Skill Level Intermediate
- Hi I'm Sean Duggan and on this episode of Mobile Photography Weekly, we're going to blend some good, old fashion handmade art techniques, with the digital capabilities of modern mobile photography as we explore how you can create your own custom rough edges that you can use with photo processing apps. The analog handmade part of this technique is pretty simple. Just get some art paper that has a good surface texture to it and if it's thicker art paper, you can also tear the edges and create some cool torn edges.
Now if the paper already comes with rough or torn edges, you can just photograph that against a contrasting background. Or, get some black ink or dark paint and brush on your own rectangular or square shapes, or even a circular shape if that's what you want. Experiment with different brush techniques to create the types of edges that you want. The idea here is that the image will appear inside the dark area that you're creating with the ink or the paint. Now, as long as the paint is dark, it can really be any color.
So for example, I thought that I was buying black paint here because the bottle was black, right? Well, I guess I should have been paying more attention, but hey, no worries, purple will work fine. After the painted or inked brush strokes have dried, just photograph them with your camera phone. Now normally, I don't like to use digital zoom but in this case I did because we're not really going to see any of the detail in the finished piece, just the rough edges, so a little bit of zoom is okay. And even though I'm using art paper with rough edges here, any rough, irregular shape will work to create any interesting custom edge.
So, I'm going to start out in Snapseed, which is available for both iOS and Android and I'm going to go and open up one of those brushed on images that I created earlier. I'll get this purple on here, and the first thing I'm going to do is go into the Tools section of the app and choose Tune Image and I'm going to swipe vertically on the screen and I'm going to choose Saturation, and I'm just going to dial the saturation all the way back 'cause I don't want it to be purple, although that could be interesting for some images.
Next, I want to increase the contrast and darken down that shape a little bit. So, if you want to have the image appear within this rough edge shape and not see any of the texture, then you want to have the shape as dark as possible, even black. But if you do want to see some of the texture then don't darken it down quite so much. I'm going to darken it down a bit, but leave some of that texture visible. So, I'm going to come to Shadows, and I'm just going to drag those all the way down. Next I'll choose Highlights and I'll brighten up those, that brings in a little bit more of the brush textures, and maybe even Contrast, let's turn that up.
So, that looks pretty good. I'll just tap the check mark and then I'll tap Export and choose Export to save out a copy of that. So, now we need to combine the painted brushstrokes with a photograph. Now to do this, you need to use an app that lets you blend images with layers and blend modes. Now there are a lot of different apps you might use for that. Fortunately, Snapseed does have a double exposure feature that should work pretty good for this. I'll tap Open and let's just go get a picture to use here, I'll get the boat and I'm going to desaturate the boat a little bit first.
I'll choose Tools and then Tune Image. Swipe vertically on the screen to get this menu and then I'm just going to dial the saturation back just a little bit so it's not quite so colorful. All right, let me tap Tools again and down near the bottom of the Tool section in the lower-left is a Double Exposure feature, so let's choose that. And on the Double Exposure screen, I'm going to tap the Add Image button, down on the lower-left, and I'll just get that brushstroke image I just saved.
Now, the result you get when the image first appears in here is going to vary depending on how you last used this section of the app, so obviously this is not what we want. I'm going to tap on the little swatch book down in the center of the toolbar there and you'll see I have a few blending modes that I can choose from. Now, there are other apps such as Photoshop Mix, which is available for Android and iOS, or Union, which is available for iOS that offer more blending modes as well as the ability to use layer mask.
And apps like that are going to give you a lot more control, however, for a simple blend like this, the blend modes that are available here in the Double Exposure feature in Snapseed will work pretty good. If I tap on Lighten, that is going to display the lightest areas of each layer and that's why we get the boat showing up inside the shape, because the boat is lighter than that dark shape. And Darken is what it was set to when we first came in here.
There's another possibility we might choose here, instead of Lighten, and that is Add. So, if we tap Add, we get a really interesting result where we can see some of those brush strokes showing up and that is actually looking pretty good. I actually like that a lot better than Lighten which just looks like the photo is kind of stuck inside this shape, it just doesn't look very convincing, but Add is looking pretty good. That's how you might blend in something that has a dark shape, a dark brushed-in shape with white borders, but what if you had just the opposite? What if you had a light shape on dark borders? Well, let's check out how that works.
I'm going to tap the Add Image button again, and I'm going to go out and I'll get this photograph which is of just rough edged art paper on a black background. So, obviously the Lightened blend mode doesn't work very well, but Darken will work. And, just like Add gave us a little bit of a different dimension to this effect, when we used the Lightened blend mode, Subtract is going to give us a pretty cool effect here as well. So, Subtract shows us a lot more three-dimensionality to the edges, as well as it's bringing in a little bit of the paper texture on top of the photograph, so I really like the way that that looks.
But what if you didn't want a black border? What if you wanted this effect with a white background? Well to do that, we need to take the image of the paper on the black background and invert it, so let's take a look at how to do that. All right, so here's that image of the paper on the black background. I'm going to choose Tools. And then right up in the top center, I'm going to choose Curves. And in the Curve grid here, I'm going to take this point that's in the center here and just drag it out of the box to remove it from the curve.
Next, I'm just going to reverse the shape of the curve. I'm going to tap on the upper-right point in the upper-right corner and I'm going to drag that down to the lower-right corner, then I'll tap on the point in the lower-left corner, and then I'll drag that up to the upper-left corner and so now we have an inverted image. Tap the check mark to apply that and notice that we can also see a little bit of the textural surface of that paper. Let's enhance that just a bit.
I'm going to tap on Tools again and go into Details and let's use a two-finger gesture to zoom up here and if I scroll here on the middle of the image or swipe vertically I can choose Structure and I can just turn that up a little bit, so that looks pretty good. I'll tap the check mark to apply that, and then as before, I'm just going to choose Export and save that out. And now, let's combine it with the same boat image in the Double Exposure feature. All right so I have the boat image open again in Snapseed.
I'm in the Double Exposure screen. I'm going to tap the Add Image button and I'm just going to go out and grab that image I just saved. So there it is, and that looks pretty good right off the bat. If we open up the Blend Mode menu, we can see that it's set to Lighten. But let's go and tap on Add and see what that looks like and that's actually looking pretty cool. I really like the way that that is showing up. It's maybe a little bit too light on the boat, which I can always adjust by darkening down that texture, making it blacker and then the highlights in the boat wouldn't be blowing out quite so much, but overall I really like the way that that's looking.
So there are a lot of apps that let you add rough edges to your photos, but you can create effects that are a lot more personal and unique by using this simple method to paint and photograph your own edges. Plus, getting your hands involved in the art making process is always very satisfying. If you like working with custom edges, give it a try.