructively, you’ll want to apply the signature brush onto a new layer rather than the image directly. This way, you can edit the position, size, or layer styles afterward if needed.

Start by creating a new layer above the image layer.

If you want to make adjustments to the position or size, grab the Move Tool (V) and adjust it as needed.

Now you have successfully added your signature onto a photo with Photoshop!

Customizing Your Signature

If you want to add further adjustments to your signature brush, such as drop shadows, gradient fills, glows, or change the color; you can do so using layer styles.

You can follow this same process with any of the adjustments found in layer styles. It’s a great option for making further adjustments to your brush if needed.

Saving Your Signature As A PNG Watermark In Photoshop

At this point, you know how to create a signature watermark in Photoshop, but perhaps using a brush isn’t your cup of tea. As an alternate option, you can save your signature as a PNG file that you can just drag and drop into your photo as needed. This is a great way of doing things if you couldn’t be bothered with applying a brush.

Here’s how to do it.

After you’ve cut out your signature using the previous steps, rather than saving it as a brush preset, we’ll save it as a PNG.

However, before you do, it’s a good idea to first fill your signature with a solid color.

Start by setting your foreground color to white.

Now instead of applying a signature brush, you can drag and drop this PNG signature into any photo. Best of all, you can still change this signature’s color using the layer style method you learned earlier.

This is a great alternate method if you prefer the simplicity of dragging and dropping your signature where you want!

So that is how to make a photography signature in Photoshop using a brush preset or a PNG image. Both options are fast and simple to use, but it just comes down to personal preference.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an option for exporting images with a watermark like there is in Lightroom. Instead, you’ll have to manually add your watermark using either of the steps you learned here.

Luckily once you first cut out your signature, the hard work is done, and you’re left with a photography signature that can be used indefinitely!

Happy Editing!

– Brendan 🙂

Easy Depth Of Field Effect In Photoshop

Easy Depth Of Field Effect In Photoshop

Written by Steve Patterson.

In this Photoshop Effects tutorial, we’re going to look at an easy way to adjust the depth of field in a photo, keeping only a small portion of the image in focus while taking the rest of it out of focus. This is a great way to bring attention to a specific part of an image (someone’s face, for example), and the effect is similar to how things would look if we had shot the photo with a wide aperture.

For best results, we’ll be using Photoshop’s Lens Blur filter to create this effect, which is available in Photoshop CS and later, which means you’ll need at least Photoshop CS to follow along with this tutorial. If you’re using Photoshop 7 or earlier, you can still achieve good results with Photoshop’s classic Gaussian Blur filter, but the Lens Blur filter is the filter of choice for this effect because it tries to mimic how an actual camera lens works, whereas the Gaussian Blur filter simply blurs everything out.

Here’s the photo I’ll be working with:

The original image.

Let’s say we wanted to bring attention to the woman’s face. There’s lots of creative ways we could do that, but since her face is closer to the camera than anything else in the photo, the easiest way would be to limit the photo’s depth of field so her face becomes the only part of the image that’s in focus. Here’s how it will look when we’re done:

The final effect.

This tutorial is from our Photo Effects series. Let’s get started!

Step 1:

Duplicate The Background Layer

Let’s begin by duplicating our Background layer so that we’re not harming our original image information. To duplicate the Background layer, go up to the Layer menu at the top of the screen, choose New, and then choose Layer via Copy:

For a faster way, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac). Either way tells Photoshop to create a copy of the Background layer for us, and if we look in the Layers palette, we can see our copy, which Photoshop has named “Layer 1”, above the original Background layer:

The Layers palette showing the copy of the Background layer above the original.

Step 2:

Select The Area That Will Remain In Focus

Using the selection tool of your choice (Lasso Tool, Polygonal Lasso Tool, Pen Tool, etc.), draw a rough selection around the area that will remain in focus. In my case, I want the woman’s face to be in focus, so I’m going to use the Polygonal Lasso Tool, which you can find hiding behind the Lasso Tool in Photoshop’s Tools palette, to select her face. Your selection doesn’t need to be surgically precise, so don’t spent too much time on it. In fact, we’ll be softening the edges of the selection (commonly known as feathering the selection) in a moment, and we’ll see how to fine-tune things if you need to a bit later:

The area around the woman’s face is now selected.

Step 3:

Enter Quick Mask Mode

If you look at your image, you’ll see that your selection outline has disappeared temporarily and that the area outside of the selection is now overlaid in red:

In “Quick Mask” mode, the area outside of the selection appears overlaid in red while the selection outlines disappear.

Notice how my selection looks pretty bad, but that’s okay because we’ll be softening it next.

Step 4:

Apply The Gaussian Blur Filter

We need to soften the edges of our selection to create a smooth transition between the selected and unselected portions of the photo, and the Quick Mask mode is going to make it very easy for us to see what we’re doing. We’ll use Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur filter to soften the edges. Go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Blur, and then choose Gaussian Blur:

This brings up the Gaussian Blur dialog box. Keep an eye on the selection edges in the document window as you adjust the Radius slider at the bottom of the dialog box. Dragging the slider to the right will increase the amount of blurring along the edges, increasing the edge softness, while dragging it to the left will decrease the amount of blurring. Adjust the Radius value until you see a nice, smooth transition along the edges. Here, I’m increasing my Radius value to somewhere around 16-17 pixels. The value you end up using may be different depending on the size of your image:

Increase the “Radius” value in the Gaussian Blur dialog box to create a smooth transition along the selection edges in Quick Mask mode.

The selection edges have now been softened.

Step 5:

Exit Out Of Quick Mask Mode

You’ll see the red overlay disappear in the document window and your selection outline returns:

The standard selection outline is now visible once again while the red overlay disappears.

Step 6:

Save The Selection

We’ve done everything we need to do with our selection. Now we need to save it. To do that, go up to the Select menu at the top of the screen and choose Save Selection:

Press Ctrl+D (Win) / Command+D (Mac) to deselect your selection in the document window. If you switch over to your Channels palette, which you’ll find grouped in beside the Layers palette, you’ll see that your selection has been saved as a new alpha channel named Alpha 1 at the bottom of the palette. We can see by looking at the channel’s preview thumbnail on the left that the area that was inside the selection appears white, while everything that was outside the selection appears black. It’s tough to make out in the small thumbnail, but the smooth transition area we created around the selection edges appears as a narrow white-to-black gradient:

The saved selection becomes a new “Alpha channel” in Photoshop’s Channels palette.

This is important because in a moment, we’re going to be using this black and white alpha channel we’ve created as a depth map for the Lens Blur filter. A depth map is simply a grayscale (black and white) image that Photoshop uses with the Lens Blur filter to decide which parts of the image to blur out and by how much. Any areas in the depth map that are pure black remain 100% in focus while areas that are pure white are completely blurred out. Areas that fall between pure black and pure white, such as the transition area around the selection edges, will be blurred to a lesser degree depending on how light or dark they are.

If you were paying attention there, you may be thinking “Wait a minute, isn’t that exactly the opposite of what we want? You said black areas remain in focus while white areas are blurred out, but in the alpha channel we just created, it’s the white area that we want to keep in focus, not the black area. The black area is where we want to apply the blurring!” You’re absolutely correct. We’ll need to tell Photoshop to invert our depth map in the Lens Blur filter’s dialog box, and we’ll see how to do that in a moment.

Switch back over to your Layers palette to continue.

Step 7:

Apply The “Lens Blur” Filter

Now that we’re back in the Layers palette, make sure you have “Layer 1” selected (the currently selected layer is highlighted in blue). We’re going to create our depth of field effect at this point, and we’re going to do it using Photoshop’s Lens Blur filter. Go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Blur, and then choose Lens Blur:

The Radius option works exactly the same here as it does in the Gaussian Blur filter. Simply drag the Radius slider to the right to increase the amount of blurring that’s applied to the image. Keep an eye on the preview area on the left as you drag the slider so you can see what’s happening. Adjust the Radius slider until you achieve the amount of blur you’re looking for. Here, I’ve set my Radius value to 20. Again, the value you choose for your image may be different:

In the Lens Blur dialog box, make sure that “Alpha 1” is selected for the Depth Map and the “Invert” option is checked, then adjust the “Radius” slider until you reach the desired amount of blurring.

After applying the Lens Blur filter, only the woman’s face remains in focus.

If, after applying the blur effect, you feel it’s a bit too strong, you can fine-tune it simply by lowering the opacity of “Layer 1”. You’ll find the Opacity option in the top right corner of the Layers palette. I’m going to lower mine to around 85%:

Fine-tune the amount of blurring by adjusting the opacity of “Layer 1”.

Here’s my image after lowering the opacity. The change is subtle, but you can make out the man’s facial features a little better now:

The image after fine-tuning the Lens Blur effect.

At this point, the only thing I don’t like is that there’s some blur being applied to the left side of the woman’s face (her right, our left) and it’s causing her face to blend in with the man’s face behind her. I’d like to touch that up so that her face appears nice and sharp along the edge. I can do that easily using a layer mask, and I’ll do that next!

Step 8:

Add A Layer Mask

Nothing appears to have changed in the document window, but if we look at “Layer 1” in the Layers palette, we can see that we now have a layer mask thumbnail to the right of the layer’s preview thumbnail:

A layer mask thumbnail now appears on “Layer 1”.

Step 9:

Select The Brush Tool

I’m going to paint away the blur effect from the side of the woman’s face. For that, I’ll need Photoshop’s Brush Tool so I’ll select it from the Tools palette. You can also access the Brush Tool simply by pressing the letter B on your keyboard:

Selecting the Brush Tool from the Tools palette.

Step 10:

Set Your Foreground Color To Black

By default, whenever we have a layer mask selected, Photoshop sets our Foreground color to white and our Background color to black. To paint away the blur effect on “Layer 1”, we need to paint with black, which means we need black as our Foreground color. Press the letter X on your keyboard to swap your Foreground and Background colors, making black the Foreground color and white the Background color. We can see what the colors are currently set to by looking at the two color swatches near the bottom of the Tools palette. The top left swatch is the current Foreground color and the bottom right swatch is the current Background color:

The Foreground and Background color swatches in the Tools palette.

Step 11:

Paint Away Any Unwanted Areas Of Blurring

With the Brush Tool selected and black as your Foreground color, simply paint over the areas where you want to remove the blur effect. In my case, I’m going to paint along the edge of the woman’s face. You can adjust the size of the brush using the left and right bracket keys on your keyboard. The left bracket key makes the brush smaller while the right bracket key makes it larger. You can also adjust the edge hardness of the brush by holding down the Shift key and pressing the left and right bracket keys. Holding Shift while pressing the left bracket key makes the brush edges softer, and holding Shift while pressing the right bracket key makes the edges harder. I’m going to use a small brush with fairly hard edges and paint along the left side of the woman’s face to remove the blurring:

Painting along the edge of the woman’s face to remove any unwanted blurring.

If you make a mistake and accidentally paint over the wrong area, simply press X on your keyboard to switch your Foreground color to white and paint over the mistake, then press X again to switch back to black and continue painting away the blur effect.

I’ll continue painting along the edge of her face to remove the last bit of blurring. If I look at the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers palette, I can see all the areas where I’ve painted with black to remove the blurring from the photo:

The layer mask thumbnail showing the areas that have been painted with black.

And here, after removing the blur effect from along the side of the woman’s face so it contrasts nicely with the out-of-focus man’s face behind her, is my final “depth of field” result:

The final result.

And there we have it! That’s how to easily create a shallow depth of field effect with Photoshop! Check out our Photo Effects section for more Photoshop effects tutorials!

Folds And Creases Effect In Photoshop Cs6

In this Photo Effects tutorial, we’ll learn how to add folds and creases to an image to make it look as if it’s been folded and unfolded like a map! We’ll use guides and selections to create the folded sections of the image, along with some gradients, a layer blend mode, and one of Photoshop’s filters to add highlights and shadows. We’ll even use a custom brush to give the fold lines a worn out appearance. This version of the tutorial has been fully updated for Photoshop CS6 (the version I’ll be using here) and is also fully compatible with Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud). If you’re using Photoshop CS5 or earlier, you’ll want to check out the original Folds And Creases Effect In Photoshop tutorial.

How To Create A Folds And Creases Effect Step 1: Add A New Blank Layer

Since our new layer is blank, it won’t look like anything has happened in the document. But if we look in the Layers panel, we see that Photoshop has added a new blank layer named “Layer 1” above the original image on the Background layer:

The Layers panel showing the newly added layer.

Step 2: Turn On The Rulers

Next, we’ll drag out some horizontal and vertical guides to help us out. Before we can do that, though, we first need to have Photoshop’s rulers turned on. Go up to the View menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen and choose Rulers. You can also turn the rulers on by pressing Ctrl+R (Win) / Command+R (Mac) on your keyboard:

The rulers will appear along the top and left of the document:

The rulers are displayed above and to the left of the image.

Step 3: Drag Out Two Vertical Guides Step 4: Select The Rectangular Marquee Tool

Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool from the Tools panel, or press the letter M on your keyboard to quickly grab it with the shortcut:

Selecting the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Step 5: Drag A Selection Outline Around The First Section

With the Rectangular Marquee Tool selected, drag out a selection outline around the first section (the one in the top left of the image). The selection will snap to the guides:

Draw a rectangular selection around the first section in the top left corner of the image.

Step 6: Select The Gradient Tool

Select the Gradient Tool from the Tools panel, or press the letter G on your keyboard to select it with the shortcut (the keyboard shortcuts for the Rectangular Marquee Tool and the Gradient Tool will come in handy in a moment):

Selecting the Gradient Tool.

Step 7: Select The Black, White Gradient Step 8: Draw A Black To White Gradient Across The Selection

Drawing a black to white gradient inside the selection.

Step 9: Draw A Selection Outline Around The Next Section

Switch back to the Rectangular Marquee Tool by pressing the letter M on your keyboard, then drag out a selection around the next section (the one in the top center):

Dragging out a selection outline around the top middle section.

Step 10: Draw A Black To White Gradient Across The Selection In A Different Direction

Drawing the second gradient at a different angle than the first one.

Step 11: Repeat Steps 9 And 10 For The Remaining Sections

We need to do the same thing for all six of the sections, but it’s just a matter of repeating the same couple of steps for each one. First, press the letter M on your keyboard to switch to the Rectangular Marquee Tool and drag out a selection outline around the section, then press the letter G on your keyboard to switch to the Gradient Tool and draw a black to white gradient inside the selection, drawing each gradient at a different angle to add variety. When you’re done, you should have a gradient across each section. Press Ctrl+D (Win) / Command+D (Mac) on your keyboard after you’ve drawn the final gradient to remove the selection outline around it:

Each section should have its own black to white gradient.

Step 12: Hide The Rulers And Guides

We don’t need the rulers or guides anymore, so to hide the rulers, either go back up to the View menu at the top of the screen and reselect Rulers, or press Ctrl+R (Win) / Command+R (Mac) on your keyboard. To hide the guides, go up to the View menu, choose Show, then choose Guides, or press Ctrl+; (Win) / Command+; (Mac) to turn them off from the keyboard:

Step 13: Change The Blend Mode To Soft Light

Go up to the Blend Mode option in the top left corner of the Layers panel and change the blend mode of the gradients layer from Normal (the default setting) to Soft Light:

Change the blend mode of Layer 1 to Soft Light.

This turns our gradients into a series of highlights and shadows in the image, and we can start to see our “folds and creases” effect taking shape:

The image after changing the blend mode to Soft Light.

Step 14: Apply The Plastic Wrap Filter

To bring out the fold lines a bit more, we’ll use Photoshop’s Plastic Wrap filter. Go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen and choose Filter Gallery:

Twirl open the Artistic category and choose Plastic Wrap.

The options for the Plastic Wrap filter are found at the top of the column on the right. Set the Highlight Strength to 20 and Smoothness to 15 by dragging both sliders all the way to the right. Then set the Detail option to somewhere between 5 and 10. The higher you set the Detail value, the tighter the effect will appear around the fold lines, so keep an eye on the large preview window on the left as you drag the slider and choose the value you think works best. I’m going to set my Detail value to 10:

The Plastic Wrap filter options.

The image after applying the Plastic Wrap filter.

Step 15: Add Another New Blank Layer

Adding a second new layer.

Step 16: Select The Brush Tool

To enhance the effect even further, let’s add some wear and tear lines to the folds, and we’ll do that using a custom brush. Select Photoshop’s Brush Tool from the Tools panel, or press the letter B to select it with the keyboard shortcut:

Selecting the Brush Tool.

Step 17: Choose A Spatter Brush From The Brush Picker Step 18: Open The Brushes Panel And Select The Brush Tip Shape Options

Setting Roundness to 10% and Spacing to 50% in the Brush Tip Shape section.

Step 19: Select The Shape Dynamics Options

Increase the Size Jitter value to 100% by dragging the slider all the way to the right, then set the Control option direcly under the Angle Jitter slider to Direction. Don’t close out of the panel just yet because we still have one more category to select:

Setting Size Jitter to 100% and Angle Control to Direction in the Shape Dynamics options.

Step 20: Select The Dual Brush Options

Choosing the Spatter 27 pixels brush, setting the Blend Mode to Multiply, Size to 55 px and Spacing to 55%.

Step 21: Set Your Foreground Color To White

We need our brush color to be white, and Photoshop uses the current Foreground color as the brush color, which means we need to make sure our Foreground color is set to white before we start painting. The easiest way to do that is to first press the letter D on your keyboard, which will reset the Foreground and Background colors to their defaults (making the Foreground color black and the Background color white). Then press the letter X on your keyboard to swap the colors, which makes the Foreground color white. You can see the current Foreground and Background colors in the color swatches near the bottom of the Tools panel:

The Foreground color (upper left) swatch should be white.

Step 22: Paint Across The Fold Lines

The image after adding several brush strokes to the first vertical fold line.

The image after adding the brush strokes.

Step 23: Lower The Layer Opacity (Optional)

Finally, if the brush strokes look a little too white and intense, you can fade them more into the image by lowering the layer’s opacity. You’ll find the Opacity option directly across from the Blend Mode option at the top of the layer’s panel. By default, opacity is set to 100%. I’m going to reduce mine to 65%:

Lowering the top layer’s opacity.

And with that, we’re done! Here is my final “folds and creases” effect:

The final result.

How To Crop A Single Layer In Photoshop

How to Crop a Single Layer in Photoshop

Here are two ways to crop a single layer in Photoshop so you can crop the contents of one layer without cropping every layer at once. For Photoshop 2023 and earlier.

Download the PDF: How To Crop A Single Layer

Written by Steve Patterson.

One question I’m asked a lot is, How do you crop the contents of a single layer? We can’t use the Crop Tool because it crops all layers at once. So in this tutorial, I show you two ways to do it. The first way is the easiest way to crop a layer, but the easy way is not always the best. So I also show you a better way that’s both flexible (you can go back and edit the crop) and non-destructive.

Which version of Photoshop do I need?

I’m using Photoshop 2023 but any version will work.

The document setup

Here I have a document with two layers, as we see in the Layers panel.

Photoshop’s Layers panel.

Each layer holds a different image. Here’s the image on the top layer (couple photo from Adobe Stock). I want to crop away most of this image and keep just the area around the two people.

The image on the layer that will be cropped.

Turning off the top layer.

We see the image on the bottom layer (leaves photo from Adobe Stock). Once I’ve cropped the other image, I’m going to move the cropped version into the center of this image .

The image on the Background layer.

Let’s get started!

Download this tutorial as a print-ready PDF!

The easy way to crop a single layer in Photoshop

Here’s the fastest and easiest way to crop a single layer in Photoshop.

Step 1: Select the layer you want to crop

In the Layers panel, make sure the layer you want to crop is selected.

Selecting the layer to crop.

Step 2: Choose the Rectangular Marquee Tool

Then in the toolbar, select the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Choosing the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Step 3: Select the area to keep

Drag a selection outline around the part of the image you want to keep. Everything outside the selection will be cropped away. Here I’m dragging my selection around the two people.

Dragging a selection around the area to keep.

Step 4: Resize the selection with Transform Selection

If you need to resize your selection outline before cropping the layer, go up to the Select menu in the Menu Bar and choose Transform Selection.

Choosing Transform Selection from the Select menu.

In the Options Bar, unlink the Width and Height fields to unlock the aspect ratio of the selection.

Unlinking the Width and Height.

Then drag any of the transform handles to resize the selection outline.

Dragging the handles to resize the selection.

Step 5: Invert the selection

At the moment, everything on the layer that we want to keep is selected. But what we need is for everything we want to crop away to be selected. Which means we need to invert the selection.

So go up to the Select menu and choose Inverse.

Choosing Inverse from the Select menu.

Step 6: Crop the layer

Then to crop the layer, press the Delete key on your keyboard. Everything that was outside your initial selection gets cropped away.

Press Delete to crop the layer.

Step 7: Remove the selection outline

To remove the selection outline, go back to the Select menu and choose Deselect.

Choosing Deselect from the Select menu.

And that’s the easiest way to crop a layer. If I turn off the Background layer:

We see that everything around my selection was cropped away and replaced with transparency (indicated by the checkerboard pattern).

The unwanted parts of the layer have been cropped away.

Why the easy way to crop a layer is not always best

But here’s the problem. We have now permanently deleted the pixels we cropped away, which means there is no way to go back and edit the crop if we need to restore some of that missing area. At least, not without undoing the crop and starting over.

How to crop a layer using a layer mask

So let me show you a better way to crop a layer in Photoshop, one that is both editable and non-destructive. Instead of deleting the unwanted pixels, we’ll simply hide them using a layer mask.

Related: Extend an image like magic with Generative Fill in Photoshop

Step 1: Select the area you want to keep

If you have not done so already, use the first 4 steps in the previous section to draw a selection outline around the part of the layer you want to keep.

In my case, I’m just going to undo my last few steps, by pressing Ctrl+Z on a Windows PC or Command+Z on a Mac a few times, to get back to my initial selection around the two people.

Restoring the selection around the area to keep.

Step 2: Add a layer mask

Adding a layer mask.

Photoshop crops away everything on the layer that was outside the selection. But this time, those pixels are not gone. They’re just hidden from view.

The layer is cropped but nothing was deleted.

Notice that we now have a layer mask on the layer, indicated by the mask thumbnail. The layer mask is hiding everything that was outside our selection. The white area on the mask is where the contents of the layer are still visible. And the black area is where the content is hidden.

The layer mask thumbnail.

How to toggle the layer mask on and off

Turning off the mask shows the entire contents of the layer.

How to view the layer mask on the canvas

Viewing the layer mask on the canvas.

Step 3: Unlink the mask from the layer

Since we are just hiding pixels, not deleting them, we can edit the crop simply by resizing the visible area of the layer mask.

Step 4: Select the layer mask

Selecting the layer mask.

Step 5: Resize the layer mask with Free Transform

Go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar and choose Free Transform.

Selecting Free Transform from the Edit menu.

In the Options Bar, again make sure the link icon between the Width and Height fields is not selected so that the aspect ratio of the layer mask is unlocked.

The Width and Height should not be linked.

Then drag any of the transform handles around the visible area of the layer mask to resize the crop.

Dragging the handles to resize the layer mask.

Moving the cropped layer

Now that I have cropped the top layer using a layer mask, I want to move the cropped image into the center of the background image.

So in the toolbar, I’ll select the Move Tool.

Relinking the layer and the mask.

And now I can drag the cropped image into the center.

Dragging the cropped layer into the center of the background image.

Adding layer effects to the cropped layer

I’ll quickly finish up by adding a stroke and drop shadow to the cropped image using layer effects.

Then I’ll choose Stroke.

Choosing Stroke.

In the Layer Style dialog box, I’ll set the stroke Color to white, the Position to Inside, and the Size to 29 pixels.

The Stroke options.

Then still in the Layer Style dialog box, I’ll select Drop Shadow from the column along the left.

Adding a Drop Shadow.

Dragging on the image to position the Drop Shadow.

Closing the dialog box.

Here is the final result.

The final effect with the cropped layer centered in the background image.

And there we have it! That’s two ways to crop a single layer in Photoshop.

Related tutorials:

Don’t forget, all of my Photoshop tutorials are now available to download as PDFs!

Create Color Swatches From Images In Photoshop 2023

Create Color Swatches from Images in Photoshop 2023

Learn how to turn photos into color swatches by sampling colors directly from images, and how to save your colors as custom swatch sets, in the latest version of Photoshop CC!

Written by Steve Patterson.

In the previous tutorial, we learned all about the improved Swatches panel in Photoshop CC 2023. We looked at Photoshop’s new default color swatches, and the new ways to drag and drop colors from the Swatches panel directly into the document.

This time, I show you how easy it is to create your own color swatches in Photoshop. Specifically, you’ll learn how to create swatches by sampling colors from an image. You’ll also learn how to organize your swatches into custom sets. And along the way, I’ll show you a simple trick you can use to reduce the number of colors in your image so that choosing colors becomes a whole lot easier.

For best results with this tutorial, you’ll need Photoshop 2023 or newer. If you’re already using Photoshop CC, make sure that your copy is up to date.

The document setup

To follow along with me, go ahead and open any image. I’ll use this image that I downloaded from Adobe Stock:

The original image. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

Let’s get started!

How to reduce the number of colors in the image

Before we start sampling colors from the image, let’s look at how to make the process of selecting colors easier by reducing the number of colors we can choose from. To do that, we’ll pixelate the image. This step is not absolutely necessary, but you may find it helpful.

Step 1: Duplicate the image layer

In the Layers panel, we see my image on the Background layer:

The Layers panel showing the original image.

Dragging the image onto the Add New Layer icon.

Release your mouse button, and a copy of the layer appears above the original:

A copy of the image appears.

Learn all about layers in Photoshop with our Complete Guide!

Step 2: Select the Mosaic filter

To pixelate the image, go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar, choose Pixelate, and then choose Mosaic:

Step 3: Adjust the Cell Size value

In the Mosaic filter’s dialog box, the Cell Size option at the bottom determines the number of squares, or “pixels”, that the image will be divided into. Photoshop averages the colors in the image and fills each square with a single color.

Adjusting the Cell Size value.

Here’s my result after applying the Mosaic filter. With the image now pixelated, we have a clearer view of the photo’s overall color palette, and we’ll have an easier time choosing the colors we need:

The result after pixelating the image with the Mosaic filter.

Keep filter effects editable with Smart Filters in Photoshop!

Creating a new swatch set in Photoshop CC 2023

So now that we’ve pixelated the image, we’re ready to start sampling some colors to create swatches. And to keep the Swatches panel organized, we’ll first create a new swatch set that we can place our swatches into.

Step 1: Open the Swatches panel

Start by opening the Swatches panel. In Photoshop CC 2023, the Swatches panel is grouped in with the Color, Gradients and Patterns panels.

The default color swatch sets in Photoshop CC 2023.

Step 2: Create a new swatch set

Naming the new swatch set.

Your new set appears below the other sets in the list:

The new “My Swatches” set appears.

Tip! Create swatch sets within the main set

But rather than placing all of your custom swatches into the same set, it’s usually better to divide them into smaller sets within the main one. In other words, if you’ll be creating swatches from different images, you may want the swatches from each image to be saved in their own set.

Step 1: Create another new swatch set

Naming the new set.

Back in the Swatches panel, the new “Portrait” set appears below the “My Swatches” set:

The second set appears.

Step 2: Drag the new set onto the main set

To move the “Portrait” set into the “My Swatches” set, all I need to do is drag the “Portrait” set up and onto it. When a blue highlight box appears around the “My Swatches” set, I’ll release my mouse button:

Dragging one set onto another set.

And now, the new set is nested inside the main one:

The Swatches panel showing the nested swatch set.

How to create color swatches in Photoshop

Now that we’ve created a new set to hold our swatches, let’s learn how to create swatches by sampling different colors from the image.

Step 1: Select a swatch set in the Swatches panel

First, in the Swatches panel, make sure the set you want to save the swatches into is selected. I’ll choose my “Portrait” set:

Choosing the correct swatch set.

Step 2: Select the Eyedropper Tool

Next, in the toolbar, select the Eyedropper Tool. You can also select the Eyedropper Tool from your keyboard by pressing the letter I:

Selecting the Eyedropper Tool.

Selecting the Eyedropper Tool.

Back in the toolbar, the color you sampled appears as your new Foreground color:

The Foreground Color swatch shows the sampled color.

You can name the new swatch in the Color Swatch Name dialog box, or just accept the default name. And you can add the new swatch to your Creative Cloud library by selecting the Add to my current library option. I don’t need to do that so I’ll uncheck it.

The Color Swatch Name dialog box.

Tip! How to skip the Color Swatch Name dialog box

The new swatch appears as a thumbnail in the active swatch set:

The sampled color is saved as a new swatch.

See also: How to choose text colors from images!

How to delete a color swatch

Deleting the selected color swatch.

The Delete Swatch dialog box.

And then choose Delete Swatch from the menu:

Choosing the Delete Swatch command.

Creating more color swatches

All of your new swatches will appear in the set, ready to be used in your layout or in future designs:

The new swatches.

Deleting the pixelated version of the image

Finally, to delete the pixelated version of the image when you’re done, select its layer in the Layers panel and simply drag it down onto the Delete Layer icon (the trash bin):

Dragging the pixelated version onto the trash bin.

And there we have it! That’s how easy it is to create your own color swatches, and how to save them in custom sets, in Photoshop CC 2023! In the next tutorial, I’ll show you how to import and export your color swatches so you’ll always have them when you need them!

Check out our Photoshop Basics section for more tutorials. And don’t forget, all of our Photoshop tutorials are available to download as PDFs!

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