Pictures should be able to stand on their own two feet without embellishment, but there are few that don’t look at least 30% better when they are mounted and framed. Obviously, this sort of treatment is reserved for prints, but even those who show their work on-line or in an electronic form can benefit from this form of presentation. We don’t frame every picture we take, only the best, so when we add a frame to an image, even electronically, it sends the message that we think the picture in question is special. Framed images have that prestigious air about them.
When ‘framing’ this picture I decided to go for a multi-layered effect to add depth to the mount. This just echoes the effect you get when you use a double window mount, with two shades of card and the white edge that shows in the cut. When working this way it’s best to create the outer-most mount first. There are a number of ways of to create these mounts, but I’ll show you a simple one.
Make a bigger canvas
First you need to make the background mount, which you do by enlarging the canvas the image sits on. Go to the top bar of Photoshop and selectEdit>Canvas Size. Ensuring the central square is selected as the Anchor, type in the size you want the final picture to be leaving a bit to spare so that you can crop later on to the final dimensions. If your picture file is 7x5in @ 300ppi, for example, create a background canvas that measures about 10x10in @ 300 pixels per inch.
With the image sitting on a bigger plain background use the magic wand tool to select the out line of the image so you can add the faint shadow effect.
Add a stroke – or two
To create this first grey layer, that will look almost like a shadow in the final image, we’ll use the ‘stroke’ feature of Photoshop. With the whole image selected head to Edit>Stroke. The box offers several options, one of which is width/colour. The width of the stroke you will need at any point depends on the size of the picture you are working on. Obviously a 20 pixel stroke is proportionally bigger on a 600×800 pixel image than it is on a 2000×4000 pixel image, so you may have to try a few different settings before you find the right width for the picture in question. Picking a colour is comes down to your own personal choice, but I find shades of grey most effective and the least offensive to the majority of people. Also in this position, between the picture and the white ‘card’ the effect is supposed to be shadow rather than anything that has a colour.
The box below the width/colour options asks you to determine where the stroke goes. ‘Center’ places the stroke on the selection line, so half of the stroke’s width covers part of the image, and half falls outside of the image, while ‘Inside’ places the stroke entirely on the picture area, and ‘outside’ places the strokes thickness on the ‘card’. If you want to avoid losing any picture area select the ‘outside’ option.
Once that’s done deselect the image and reselect it to include the new much wider stroke, and then add the extra stroke to create the white area shown in my example. I didn’t actually use white, but a very light yellow/grey instead.
Colour the ‘card’
Then you need to add a colour or tone to the rest of the ‘card’. To do this use the rectangular selection tool to draw a box around your picture leaving the amount of white showing that you want. Go to the top bar and click on Selection>Invert to select everything other than your picture and the amount of white you want showing. You now need to add the colour or tone to the card. You can pick any colour you want to compliment your image, but I tend to stick with neutral shades to grey. Dull perhaps, and to everyone’s taste, but grey has the benefit of working with every picture. Select your colour using the colour picker, and then use the paint bucket tool to flood the colour onto the card
Add text to record the details
I like to write on these frames, especially for portraits, so the picture can have a name or so we can all remember when the picture was taken and who is in it. I’ve been doing a series of birthday pictures of my family, so I use this space to record the date, name and age of the subject so the piece becomes more of a historical record.
I create a text box and write whatever I want to in white. I then align the text with the picture, usually in that bottom right hand corner, and then fade the text layer so reduce the text to a grey rather than a bright white. White tends to stand out too much and can take away from the picture. Obviously you want people to be able to read the text, but it shouldn’t be the first thing they see.
Although really designed for web use, these frames, if done neatly, work well in print too. I saves actually cutting window mounts (or matts) and is a quick and effective way of presenting your images in an album or portfolio.
If you don’t have Photoshop you can create these effects in a wide range of other programs. I have used the simple application Paint to do the same thing just by creating backgrounds that the image is pasted onto, as well as Gimp – which offers for free much of what you pay for in Photoshop.
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The original image, in colour and unframed
Select the image area with the magic wand tool ready
to apply a ‘stroke’
The stroke size you need depends on the image size, so experiment
to find what is right for your picture. Choose the ‘outside’ option and
then pick the colour you want to use. I tend to stick with neutrals
Select the outside of the first stroke to create the second. Make this a
big one, as you can crop it away when you create the
background ‘card’ colour later.
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