This Week On The Internet: Photoshop your way to success!

By ├ćndrew Rininsland

About three weeks from now, final grades will be out. For some people, this is a relief. For others, it is yet another reason to freak out. If you find yourself in the second boat, an encouraging photo to your parents showing all the amazing things you’ve done and incredible people you’ve met (or vice-versa) is a really good idea. Especially if they’re paying your tuition. Yet for those who haven’t met anyone more famous than the bouncers at the Den, this can be problematic. Luckily and as always, This Week On The Internet is here to save slackers everywhere with a quick crash-course in Photoshop Copy-Pasteology so 1. Get an image editor

The industry standard is Adobe Photoshop. However, this costs around $365 for the educational version. Even the stripped-down Photoshop Elements costs around $100. Those who can blow that much money on software probably aren’t reading this column. Thankfully, Adobe has a 30-day trial version available for all of us stingy bastards who’d rather blow $400 on booze than something productive.

Those wanting something longer-term that won’t blow up after 30 days should check out The Gimp, a free open-source image editor from the GNU project. Most of the ideas are the same, but it’s a bit different to use.
Photoshop CS2 Tryout
The Gimp (for Windows)

2. Find a good source image

Google Images is your friend. Look for high-resolution images of politicians and actors. Using the drop-down menu below the search box, select “Showing: Large Images.” This way, the end result will be less pixely and a fair bit more believable. Save to desktop or somewhere meaningful.

3. Take a good photo

Though this may be harder than it sounds for engineers (Zing!), the main thing is to do it against a monochrome, matte background. Shoot in the highest resolution your camera can do and try not to use a flash if possible in order to reduce shadows. The Science Link is actually really good for this since the eye-gouging, bright neon-green walls won’t match any clothing produced in the last two decades. Unless you’re one of the aforementioned engineers (Double-zing!). This is useful for the next step since you won’t have to mask out a bunch of trees like you may have to in the fifth step. And you thought the Take Your Place project was useless…

4. Float in space!

The next step is to remove the background of your photo so that you can be placed into the image of famous people. If you followed the above and shot it in Science Link, open the image up in Photoshop and go to Select, Colour Range. Click a spot on the green wall, then increase the “fuzziness” slider until just a silhouette remains. If there’s a shadow, click it using the “Plus” eyedropper (Located above the “Invert” checkbox). Click Okay, then press backspace or delete. Hopefully, this will remove the background.

Next, use the eraser tool to remove anything extra such as tape on walls or the floor.

5. Cut out the dignitaries

You want the people you’re hanging with to be on their own layer. Press Q to enter Quick Mask mode, and then use a paintbrush to colour the celebrities red. Pay attention to detail where you’re going to place yourself. Hair’s really difficult; hopefully you’re not trying to quick-mask Whoopie Goldberg or Van Halen. For fluffy hair, right-click and lower the hardness of the brush. Once finished, press Q again. The people should be outlined. Next, go to Select, Inverse. Now, go to Layer, New, Layer Via Cut.

6. Toss yourself in

Go back to the image of yourself. Click the magic wand tool (Right column, second row in the toolbox) and click somewhere on the background. Go to Select, Inverse. Now go to Edit, Copy. Return to the image of the celebrities. Go to Layers, New, Layer. Now go to Edit, Paste. If the celebrities are in the background, go to Layers, Arrange, send backward. The goal is to have a brand new layer sandwiched between the background content and the celebrities. Play with the Layers Palette initially located in the bottom-right corner. Drag the layers so they’re in the right order.

7. Tweak it!

Play with Photoshop a bit. Go to Edit, Free Transform, and scale yourself so you’re proportional to the celebrities. Hold down shift while doing this so you don’t turn into a sumo wrestler. Also, go to Image, Adjustments, Colour Balance and play with the sliders if you have a ghostly sheen and your celebrities look like they just came from Ibiza. Usually moving the middle slider to the right (i.e., increasing the red) does the trick. Lastly, clean up any stray pixels with the eraser tool. If there’s a weird green outline, go over that lightly with a soft eraser.

8. Save already!

If you haven’t already, save. Now. In fact, you should be saving the entire time because losing an hour worth of work to a system crash is never fun. Photoshop is the biggest memory hog known to man, with maybe the exception of Windows itself. Be paranoid.

That’s it! Now go forth and make silly pictures! Try some of’s Photoshop Phriday competitions. Better yet, send your compositions to with the subject “Photo To The Editor” and make Chris Tait have an aneurysm!

Have a crucial tech question? A wicked-cool website to share? Is your cat in your PC, eating your megahutz? Email!

Leave a comment