Saturday, September 11, 2010

Making a Digital Pseudo-mat

I've been lax on doing any technical posts so I decided to explain how I make the photos on this blog look like matted prints. You need to start by downloading and installing a Photoshop plugin called Extensis Photo Bevel 2.0 Solo. A quick Google search will find it and it's free. If you are working in Corel Paint Shop Pro it should work there too or in any photo editing software that is compatible with Photoshop plugins.

For this example I'll be using a photo from my recent Shelburne Museum trip. It is a shot of two animal sculptures. I initially thought they were dogs (and they may be) but now I notice they have prominent whiskers and pointy ears. OTOH they have pointy noses too so maybe they are dogs. In any case the first step is to resize them to whatever you want for the web. Most photos I post here are 800 pixels on the long side but for this exercise I've gone with 500 pixels by 400 pixels to fit the space better. Be sure to sharpen the image after resizing. Every time you resize you lose sharpness.

Now add a border using Image>Canvas Size... The width you add now will represent the beveled edge of the mat. I generally add 12 pixels horizontally and 12 vertically for 6 pixels per side. Be sure the box by "Relative" is checked in the canvas size dialog. In the example below I've added a slightly grey border because I'm making a white mat.

Now we are going to make the "bevel cut" on the mat. Go to your Filters and open the Extensis Photo Bevel Solo dialog. It looks like this...

When I did that screen capture I had already applied my desired settings. The default settings were for a round bevel shape 25 pixels wide. I changed it to Flat bevel 6 pixels wide (half the added canvas size). I left the other settings at default. If you chose to add more to the canvas size to make the mat look thicker, you should set the width here to half whatever you added. The direction determines how the shadow is cast. For a recess like a mat opening the light has to be from above. You could make it from the upper right if you wish. I generally leave the light direction at the default. Click on Apply and you will get this...

 Note that the top and left are darker and the bottom and right are lighter creating the illusion of a recess. Now we need the mat width which is nothing more than another Image>Canvas Size... command. Use your judgment. I generally go with 288 (it has to be an even number to be even on both sides) but if you like wider or narrower mats feel free to experiment. As I said I was going for a white mat so remember to change the color on the canvas size dialog.

At this point I have to confess that I added to the canvass one more time after the 288x288 addition. I added a 2x2 pixel middle grey border. * Blogger ads its own cell outline several pixels outside the image so you are seeing a double outline in all these images but in an application or web presentation which did not automatically show an outline the mat would disappear into the white background of the white page. If you aren't adding a frame it is a good idea to have a one pixel/side border to separate the image from the background unless you know that the background will be a contrasting color/tone.

* I later changed the background color of the blog to a middle grey so this is no longer evident but it is something to remember if you will be placing your image against a background of the same tone & hue that you chose for the pseudo-mat.

That is your basic pseudo-mat. You can fancy it up if you want by adding a texture. Set your magic selection tool to "0" tolerance and select the surface of your mat then apply a texture with the texture filter. I often use the canvas or sandstone textures. Keep it subtle though, very low relief and scale about 50%. You can also chose to do a pseudo-metal frame like my recent postings have. It is nothing more than another Image>Canvas Size... using black for the color and add around 40-50 pixels to the canvas. So there you go. Have fun. You don't even have to change blades in the mat cutter to get a clean cut.

Final image with sandstone texture (50% scale - relief 1) and a 40 pixel "black frame".

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