Making Backgrounds

Site Search

Making backgrounds with Photoshop Elements is really quick and easy.  Sure - you can use the pre-sets in Elements or download them from a website but why do that if you can have total control over the colors and textures by creating your own?

And here's the good thing - making your own backgrounds can be accomplished with a few clicks of a mouse!  That's it - just a few simple clicks - oh ya - and a critical eye on your part!

Making backgrounds can also be a work of art that you create all on your own.

A good place to start is with a really unique way of selecting colors ...

Sampling Colors

making backgrounds eye dropperThis is the eye dropper tool.  Most of the time it is used to sample colors from an open image in Photoshop Elements and that is quite useful.

The eye dropper can do a lot more, however.  Did you know, for instance, that the eye dropper can sample any color on your computer as long as there is an open window?

A color can be sampled from a web page, another program, the desktop - anywhere.

This is how to do it ...

making bakcgrounds
  1. Minimize the Elements screen so that the you can see the image where you want to get another color.
  2. Select the eye dropper tool from the tool bar.
  3. Move the eyedropper onto your active document (image or new blank file or whatever), left click your mouse and hold.
  4. With the left mouse button held down move the eye dropper out of the Elements screen onto the other screen.  As you move the eye dropper the foreground color will change as the eye dropper is moving.
  5. When you get to the color you want to sample release the left mouse button and the color you sampled is now the foreground color.

In this image I wanted to grab the blues in her eye - one blue as the foreground color and another blue as the background color.  

The preceding procedure was done once to set a new foreground color and then the X key was pressed to bring the background forward and make the new foreground color the background (Ya - it sounds confusing - just hit the X key) and then another area of the eye was sampled the same way.

Here are the new colors from the eye - making backgrounds foreground background - and now we can do neat things with these colors.

Making Backgrounds
With The Clouds Filter

In the Filter menu is an option called Render and one of the filters is Clouds.

What this does is use the foreground and background colors and make - well - clouds.

With the default colors (black and white) and Filter > Render > Clouds selected this is what happens ...

making backgrounds default colors The image looks kind of like clouds, doesn't it? That is probably why they call the filter Clouds.

This one is not particularly appealing but there is no doubt what this filter does.

With colors that are closer together in the spectrum the effect is not nearly as dramatic.

making backgrounds clouds This is the application of the Render Clouds Filter with the color sampled from the eye.

Rather than run the Clouds Filter on the Background layer, I created a new blank layer for the filter.  A layer provides more options such as lowering the opacity of the layer.

This could be an acceptable background - but more can be done!

If you want to try something different when making backgrounds try out Difference Clouds in Filter > Render.

Other Filters

There are some really useful filters that can add different looks and textures to the Clouds.  They are found in Filter > Filter Gallery.  This is what it looks like ...

making backgrounds filter gallery

The most useful filters are in the Texture pane.  Each one of the Texture Filters has multiple adjustments which will create a whole variety of different looks for your background.

Here is how the blue clouds look after adding Filter > Filter Gallery ... > Texture > Craquelure with these settings - Crack Spacing 19, Crack Depth 3 and Crack Brightness 10.

making backgrounds craquelure

That looks OK, don't you think?

Because you are making backgrounds on a separate layer the opacity of that layer can be lowered thereby making the effect less intense.

You can also add a Levels Adjustment Layer above the new background layer which will punch up the contrast and make the colors more intense - if that is what you want.

When you are making backgrounds it is very similar to digital editing of an image because the same techniques and adjustments are used in both!

Pattern Stamp

Another way for making backgrounds is to make your own - sounds like a good plan, doesn't it?

This is done with the Pattern Stamp Tool - making backgrounds pattern stamp

When the Pattern Stamp is selected the options bar changes to this ...

making backgrounds options

The red square is the drop down list for the different patterns that can be applied.  These are the choices that are available ...

making backgrounds pattern choicesSimply select one of the categories and the options for the different categories will be presented as a thumbnail list.

The options provide almost unlimited things that can be done with the pattern stamp tool.

After selecting a pattern then go through the different options - brush shape, size, mode (Exclusion and Dissolve provide nice choices), opacity and whether to use the Impressionist brush or not.

The best thing to do is just try out the different setting to see what happens and have some fun while you are at it.

The Artist Surfaces are particularly interesting with 21 different surfaces to choose from - but they are all greyscale patterns.  If greyscale is not to your liking then color can be added quite easily.

This is an Oil Pastel Light background created with the Pattern Stamp Tool ...

making backgrounds oil pastel

So - let's add some color ...

Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer

The first and easiest method to add some color to this background is to use a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer.

Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue and Saturation ... will bring up this dialogue ...

making backgrounds hue and saturation

When the Colorize box is checked then the hue set with the Hue Slider will be applied on the adjustment layer.  The color is easy to modify by moving the Hue Slider back and forth until you find a color that is more to your liking.

Then move the Saturation Slider and the Lightness Slider about until the perfect color is applied to the background.

This is the Oil Pastel Light background with these Hue and Saturation adjustments ...

making backgrounds hue and saturation adjusted

If you don't like what you see then double click on the adjustment layer and adjust the slider(s) some more.  After finishing the opacity of the adjustment layer can be modified.  Oh my - making backgrounds can be a demanding chore!

Color Blend Mode

A more exciting and versatile method for making backgrounds with the Pattern Stamp is to add a new layer with the Blend Mode changed to Color.

This is how to do it ...

Add a new blank layer and change the Blend Mode to Color.  This Blend Mode will apply color to the layer with the texture of the underlying layer showing through and is perfect for coloring black and white images - and that is what the Oil Pastel Light background it - black and white.

The really unique and exciting thing about this technique is that you can use any brush plus the dynamics of the brush can be changed.  

Coloring a background is especially powerful if you are using a Wacom Bamboo or Intuos tablet because the pressure sensitivity of the pen and tablet will change the size or opacity or scatter of the brush strokes - really cool and very, very effective.

This is the same Oil Pastel Light background that has been painted with the brush tool ...

making backgrounds brushed

These are the settings that were used ...

The Brush ...

I like this brush!  

making backgrounds brush setting

The Brush Dynamics ...

These dynamics work really well with a Wacom tablet (Bamboo or Intuos).

making backgrounds brush dynamics

The Brush Settings ...

making backgrounds brush settings

If these two dialogues are a complete mystery then take some time to learn about using Elements with a Bamboo or Intuos here ...

There you go - these three methods should get you well on your way to creating your own unique and amazing backgrounds.

Page Links

Sampling Colors

The Clouds Filter

Other Filters

Pattern Stamp

Filter Gallery

making backgrounds filtr gallery
Filter Gallery > Texture

making backgrounds filter gallery
Filter Gallery > Brush Strokes

making backgrounds filter gallery
Filter Gallery > Distort

making backgrounds filter gallery
Filter Gallery > Sketch

Making Backgrounds

The background is something like an under painting.  It is the foundation that everything is built on.

The background should be interesting but not overpowering. 

It should support the rest of the elements - the images, the fonts and the various other elements and embellishments on the page.

Less is more!

Enjoy This Site?
Then why not use the button below, to add us to your favorite bookmarking service?

Return to top

Site build It!

Use the Contact Form to ask questions, provide feedback or comments.

Questions are good - so are comments - or requests!

Return to Digital Scrapbooking from Making Backgrounds
Copyright© 2009-2013.