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Creating recursive images

From: Photoshop CS5 Smart Objects Workshop

Video: Creating recursive images

You may have seen those photographs in which one picture appears inside itself, which then appears inside itself again and so on, seemingly continuing into infinity. It's the Photoshop equivalent of the fun house mirror. Using conventional means, it would have been a long and difficult job to execute. But using Smart Objects, it becomes a simple process. Here's the image we're going to work with. A shot looking over a man's shoulder at his computer screen. And you can tell how old this image is from the age of the computer.

Creating recursive images

You may have seen those photographs in which one picture appears inside itself, which then appears inside itself again and so on, seemingly continuing into infinity. It's the Photoshop equivalent of the fun house mirror. Using conventional means, it would have been a long and difficult job to execute. But using Smart Objects, it becomes a simple process. Here's the image we're going to work with. A shot looking over a man's shoulder at his computer screen. And you can tell how old this image is from the age of the computer.

We'll start by selecting the screen, and we can do that most easily using the Quick Selection tool. As we drag it over the screen, well, it snaps pretty well to the edges. If we want, we can hit the Refine Edge button, and have a look at it. There it is against black. We can see it against white as well. And we can see, actually, that's a fairly acceptable cutout. We can work with that. What I'm going to do now is to make a new layer out of that. Using Layer > New Layer via Copy and that will form the basis for our mask.

I'm now going to duplicate this background layer. So I can select it and use Layer via Copy again, make a copy of it and I going to move it above that screen we just cut out. And now let's turn it into a Smart Object using Convert to Smart Object. I only want this to show up where it overlaps the screen beneath it, so let's make a Clipping Mask. Layer > Create Clipping Mask.

When we now scale this down, we can see how it's visible only where it overlaps the screen area. So it's now easy to adjust this by grabbing each of the corner points in turn. And on a Mac, you'd hold down the Cmd key, on a PC the Ctrl key to move each of these corners. When we move them till they're just outside the corners of the screen, we can see how we're creating a slightly distorted view of this image mapped onto the screen.

And we'll say Ok to that. Now to make this look more like a computer screen, we need to add a slight blue tint to it. And a better way to do that is to make a New Adjustment Layer. First of all we'll set blue as our Foreground color, and now when we choose Solid color as our adjustment, that's the color that we see through. We only want this to affect the screen itself, so we can add this to our Clipping mask group. On a PC hold Alt, on a Mac hold Option and click between the two layers and you can see the cursor changing.

Okay, so now we can see through it, we need to change the mode of this, perhaps we can try Multiply to only darken it up. And we can take the Opacity right down. And that's just about enough to give us the impression that we're looking through this onto a screen. Now here's the clever part. I'm going to Select All and make a Merged Copy, and a Merged Copy, we'll take a copy as if this had been a Flattened Image.

So now when I Deselect, I can open up that Small Object and let's reduce it down so we can move it over to the side and still see the image behind. When I paste into this, there is a picture within a picture, which appear inside the Smart Object. Now because it appears within the Smart Object, when we save this file, that's what now appear inside our screen.

So if we go back to our image, Select All, and make a Merged Copy again, and the shortcut for this, is Shift + Cmd + C on a Mac, Shift + Ctrl + C on PC. We can now go back to our Smart Object, paste once more, and save. Go back to our image, it's already selected. Merged Copy, back to our Smart Object and paste, and save. Once again, it's already selected. Merged copy, back to our smart object and paste, and save. Now we could keep on doing this as many times as we like, but I think you'll agree that by the time we got this far, that screen right in the middle, is actually so small, we can barely see it.

And that is the simple way to make a recursive image using Smart Objects. So now you've seen how it's done, you came amaze your friends and colleagues with your own recursive images. What seems to be a huge amount of work, is really only a matter of a very few minutes. And that thanks entirely to the power of Smart Objects.

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Photoshop CS5 Smart Objects Workshop

34 video lessons · 818 viewers

Steve Caplin
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