Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This is the first in an occasional series of featured tutorials by artists. Like myself, I think most people like to watch an artist do what they do. It's fascinating to watch a piece of art take shape before your eyes - it's almost magical.

So I'll start things off with a brief tutorial on my latest passion, digital collage. I started seriously studying Photoshop when I went through several long recuperations from back surgery. I plopped my laptop on a bed table and began to try to get my head around the unlimited possibilities in Photoshop. In no way do I pretend to be an expert; I'm constantly amazed at how much I can do - or more correctly, CAN'T do, since I just can't get some techniques through my head.
So here's a very simple creation with just two layers. (Some of my pieces will have as much as a dozen layers or partial layers in the final image.)
I recently took some photos of blue iris. By happy accident, some of the closeups were over-exposed so they looked something like this. I was fascinated - the petals were almost transluscent, with the veins very prominent. I decided to try to do something with them.

Here's the first step. Each image opens on its own layer. Photoshop puts all the applications in working palettes - see to the left and right of the image.
I then brought in a brightly colored painterly image from my clip art collection.
The next step was to drag the iris image on top of the painted image. At first, all you see is the original iris image, because it's sitting on top. Using two palettes - Hue/Saturation/Lightness, and the Layers palette, I can now begin to manipulate the images. The layers palette has a drop-down slider for opaqueness. Making sure I'm on the top layer, I begin to adjust the iris layer to allow the image underneath to show through. Notice that because of the overlay the layers change colors in some absolutely wonderful ways!
If I choose to, I can then use the Hue palette along with the opaqueness to adjust the colors and the image even more.

That's basically it. If any of you know Photoshop, you know this is a pretty basic application, but with some delightful results. For me, being able to create something in a relatively short amount a time makes up for those hours upon hours I spend on those 12-layer creations!

Here are some examples from my "Iris Series." I am evaluating several to decide which ones I want to list in my Etsy shop. I would appreciate any feedback.

Also, if you are an artist and would like to share a tutorial on my blog, please email me: and let me know. I would love to have you come and play!


  1. cool tutorial & colorful piece!

  2. How amazingly beautiful! I had a basic knowledge of photoshop, but this is way above my head. Gorgeous!!

  3. Thanks, Jean. That's how I feel when I look at your paintings - gorgeous!


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