NHS Designs

step 11 complete effect

Graphic Design Projects

Custom Picture Frame

Use filters and the Smudge tool to make a unique image of a picture frame. An introduction to Lighting Effects and Alpha Channels.


STEP 1: Create the file and fill with gray

  1. Create a new file:
    1. File > New
    2. Name: lastnamefirstinitial-customframe.psd
    3. Width: 1600 pixels
    4. Height: 2133 pixels
    5. Resolution: 180 pixels/inch
    6. Click OK.
  2. Create a new layer.
  3. Edit > Fill.
  4. Use: 50% Gray.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Save the file in My Documents.

step 1 custom frame



  1. Press Ctrl-A to select the entire image area.
  2. Select > Transform Selection
  3. In the Options Bar, click the Maintain Aspect Ratio icon (link icon) to constrain the proportions of the selection.

step 2 options bar

  1. Type 75 for W: (the percentage for H should change automatically to 75.)
  2. Press Enter twice.
  3. Press the Delete key to cut out the center of the frame.
  4. Press Ctrl-D to deselect.
  5. Rename Layer 1 as frame shape.
  6. Save the file.

step 2 frame



  1. Open the rulers if they are not visible (Ctrl-R).
  2. Use the transform tool to find the center of the image (Ctrl-T.)
  3. Drag a guide from the horizontal ruler down to the center of the document, and drag a guide from the vertical ruler to the center as well. The guides should snap into place when you are near the center.
  4. Press Esc or Enter to exit Transform mode.
  5. Create a new layer above the frame shape layer. We'll rename it later.
  6. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool.
  7. Draw a rectangular selection in the top-left quadrant. The selection start in the very top-left corner and snap to the guides you placed.

step 3 selection



  1. Press the D key to set the Foreground and Background colors to black and white (the default).
  2. Press and hold the Alt key as you select Filter > Render > Clouds (holding down the Alt key renders clouds with more contrast.)
  3. Save the file.

step 4 clouds



  1. Ctrl-click on the layer thumbnail for the frame shape layer while Layer 2 is still selected. This loads the frame shape as a selection.

step 5 layer thumbnail

  1. Select > Inverse.

  1. Make sure that Layer 2 is still selected, and press the Delete key. The result should be the clouds contained within the frame shape.
  2. Ctrl-D to deselect.
  3. Save the file.

steo 5 cloud frame



  1. Make sure that Layer 2 is still selected, and that the foreground color is still black.
  2. Select the Smudge tool (nested under the Blur tool in the toolbox.)
  3. Choose a round, soft-edged brush at aorund 80px.
  4. In the Options Bar, set the Strength to 75%.
  5. Randomly smudge the clouds on the layer. Throw in some swirls.
  6. Don't worry if it runs off as you see here. Just smear in an artistic way, not a choatic way.
  7. Save the file.

step 6 smudge



  1. Now we'll make a symmetrical frame from this one corner piece. Press Ctrl-J to create a duplicate of this layer.
  2. Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.
  3. Select the Move tool and move the new layer over until it snaps into the top-right corner.
  4. Change the blend mode for this layer (Layer 2 copy) to Hard Light.
  5. Ctrl-E to merge the new layer with Layer 2.

step 7 top-right corner

  1. Press Ctrl-J to create duplicate of this layer again.
  2. Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.
  3. Use the Move tool to move the new layer down until it snaps into the bottom edge.
  4. Change the blend mode for this layer (Layer 2 copy) to Hard Light.
  5. Ctrl-E to merge the new layer with Layer 2. Rename Layer 2 as embossed metal.
  6. Ctrl-H to hide the guides.
  7. Save the file.

step 7 bottom edge


STEP 8: Create an alpha channel

  1. Make sure the embossed metal layer is still selected.
  2. Ctrl-A to select the entire image.
  3. Ctrl-C to copy the image to the clipboard.
  4. Click on the panel tab for Channels next to the Layers tab (if it is not visibile, go to Windows > Channels.)
  5. Click on the Create new channel button at the bottom of the Channels panel. The creates an alpha channel.
  6. Ctrl-V to paste the embossed metal image onto this alpha channel.
  7. Rename the channel embossed metal.
  8. Click on the RGB channel.
  9. Save your file.

step 8 alpha channel

    STEP 9: Lighting effects

    1. Return to the Layers panel and hide the embossed metal layer by clicking its Eye icon.
    2. Crtl-D to deselect.
    3. Click on the frame shape layer to select it.
    4. Filter > Render > Lighting Effects.
    5. Make sure the Light Type is Spotlight.
    6. At the bottom of the dialog you'll see the Texture Channel area. From the drop-down menu, select the embossed metal channel you created in step 8.

    step 9 lighting effects

    1. Drag the slider all the way over toward Mountainous to get maxmize depth.
    2. The position and direction of light determines how the image is embossed. You can modify the light properties by moving the sliders or by dragging right in the preview window. Grab the center point to move the light's overall position. Move the control handles on the oval to change the focus and intensity of the light.
    3. Click OK when you get an effect you like.
    4. Save your file.

    step 9 lighting effects


    STEP 10: Choose a metal color

    1. Ctrl-click on the Create a New Layer icon to place a new layer beneath the frame shape layer.
    2. Rename this new layer as metal color.
    3. With this layer still active, Ctrl-click on the layer thumbnail for the frame shape layer to load it as a selection.

    step 10 metal color

    1. Open the Color Picker, the Color Panel or the Swatches panel to select a color. I chose a gold color (R: 240, G: 198, B: 0).
    2. Press Alt-Backspace to fill the selection on the metal color layer with the color you chose (Note: Look at the metal color layer thumbnail to see the fill).
    3. Ctrl-D to deselect.
    4. Save your file.


    STEP 11: Complete the effect

    1. Select the frame shape layer and change its blend mode to Overlay. This will blend the texture with the color.
    2. Select the metal color layer and add a Bevel & Emboss layer effect with the following settings:
      1. Depth: 100%
      2. Size: 18px
      3. Soften: 3px
      4. Shadow mode color swatch: R: 131, G: 93, B: 53

    Step 11 bevel & emboss

    1. Save your file.

    step 11 complete effect


    STEP 12: Add artwork

    1. Select the Background layer.
    2. Open up your self-portrait collage from Project 10 (lastnamefirstinitial-collage.psd).
    3. File > Save As...
    4. File name: lastnamefirstinitial-collage-flat.psd and click Save.
    5. Layer > Flatten Image.
    6. Use the move tool to move this image into your customframe file.
    7. Place your collage image within the frame opening.
    8. Save your lastnamefirstinitial-customframe.psd file and turn it in.

    step 12


    Thanks to Photoshop User Magazine for this tutorial idea by Corey Barker.

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