Recycle Vintage Images to Create a Photoshop Collage
In this tutorial we'll create a colorful vintage collage from a variety of retro images.
Create a new RGB canvas 21cm wide x 29.7cm high, a resolution to 300dpi and the background content set to white. Download and open the watercolor image. Then go Image > Rotate Canvas > 180º. Drag the layer thumbnail into your working document, position as shown and drop the Opacity to 40%.
Hit Command + E to merge the new layer and label it "Wash." Download these grungy book textures, after unzipping, drag "BB_free_texture_11.jpg" in as new layer. Transform, drop the Opacity to 60%, set the Blending Mode to Multiply and label it "Paper."
Open "Staples.jpg" from the "source" folder and drag/drop as a new layer, setting the Blending Mode to Multiply and lowering the Opacity to 65%. Add a layer mask, then use a large, soft-edged brush at 100% Opacity to remove the right-hand side and label it "Book edge."
Drag "Metal.jpg" from the "source" folder as a new layer and label it "Metal distress." Now hit Command+I to invert it, then set the Blending Mode to Screen.
You’ll be using quite a lot of layers throughout this tutorial, so keep things tidy by placing all the layers into a group folder labeled "BACKGROUND." Next, target the uppermost layer and click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the foot of the layers palette, then select Color Balance from drop-down menu. Now use the following settings: Midtone Red of +74, Green of -2, Blue of -18, and Shadow Red of +58.
The benefit of using adjustment layers is that no edit is permanent until you flatten the image. You can fine-tune them any time by simply double-clicking the layer thumbnail.
Open "Watercolor_1.jpg" from the "source" folder and drag/drop as a new layer above the adjustment layer. Now set the Blending Mode to Linear Burn and drop the Opacity to 70%.
Select the Custom Shape Tool (U) and with the Paths option checked, choose "Flower 6" from the Shape Picker drop-down menu. Hold down Shift and draw inwards from the bottom right. You can always re-position the path around by using the Path Selection Tool (A) if required.
It’s always good practice to save your paths by naming them – this stops them from being accidently over-written.
Open "BB_free_texture_3.jpg" (from the download in step 2), then use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the pattern area and copy to the clipboard. Back in your working document, ensure the group folder is collapsed, then Command-click your path thumbnail to generate a selection and hit Shift + Command + V to paste into.
Depending on the shape’s dimensions, you may need to transform the layer content to fit. When you're done, activate the chain icon, locking the layer and mask, then label it "Flower."
With the "Flower" layer targeted, hold down Alt/Opt while clicking on the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon and pick Hue/Saturation from the drop-down menu. In the next window check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. Now set the Hue to +135 and the Saturation to -74.
A normal adjustment layer modifies all underlying layers, but by "Clipping" an adjustment you’ll only alter the target layer.
Drop the "Flower" and the adjustment layer into a new group folder and label it "PATTERN FILL." Next, add a normal Solid Color Fill adjustment layer and select a mid blue (R of 76, G of 146, and B of 174). Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light for a subtle effect.
Open "BB_free_texture_7.jpg," then use the same techniques as detailed in Step 8 to Copy > Paste into your working document, then set the Blending Mode to Color Burn and drop the Opacity to 34%. Duplicate the layer and transform, setting the Blending Mode to Screen at 100% Opacity.
Also, fill a circular selection with a mauve color using a Blending Mode of Multiply – remember to name them "Circle 1" etc. Finally, place them in a new group folder labeled "CIRCLE FILLS."
Open "Masking_tape.jpg" from the "source" folder, and using the Magic Wand Tool (W) set to a Tolerance of 65, make a a selection of the tape. Contract the selection (Select > Modify > Contract) by 1px and Copy to the clipboard. Now Paste into your working document as shown setting the Blending Mode to Overlay and dropping the Opacity to 65%. Name it "Tape" and place it into a new group folder labeled "ELEMENTS."
Drag/drop "Plant_1.jpg" from the "source" folder into the "ELEMENTS" group folder. Set the Blending Mode to Multiply and label it "Flowers 1." Next, clip a Photo Filter adjustment layer, select the Magenta preset and drop the Density down to 50%.
Drag/drop "Instructions.jpg" from the "source" folder into the "ELEMENTS" group folder. Set the Blending Mode to Multiply and label it "Linework." Clip another Photo Filter adjustment layer, selecting the Red preset and dropping the Density to 60%.
Open "Bird.jpg" from the "source" folder, select the Magic Wand Tool (W) with Add to the selection with Contiguous checked. Set the Tolerance to 44 and select the background. Now hit Shift+ Command + I to inverse the selection, then contract by 2px and Copy to the clipboard.
Paste as a new layer within the "ELEMENTS" folder and label it "Bird." Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, setting the Saturation to -30. Now clip another adjustment layer choosing Levels and setting the midpoint to 0.73.
Open "Flowers_1.jpg" from the "source" folder and use the same technique as in Step 15 to Copy > Paste as into the "ELEMENTS" folder. Name it "Flowers 2," then clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer dropping the Saturation down to -20.
Follow the same procedure for "Flowers_2.jpg" and label it accordingly. Now clip a Levels adjustment layer, setting the midpoint to 0.75, then clip another adjustment layer choosing Hue/Saturation and dropping the Saturation down to -12.
Add the final "Flowers_3.jpg" and clip a Color Balance adjustment layer reducing the midtone Red to -44.
Open "Bikini_girl.jpg" from the "source" folder and use the Pen Tool (P) set to "Paths" to isolate the figure. You don’t need to be too precise here – in fact being a little careless all adds to the hand-made effect we’re aiming for. Don’t forget to select Subtract from path area when plotting the inner areas – I’ve stroked these in red for clarity on the screenshot.
Remember, when creating paths to use the Alt, Command and Shift modifier keys as you work. Plus, you can always fine-tune your path by holding the Ctrl key to access the Direct Selection tool to adjust individual direction/anchor points.
When you’re done, Command-click the path thumbnail to generate a selection and Copy to the clipboard. Now Paste the selection within the "ELEMENTS" folder and label it "Bikini girl." Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal, then re-size and position as shown. Next, clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, checking the Colorize option and dragging the Saturation slider to 12.
Open "Car.jpg" from the "source" folder and use the Pen tool to plot a rough path around the front section. Paste as a new layer within the "ELEMENTS" folder and flip. Now, re-size and label it "Car." Now clip a Levels adjustment layer setting the midpoint to 0.85.
Open "Girl.jpg" from the "source" folder and add a Gaussian Blur of 1px to eliminate the coarse screen, then run the Smart Sharpen Filter at 40% with a Radius of 3.8px to restore the focus. Now plot a path to isolate the figure, generate a selection and Copy to the clipboard.
Paste into a new group folder labeled "MAIN FIGURE," then clip a Curves adjustment layer choosing Red from the Channel drop-down menu and setting the Output to 241 and the Input to 255. Now select the Green channel and click anywhere on the curve to add a point, set the Output to 128 and Input to 150. Repeat on the Blue channel, setting the Output to 133 and Input to 120. Finally, name the layer "Girl."
Increase the contrast of the "Girl" layer by clipping a Levels adjustment to it, setting the midpoint to 0.71 and the whitepoint to 247.
In the next few steps you’ll be creating your own custom brush set. First, you’ll need to make a blank set. Choose the Brush Tool (B) and use the pull-out menu in the Brushes palette to select Basic Brushes (1), which is the smallest set, then hit OK to replace them.
Now press Alt and you’ll see your cursor change to a Scissor Icon (2). Click all the thumbnails in turn to remove them – don’t worry they’re not permanently deleted, you can reload them anytime.
Scanning elements from old magazines is a great way to build grunge brushes. I’ve supplied all the primary images in the "BRUSH_SOURCE" folder. Start off by opening "Brush_source_1.jpg" and making a selection (indicated in red for clarity) with the Marquee Tool (M).
Now access the Levels dialogue box (Command + L) and set the midpoint to 0.56 and the whitepoint to 183. Now save the brush into your empty library by going Edit > Define Brush Preset and naming it.
Continue to modify the remaining images with the Eraser (E) and Elliptical Marquee Tools (M) to define your brushes. Alternatively, feel free to make brushes from your own source files – or if you want to skip this part entirely, simply load the brush set I created; it’s called "PSDTUTS_grunge.abr" and you can find it in the "source" folder.
When you’re done, use the fly-out menu in the Brushes palette to save your brushes. If you’re like me and make a lot of brush libraries, it’s always a good idea to give them memorable names, as well as storing them somewhere where you won’t forget!
Play a bit in a new document to familiarize yourself with the brushes. You’ll achieve best results by using them in a stamping fashion, as well as rotating them in the Brush palette to avoid repetition. Also hit the Left Bracket Key and Right Bracket key on your keyboard to alter the brush size as you work.
Add a new group folder below the "PATTERN FILL" folder and label it "GRUNGE BRUSHWORK." Work on different layers for maximum flexibility using purples and grays. Try different Blending Modes too – I used a combination of Multiply, Color Burn and Overlay. Remember, you can also knock-back the effect by reducing the layer Opacity as well.
Click on the Create new path icon at the foot of the paths palette, then select the Custom Shape Tool and pick Flower 1 to draw your first shape. Now select Subtract from path area to draw the second, intersecting shape as shown.
Download and open the graph paper image, then make a rectangular selection and Copy to the clipboard. Generate a selection from the new path and Paste into the shape. Position the new layer within the "PATTERN FILL" folder, below "Color Fill 1" and label it "Cloud 1." Re-size and lock the mask as in Step 8, then use the same technique to add another cloud shape as shown. Finally, drop the Opacity of both layers to 60%.
Add another group folder at the top of the layer stack and label it "BUTTERFLIES." Copy > Paste "B_fly_1.jpg" from the "source" folder, setting the Blending Mode to Multiply and name it "Butterfly 1." Now clip a Photo Filter adjustment layer selecting the Magenta preset and set the Density to 90%.
Repeat using "B_fly_2.jpg," clipping a Deep Red Photo Filter adjustment layer with the same Density. Now transform/position both butterflies as shown.
Duplicate some of the layers within the "CIRCLE FILLS" folder and position on the right to balance the composition. Experiment using different Blending Modes – I used Screen and Multiply.
Drag/drop "Plant_2.jpg" from the "source" folder into the bottom of the "ELEMENTS" folder, transform/position and label it "Flowers 5." Set the Blending Mode to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 70%, then clip a Deep Red Photo Filter adjustment layer with a Density of 55%.
Now to add some custom shapes from Illustrator – first, you need to clear your existing library, as you did with the brushes earlier. Select the Custom Shape Tool in the options bar, then use the drop-down menu to select Reset Shapes, then click OK in the next dialogue box. With the default list now loaded, hold Alt and delete them.
Launch Illustrator, open a new document and select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and click anywhere on the canvas. In the next dialogue box enter 20mm width, 100m height and a corner radius of 10mm to create a lozenge.
Now hold down Shift + Alt and drag to duplicate. Rotate the copied shape 90º, select both, then use the Align palette to center. Now use the drop-down menu in the Pathfinder palette to select Make Compound Shape, then hit the Expand button and rotate 45º.
Continue creating more crosses and circles, punch holes in some by sending the cross shape to the back (Shift + Command + Left Bracket key), then select both and choose Minus back. Now let’s start getting these shapes into Photoshop by copying the first object to the clipboard.
Back in Photoshop create a new document using the clipboard as the preset, then Paste, checking the Paths option under Paste As. To save the shape, simply go to Edit > Define Custom Shape and name it accordingly.
When you’ve finished pasting and defining all your shapes from Illustrator, save them so you can load them when needed. Create a new group folder at the top of the layer stack and label it "FOREGROUND GRAPHICS," then use the Custom Shape Tool set to Shape layers to add the graphics. You can modify their color by double-clicking the layer thumbnail – I used dark burgundies and purples and Multiply, Color Burn and Linear Burn Blending Modes.
Now’s a good time to sit back and review the composition – something is needed on the right to balance the composition, so cut and paste the dinosaur (from the "source" folder) beneath the "Bird" layer.
Also feel free to reposition elements such as the "Linework" and "Clouds." When you’re happy, add a mask to the "Metal distress" layer and use layer-based selections from the "Clouds" to fill the mask with black. Finally, use Color Burn on some of the right side "Circle" layer Blending Modes.
Add a new group folder beneath the "PATTERN FILL" folder and label it "DOTTED LINES." Select the Brush Tool, then open the Brush palette and choose a hard-edged brush. Set it’s Diameter to 9px and adjust the Spacing to 176%. Add a new layer within your new group folder and label it "Dots 1."
Ensure white is set to the foreground color, then highlight your second path thumbnail and click on the top right fly-out menu and select Stroke Path. Repeat on another layer (labeling it "Dots 1") using your third path. Both layers can now be transformed/positioned as desired.
Download and install these floral brushes, then create another new group folder beneath the "DOTTED LINES" and label it "HAND BRUSHES." Add a new layer within the folder and set the Blending Mode to Multiply.
Now pick a dark burgundy as your foreground color, select a brush, then rotate and flip to suit. As these brushes are fairly fine, I found stamping a few times was necessary, being careful not to move the cursor made the stroke marginally thicker as well. Also, for a subtle effect, try using a white brush on a Soft Light layer, then duplicate.
Switch back to Illustrator and create some black text – I used a combination of Clarendon and Lubalin Graph fonts. Now Select All and hit Shift + Command + O to Create Outlines. You can now modify the type by Shift-clicking individual points and moving them with the Direct Selection Tool.
Now add some black circles to cover the font eyes – then Select All and use the Pathfinder functions as you did in Step 39 to make an expanded compound shape. When you’re done, Copy to the clipboard.
Paste As pixels at the top of the layer stack within the "FOREGROUND GRAPHICS" folder and label it "Logo." Set the Blending Mode to Vivid Light and drop the Opacity to 70%, then temporarily disable the visibility of some folders for clarity. Now add a mask and use your grunge brushes to distress it.
Rotate, transform and position the logo to the left, then drag/drop "Scribble.jpg" (from the "source" folder) and set it beneath the logo. Change the Blending Mode to Multiply and label it accordingly.
Bleach the colors very slightly by adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer at the top of the stack. Set the Saturation to -20, then drop the adjustment layer's Opacity to 70%. To finish off, use the Clone Tool (S) set to Current Layer on the car to remove the lettering on the hood and you’re done!
I hope I've fueled your imagination to create your own collages using these techniques. This style of illustration does have an unexpected spontaneity about it – in fact, the final image is the result of a few unexpected turns and happy accidents. Have fun!
The final image is below. You can view the large version here.