Add a Classy Matte

For those of you that like tutorials, I thought you might like one to display your images in their best light, that or present them to clients that might buy them.  This is not a true matting experience, (I could show you that too), but one you can do for online display.  You could print it, but it certainly would not have the three-dimensional appearance of a true matte.

For those of you not able to do this project, I have some pretty animal portraits for you. So let’s get started on our Digital Matte.

Our first step in making the finished art, is to open a Photoshop document 14″ wide by 11″ high at 300 dpi ( or make this 8″ wide and  96 dpi for online use). The background color is the default white, name your project, MatteProject, and click OK.

Next we Place an image as a Smart Object by going to File>Place, then select an image you find on your hard drive. This brings the image in as a smart object. This means the original is not changed in any way, keeping your pixels as the image was created. Or do it the simple way and copy and paste, your preference.

Make a new blank layer below your image layer, this is where your matte will be created. In the Layers Panel, go to the bottom of the panel and select the folded paper looking icon and while holding the Command or Control key, click this radio button and you will get a new blank layer below your image layer, just where you want it.

In this step, on the blank layer, you go to the Rectangular Marquee tool and draw a rectangle roughly around the image like you see here. Don’t worry if it is off-center like shown, we will fix that later by using Photoshop’s Alignment tools.

Next you fill the area you just created with white. It can be any color, but we will try to make this look museum quality for fun.

I went to the little white and black circle icon in the Layers Panel to make an adjustment layer. You choose Solid Color to get the color picker. See the red arrow pointing to the drop down? But you can go to Edit>Fill and get the same color picker. But as an adjustment layer, you can easily change the color of the matte any time since it creates a layer mask. Notice, since I made the matte white, you do not see any thing happening in the document, but you see the mask in the layers panel.

We will add an Inner Shadow to the white mat (Layer 1), our original blank layer, so you will see this layer appear in your document. Go to the bottom of the Layers Panel again, then to  Add Layer Style drop down (fx) and select Inner Shadow. Make the selections as shown in the next illustration. You can change them, but try these first.

You can see we have a believable matte starting to happen.

But if we want to make it look fancy, we make adjustments to the document as shown above, and then add some fancy text. This would be a great way to show your photos to your client’s and friends on your iPad, no?

You can optionally add some text and make adjustments to make it really classy. Here, I picked a color for the text, a golden hue like in the image of the bear above, selected the font Trajan, centered the text, added a layer style of Bevel and Emboss, and adjusted the tracking between the letters.

To adjust tracking, you highlight the string of text (triple click the line of text), then use the key board shortcut, Option Command Right Arrow (Alt Control Right Arrow on a PC). This makes space between the letters. If you add too much, no worry, just use Option Command Left Arrow (Alt Control Left Arrow on a PC), and they grow closer together. Just a tip you likely did not know, but a great one to know.

Lastly, like I mentioned above, we need to align all the layers to center them. Select all the layers by selecting the top one first, then Shift clicking the bottom layer. With them all selected, select the Move tool from the Tools panel. With that tool selected, you get the handy alignment tools as shown in the illustration. It is at the top of the Photoshop document. Select the Align Centers tool and all the layers are perfectly centered.

And our Giraffe portrait is complete. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I did jump over the text portion rather quickly.

The giraffe below was taken in really low light and if you want to see how to photograph in these kind of conditions, see the post Night Lights in the Garden on Garden Walk Garden Talk.