You will find your work more meaningful and your work flow more purposeful if you start from a firm concept in your head. True, there are happy “accidents” in Photoshop, but you will work faster from a mental blueprint than you would aimlessly trying out Photoshop effects, not to mention you will find the end product more satisfying.
Take the picture
I asked my friend if could take a photo of their roses, and he gladly gave me three. Though three’s a dynamic number in photographic composition, I decide to photograph just two of them to represent my friend’s and his wife’s vow to stay together forever.
I position the two flowers on a sheet of white light cardboard and light them with a large soft box, set to its lowest intensity for shallow depth of field. I manage this with my 100mm f/2.8 lens full open.
Prepare the background elements
You’ll be surprised what you can use as props and background if you just put your mind to it. To create the first background layer, I scan a piece of ply board on a flatbed scanner. This board was not a model of perfection: it had golden yellow paint smudges on it, and in addition, I rough it up some more with sandpaper.
Opening the scan in Photoshop, I make a copy (Image > Duplicate…) and change the color to green using “Image > Adjustments> Hue/Saturation” with “Colorize” checked. I’ll call this the green rough texture.
I make another copy of the scanned texture and change the color to blue in “Hue! Saturation.” This is the blue rough texture.
Going back to the green rough texture, I press “Command-J” (Windows: Control-J) to duplicate the Background layer. In the “Layers” palette, set the blend mode of this duplicate layer to “Multiply” and reduce the “Opacity” to 90% and “Layer Fill” to 70%. This is to give more contrast against the flowers.
Create the document
Create a new document, A4 size, with white as background, and drag the blue and green rough textures over, one above the other. Resize them to the same width but not to the same height, leaving some white around them and between them.
Open the second background layer.
Scan another rough board for a second background layer. By the way, when scanning rough objects on your flatbed scanner, be very careful you don’t scratch the glass surface of the flatbed. You may want to put a sheet of the clearest plastic between the glass and the object.
Extract the inner texture.
I’m not using the whole texture pattern of my second scan, just the inner portion. I will use a “Channel Mask” to extract this portion.
In the “Channels” palette, examine each of the RGB channels by pressing the Red (A), Green (B), and Blue channels individually. Pick the one with the highest contrast, which is the Blue channel, and drag this channel to the “Create new channel” icon at the bottom of the “Channels” palette.
With this duplicate channel active, choose “Command-L” (Windows: Control-L) for “Levels.
Add the second textured background.
Holding down “Command” (Windows: Control), click on the modified channel to load it as a selection, then press “Command- Shift-I” (Windows: Control-Shift-I) to invert the selection. Back in the “Layers” palette, click on the “Create a new layer” icon at the bottom of the palette, and fill it with white (Mac OS: “Command-Delete”; Windows: “Control-Backspace” to apply the Background color).
Drag this white texture over to my document in progress and press “Command-T” (Windows: Control-T) to resize it to fit inside the green and blue rough textures. Before pressing “Return” (Windows: Enter) to commit the resizing, “Control-click” (Windows: right-click) on the image and choose “Flip horizontal” then press “Return/Enter”.
Add the flowers.
Open the flowers photograph and drag it to the composite document, above the textured backgrounds, and resize it by pressing “Command-T” (Windows: Control-T) and dragging out the handles.
In the “Layers” palette, “Command click” (Windows: Control-click) on the thumbnail of Layer 3 (the white texture) to load it as a selection. With “Layer 4” (the flowers) still active, click the “Add layer mask” icon in the “Layers” palette to clip the flowers image to the white texture.
Since the last step turned the white background of the flowers into a white textured background, delete the white texture (Layer 3) so as not to increase its density in the next steps.
Finish the upper half
Press “Command-J” (Windows: Control-J) to duplicate Layer 4, and click the eye Icon of “Layer 4” to hide the layer. In the “Layers” palette, I change the blend mode of “Layer 4 copy” to “Linear light” and reduce its “Opacity” to 60% (A).
Choose “Image > Adjustments> Hue/Saturation” on the menu and bump up the “Hue” slider a bit. “Command-click” (Windows: right-click) on the layer mask and choose “Apply layer mask.”
“Command-click” (Windows: Control click) on the thumbnail of “Layer 2” to load it as a selection, then click on the “Add layer mask” icon in the “Layers” palette to clip “Layer 4 copy” to the blue background.
Finish the bottom half; make another copy of “Layer 4,” and likewise apply the layer mask of “Layer 4 copy 2”.
Choose “Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation” on the menu and bump up the “Hue” slider to make the flower petals more yellow than orange.
Press “Command-J” to copy this layer and set the copy’s blend mode to “Overlay” and its “Opacity” to 60%. Then make a copy of this “Overlay” layer too.
Press “Command-E” twice to merge the two “Overlay” layers with “Layer 4 copy 2,” and reduce the “Opacity” of the resulting merged layer to 70%.
“Command-click” on the thumbnail of the green background to load it as a selection, then click the “Add layer mask” icon in the “Layers” palette to clip “Layer 2 copy 2” to the green background.
Click on the eye icon of Layer 4 to unhide it and drag this layer downward below the green and blue rough textures. At your option, you may apply the layer mask (Command-click and choose apply). Before closing the file, reduce the “Fill” to 70% in the “Layers” palette.