Q: How can I add a white border to my 8×10″ photo, without the border cutting off part of my photo and without changing the canvas size?
A: It can be done, but the only caveat is that you’ll lose a little from the top and bottom of a horizontal photo, or the left and right edges of a vertical photo. Start by adding a blank layer above your photo and fill it with any color other than white. Click on the Add a Layer Style icon (fx) at the bottom of the Layers panel, and choose Stroke. Click on the Color swatch, select white in the Color Picker, and click OK to close the Color Picker. Set the Position to Inside with the Size you want (the maximum width is 250 pixels), and click OK.
Change the Fill Opacity of this layer in the Layers panel to 0% (that will remove the colored fill and leave the white stroke). Now add guides at the edges of the stroke (press Command-R to show the Rulers and drag guides from the horizontal and vertical rulers onto your document, matching up with the inside edges of the stroke).
Now, in the Layers panel, click on your photo layer and then click on the padlock symbol to unlock the layer. Press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) for Free Transform, hold the Option (PC: Alt) key, and drag a corner point inward to scale down your photo until either the horizontal or vertical edges match up with the guides. Click OK. Note: If you think there’s a possibility that you might change the width of the stroke, convert the photo layer to a smart object before using Free Transform so that you can scale up the photo later.
Q: I have a bunch of layers and I want them all to have the same blend mode as an existing layer. Is there an easy way to do that?
A: Yes! In the Layers panel, Right-click to the right of the name on the layer that has the blend mode you want to use. From the menu, choose Copy Layer Style. Then, select all the layers to which you want to apply the blend mode: Click on the first layer, then hold down the Command (PC: Control) key and click on the other layers you want to include. Right-click) to the right of the layer name of any of the selected layers, and from the menu, choose Paste Layer Style. The blend mode will change on all the selected layers.
The trick here is that a blend mode is included in the Blending Options in the Layer Style dialog, as are Opacity and the Blend If sliders. So, when you copy-and-paste layer styles, all of these things are applied.
Q: I saw a video where someone changed the Foreground color to white just by using the keyboard, but I don’t know he did it. What’s the secret?
A: Two keys: D, then X. Pressing D sets the default Foreground and Background colors of black and white, and then X swaps the colors so white becomes the Foreground color.
Q: For years I’ve been using Stamp Visible to make a single-layer copy of all the layers below. It was suggested that I use a smart object instead. What would be the advantage of a smart object instead of Stamp Visible?
A: Probably the biggest advantage to using a smart object rather than Stamp Visible is that the Smart Object is “live,” while Stamp Visible is a one-shot deal. Here’s what I mean: When you press the shortcut for Stamp Visible (Command-Option-Shift-E ), you are, in effect, taking a snapshot of the current look of all the visible layers. Once you’ve used Stamp Visible and then need to alter one of the original layers, the stamped layer will not update; you have to delete that layer and redo Stamp Visible.
If, however, you were to select your layers, Right-click on one, and choose Convert to Smart Object, it looks like you’ve flattened the layers, but they’re preserved in the contents of the smart object. You can work with the smart object (for example, to apply a smart filter), and if you need to alter one of the original layers, just double-click on the smart object thumbnail and the original contents (all the layers) will open in a separate window. Then you just make your change, save the file, and the smart object will update.
Q: What’s the difference between making my signature into a brush and adding a graphic of my signature to a library?
A: If you define a brush from an image of your signature, the brush is created based on black and white; the dark areas of your signature become the brush and the white areas become see-through. You can then paint with that brush in any Foreground color (typically painting onto a blank or separate layer). The maximum size of the brush is based on the size of the image from which you define the brush, and to make the size smaller, you simply scale down the brush size. (Press the [ key to make the brush size smaller).
When you add a graphic to a library, it’s added in its existing look. For example, if you have a black signature on a white background, that’s how it’s added to the library. If you want the signature to be on a transparent background, you’d have to remove the white background before adding the graphic to the Library. (You could do that by using a selection method, such as Color Range, to separate the signature onto its own layer. Once the signature is in the library, you can drag it onto a document and resize it using the handles on the graphic. The graphic will remain in the original color it was when you added it to the library. If you want to change the color, you have to double-click on the layer thumbnail to open the original in a separate window where you can alter the color.
ALL IMAGES BY DAVE CROSS