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This week I made good use of a few of of the photos I took last week at the zoo.  I managed to steal a few snippets of free time from my swamped schedule to do some digital art for my writing blog, Chimera Muses:

Banner from my writing blog, Chimera Muses: Muses of a writer, artist, and biologist, Teegan Purrington.

You might recognize the chimera from my picture on my About page. While that beast is the result of a project I did years ago, the rest of the site–the background–is new. I used some of the photos from my zoo visit, as well as a few others ones from my files. You can see the background here. (I’ll post the background here later in screen shots, but it looks best with the blog.)

I currently use Adobe Photoshop Elements, currently version 6.0 (soon to be updated), for my digital art. For this project I used a bunch of photos, a cool paint brush style, and box shapes. And layers. Lots and lots of layers. Like a collage of pictures with various transparencies.

I started by choosing the blog Theme template. I finally chose the Koi Theme. Then I determined a good width for the background image. Some other blog background images were around 1400 pixels, so I started with that. I knew I wanted to do some cool stuff with the menu and text column, so it couldn’t be an image I could have tiled (repeated) or fixed in the background. This meant I needed a solid standard color as the base–and my background image would have to fade into it.

Bottom of the background image fading to light pink.

The bottom of the background image fades to light mauve, the base background color for a seamless image edge.

I chose a light ruddy red. Light mauve, or pink–take your pick. This served as the template color for everything else in the piece. Once the piece was finished, I used a thick, fuzzy paint brush of the chosen color and dragged it across the bottom. This fades the image out at the bottom, leaving a seamless edge that leads right into the base color. This way the blog can continue down as long as it needs to without any jarring image transitions.

I also knew I wanted to work around the header, the menu, and the text columns. I sketched out my ideas on an index card. Then I took screen shots of my blog and pasted them onto my image to use as a template. That way I knew exactly where to place the lighter boxes–and also got a sneak peak of how the final blog would look, which helped with layout and theme cohesion.

Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop Elements showing the blog text used as reference for background template

I added a photo of paper over the entire thing to give it a papery texture, and darkened the background to brown. I used a faded black paint brush to darken the edges. Then I added light boxes to square out the text and menu areas so they could still be read.

Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop Elements showing the development of the template.

Then I began to really play with the background. I used a cool paint brush to scribble on a shape near the top right. Then I fished around in my photography files for pictures with good texture. Once I found them, I re-sized them, erased the edges so I had just the part of the photo I wanted, then dragged the image over to my background image. The transferred photo becomes its own layer, like a magazine cut-out you might use for a collage.

Then I changed the opacity, which helps it blend into the background better, play well with the other images, and shows the textures beneath it. I used a total of 7 photos for a total of 12 different pieces (I used some photos more than once to create balance). Layer styles I used: Vivid Light, Multiply, Linear Burn, Color Dodge, Soft Light, and Overlay.

Here’s the full final piece, with a header placeholder and the text screenshot for reference. On the left you can see part of the jaguar I photographed last week, and on the right near the bottom you can see part of the python. There’s a golden eagle’s wing just under the header, and some frozen grasses on either side. There’s also some algae from my fish tank in there…

Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop Elements showing the development of the background textures

It’s not perfect, but I had a lot of fun with it.

Here’s the final piece. 

Full background image

(Note: Please do not use this without asking me. If you would like to use this image as your blog background, you can ask me here or here. Along with giving you permission (which makes your use of the image legal), I can provide you with the background code that corresponds with the image fade-out.  Also, please link back to one of my blogs if you do so.)

So there’s a bit of my digital art. I’m still working on rock paintings, but it’s been hard lately because it’s something I need a good block of time to do and life has been a little hectic lately. Thus the digital art, which I can do in tiny little chunks. Things are slowing down now, though, so I hope to be able to work on them this week.

God Bless,