The creative tutorial home of image wrangler, Lesa Snider.

Creative Photo Frames, Pt. 1

April 25, 2007 by
Framing a photo with shapes

As I was perusing a recent issue of Elements Techniques -- a fantastic little magazine I started writing for over the winter -- I came across an article by Janee Aronoff on how to use Elements' Cookie Cutter shapes to frame a photo. It was a very different technique that I hadn't seen before and it looked really scrapbooky.

I dediced to try the effect myself, and I'm happy to report I experienced an extremely enjoyable afternoon of Photo Framing Fun. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided to share my creations with you.

You'll need to start out with two photos: one you wish to frame, and the other to cut out the shapes from. Think of the second image as a background image. Since the photo I'm framing is a beach scene, I went with a background of shells. Flower images also work very well.

Prepare the frame area

The first thing we need to do is make room for the shapes, as they'll extend beyond the edges of the photo. Instead of trudging all the way up to the Image menu to select Canvas Size, let's use a shortcut.

Step 1: Pop open the photo you wish to frame and double click the Background layer to make it editable. Press C to select the Crop tool and draw a box around the image. While holding the Option key (PC: Alt), drag any corner handle outward. Press return to accept, and...

...take receipt of your new space:

Cut out the shapes

Step 2: Pop open the shape frame image you've chosen and immediately duplicate the Background layer several times. You'll need one layer for each individual shape. Turn off the visibility eyeball on every layer save for one of the copies, as shown below:

Step 3: Select the Cookie Cutter tool from the main toolbox and hop up to the options bar at the top of your screen. Click the tiny triangle to the right of the shape icon, and a palette of (extremely lame) shapes will appear. Click the little flyout menu (circled below in red) and choose All Elements Shapes. The shapes palette will immediately be filled with more desirable choices.

Step 4: Click a shape once to choose it and draw the shape onto the photo. Once you release the mouse button, you'll notice resizing handles surrounding the shape. Feel free to resize, rotate, and/or move the shape around on the image. When it's just right, press Return.

Step 5: Turn the visibility eyeball off on the new shape layer, and turn it back on any other layer copy.

Repeat this process of drawing shapes until you create the desired number. Remember, each shape can be a different size and rotated at different angles. That can make the frame more visually interesting.

Placing each shape

Step 6: Position both the photo you're going to frame and the shape document so that you can see them both. Select the frame shape document and Command click (PC: Ctrl click) the layers to select them all. TIP: Click the bottomost layer then Shift click the topmost layer to select all in a succession. Drag them onto the photo document and when you see a dark rule appear, release the mouse.

Now the shapes and the photo should appear in the same document (it's okay if they're all jumbled up).

Step 7: Click one of the shape layers and press V to select the Move tool. Position the shape on the edge of the photo wherever you'd like. Repeat this process until each shape has been placed, and the photo is surrounded.

TIP: Resize any shape by pressing Command + T (PC: Ctrl + T) to invoke Free Transform. I'd refrain from enlarging the shapes, as you'll experience quality loss; however, feel free to make them smaller or change the angle of rotation.

Add some depth

It's drop shadow time baby! But instead of adding a drop shadow to each layer, let's add it to all layers at once.

Step 8: Command click (PC: Ctrl click) or Shift click to select all the shape layers in the document.

Step 9: Over in the Styles and Effects palette, choose Layer Styles from the left-hand pop-up menu and Drop Shadows from the pop-up menu on the right. Click the Soft Edge button once to add a drop shadow to each layer selected.

Step 10: Double click any of the tiny cursive "f" icons in the layers palette to edit the drop shadow settings. You don't have much control, but at least you have angle and distance. By checking the Use Global Light option, any change you make will effect all drop shadow instances.

Add a new background

Step 11: Select the Eyedropper tool from the main toolbox and sample a color from the photo.

Step 12: Click the New Layer icon at the top of the layers palette and drag the new layer to the bottom of the layer stack, below the photo. Press Option + Delete (PC: Alt + Delete) to fill the layer with color.

Until next time, happy photo framing :)

Here's the final image
Something quite different indeed! And while I was playing, I also made this