VSST 108 - Design for Media

Still Life - Digital Variations and Collage/Painting

This assignment begins by making your own photographs of a still-life - an artfully arranged and framed set of inanimate objects.

The still-life JPGs are available in AW Express - in the folder <+still life JPGs>.

You will choose one image to work with. This will be brought through a series of digital variations. It will also be the basis for two paper collages.

Optimize your photo:

If necessary, you can crop and/or rotate it slightly, but preserve the aspect ratio at 3:2. (Use the Marquee tool on Style: Fixed Ratio.)

Use Image/Size (with resampling on) to set the following dimensions and resolution:
10x15 inches at 300 ppi.

Use Image/Adjust/Channel Mixer in monochrome mode to optimize the grayscale look of the image, then convert the Mode to Grayscale 8. Save As a Photoshop file <sec-lastname-still-life.psd>.

Adjust Levels until you believe the image is optimized. Save.

Also do a "Save As" as a JPG (Quality 10) file <lastname-01-still-life-print.jpg>. This will be used to make a print. Note: don't put your section number at the beginning of this filename - it is not needed because you will be putting this file - and the others from this project - into a folder with your section and name on it. The <01> is in the filename so that it will alphabetize correctly within your folder.

Still Life - Digital Variations in Photoshop

Open <lastname-01-still-life.psd>.

Duplicate the background layer. Work only on the duplicate layer, leaving the background layer intact for reference.

On the duplicate layer, using the Photoshop selection techniques you prefer, select all of the objects as one selection - separating them from the background. To get realistic results, be sure to "Refine" the selection with slight feathering. Copy and Paste-Special in Place. Name this new layer <objects>.

Or, if you prefer, you can select each one separately and put it on its own layer - and then merge the three layers.

Do the same selection routine for the table surface; name the new layer <table>. Do the same for the wall plane; name the new layer <wall>.

Activate the duplicate layer; Select All and Fill with white. Rename this layer <white>.

The order of layers should now be:
background (original photo)

only <objects> and <white> layers visible

Make a duplicate of your Pattern/Texture PSD document. (If you've lost yours, copy it from the class drop folder.) Resize it to 10x15 inches @ 300 ppi. Save it as <pattern-source.psd>.

Copy just the pattern layer (black on white; no texture). Paste it into your working PSD file. This will make a new layer; name it <wall-pattern>.

Go back to <pattern-source.psd>. Copy just the tonally inverted pattern layer (white on black; no texture). Paste it into your working PSD file. This will make a new layer; name it <table-pattern>.

Arrange your layer order and visibility so that the <wall-pattern> layer substitutes for the actual wall. If your wall is at an angle to the picture plane, you will need to distort the <wall-pattern> layer using Edit/Transform/Distort to show proper perspective. If you have a corner in the wall, then you will have to do two separate distortions to get the perspective correct.

With everything looking correct, Save As a JPG (quality 10) <lastname-02-wallpaper.jpg>. This will leave the original PSD with layers intact so that you can return to it.

only <table> <wall-pattern> <objects> layers visible = <lastname-name-02-wallpaper.jpg>

Now rearrange your layers so that the <table-pattern> layer substitutes for the table. Command-select the <table-pattern layer> and use Edit/Transform/Distort to shape the pattern to match the perspective of the table surface. With everything looking correct, Save As a JPG (quality 10) <lastname-03-tablecloth.jpg>.

only <wall> <table-pattern> <objects> layers visible = <lastname-03-tablecloth.jpg>

Rearrange the layers to show both the table pattern and wall pattern. With everything looking correct, Save As a JPG (quality 10) <lastname-04-table-wall.jpg>.

only <wall-pattern> <table-pattern-mod> <objects> layers visible
= lastname-04-table-wall.jpg>

For more realism, you will need to add cast shadows.

You'll need to select the areas you want to become shadows so that you can then darken only these areas. Make the background photo visible and active and use one or more means of selection to select the shadows. With the selection active, switch to the layer on which you want to create the shadows; then create a new <Adjustment Layer: Levels> and make sure that it's above the layer(s) you want to modify. It should only affect the selection area. Adjust levels of this layer until your shadows look realistic. If your shadows are too fake looking, you may need to adjust the shapes and the selection's "refinement." With everything looking correct, Save As a JPG (quality 10) <lastname-05-shadows.jpg>.

Same as 9a2-c but with shadows added = <lastname-05-shadows.jpg>

Finally, do a freeform variation where you mix and match in any way you like. Beside any variation of the steps done above, you may also distort, sample textures in the still ife objects, etc. Put some time in on this one, since much of the "creative" grade on this project will come from the freeform. Save this view as <lastname-06-freeform.jpg> quality10.

Make a new folder named <Sec Lastname Still Lifes>. Put these six JPGs into the folder. Submit the entire folder to AW Express. Note that there are no dashes in the folder name because they aren't necessary.

folder: <Sec Lastname Still Lifes> contains:

Due in AW Express: class 9a on 3/6.

Part 3 - Still-Life Collage and Painting

The studio part of the still-life problem consists in making an optical-value collage and a five-value painting from your still life photo. These will stress interpretation of value.

Open your PSD file <sec-lastname-still-life.psd>(with layers). Make just the original photo visible.

original photo image

Apply Image/Adjustment/Posterize for 5 values.

posterized five values

Use the eyedropper (to select various values to be the foreground color, as you need them) and then use the paintbrush tool to smooth out value areas in preparation for making an optical-value collage. With just this layer visible, Save As <lastname-07-posterized-simplified.jpg>.

simplified five-value version (reference for collaging)

Now, use your object-selection, wall, and table layers to create a simplified version of the still life where the objects are white, middle gray and black, the table is dark gray and the wall is light gray. ith just this layer visible, Save As <lastname-08-silhouettes.jpg>. This is the version that you will paint.

five-value silhoutted version (reference for painting)

Close your <sec-lastname-still-life.psd> file without saving changes so it will be unmodified.

Convert your image files 01, 07 and 08 to PDF format. Print one copy of 01 and 07, and three copies of 08 (five total prints) at a copy shop - FedEx Office or Campus Copy - or other. Be sure that the actual printed images come out at the right size (10x15 inches) and not enlarged to fill the paper. Print on heavy paper so that you can cut out stencils.

One copy of 08 will be kept intact for reference; the other two copies will be used to cut up as stencils during the collage and painting processes.


Do your paint mixing to get white, light gray (6 white dots to one black), middle gray (4 white dots to one black), dark gray (2 white dots to one black), and black. Be sure to mix in matte medium.

On a piece of Bristol Paper, draw a centered rectangle 10X15 inches. Tape outside the frame with blue tape so you will get a clean edges.

Lightly draw your "horizon" line. Paint your wall going just a bit beyond the line. Let it dry. (You can speed up the process with a hair dryer.)

Now tape the line and paint the table top (going slightly over the tape). Let it dry and then remove the tape. Before proceeding, make sure that it is fully dry!

From your two extra copies of the 08 photo, you should be able to cut one each of the three objects (using a scissors or the X-acto knife). Carefully re-create any portion of the object that you can't actually see.

Place these three objects down on the painting in their correct positions. Use a small pieces of blue tape to hinge them in place. Lift up the "rearmost" photo silhouette slightly and place blue tape - approximately centered - under the all of the edges. Now trace the edges of the object onto the blue tape.

Using the X-acto knife, cut along the tracings and then remove the blue tape from the area to be painted. Paint it with the correct value paint, going slightly over the tape. Let it dry and then remove the tape.

Do the same for the mid-depth object and then do it for the frontmost object.

Whichever is your white object, give it two coats of white paint.

Remove the blue-tape frame.

Put you name on the back of the painting.


On another piece of Bristol Paper, draw a centered rectangle 10X15 inches. In it, make a collage that approximates the 07 five-value photo.

Use two of your grayscale papers for values. The other three values must be created using "optical value" papers - either found or created by you.

Use the glue stick for temporary positioning and the rubber cement for final adhesion.

Put you name on the back of the collage.

Painting, Collage and Still-Life Photo Print are due at class 9b on 3/8

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