Shop Talk

Guest Blog: How to Create a Botanical Collage in Photoshop

Hello fine Redbubble folk! My name is Paul Summerfield and I’m going to show how to create a new digital collage design using open copyright images from The State Library Victoria’s wonderful image collection, which you are very welcome to indulge in as well.

Recently I won 3rd prize in the #createarthistory competition with my artwork “Fantastic Botanical”, which you can learn more about here. Using my winning entry as inspiration, I’m going to create something a bit similar using the same images, plus a few others I found on the libraries online catalogue.

Probably the most important questions before starting any artwork or design with for Redbubble, and digital artwork in general is…

  1. How big shall I make my canvas?
  2. How could my artwork potentially be used in the future? (think large prints, wallpaper,ect)
  3. What’s the biggest file my computer or software can handle? (depends on your chosen device for digital art creation)

Set it up

This first decision can play a big role in what you can use your finished artwork for, and how much fun you can have with the composition on Redbubble products. I personally create oversized images with higher than necessary resolutions. That way I can always make my work slightly bigger than my original intended use.

For this tutorial, create a canvas size of 60 x 60 cm (24 x 24 inches) with a resolution of 350 dpi. This enables us a bit of wiggle room with the artwork placement and editing tools in the uploader. This will allow you to zoom in a little bit on the image; interesting parts of the image could be cropped onto the mug for example.

Sketch it

Looking at the sketch, which I quickly whipped up, we can start to see how certain images could be adjusted and manipulated to fit into the heart. Initially I’m going to create a background image, which will be an interesting textural feature for the main illustration to rest upon. This also serves as an extendable backdrop for products, which you’ll see later.

Add colour

Using a mix of colour and painted brush strokes, I built up a subtle yet interesting background painting.

After I created the main backdrop using a bit of colour, I added some interesting brushstrokes and some overlaid images of flowers, as you will see shortly. I didn’t really have a plan, it just sort of came together, and you’ll find it will for you too. My advice is to have fun and not worry about the end result, try new things and just play.

You will also have noticed the background has been flattened. There is in fact multiple reasons for doing this, the first being that it will keep the file size down as the canvas is quite large, and it helps you as an artist be less nitpicky and finicky about your painted image. By flattening your image, you’re accepting its done and happy to move onto the next step.  My personal approach is to treat the canvas like it’s a real painting and be accepting of the result. Steer it in the direction you’re after, even if it’s an unexpected result.

Import images

Next, I create a new layer, which will be the starting point of the botanical heart i’ll be creating today, a mix of collage and illustration.

I’m planning to look at 20+ images of flowers and incorporating several elements from each picture into my artwork. Now there is several ways you could go about doing this., however,  i’ve chosen the quick and slightly frustrating way :) Just go to the folder (outside of Photoshop) on your mac/pc and select all the picture files you want import into photoshop, then drag all the image files straight onto your artwork canvas. Photoshop will automatically import each image. Just hit enter till all the files are in your canvas!

Mask them out

Now I am ready to look at each image and cut out elements till my hearts content. There are many ways to do this. I’ve chosen the super easy way.

  1. Using the select wand tool, draw around the element you want to cut out, don’t worry if there is background image included in selection.
  2. Copy and paste your selection onto new layer (does automatically)
  3. Adjust the image slightly using “brightness and contrast” hopefully making the background a more even tone/colour.
  4. Use the “magic wand” tool and select the background.
  5. Delete background and voila you have your element ready to place into your artwork.

Note, There could be some bits that don’t get deleted and that could involve some zoomed in rubbing out (masking), but be warned, using this quick method only works with high res images some of the time. Try using this method with a low res image and you will see fuzzy edges!

Adjust & Transform

Here are several images I cut out and placed around my heart sketch.

I’ll be using the sketch as a guide, but I may also keep the sketch in the final artwork to some degree. I find these sorts of decisions happen in a pretty organic way. It’s more about how I want the final artwork to look in the end. Zooming in, I start arranging elements in a cool way. :D

Transform elements and flip them and change their sizes, shapes and colour slightly. I do this quite quickly as I want to build up an interesting composition and let the creativity flow.

Finalize design

After a while of cutting out and placing elements, I came up with something I was pretty happy with, it’s all about tweaking the design till its just right.

I’ve made a gif of the progression to this point. Notice I changed the background near the end as well. I basically placed the images in an interesting way and changed the layer style to overlay or soft overlay. I like those 2, but I use them all.

I hope you got a little insiders look into how I created Fantastic Botanical and I hope you enjoy creating your own designs using the State Library Victoria’s open copyright image archive.

Add to products

If you like the design I created, entitled “Organic Heart“, I’ve put it as product in my shop. You’ll see i’ve been able to use zoomed in sections because the canvas size was big enough to allow some fun size adjustments.

Thanks to Redbubble for the opportunity, and the Library of Victoria for their stunning collection of historic images. Cheers!

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Paul Summerfield

Living in sunny Canberra, Australia. I mostly work from my art studio at Gorman Arts Centre and sometimes wherever takes my fancy...