metal print

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography Creating a Faded and Streaked Border in Photoshop.

Creating a Faded & Streaked Border for Your Prints in Photoshop

When I decided to test Bay Photo Labs for the quality of their metal prints, I wanted something different than the regular 8x10s or 20x30s.

In addition, I wanted a theme and not just pick a few photos for the wall. I decided on 3 images with 3 different colors. After all, what’s the point of getting test prints made and all the colors are the same?

So I chose three different images to represent the three primary colors of Photography: Red, Green, and Blue. AND, I did not want the prints to be just normal prints. So as I was sitting there pondering what I wanted, I was examining the canvas prints on my wall. They have “fade to black” sides which make them appear to float off the wall. A light bulb went off over my head.

Here’s the set and the result of that inspiration:

This technique is rather easy and you can get some great looking wall prints with it.

It uses a technique called “pixel stretching” and uses the gradient tool to bade the stretched pixels to black.

It took me about half an hour to decide on the theme and final print size. I wanted square metal prints to they look better from a distance and you didn’t have to worry about trying to get the arrangement to look nice on the wall.

Square prints make this easy for two reasons: The image is relatively big and the prints are small enough to hang in a narrow wall space.

So Let’s Begin:

***To make things a bit easier, I’ve also incorporated a video after the main blog to help you better understands the steps.

First choose the image you’d like to use. Second, choose your image size. The beauty of this technique is you can make your final print a 20×30 then have the main image float as a 16×24.

For an example, I’ll use an image of the Locust Beach pilings in Bellingham, Wash., I shot a few days ago.

Storm clouds and raging surf at Locust Beach along Bellingham Bay in Bellingham, Wash. (photo © Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

It’s a nice image and my wife and I want a nice print to hang on our wall. We’re thinking of a nice 20×30 canvas.

I want a nice image to float inside a 20×30. Doing some quick math, to get a 2″ faded boarder my main image should be about a 16×24.

1. Make the image a 16×24. I use 300 dpi to keep good detail in the image and a high enough resolution to make a high quality print. The 16×24 stay with the 3:2 ratio of the sensor and gives an even border.

2. Take the image and using the “Layers” panel in Photoshop, duplicate the “Background” layer twice so you have a total of three layers. To make it easier, I re-name the layers as follow: Top is called Main Image, and the middle is “Faded Border.”

3. Click on the “Background” layer to highlight it. Using the Canvas Size command, make your canvas the size you need, in this case it’s20x30, with a black background. You can choose any backround color you like. I just prefer black.

4. Highlight the upper layer and click on the “eye” to hid it. This makes it easier to work in the next few steps.

5. Highlight the middle layer. Don’t forget this part or you’ll be doing all the pixel stretching on the wrong layer. Yes, I did this a few times and it is very frustrating.

This is the “pixel stretching” tutorial:

6. Using the “Single Column”  or “Single Row” marquee tool, select a pixel about halfway along the length of the side. As a note, this tool selects all the pixel in that row (horizontal) or column (vertical) and looks like a single dotted line.

7.  Select the Free Transform tool. It’s under the Edit drop down menu up top, or use the “command-T” key combination. Click and hold the middle square and the drag it slightly past the edge of the canvas. Be sure to go just a touch past the edge of the canvas. Hit enter to complete the transformation.

8.  Complete for all four sides.

This is the “gradient tool” fade-to-black tutorial

9. To create the fade to black, I use the Gradient Tool. The option I have is “Black to Transparent” and check the “Reverse” box in the options panel. How much you want the fade to black depends on where you start and stop the gradient tool. I keep it simple and just start at the edge of the main photo and end at the edge of the canvas. ***You can create your own gradient by clicking on the gradient pattern in the options bar. A window comes up with all the options.

10. Now, go to the layers panel and click on the eye on the Main Image layer. Make it visible.

11. On the bottom of the layers panel, or in the Layers Properties in the Layers drop-down menu (Layer > Layer Properties > Stroke), select Stroke. A panel open with all the option. You can have a thin or thick line, choose which color you would like, have the line inside, centered, or outside. Choice is yours. Play with

For the color you’d like, click on the small color box and another window opens. This is your color Picker. To pick the color you’d like from your image, use the magnifying glass. Click on it and hover over the part of the photo with the color you’d like to make your border. Click on that and then the OK button. Your border color is now chosen.

12. Your image is complete. Use the “Save As” command to save the file to keep the changes. In Fact, at the beginning of the process, I like to use the “Save As” command at the beginning and then “command-s” along the way. I save the file as a layered PSD file so I can make changes if needed.

The process only takes about 5 minutes per image.

Here are a few tips to make the workflow smoother and save time:

  • Learn your menus
  • Learn the quick key combinations
  • Work on one photo at a time. Saves RAM and CPU time.
  • Have your colors already chosen. Having a goal at what the final image will help you zero in on the final colors quicker.
  • Play around with the application. Don’t be intimidated by Photoshop. Yes there is a lot to the program, but it is a powerful tool and using a powerful tool just takes a little practice.
  • Be flexible. While working the image, you might decide on a completely different approach.

Below is a video of the process in action. I hope it clarifies the above steps.

title=”© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography Storm clouds and raging surf at Locust Beach along Bellingham Bay in Bellingham, Wash.”

BTW, the metal prints from Bay Photo Lab turned out absolutely gorgeous. The colors are deep and rich, the detail is phenomenal, and mounting on the wall was super easy.

But the best way to make your images the best they can be:

  • Have a goal of what your final image should look like
  • Create a plan and then execute it
  • Ask questions if you don’t have the knowledge.

Feel free to comment or ask questions.

Have a great day and thank you for stopping by and reading. All comments are appreciated.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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Canvas Champ Product Review: Giving it a 2nd Chance

Last year I was offered a free 16×20 canvas print by Canvas Champ if I wrote up a critique. The print I got was built nice but the quality of the printing was a little lacking. But, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and wrote a constructive review: UPDATE!!! Product Review: Canvas Champ Prints.

A few months later I had them print one of my images 16×24 for a client and a 16×24 of my father-in-law as a gift to my sister-in-law. They were both atrocious. I was not happy with it at all. So I updated the blog posting. Again, I was fully honest with the critique.

Alpenglow on Shuksan

Alpenglow on Mount Shuksan - The last rays of the setting Sun bathe Mount Shuksan as its reflected in a pond Huntoon Point near Artist Point in Whatcom County, Wash., on Sunday evening Sept. 27, 2015. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Alpenglow on Mount Shuksan – The last rays of the setting Sun bathe Mount Shuksan as its reflected in a pond Huntoon Point near Artist Point in Whatcom County, Wash., on Sunday evening Sept. 27, 2015. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Read More Here!!!

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Product Review of a Canvas Champ print

UPDATED!!! Product Review: Canvas Champ Prints

***UPDATE!!!

This may need a new blog post, but I’ll put the details here. If I could use one word to describe the quality it would be: Poor.

Since writing this a few months ago, I ordered a few more prints for a couple of customers. Unfortunately, I was not impressed at all with the quality. Rather, I was “underwhelmed.”

  • The quality sucked and overall I was just not happy.
  • The highlights were blown out losing subtle details. I use the same computer and have no issues at other printers.
  • They put a thin wooden backing on the canvas making it hard and ugly. Why not a nice black paper backing?
  • The canvas itself is not stretched on the frame improperly. I used a sharpie to clean it.
  • The ink flecks when you lightly scrape it on something.

On one in which I ordered a dust cover, it was a 1/8″ thick particle board backing nailed to the frame. It was the wrong size as it was 1/4″ wider than the print.  I expected the nice thick black paper but instead received this hideous looking brown particle board piece of crap.

But the old saying goes: You get what you pay for. And I paid little so I got little quality.

Partial Solar Eclipse: Lost Details

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A seagull lands on the flag pole at the intersection of Northwest and Birchwood Avenues in Bellingham, Wash., during the partial solar eclipse on Thursday afternoon Oct. 10, 2014.

I showed this image to a customer and immediately the screamed “I WANT A BIG PRINT!” So I had a 24×36 made. The print quality was mediocre and the details of the clouds were lost. © Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – A seagull lands on the flag pole at the intersection of Northwest and Birchwood Avenues in Bellingham, Wash., during the partial solar eclipse on Thursday afternoon Oct. 10, 2014.

 

ORIGINAL POST: A few weeks ago a gentleman from Canvas Champ printing company contacted me to see if I wanted a free canvas print. Jainam asked if I wanted to critique the company’s quality and if so, I’d get a free 16×20 inch canvas print. Hell, why not I thought.

A free canvas print and in exchange for a critique of the workmanship. I love stuff like this. Earlier, I had the same thing happen but with a Think Tank City Walker 20 camera bag. Beautiful bag. Love it and still use it to this day. You can read more here: Not Just for City Slickers: the Think Tank City Walker 20  Shoulder Bag.

The Image – Dad at the King Tut Exhibit:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Dad at the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – Dad at the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash.

So I sent them a file of my father-in-law Todd I shot while we were at the King Tut Exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash. My wife Heidi says it’s her favorite photo of him and since he died in December, we wanted something nice. How serendipitous since we were wanting to make a large print for our wall.

I emailed the image to Canvas Champ and within 3 days received an email stating my print was on its way with expected delivery in 7 days.  And it was coming from India. Pretty impressive.

The Print – Front:

© Paul Conrad - Dad at the King Tut Exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – “Dad at King Tut” printed by Canvas Champ. The highlights are blown out a little leaving a white splotch above him.

Upon arrival, I inspected the packaging for signs of damage. None. Happy with that, I opened it. It was packaged pretty well.  Good, clean packaging.

When I finally unwrapped the print, I was at first amazed by the construction. Strong, sturdy, and it had a foam insert to help strengthen the print and frame. The canvas is wrapped tight around the birch wood frame, the corner folds were tight, and the quality is superb.

The Print – Back:

© Paul Conrad - The foam backing on the print made by Canvas Champ.

© Paul Conrad – The foam backing on the print made by Canvas Champ, and showing the construction of the framing. The foam acts to stiffen the entire print.

At first, the image looked pretty good. However, I think the highlights were a little blown out. This could be the difference in monitors, mismatched color profiles, or an uncalibrated prints. As CC said to me they calibrate the printers daily, it leaves too reasons why: my profile didn’t translate to what they use or the printers don’t bring the image up and do some rudimentary toning.

The blacks and midtones are wonderful. Deep rich blacks with great contrast and color in the midtones. The image quality overall is acceptable.

Some of the things I noticed  how you needed to hang the picture. It has two hangers that don’t allow you any error when mounting it on the wall. If you’re off a tad, you have to pull on of the nails or hooks out and redo it. A pain if you ask me. Not everyone has a laser level to make sure a level mount. You need to have room for error. There needs to be a better way to mount it. Perhaps a sawtooth hanger such as what Bay Photo or White House Custom Colour provide for their canvas prints.

Another is that the back is open which exposes the foam and a lack of felt tabs. Canvas prints I had made at either Bay and WHCC have a black lining covering the back. A combination of that plus the foam insert would be great. It was also missing felt tabs which keep it from scratching the wall if the artwork is moved.

The Print – Corner Close-up:

© Paul Conrad - Close up of my Canvas Champ print showing the exposed canvas edge.

© Paul Conrad – Close up of my Canvas Champ print showing the exposed canvas edge. and somewhat sloppy technique.

One of the things that I find slightly annoying is how the corners are folded. The edge of the canvas shows and is white against the black printing. This is alleviated by simply using a different folding technique. I could easily do it with a sharpie, but if I’m going to spend money on a print, I’d like to be able to hang it without filling in exposed white canvas with a sharpie.

Canvas Champ says they use archival inks on giclée Epson printers. In an email about ink types and whether they tone the images to match the profile of the printers, they only said they calibrate the printers daily. I know through personal experience both Bay Photo and WHCC convert the embedded color profile and then tone, if needed, to match the output of the printer to make sure the best quality print.

Canvas Champ added that the styrofoam insert is NOT archival but they have not had any issues of outgassing ruining the image. Of course, one must take into account that canvas printing is a relatively new technology. The did reiterate their 99 year “No Questions Asked” warranty

Close-up of Staples and Mount:

© Paul Conrad - The back of the Canvas Champ print showing the exposed foam insert, staples, and mounting hardware.

© Paul Conrad – The back of the Canvas Champ print showing the exposed foam insert, staples, and mounting hardware.

The frame is constructed out of birch wood which uses stainless steel nails in the frame construction and  stainless steel staples to mount the canvas to the frame. The styrofoam insert is glued to the back of the canvas and the frame to add overall strength.

Comparing the cost of getting a 16×20 canvas print:

Printer Cost
Canvas Champ $28.00
White House Custom Color $41.50 and up
Bay Photo Lab $95 and up

CC does have a cost edge over Bay and WHCC. Their lower price makes getting some of my landscape images printed even more enticing.

The Back of a Bay Photo Lab Canvas print:

© Paul Conrad - The back of a Bay Photo canvas prints showing the tight corners, black cover, and felt tabs.

© Paul Conrad – The back of a Bay Photo canvas prints showing the tight corners, black cover, and felt tabs.

Notice on the back of the Bay Photo Lab print how nice it looks compared to the Canvas Champ. If CC were to implement this backing in addition to the foam insert, they will have one great product.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this particular print a 8. Mainly it loses points on the exposed corner, exposed backing, and difficult mounts. Overall I believe this to be a fairly decent product. In fact, Canvas Champ has an “99 year guarantee on all products , so at any time you feel the canvas is sagging , you can just return it for a new canvas with same image . No questions asked.” as said to me in an email.

But, to better judge their quality, I’m going to buy a few more canvas prints using a different name. You can’t really judge by one photo, especially one that is given to you for a product review.

So to sum up:

What I liked:

      – Rich blacks

      – Good midtones

      – Overall construction

      – Reasonable cost.

What I didn’t like and can be fixed:

      – Bad corners due to poor construction technique.

      – Exposed foam back and staples (cover it with a black backing to clean it up). More of trim issue, but still needed.

      – No felt tabs to prevent scratching your wall. Yes, you can buy these at a hardware store, but it should be covered in the manufacturing.

      – The blown out highlights. Color correct before printing.

      – Mounting option as shipped. Using a wire or the sawtooth hangers would work best as opposed the current option.

Below is a little company info I was emailed:
“Owned by Design print banners LLC , Canvas Champ is an US owned company with headquarters based in Atlanta. CC also owns a couple of other websites  (bannerbuzz.com bannerbuzz.com.au , bannerbuzz.co.uk , bestofsigns.com )  which serve Australia , United kingdom and Canada . The company has 45 employees and we have a joint printing capacity of more than 20,000 sq ft per day.”

Also according the email, they print 20,000 sq. ft. of photos per day. That’s an astonishing 18,702 11x14s!!! That’s a lot!

For a better understanding of their product, visit their site at Canvas Champ Printing.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Paul Conrad is a talented and skilled award-winning photographer living in Bellingham north of Seattle, WA, in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and in Europe. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. Although his specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, AirBnB, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.