Background Images in Photoshop

Photoshop is a great tool for making background images. Although there are CD-ROMs that you can buy with backgrounds such as marble and metallic surfaces, you can create some realistic background yourself.

In this tutorial we will explore ways of creating the illusion of depth in a simple black and white scanned illustration as well as how to clean up a bitmap image that contains jagged edges.

If your image has rough or jagged edges the first thing you must do before creating the effect of depth in an image is to eliminate the rough or jagged edges. The best way to do to this is to re-scan the original image at a higher resolution. This is not always possible because you may be working off of a fax of someone else’s scan.

Begin by converting the image to grayscale. The best way to reduce rough edges is by blending the black edges into the white background with gray pixels, simulating anti-aliasing. Select Image > Mode > Grayscale. Click OK when it asks you to remove all color.

You will need to increase the resolution with the Image Size window. Click Image > Image Size. When the Image Size window appears make sure that the Resample Image box is checked. This allows you to change the number of pixels as you change the physical size or resolution. Since you want to add pixels to the image you need to resample the image. You will need to have at least 200 pixels per inch for the grayscale images to appear smooth.

After typing 200 in the Resolution box and clicking OK you have added more pixels to the image, but the edges are not smooth. To create smooth edges you will need to blur the image and then increase the contrast.

Click Filter > Blur > Gaussian. When the Gaussian window appears adjust the radius 3.8 so the rough edges are eliminated and retaining the image detail. Click OK and you are now looking at a blurry image with smoother edges. To regain sharpness we need to add contrast.

Click Image > Adjust > Levels. In the levels window you can increase contrast by deepening the shadows and lightening the highlights. The light gray edges around the star will be pushed towards the black or white, in effect, sharpening the edges. Slide the black arrow below the histogram to level 25, to deepen the shadows. Slide the white arrow below the histogram to level 65 to make the outside edges of the image white. This will leave a two or three pixel deep blended edge that creates a soft, anti-aliased look. You can adjust the input slider further to make the edges more or less blended.

Creating Wavy Depth
In this tutorial we want to make the star appear as thought it is raising out of the wavy, pillowy background. To do this we need to create a tonal variation in the black star using the Height Pass filter.

Click Filter > Other > High Pass. The High Pass filter emphasizes the sharp color transitions from highlights to shadows, and suppresses the remaining parts of the image. A low radius value leaves only the pixels nearest the sharp transitions unaffected; high radius values blend more smoothly between the transitions and the grayed area. In the High Pass window slide the Radius value to 12.0.

The center of the star’s shape and the white areas between turn gray. Now we need to enhance the contrast using the Brightness/Contrast window. Click Image > Adjust > Brightness/Contrast. Enter a value of +15 in the Contrast box and click OK.

Now you need to blur the area again to prevent rough edges. Since you do not need a small amount of blur you will use just the blur filter. Click Filter > Blur > Blur More.

Now it is time to emboss the image. Click Filter > Stylize > Emboss. Embossing an image simulates the effect of light shining on slightly raised or impressed bumps on a surface. The bumps appear lighter on the side the light hits and darker on the opposite side, where the bumps throw a small shadow on the page. You can control the height of the bumps as well as the angle and intensity of the light source.

In the Emboss window type in 145 for Angle, 2 for Height, and 235 for Amount. Play with these numbers to get you desired effect. You may want to make the angle higher and the amount lower or change the angle of the light. Now you have a start on creating your own background explore.

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