Creating a Postcard in Photoshop

The Project: to make a fun postcard image from a beach vacation in the iconic “large letter” style of Curt Teich.

curt-teich-postcards

You can learn more about Curt Teich in Greetings From Big Letters, USA, and explore the enormous digital archive of his postcards at Newberry.org.

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’re making.

postcard

Along the way we’ll see how to use several important Photoshop features for improving your photos, including content-aware crop and move, straighten, and the Patch tool.

Using Content-Aware Crop and Straighten

To begin, I have a photo I want to use as the background. It needs to be cropped to my postcard size and straightened. In CC 2017, you can take advantage of a Content-Aware option fill in any blank spots created while cropping. In the Options bar, I set the size of my image and make sure that Content-Aware is selected.

crop-options

To straighten my image, I use the Straighten button in the Options bar. I simply drag a line along the horizon to level it out.

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Since I’m taking advantage of Content-Aware crop to fill in parts of the sky, I can extend my crop area outside the boundaries of my image.

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Here is the result. Photoshop has filled in the extra sky and my horizon is now straight.

crop-done

The Patch and Content-Aware Move Tools

The Patch tool allows you to quickly get rid of distractions by seamlessly replacing them with detail from elsewhere in the image. In this case, I want to remove the swimmer in the background and move the kids to the right side of the image. I also want to flip them, so the boy is walking into our image, instead of leaving. And I want to do all of this work non-destructively.

blank-layer

Let’s start with the swimmer in the background. The Patch tool will quickly get rid of her. Start by making a new blank layer in the Layers panel. At the bottom of the Layers panel, choose New Layer. This is where the changes will be made, preserving the original pixels in the Background layer.

With our new blank layer active, choose the Patch tool from the Tool bar.

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In the Options bar, set the Patch tool to Content-Aware and select Sample All Layers.

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Drag with the Patch tool to make a selection around the swimmer.

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Click inside of the selection and drag to a new clean area to replace it. Notice all of this happened in our retouching layer. The original image is still intact.

Deselect (press Command/Ctrl+D).

patch-move

We now need to move and flip the kids. Select the Content-Aware Move Tool. In the options bar, set the mode to Move, select Sample All Layers and Transform on Drop. Make a large selection around the kids. Don’t get too close to your subject and don’t forget any shadows.

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Click inside of your selection and drag.

contenawaremove

With Transform on Drop selected, there will be bounding box allowing you transform the selection. With a simple right-click, choose Flip Horizontal. Press Enter/Return to accept the transformation. Deselect again.

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The kids look great in the final result, but the horizon got a bit wonky. We can easily fix it with the healing brush.

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In the Options bar for the Healing Brush, choose All Layers from the drop-down menu.

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Hold Option/Alt and click on a good area to heal from. It’s best to place the target over a line (in this case, right on the line where the ocean and sky meet).Release the Option/Alt key. You should now have a loaded cursor. It shows you the pixels you will use to heal with. Make sure your healing layer, in this case, layer 1 is still the active layer. Paint over the area to heal. You may have to reselect the good pixels a few times. You can make your brush larger and smaller with the bracket keys,

Release the Option/Alt key. You should now have a loaded cursor. It shows you the pixels you will use to heal with. Make sure your healing layer, in this case, Layer 1 is still the active layer. Paint over the area to heal. You may have to reselect the good pixels a few times. You can make your brush larger and smaller with the bracket keys,

Make sure your healing layer, in this case, Layer 1 is still the active layer. Paint over the area to heal. You may have to reselect the good pixels a few times. You can make your brush larger and smaller with the bracket keys,

Paint over the area to heal. You may have to reselect the good pixels a few times. You can make your brush larger and smaller with the square bracket keys on your keyboard.

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Here is the final result. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t need to be. We are going to add text on top and you won’t see much of this background image.

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Warping Text

Our postcard needs some text. Using the Type tool, we are going to create point type. You can set up your type options before or after you click with the Type tool.

To create point type, you simply click with the Type tool (as opposed to clicking and dragging, which creates paragraph type).

Once you finish typing your text, switch back to the Move tool. As long as your type layer is selected, you can format it using the Character panel and the Paragraph panel.

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Once my type looks the way I want, I grab my Type tool again. After making sure the type layer is selected, I go to the Options bar and click on the Warp Type tool.

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I applied a Wave warp on this type.

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For the next part of the Postcard, my type needs to be just pixels, not editable type. To do this, I right-click on the type layer and choose Rasterize Type.  To give yourself the flexibility to edit the type later on, make a copy of the type layer before you rasterize it.

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We are about to create many more layers. Getting organized now will be beneficial for the rest of the project. Start by making the background a regular layer: simply click on the lock in the layer. Shift-click to select layer one and background and click on the folder icon at the bottom of layers panel to make the into a group. Double click on the name group to change it to

Shift-click to select Layer 1 and Background and click on the folder icon at the bottom of layers panel to make them into a group.

Double-click on the name group to change it to Background.

The next step is to get each letter into its own layer. We want each letter to have a different photo inside of it. With our rasterized text selected, we will use the Magic Wand to select each letter and copy it to a new layer using the keyboard shortcut Command/Ctrl+J. Think of this process as “jumping” your selection to a new layer to help you remember the shortcut.

With your rasterized text layer active, click inside a letter to select it and use Command/Ctrl+J to place it in its own layer.

Repeat for each letter.

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Once you have letters in their own layers, place them into a group to make it more manageable. The original text layer should be at the top of the stack. We are going to place a stroke on this layer and reduce the fill opacity so we only see the stroke.

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Using Clipping Masks to Fill the Letters with Images

Next, we will fill each of the letters with an image using clipping masks. I have all of my images in a library. You might have images on your hard drive. We need to place them into Photoshop. You can drag and drop from your hard drive, from Bridge or from your library. Resize as needed.

Rearrange your layers so each photo layer is above the corresponding letter layer. To create a clipping mask, right-click on the photo layer and choose Create Clipping Mask. You can also move your cursor in between the layers and Option/Alt-click when you see your cursor change. Your photos now only appear inside of the letters.

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Adding a Border

There are many ways to add a border in Photoshop. I like to use a rectangle with a stroke. With the rectangle tool, draw a shape that covers your entire image. In the Options bar or the Properties panel, set the fill to None and choose a color for your stroke. Then set the stroke width. For this postcard, I added 2 rectangles of different sizes and applied different colored strokes.

To finish it up, I added some text and layer styles.

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Finished Project

postcard

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Posted on: April 5, 2017

5 Comments on Creating a Postcard in Photoshop

  1. Splendid lesson!

  2. What is the font used for “Ocean City”?

  3. The font for Ocean City is Cooper Std

  4. Great article – I finally and successfully did this popular design trick.

  5. katherine francis

    July 19, 2017 at 6:58 am

    having trouble getting opacity of fill to zero – won’t show?

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