Friday, July 24, 2009

Tutorial: Gradient Background for Bead Photography

I was asked recently in an email what I use for a backdrop/background in my bead photos. The answer is simple: a white-to-black gradient printed on glossy photo paper.

I know many beadmakers already use this technique, but for those who haven't tried it yet, I've made a short tutorial on the process.

I have a Mac computer and I use Photoshop CS2. I think the Photoshop interface on a PC looks similar to the Mac version, so this tut will work for PC Photoshop users. If you don't use Photoshop, perhaps you can adapt this tutorial to the program you use for photo editing or graphics.

The instructions below include text followed by a screenshot of the step in Photoshop. Click to enlarge the images.

How to Make a Gradient Background in Photoshop

1. Create a "New Document" in Photoshop with the following attributes:
- Name: "gradient" or whatever suits you
- Width: 8 inches, Height: 10 inches
- Resolution: 200 pixels/inch
- Color Mode: Grayscale, 8 bit
- Background Contents: White
Step 1: New Document, Photoshop Tutorial

2. With your new document open, choose the Gradient Tool from the tools palette. Also, make the background color white and the foreground color black.
Step 2: Gradient Tool

3. Using the Gradient Tool, click at the top of the document window and drag straight down about 2/3 of the way and let go. A gradient that fades from black at the top to white at the bottom should appear on the document.
Step 3: Create the Gradient

It should look like this:Step 3: Finished Gradient, Photoshop Tutorial

4. Save your document as a .psd or something that will preserve the high resolution. DO NOT save it as a .jpg, that is too low-res and will make an un-even, pixelated gradient when it's printed.

5. Printing the document
In the print options, under "Print Settings" choose:
- Media Type: Premium Glossy Photo Paper
- Color: Black
- Mode: Advanced
- Print Quality: Best Photo
(Or whatever the similar settings are on your software)
Step 5: Print the gradient background
Here is the kind of photo paper I've been using recently. I bought it at Office Max:HP Glossy Photo Paper, Photoshop Gradient Background Tutorial

A note about printing:
I have noticed that some brands of black printer ink are not truly black. It's similar to how Effetre Black glass is not really black, but a very dense transparent purple. The same must go for when ink companies try to manufacture the ever-elusive black: they have to make it a densely pigmented version of some color or colors. Because of this, my gradients sometimes turn out with a greenish or reddish cast in the "black" area. This is very frustrating. There are a few things that can be done:
- Try a different brand of black ink next time you need to change cartridges.
- Take your photos anyway with the slightly tinted background, and make the adjustments to the tint when you are doing your bead photo editing.
- Scream, lament over the expense of the wasted photo paper and ink, give up completely, and go make beads.

If anyone knows how to solve this vexing black ink problem, I'd love to hear what works.

Variations on the gradient:
- Try clicking and dragging the Gradient Tool half-way down or all the way down the document window to change the length of the gradient, which will either add more black or more white area.
- Instead of a white-to-black gradient, try white-to-green, white-to-purple, or some other color combination to make a colored background for your beads.
- Place the beads near the center of the gradient page when you are photographing them, where it is fading from white to black. Or, put them on the white part for a pure white background or on the black part for a darker background.

Care for the printed gradient:
Gradients printed like this tend to scratch and stain easily. Take care with it. Expect that you may need to print another one up every few months or so when the old one gets too many scratches.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I think it's the first one I've ever made. I had fun. Good luck with your bead photography!

:)

5 comments:

sassyglassdesigns said...

Fantastic tutorial...I absolutely love Photoshop but know so little about it. Do you have a suggestion for a very good, very basic book that teaches everything that PS can do? Thanks.

Karolen said...

thanks for your comment! I don't know any of the books on Photoshop. Sometimes I will read on-line tutorials made by Photoshop users about how to do a certain effect, and I learn a lot from those. There are a lot of free tutorials out there.
Also, the Photoshop program itself has a help and a tutorials section built in.

Web Design Quote said...

The end result for all the given instruction are fabulous.I will try to follow your instruction and make me good on the photoshop. I hope you will be add some more tutorial on photoshop.

Karolen said...

Thank you WebDesign. I plan on making more Photoshop tutorials, yes!

Stacey said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! My professional gradient paper was looking terrible but I needed to send a photo to a customer quickly. Your instructions were clear and so easy to follow. I used a matte paper because it was closer to my original and it came out great! I may never buy the professional paper again!