The Digital Darkroom
Create A Torn Effect In Photoshop


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There are several great plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop that will create all sorts of edge effects, borders, and frames. But, this procedure uses only the basic Photoshop tools to create a very nice ragged edge. The procedure also demonstrates several features that can be applied to lots of other Photoshop tasks.

Let's start with a nice picture (#1).

This is a lily from my Koi pond.

Use the Rectangular Marquee tool and create a Selection a short distance inside the edges of the picture. In this case, I am using an 8x10 image with the resolution set to 300 ppi (#2).

Select the Quick Mask mode by clicking on the right-hand button (#3).

When the Quick Mask mode is selected, the image will look like #4.


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Go to Filter to Stylize to Diffuse (#5). The default option for Diffuse is Normal. Leave it there and click on OK. You will not see any change in the picture.

Then, go to Filter again, and this time the Diffuse option will have moved to the top. Slide down and click on it again. And, again, nothing will appear to have changed in the image. Go back to Filter and slide down to Diffuse and click on it again (#6). Repeat this about 100 times! Yes, I know that is a lot, but when the image is set to 300 ppi, it takes a lot to create the effect.

Besides, it's easy to do with your mouse/trackball. Just go to Filter to Diffuse over and over again. Gradually, you will begin to see the edge of the selection get a little jagged. The more times you do it, the more pronounced the jagged effect will be.

When the edge is jagged enough to suit you, go back to the Quick Mask mode tool and click on the left-hand button (#3). Your image will now look like #7, with the "dancing ants" looking very jagged.


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Go to Edit to Copy (#8). That will copy the selection with the jagged edge to the clipboard. Think of the clipboard as an invisible storage space in
the computer.

Now, it's time to create a new, blank, canvas to put the jagged-edge picture on. Go to File to New (#9).

That will bring up a dialog box where you can set the parameters of the new, blank, canvas. In my case, since I was working with an 8x10 horizontal image, I set the Width to 10" and the Height to 8". I also set the Resolution to 300 ppi and the mode to RGB (#10).


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With the new canvas ready and made active by clicking on it, go to Edit to Paste (#11).

That will paste the jagged-edge image from the clipboard directly into the center of the new canvas (#12).

At this point, the jagged edges are very apparent and you could stop here and have a finished picture. But, if you'd like to fancy it up a bit, go back to the Tool Palette and select the Eyedropper tool (#13).

I placed the tip of the Eyedropper tool directly in the center of the flower and clicked. This caused the Foreground Color to become the same as the center of the flower (#14).


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Go to the Layers Palette and look at the Background Layer. Notice that in my case (and I suspect in your case) the Background Layer is "locked" (see the little padlock symbol) (#15).

In order to unlock the Background Layer, place your Move tool cursor in the large white square area of the Background Layer and double click. That will cause a dialog box to appear (#16).

Ignore the box and click OK on it. The box will close and the Background Layer will be unlocked. See (#17) with no padlock symbol.


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Now that the Background Layer is unlocked, we can fill it with the Foreground Color that we selected using the Eyedropper tool. With the Background Layer highlighted (to make it active), go to Edit to Fill, and click on OK (#18).

That will fill the Background Layer with the Foreground Color. The result will be #19.

So, there you have your choice of two images. One has a white frame around it (#20).

And, the other has a rich orange frame around it (#19).

For more information on digital imaging, you might want to visit my website, www.colorbat.com.

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