Digital Focus: Layer Photos for Special Effects

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Feature: Copy a Texture Between Pictures

Digital photography gives us the ability to get creative and manipulate reality. Recently, someone told me that my car would looks great if I painted "some sort of wild animal" on the hood. Well, after I stopped laughing, I thought, "hey, perhaps that's not such a bad idea." I've seen some vehicles with truly jaw-dropping custom paint jobs... but how could I visualize what my car would look like with a giant wolf or cougar draped across the hood?

It was surprisingly easy to try that out in an image editor. I started with a photo of my car; then I picked out a picture of my favorite wolf, a critter named Yukon that I'd photographed a number of years ago.

Select Your Canvas

If you want to try this at home, save both of the pictures and load them into an image editor. For this example, I'll use Jasc's Paint Shop Pro.

Open the photo of the car, then select the Freehand Selection tool, which we'll use to ensure that we paint only on the hood of the car. The Freehand Selection can be found in the fifth cubby of the toolbar on the left side of the screen. Make sure you can see the Tool Options palette at the top of the screen; you can toggle it on by choosing View, Palettes, Tool Options. Then set the Freehand Selection tool to Smart Edge from the Selection Type drop-down menu.

Now carefully use the tool to select the entire hood area. To do that, click on the edge of the hood, move the cursor a short distance, then click again. Follow this process until it's completely selected, then double-click to close the loop.

Add the Texture

Now select the picture of Yukon and switch to the Clone Brush, which lives in the eighth cubby from the top of the toolbar. In the Tool Options palette, set the size of the brush to about 45 pixels and make the Opacity pretty low, about 30 percent. We want the opacity to be low enough that so when we apply the picture of the wolf, it won't obliterate the underlying texture of the car.

Now it's time to paint. Right-click on the wolf at the bridge of his nose, right between his eyes. That selects your starting point. Now switch to the car photo and position the mouse at the point that you'd like the eyes to appear. When you're ready, just click and paint, covering the entire hood in one stroke--don't lift your finger off the left mouse button until you're done painting.

When you're done, click on the Freehand Selection Tool again and right-click in the picture to eliminate the selection outline. If you like the results, save the picture.

Remember that you'll get different results by varying the opacity of the painting. You can also try using a larger or smaller secondary image. If I had wanted to cover the entire car with the wolf, for instance, I might have started with a larger image. Or I could have resized the wolf to make it small enough to fit on the door.

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