Photoshop: Stock Images in Collages

by Fred Showker
BEST TUTORIALS? I was following a reader's lead last night and it took me to Smashing's "Best Photoshop Tutorials" page. Upon surfing around in that site, it occurred to me that something wasn't quite right. I run Sniffer on my Mac to alert me when a web site attempts a breach or other covert activity, and found stalker links employed attempting to open ports and obtain information. Of course, this doesn't work on a Mac beyond local IP and provider information.

I began to think about what sites are recommending other sites, and how they are mysteriously connected. I see many sites recommending other sites that recommend back -- even if the content doesn't merit recommendations -- or if they're both promoting the same revenue streams. Some of these are hugely popular getting tweeted and re-tweeted over and over again. One popular Photoshop Twitter person (I think the proper term is "TWIT") tweets certain sites and pages over and over and over on a seemingly pre-defined schedule, making me wonder about the validity of the tweets.

Anyway, this article is NOT about the underbelly of the web, but rather to celebrate what I consider to be one of the best tutorial writers out there. This was going to be just a blurb in Photoshop Madness this month, but I decided it needed its own page...

Best Photoshop Tutorials?

We've told you about Vrya's Tangled Synthesis web site before. Vrya is a hyper-talented and prolific digital artist somewhere in Illinois, who has an unbelievable treasure of art and information to share. Interestingly enough, she also operates the Buffy Dialogue Database which in itself is a monumental task.

What I like most about Vrya's tutorials is they are totally sincere, thorough, and selfless. She covers minute detail and adds insight that few other tutorial writers include. There are no ads, blinking gotchas or other screen spam to railroad your learning experience. Her tutorials are written -- totally the opposite of most others who give you six pictures and 20 lines of text, leaving you to figure out the process on your own. (99% of those 'others' are 'borrowed' tutorials with a minimum of work just to generate ad revenue rather than actually teach you anything!)

Vrya's Tangled Synthesis Photoshop tutorial

This tutorial walks through a number of Vrya's art pieces to explain and demonstrate the use of stock images in collages. It's more about 'why' than how.

Vyra writes:

Ever since Touchstone first nudged me towards using stock images in my Photoshop creations a little less than 2 years ago, I've become more and more dependent on them. And I don't recall ever seeing a tutorial about how to use them, so I thought, well, that's were I come in. So onwards with my usual rambling discussion/confessional-style tutorial! It should be applicable to just about any decent image editing program...

Photoshop image files to be used in a montage collage
A few of the images that Vrya will bring together into a collage for Stargate.

Walking through the assembly techniques for some of her more popular creations, Vrya provides the essential background information that helps you learn the process, rather than monkey-see, monkey-do style. For instance, here she gives you a good comparison analogy so you understand the ideology of the process:

If you're already using custom brushes*, you'll notice that using stock images is very similar. If you're using a custom brush to just stamp once somewhere, that's exactly like using a grayscale stock image. If you're stamping multiple times, that's like using multiple copies of that stock image. The main difference is that the stock image can be in color, whereas the custom brush is going to be a single color or shades of a single color. You can however *make* the stock image a single color using the hue-saturation command. You can even define a stock image as a brush* if that's what you're comfortable with.

elements for Photoshop brushes and layers to form a montage or collage
Here are just a few of the various stock and "found" images that become elements for Photoshop brushes and layers to form a montage or collage

Along with the tutorial, Vrya offers other tips, tricks and side trips that broaden the information you've learned. As an example, she also shares this list of operations to remember when approaching a difficult project:

  • Resizing stock images in relation to your other images
  • Rotating/flipping stock images.
  • Masking/Erasing parts of them
  • Trying different blend modes (normal/overlay/softlight etc)
  • Rearranging layers, hiding and unhiding
  • Moving the stocks *below* any fandom images you're using, and change the blend on those instead of on the stock.
  • Using multiple copies of the same image, in different places
  • Adjusting the opacity
  • Using the color adjustment tools to change the color of the stock image
  • Using filters to change the stock image
  • Using adjustment layers over the top of everything to change the overall color/levels

You should explore and bookmark Vrya's site, not only is it fun, it offers a huge opportunity to learn comfortably from someone who is really doing it.

GO TO Using Stock Images in Collages
GO TO Tangled Synthesis
GO TO Vyra's Photoshop Tutorials Page

I enjoyed reading her FAQ almost as much as the rest of the site! You'll want to bookmark Vrya for sure!

Thanks for reading

Fred Showker

Don't forget ... we encourage you to share your discoveries about favorite or famous graphic designers and illustrators with other readers. Just comment below, contact me here, just give me a tweet at Twitter/DTG_Magazine, or write your own!



30th Anniversary for DTG Magazine