What we're gonna do is take you through the making of this wallpaper, step by step.
First rule of wallpaper making? Have an idea of how you want it to look when it's completed. You might find that when you actually *are* finished, it's completely changed, but that's one of the joys of this! What I'm going to do here is make a wallpaper using screencaps from Hide so that you can see how I work with Christian's hair but I won’t be tempted not to post this tutorial and enter the result in the challenge instead!
How to choose your screencap(s):
• Go for as high a resolution as you can find - for those of you not used to graphics making, a higher resolution picture will be larger both in physical size and in file size. It's an indicator of how good quality the 'cap is. Remember that when working with a picture that's too large for your piece you can always reduce it in size without losing too much detail, but if you increase it any imperfections *also* increase.
• Try to choose a screencap that doesn't cut the top or bottom of your subject's head off. eg:
normally I'd be all over that kind of shot like a rash, but with the extreme close up, we're automatically restricted with where we can place it in a larger canvas and what we could do with it. Luckily Leverage is one of the few shows which actually seem to recognise this and *don't* cut off the tops of heads as a rule (it does happen, a lot, but seriously - try finding a close-up shot in Supernatural where you can see the top of anyone's head some day… hee!)
• Think ahead to the placement of your images. If you're using more than one image, think about eye-lines, directions people are facing, that kind of thing. (You can *flip* the image so they're facing the other direction if you absolutely have to, but that tends to cause so many more problems than it solves - especially with someone like CK who has prominent scars.)
• If you're "blending" two (or more) images together, try to pick screencaps without cluttered backgrounds which will distract the eye or which will interfere with you cutting out the subject.
• Colourings - again, this is more for if you're "blending" two (or more) images together - try to pick images with similar colouring and lighting. Shots from the same scene for example tend to work well together (because the lighting director and the camera crew have done most of the work for you!). There are ways to correct colouring, to make one shot look more like another, but it's intensive and doesn't always work (the more changes you make to a screencap, the more the imperfections can become noticeable)
Okay, so here's the two screencaps I've decided to use. One is a close-up and the other is a full-body shot (with the lovely Rachel Miner). I'm not completely happy with the close-up shot, I'd have liked it to have included a little more of his hand holding the shotgun, but I chose this one because it fits all my other criteria. (I made these caps myself btw, and am loving having a use for them right now!)
The full body shot is not particularly as crisp and in focus as I might like, but, going back to the very first thing I said, I have a plan for what I want this to look like when it's completed and having the 'couple' shot ghostly (almost ethereal) is a big part of it.
Okay, so know how I said you should have an idea before you start? Well for this I didn’t really have an idea apart from knowing that CK was going to be the focus, so I opened up my Hide screencaps folder (knowing that for at least part of the film he has hair like Eliot…) and just went through it until I found the shots that sparked an idea. I won’t spoil the film for those of you who've not seen it (beyond showing you the two of them with guns) but the close-up to me made me think he looked content, wistful even And the shot of the two of them together looks like a couple very much in love (apart from the guns that is!) so they naturally fitted together for me and the 'ghostly' feeling I want from the couple shot grew from the fact that the cap isn't all that clear - so the overall concept grew from the images in this case. It's an organic thing, I guess that's why it's art!
There's all sorts of other ways you can come up with the idea for a wallpaper: song lyrics, music, quotes are all triggers for me as well. They'll give me the mood/concept of the whole thing and *then* I'll go looking for pictures that will work with that. Finding that one thing that makes me *want* to make the piece is quite often the hardest part of it for me.
So now I have my character images and I have a rough idea of the placement I want for them:
I've cropped the close-up picture really quickly just to show you where I plan to put it in relation to the couple shot and I've tried to place it so that Chris's eyeline in the close-up shot is tracking down to Rachel in the couple shot (pardon the awful arrow!)
When you're placing images on a wallpaper think about your own desktop - where are all the shortcut icons on your computer? Mine are on the left, so I tend to focus most of the art on the wallpaper on the right so it can actually be seen. But if your set-up is to the right or along the top then you might want to think about where the focus of your wallpaper should be. That said, with this being a voting challenge it pays to play to the audience - most people using a PC will have their desktop laid out on the left so you're not going to go wrong assuming that. (And then you get into the whole problem of the layout on a Mac and start to worry all over again… don't panic at this point though!)
No doubt I will make changes as I go along (I'm already thinking the shot of the two of them should be smaller) but I have a basic concept that I feel like I can work with so am ready to think about the next step.
This has become probably the most important stage. The textures and backgrounds should tie in with the theme of your wallpaper and will generally dictate the colouring. For this piece I am going to go with the colours suggested by the screencaps - umbers, yellows, peaches - which works well since the majority of the film is set in Texas! So what I'll look for are textures and stock images of sand, sandstone, brown paper, marble that kind of thing.
(not sure I'll use all of these, or even any of them, but they're the kind of thing I feel like I'll be using here)
Where can I find these kinda things Sho? Stock image sites are your answer. My favourite is still sxc.hu - type in something like sandstone in the search box and you'll get some fantastic results. There is a premium section to it where you have to pay for some of the images, but there are plenty free ones on there as well. (And you can sign up for free.) Because I do this a lot these days, I have a 'textures' folder on my computer which currently has over 2 gig worth of textures and stock images… No wonder my computer's about to fall over!
Okay, back on track now. Working with textures is a matter of trial and error. I very rarely use one just as it is - I'll blur them, cut out pieces of them, change the colouring in various ways.
From this point on I'm going to show you how I do things in Photoshop 7, I'm hoping it'll be more or less the same in other programmes and I'll do my damndest not to use tools that aren't common to things like Gimp.
So here's what I did to get this background:
Create a new document (I'm making this one 800x600 because of the size of my screencaps) and fill the background with a pale sandy colour (#D4C1A8)
Open this texture (as a separate document):
duplicate it twice. Set both duplicates to 'Multiply' and then 'flatten' the image so you get this:
Copy that flattened image, paste it over the colour background and set it to 'soft light' so you get this:
Next we'll take another wall texture
and paste that over the top as well (I didn't alter this one before adding it) and set it to Soft Light, I thought it was a little too intense so lowered the opacity to 62% and got this:
I felt like it needed to be a little warmer so used this texture:
I pasted it over the background and then made it larger so that the wood along the top and right hand side were no longer visible. I set that layer to Soft Light (I played about with so many blend modes here and still wasn't happy - it's trial and error!) to get this:
*almost* there, but not quite. Still needed something and I ended up dragging in another texture that I use in a lot of my work - seriously, it's like a trademark of mine or something. I keep *trying* not to use it, but it always creeps in there!
Yes, it's black, but don't that freak you out! Paste it over your background and set it to Soft Light. Et voila!
Right, so now I'm happy(ish) with the background and I know where my screencaps are going to go, so I should bring 'em together, right?
Well… not quite yet.
The screencaps are dark and need to be cleaned up a little before I place them finally on the wallpaper.
Every picture is different; they need different fixes when it comes to lightening/darkening etc. What I'll do is some basic stuff here that you can try and then adapt to the pictures you're working with.
Okay, so normally I would work with levels and curves, but they’re not completely translatable so I'll work around them instead.
Take your first screencap (I'll work with the close-up shot for now) and duplicate it. Sharpen this new layer and set it to 'screen'. Duplicate this screen layer another two times (so you'll end up with three screen layers and your background). Lower the opacity of the top screen layer until you're happy with it (I dropped it to 50% here).
It's lighter now but it's lost a lot of the contrast so I'm going to add a 'gradient map' (black and white) set to Soft Light
This is the result:
and 'cos I can't remember whether or not gradient maps are available in other programmes, I'll give you an alternate which isn't *quite* the same but close.
Instead of the gradient map, duplicate your background layer once more, desaturate it (make it black and white), put it on top of all the screen duplicates and set it to Soft Light. The Screen layer that we set to 50% in the other method should be changed back up to 100% for this.
See, it's not really the same, but it's workable with.
'Flatten' this image and do the same for the other screencap (you may find you use different opacities, or numbers of 'screen' layers).
Now it's time to place them on our prepared background.
I decided to go ahead and reduce the size of the couple shot this time but have tried to keep it to the same eyeline. To get it placed, instead of cropping one of the caps, I lowered the opacity of the top layer so I could move them around and see how they would work together.
Now the blending part…
There's lots of ways to do this but I would *always* recommend you use a layer mask, because it's so much easier to fix mistakes this way! I'd also recommend working on a duplicate of your image if you're not completely confident with working this way - again, if you mess it up, you can chuck the duplicate layer you've been working on in the bin and you still have your untouched original layer.
I'm going to work on the solo-Chris image first of all, so for the moment I'm going to make the couple shot invisible (purely so it's not a distraction) and push the opacity of the Chris layer back up to 100%. Duplicate the Chris layer and make the lower one invisible too.
Add a layer mask and take a cloudy brush (there are various places you can grab these from or you can use one of the 'soft' brushes that come pre-loaded) and paint on the mask using black over the parts you don't want (the wall to the left and the picture behind his head) - you'll see these 'disappear' as you paint over them. If you make a mistake or paint over a part you didn't mean to, change your paint colour to white and go back over it - and there it is again! Masks are kinda hard to explain until you work with them, but Vrya has a great tutorial on them here
I've done the masking quite roughly at the moment, and deliberately left the harsh line along the bottom of the cap because I wanted to see how the blending would work once I make the other image visible again and take out the background I don't want in that one.
So I went ahead and masked out the parts of the couple shot I didn't want - and you'll see I was pretty brutal with this one. And have pretty much removed everything I could.
Now back to the Chris image and getting rid of some of those straight lines. Using my favourite cloud brush (from x_insominac_x):
I click around the outside of the image and gradually reduce the size of the brush as I get closer in. Erasing like this is very much hit and miss, trial and error, but try to follow the arcs and lines you see in the image - the curve of the necklace, the line of the shirt collar for example. (I also changed the positioning a little bit, brought the images closer together but kept the same eyeline.)
Definitely getting there, although now I think the background is too dark for this piece. So I went back and lowered the opacity of the black scratchy texture to 35% (still set to Soft Light) - see what I mean about trial and error?
Whilst I'm pretty happy with the couple shot and how it's blended with the background, the larger solo shot of Chris looks too much like it's stuck on top right now, so I'm going to work some more on it. This is a technique totally lifted from the amazing le_mot_artwith all due credit and respect (because she makes AWESOME art!)
Duplicate your Chris layer four times, sharpen the bottom layer and lower the opacity to 60%. Lower the next layer's opacity to 40% (this layer hasn't been sharpened so will help counteract any imperfections sharpening created). Set the next layer to Screen at 65%. Next layer Screen 45%. Final layer Soft Light 35%.
(here's what I mean with the numbers and blend modes edited in on my layers palatte)
That'll get you this result:
Which blends in much better, no? I'm doing something similar now on the couple image, but I just duplicated it twice, set the duplicates to Screen and played with the opacities of all three layers until I got something like this:
It's not bad. But I don't think it's finished yet. This is one of those times when it definitely pays to take a break, walk away from it and come back an hour later, or in my case, a day later (since it's now twenty past ten at night and I've been working on this since sevenish…)
I have an idea what's missing, but we'll see how it plays out tomorrow!
And I'm back! Okay, looking at it again in the fresh light of day (literally), I think I know what's not right about it - the subjects are too big. They're dominating the whole thing in a way which makes all the work we did on the texture pointless.
So, what I'm going to do is 'link' all my subjects and transform the scale (resize them). The reason I'm linking them together is because I like where they are in relation to one another and don't want to mess with that. So here goes:
now *that's* better - imho anyway!
Now I'm back to fretting about the colouring. On the solo shot, on the left hand side there's some red highlights in his hair that have been bugging me from the start so I'm going to do something about them now. This is purely a personal decision here, because in truth the colours tie in with other parts of the canvas - the red hints on the lower left of the texture, the red on his shirt collar lining - but they're just catching my eye in a way that makes me want to get rid of them.
So what I'm gonna do is go back to the mask on *some* of the duplicates (remember this?)
I'm thinking definitely the bottom two layers (normal 60% and normal 40%) and possibly the Soft Light top layer.
So take a smaller cloudy brush (I'm actually going to use the insomniac brush but take it right down to about 75px size) and paint over those red highlights on my chosen layers.
subtle difference I know, bit it's not bugging me so much anymore! However it's brought the *other* side of his head too much into focus, so I'm going to mask out a little more of that. I'm gonna use the brush at its full size and click ONCE further to the right (ie beside him, not over him) on the normal 60% layer and the normal 40% layer.
Again, it's a really subtle change.
I *think* I'm done with the basic wallpaper now, and would be pretty happy to enter that in a contest at this stage, but I'm me and I'm never completely happy with anything I've done so now I get to the niggly little details that can make or break a wallpaper.
Adding text is a toughie for me, it's true that I do tend to be inspired by song lyrics or poetry more often than not, but when it comes to incorporating that into a piece of art I always feel like I never get it right. But I keep trying and sometimes it pays off - trial and error, living and learning, and all those other trite sayings!
Again, not spoiling the film for you, but from the shots I've used you surely can pick up on the vibe that's going on in that scene, right? Kinda reminiscent of Natural Born Killers, right? (Or going even further back and really showing my age here - Kalifornia or Bonnie and Clyde…) which happens to be a Tarantino film, if you didn't know - which obviously you did! I thought about putting that in as the text, but look at the subjects - there's love there. So I then thought of another Tarantino film and decided True Romance fit so much better (see my thought processes? A normal person might've cottoned onto TR straight away, but I had to go a slightly convoluted route! And dudes, I just dug out my TR dvd to check I was remembering the quote right and noticed that Saul Rubinek's in it! Why didn't I remember that in time for the crossover challenge last heist?! *sigh*)
"You're so cool" is the repeated quote in TR, it's the main characters' way of saying "I love you". So it's the text I'm gonna use for this Hide wallpaper (I'm sure you really don't care about that, but I'm telling you to give you an idea of how I try to keep the text appropriate to the piece I'm making but maybe don't use the obvious choice).
Right, so I typed in 'you're so cool' and then thought about what kind of font I wanted to use. I just checked and discovered I have 669 fonts on my computer. 669. Dude… No wonder it takes me forever to decide on text! I took a look at the title card of the True Romance dvd:
and although I like the font used here, it didn't really work all that well for me (although I love the grungey love hearts along the bottom and may just have to use that in another piece some time!) so thought about the criminality theme common to both films and decided that maybe something like a ransom note would work. So I went looking for fonts that I knew would potentially work with that.
I *almost* went with Vinyl Stickons but the lack of punctuation marks irked me (no apostrophe) so I chose the top one instead (Cure-Wild Mood Swings)
I changed the colour of the text to tie in with the background, 'cos while I want it to be readable, I spent all that time blending our subjects with the background, slapping prominent text over the top of that would negate all that work, no? So the colour, right, I made the text colour #EAC9A8 (a peachy/sandy colour) and set it to 36pt. I then set the blending mode of the text layer to 'Multiply' and duplicated it twice. I lowered the opacity of the top duplicate to 42% (I don't deliberately pick these random numbers by the way, I just move the slider 'till it looks right). Then I linked the three layers and rotated them to the same angle as the eyeline of the main subject. Moved the layers up to lie just under the subjects and almost called it quits there.
But then I decided that TR came out in the early nineties and not everyone would actually get my quote reference so I added another text layer. This time 'true romance' in white using a handwriting font - an old favourite of mine Carpenter ICG, set to 48pt with the 'tracking' set to -25
The reason for the tracking is to bring the letters closer together and makes the width of this layer closer to the width of the 'you're so cool' layers. I rotated this layer to match the angle of the YSC ones and moved it so it was underneath with the loop of the 't' was to the left of the rest and curled up. I lowered the opacity of this layer to 74% and decided that I was pretty much done!
I say 'pretty much' 'cos I don't think I've ever completely finished any piece I've done. I've stopped working on 'em, sure, but completed? Nope.
But here's the 'pretty much done' finished product! (Saved as a .png file, rather than a .jpg)
I *really* hope this was helpful in some way! If you've got any questions at all fire away! I've tried to make sure that all the textures and end product are linked to by clicking on the thumbnails, but if I've missed any links, you can find them all in my gallery here