As image makers, it’s good to be able to show off our artwork in situ, particularly if we’re putting it up for sale on a website: it’s far more attractive to potential buyers if they can see it in context. It would be a huge expense to get all our images printed, solely for this purpose, of course.
Today’s Photoshop tutorial will show you how to create a custom reusable template to display your images as though they have been wall-mounted and photographed in situ. There are many reasons you might want to create an image like this, Here, we’ll be creating the effect of a canvas print but the technique could easily be adapted to make framed prints as well. The secret behind the technique is the use of Smart Objects, which enables us to quickly change the image being displayed, whilst retaining the shadows and effects used to make the canvas.
The base image we’re using here is a stock photo from Dollar Photo Club (#36872472) but there’s nothing to say that you couldn’t use a photo of your own room.
Let’s get started.
We’ll begin by making a new layer above the background layer. Select Layer > New > Layer from the menu, or use the keyboard shortcut: Cmd+Shift+N (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+N (PC). We’ll name this layer Canvas using the dialog that opens.
Now to start making our canvas shape. Start by grabbing the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Toolbox. If it’s not the active tool, just click and hold to open the fly-out menu. We can also use the keyboard shortcut: M, or Shift+M to cycle through the available options.
Since standard photographs generally have a 4:3 ratio, we can use a feature of the Marquee tool to set the correct dimensions. This also helps when it comes to replacing the images later. Go to the Control Strip. Open the Style drop-down. Select Fixed Ratio. Type in 4 for the Width and 3 for the Height.
Position the cursor central to the sofa, leaving plenty of room above it (roughly where I’ve placed the marker on the screen grab). Hold down the Option key (Mac) or the Alt key (PC). Now click and drag toward the edge of the image. As we do, the selection expands from the centre point, maintaining the ratio we set.
We have the shape, the next thing to do is fill it with colour. It doesn’t really matter what colour we use – this will become clear later – but white is the default for canvas and it will be easier to see the effects when we apply them. Select Edit > Fill. Choose white for the fill colour. Make sure Preserve Transparency is unchecked, otherwise it won’t be filled. Click OK. Go to Select > Deselect or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd+D (Mac) or Ctrl+D (PC).
That’s the basis of the canvas complete. It’s not looking like much at the moment, we need to add styling to it, of course. Before we do this, we need to convert the layer to a Smart Object; which, as we’ll see, is what makes the template so good. There are several ways to do this: I find the quickest is to select Filter > Convert for Smart Filters. We don’t see much of a difference, except for a small icon in the corner of the layer thumbnail.
Let’s start by adding a bevel to produce the slightly rounded edges of the canvas. Make sure the Canvas layer is active. Go to the bottom of the Layers panel. Click the fx icon and select Bevel and Emboss from the pop-up menu. We’ll keep things simple here. Set the Style to Inner Bevel. Change the Technique to Chisel Smooth. I’ve lowered the Depth slightly to 100%; this determines how heavy the light and shadow areas are. We don’t need too much of an edge so set the Size to around 4px. Increase the Soften value to something fairly high, 13px works well to smooth the transition. Keep the dialog open for the moment.
Now we’ll add a drop shadow to give the canvas substance. Click the Drop Shadow item in the list to enable it. By default the shadow colour is black, this is too harsh. We could always lower the opacity but I find you get better results by using the colour of the existing shadows in the image. Click the colour chip at the top of the Structure section. Use the eye-dropper to choose a suitable colour. The area just next to the right sofa cushion is good. Click OK to close the Color Picker dialog. We’ll leave the Blend Mode set to Multiply and the Opacity at 75%.
The shadow is too hard compared to the rest of the image, it also needs to be more offset from the canvas. We could set the distance with the dialog’s sliders but we if we move the cursor onto the image, we can drag the shadow around, which makes it much easier to judge the perfect distance. Around 56px suits this image. Finally, we’ll soften the shadow by adjusting the Size. A value of 49px works well. Don’t click OK just yet.
Now we have the style the way we want it, we can take the opportunity to save the settings as a preset, in case we want to reproduce it again, or if anything goes wrong while we’re creating the image. Click the New Style button on the right of the dialog. Give the style a name, Canvas Effect seems a suitable choice. Click OK to save the style. If we ever need to reproduce the style, all we need to do is click the Styles option at the top of the left column of the Styles dialog and choose our saved preset.
We could leave the effect as it is but I’m a stickler for detail. Go to the Filter menu. Select Filter Gallery. Go down to the Texture section. Select Texturizer. Set the Texture to Canvas. Set the Scaling to 100%. Lower the Relief to around 4px, we only need a subtle effect. Lastly, set the Light to Top Left. This matches the lighting in the image and also removes some of the obvious repetition of the pattern. Click OK to apply the filter. The texture really helps to blend our canvas frame into the photo.
That’s our canvas completed. So what about the image on the canvas? This is where the fun part comes. Double-click the Canvas layer’s thumbnail in the Layers panel. Click OK to dismiss the dialog that opens, if you haven’t already done so before. The original white rectangle opens in a new window. Notice that it doesn’t have the style or filter applied. This is the base image of the Smart Object we created.
Go to File > Place Embedded (or just File > Place in earlier versions of Photoshop). Find the photo you want to display in the file dialog. Click Place to open it in the current document. If the chosen photo has the correct dimensions, like the one in the example, it will fit the rectangle perfectly, otherwise we’ll need to scale it accordingly. Click the tick or press Enter on the keyboard to set the image down. Go to File > Save or press Cmd+S (Mac) or Ctrl+S (PC) to save the changes. Now go to File > Close or press Cmd+W (Mac) or Ctrl+W (PC) to close the window.
Now that we’re back on our display image, the photo has appeared on the canvas frame with the styles and filter in place. All we need to do now is save the image as a JPEG for adding to a website. Our template image itself can be saved as a Photoshop file or TIFF somewhere safe, to be used again and again. All we need to do is open the Canvas Smart Object again and replace the artwork with a new image, everything else will stay in place.
And that’s the project completed. I hope you find a use for this technique with your own images. If you like this tutorial, please share it using your favourite social media channels.
Until the next time, take care!
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