I’ve mentioned making wallpaper images using a technique I called “compositing”. I’m sure it has some other name that makes sense just as well, but thats what I call it. For those who crave such a technique, I’m happy to share. I suppose I’ll just discuss it in the general sense, and then provide a very specific example from one of the images in the gallery.
Honestly, this isn’t brain science or anything, just a whacky technique thats easy and produces some (imho) very nice images to look at. Ok, basic principle.
The first task is to go browsing the Intranaut for images that are appealing to you. The ones that I find that work best are pictures of natural settings with one consistent structure to the whole image. As some examples, I will show you a picture of some rusted metal, some sand, a rock wall and the side of a dirty car. Again, notice that each image doesn’t contain a huge variety of content. Each sticks to one theme, and has consistent elements throughout.
These images aren’t really all that notable in and of themselves. They key is in the layering. Next take your favorite image manipulation program. Make sure it supports layering, and having each layer act as a filter. Personally, I use Paint Shop Pro, and have for years. To each their own.
Next: Open your graphics program of choice, and open a new image of whatever size you want. I almost always start with a blank, black 1600×1200 image, figuring that I can scale down from there to whatever size I want later. Open all your ‘sampled’ images as well, and RESIZE them to the same size as your target image. I generally ignore scale here, it isn’t important in the sampled images.
Start with a base color. Pick a color that is generally pleasing to your eye, and just paint that color into your background layer as the base color. Now, for each of your sampled images, copy and paste it into your target image as a new layer. With each of these layers, change the filtering type and percentage until you arrive at something that looks good to you. Repeat for each image.
What I mean by ‘filtering type’ is how the new layer affects the image. Yes, it is a picture and you’d think you’re just overlaying that image onto your background color with a certain opacity, big deal. Well, yes and no. The filtering type ‘Overlay’ is certainly an option, but there are many others. For example: Darken, Lighten, Hue, Luminance, Multiply, Hard Light, Soft Light, Dodge, Burn, etc. Each of these filtering types will take your sampled image, and affect whats behind it a different way.
I normally spend the majority of my time in this step. With each layer, I go through ALL the filtering types, and with each type, vary the percentage of effect (opacity, to use the same analogy) from zero to 100%. Even if I find something pleasing to the eye, I always go through all the filter types anyway. I come up with a mental list of the two or three I liked, and once I’ve completed the whole list, I go back and reevaluate the couple that were the most appealing.
Once thats done, lock down the layer, and go get the next example image. Repeat until you’re done. There are occasions when I don’t use one of the sampled images because none of the filters strike me, or occasionally change the order of the layers to get a different result. Experimentation here is key, it will reward you eventually. I may also, as a final step, introduce a darken/lighten layer, or a contrast type thing to improve the overall brightness of the image, but usually not. Thats it!
So for a specific example, check out the moss image in gallery three. The example images I selected earlier are the ones used to make this one. Here’s the exact process:
Background color is a dark green (#004040)
First layer is the old metal image, Burn filter, 100%
Second layer is the sand one, Burn filter, 16%
Third layer is the brick wall, Hard Light filter, 26%
Fourth and final layer is the auto dirt one, Dodge filter, also at 100%
voila. I’m particularly pleased with that one. It took about 5 minutes (quite literally) to make. It all just bolted together very nicely. Please feel free to comment or add your own thoughts about this if you like. I’m curious what other sorts of magical techniques people use to make nice backgrounds and wallpapers.
What I think is the most appealing about this technique is that since each of the images used is itself a very natural (or pseudo natural) image that could easily occur in nature, the resultant image also looks very natural. The moss one in particular reminds me of what you might see on a moss covered rock underwater, with some specular highlights that might be some sort of phosphorescent part or little glowing thinger. Also, once you’ve seen the images used to create it, you can usually just about pick out the effects each of them had, but without that knowledge there really is no discernible “order” to things, or any way to really see what makes up the image. Dig it. Give it a shot!