• Katie Stern

Creating a stone effect

I wanted to create a stone-like effect for a design fit for wallpaper or home goods. Spoonflower held a challenge that specified three Spoonflower fabric colors: Mushroom, Pine, and Sky Blue. I used the mushroom and sky blue colors together, hoping for a warm/cool mix.

In Photoshop, I used the mushroom color in the foreground and sky blue in the background. By using an effect called Clouds, Photoshop mixed my foreground and background colors together. If I didn't like the first rendering, I could continue using the Clouds effect until I liked what I saw. Photoshop mixes the colors a bit differently each time.

This was a good start, but I wanted something even more subtle. The theme for the Spoonflower challenge was "calm," so that was my goal. In artistic terms, I saw a greater difference in brightness between these two colors than I wanted. The hues were correct, but their values (brightness) weren't giving me a calming feel. To better match the values, I created a Curves adjustment layer and adjusted the curve line to even out those values.

Note to any of my former students: Yes, I broke the rules I taught you in class! I actually moved the black point and the white point, which would destroy a photograph. But when you're working with two colors only, you aren't destroying photographic detail. You're just changing the value of the colors. The result was a warm/cool blending of colors that would still work well with Spoonflower's solid colors.

Now I had a nice blend to use as a palette for my design. I created two line drawings in Illustrator to use as cookie cutters. The first would be a thin line shape with a hollow center. The second would be the same shape but filled in the center.

I'll demonstrate the solid object here, but the outlined version worked exactly the same way. I copied the object in Illustrator and pasted it directly into Photoshop. When given the option, I selected "smart object." Then I resized the object until I liked its size and hit Enter to set the size.

When I looked at my Layers panel, I could see that the Illustrator object was now on the top layer, just above the Curves adjustment layer. That was a problem! If I made a selection out of the object, Photoshop would be confused and wouldn't give me the cookie cutter option I needed. I needed to preserve all the underlying layers but also give me a solid composite layer. The answer was:

  1. Turn off the eyeball beside the smart object layer so it was invisible.

  2. Select the Curves adjustment layer.

  3. Hold down Shift-Control-Alt and hit the letter E. This created a new composite layer directly above the Curves layer and below my object layer.

Once that was completed, I could turn on the eyeball beside the smart object layer so it was visible again.

Now it was time to have some fun. I positioned the smart object over a section of the composite layer that looked attractive. It was important that I remain active on that new composite layer through the next steps. Just to help myself a little, I turned off the eyeball to the smart object layer again.

Holding down my Control key (I'm on a PC), I clicked on the icon of the vector smart object layer.

Control-clicking that icon gave me a selection around the object. That selection was the cookie cutter I wanted, and the new composite layer held the pixels I wanted to cut. Because I was still active on that layer, I could hold down Control and hit the letter J (Control-J) to copy the pixels from the new composite layer onto a brand new layer.

Because it was an exact copy, I couldn't see that new object on the screen. That's OK. I could have turned off all the other eyeballs to see it, but it really didn't matter. I could see it in the Layers panel.

My next step was to export that layer as a separate .png file. I clicked on the menu in the top left corner of the Layers panel and selected Quick export as .png.

Now I have a separate cookie cutter, pixel version of my shape from Illustrator. It contained the colors I wanted at the values (brightness) I was after.

I hope this demonstration helps you understand what goes into creating the effects you see in my design. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me: katie@career5design.com. I'll be happy to help.

Happy designing!

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