Maddie Stearn

Tutorial: How to Create Trendy, Inspirational Images for Instagram

by Maddie Stearn on August 18, 2017 No comments

Social media platforms like Instagram can be a tricky platform to navigate, especially when you’re developing your personal brand. How can your small business stay ahead when it feels like bigger brands are dominating everyone’s feed? It’s pretty simple, actually—keep your content fresh with dynamic visuals. While that might sound obvious, maybe it isn’t obvious that you should be using stock photos.

Professionally-shot photos are what set brands apart, but there’s no need to panic if your photography skills aren’t up to par—stock photos are current, professional, and they’ll save you a pretty penny.

But sometimes even a fresh photo doesn’t quite cut it—you need to go above and beyond. Instagram is often a source of inspirational content, so you can provide your followers with the motivation that they need for any situation. Inspirational posts allow your followers to form a personal connection to your brand, so don’t shy away from experimenting with messages that might resonate.

Follow this tutorial to see how you can use stock photos to easily create trendy, inspiring Instagram content.


Step 1. Open the File in Photoshop and Resize.

First, determine if your image can be cropped or if it needs to be extended. We recommend picking photos that you can easily crop into a square, but the photo we picked is a little different. Because the top portion of the photo is just grass, we can easily extend the top using the Content Aware cropping feature.

In this case, we first need to open the file in Photoshop. We used this stock photo of a woman lying in the grass.

Tip: If you are simply going to crop your photo into a square, we recommend creating a new Photoshop document with dimensions of 1080 x 1080 pixels and a resolution of 300 pixels/inch.

stock photos

Once your file is open in Photoshop, go to Image > Image Size.

stock photos

Since we are going to be extending the top of the image, we will leave the height alone and just set the width to 1080 pixels.

stock photos


Step 2. Crop.

Now we need to make the photo square. Select the Crop Tool then click and drag the top of the image until the counter near your cursor says “H: 1080 px.”

Make sure that the Content Aware box is checked, then hit Enter on your keyboard.

stock photos

stock photos

It may take a second, but Photoshop will fill in that white space according to nearby pixels in the photo. The Content Aware tool is incredibly helpful tool for extending textures like the grass in this image.

stock photos


Step 3. Add Text.

First, make sure that you have enough blank space for the message or quote that you’ve chosen. We recommend keeping the text on the shorter side—this will increase the likelihood that your followers will read the message. Often, people just keep scrolling if they see a huge chunk of text on an image.

Once you’ve picked your message, decide how you want to break it up. Your image will be more visually striking if the text is broken into pieces, rather than crammed onto one or two lines.

If you’re not sure how to break up the text, first think about the words that you want to emphasize. It’s best to pick one or two words that you want to be your main focus (if you pick too many then the image could look crowded and overwhelming). After picking your focus word(s), try reading the text aloud and see where you pause naturally. These pauses are great places to break up the message.

For this tutorial, we chose a quote from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. The White Queen, speaking to Alice, says, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

We decided to emphasize the words “impossible things.” In the images below you can see how we broke up the rest of the quote.

Select the Text Tool and begin typing the first portion of your text. It’s a good idea to put each portion in its own layer so that you can easily move the pieces of text around the canvas.

stock photos


Step 4. Experiment with Fonts.

Now that you have your text on the canvas, it’s time to spice things up a bit. Even though you’ve broken up the text, the image still might look a little boring.

Select the layer that contains the focus words that you picked earlier. With the Text Tool selected, highlight the focus words and start playing around with fonts. It’s a good idea to stick to a plain font for the rest of the text, but you can go crazy with the font for your focus words.

For the example below, we used Proxima Nova (regular) for the body text and Oxtail OT (black italic) for the focus words.

We also used Oxtail OT (bold italic) for the author’s name but decreased the size of the text to create a more subtle effect.

stock photos


Step 5. Add Some Style.

Our image is looking pretty good at this point, but we want to make it look a little trendier. To do this, we’ll use shapes to highlight the focus words even more.

Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle around the focus words. Make sure that the rectangle layer is below the text layer that contains your focus words. Adjust the background color and hit Enter.

stock photos

Now, adjust the opacity of the rectangle to allow some of the background to show through. Just make sure that the text is still easy to read. You can also adjust the color of the focus words to make the text easier to read. To do this, select the focus words layer, click on the Type Tool and adjust the font color as necessary.

stock photos


Step 6. #FakeFilter

Our image is looking pretty good, but there’s one more thing that we can do to make it #InstaWorthy. Fake a filter!

You don’t have to add a filter to your image (and the photo that we used actually looks like it already has a filter), but we adjusted the color of the image to make the text stand out a little more.

Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a box around the entire image. The color doesn’t really matter at this point.

stock photos

Move the rectangle layer below all of the layers except the background layer. Adjust the opacity until the image has a subtle filtered look.

stock photos

Double click on the colored icon on the rectangle layer. The Color Picker will open and you can experiment with the color of your “filter.” For our photo, we picked a warm, red color because it highlighted the text well and fit with the optimistic tone of the quote.

stock photos

Once you’re happy with your #fakefilter, your image is complete!


Bonus: Save for Web.

To achieve the best results when you upload your photo to Instagram, we recommend exporting your photo to Save for Web. Simply go to File > Export > Save for Web.

stock photos

Save the image as a JPEG and set the Quality to 100 (this number matters more for websites than it does for Instagram, so you might as well set it to the highest level). Click “Save…” and you’re all set!

stock photos

Now your image is ready for Instagram!

stock photos

Running social media for your brand doesn’t have to be difficult. Just stay true to your voice, know your followers, and keep costs down by using stock photos.

Start prepping for your next #gram by checking out our entire collection of professional stock photos.


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Maddie StearnTutorial: How to Create Trendy, Inspirational Images for Instagram

How to Use Classic Backgrounds and Textures

by Maddie Stearn on August 14, 2017 No comments

Whether you’re designing a website, a package label, or a social media banner, backgrounds and textures will be your best friend—but they can also be daunting to work with. It’s hard to know when a pattern goes from “awesome” to “too much,” so it can be easy to shy away from intricate designs.

Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. We’ve created the Classic Backgrounds and Textures Collection to highlight our favorite stock vector patterns, and we’ll show you how to pick killer designs for your next branding project. Just follow our lead and you’ll be making awesome design mockups in no time.


What Makes a Design “Classic?”

Both minimalist and bold backgrounds are all the rage right now, but is there a middle ground? Absolutely! Intricate lines, soft watercolors, and subtle 3D designs all fall into that middle category—and that’s where “classic” emerges. These backgrounds are often monochrome or feature softer colors, giving them a more minimalist look but maintaining elaborate features.

Take the design below: the background is almost completely covered in lines and dots, but the lines are so thin and the dots are so small that the pattern still has a “classic” feel. The single-color design also helps the background avoid becoming too busy.

stock vector patterns

Download the seamless abstract background we used

But once you add text, even classic backgrounds and textures can overwhelm a mockup. So how do you make these design elements coexist?


Highlighting Text

It’s rare that backgrounds get to exist all on their own—more often than not there is some text involved. The problem is that even backgrounds and textures with muted colors can overpower  text. In those cases, you need to make space for the words to shine.

In the paper bag example above, we put our text in a semi-transparent white box that sits in the middle of the design. The transparency of the box allows the background to show through, creating consistency throughout the entire design. We want to make the text easy to read, but we don’t want to make it stand out too much from the background.

We used a similar technique in the example below. Again, the box around the text is semi-transparent, making the text easier to read while maintaining the continuity of the design.

stock vector patterns

Download the geometric background we used


Cropping Backgrounds and Textures

When working with classic backgrounds and textures, one of our favorite “hacks” is to simply use the crop tool! Some patterns are so intricate that you only need a small portion of the design to make a huge impact on your product.

Take the wine bottle example below. We only used part of this ombre grunge texture because we didn’t want to overwhelm the bottle with a giant label. The cropped texture makes the design interesting without being too large for the bottle.

You can also see that we highlighted the text again. This time we varied the shape of the frame and didn’t use any borders to show how you can make this technique all your own.

stock vector patterns

Download this grunge texture we used

Simple, straight-forward, but still visually striking—what’s not to love?

Classic backgrounds and textures are your allies—not your enemy. Armed with these tips and tricks you’ll be ready to embark on your next branding adventure—so put your knowledge to use and check out the entire collection.


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Maddie StearnHow to Use Classic Backgrounds and Textures

Why Split Screen Visuals Are So Effective

by Maddie Stearn on August 4, 2017 No comments

Have you ever clicked on a celebrity “Now vs. Then” article? Come on, be honest (we’re all very curious about what childhood celebrities are up to today). Most of us are guilty of reading at least one of these clickbait articles, but there’s a reason why we see so many of these posts online—they work, and not just because of their attention-grabbing headlines. Strong, split screen visuals are often what sells these post before we even have the chance to read what they’re about.

Now, we’re not saying that all clickbait is successful, but the split screen visual taps into readers’ desire to see dramatic visuals, as well as creating a curiosity gap. The images don’t even have to be that different to grab an audience’s attention. This is where context comes into play—an audience might be shocked to see photos of how a landscape has changed over the past 50 years, but they’d probably be just as astonished to see that John Stamos hasn’t aged in the past 30 years.

Split screen visuals aren’t just for casual observations—they can serve as learning tools, tug on our heartstrings, or even be humorous. We’ll show you how these visuals interact with all of these categories and how stock photos fit into the mix.


The “Wow” Factor

Advertisers often use split screen images to create dynamic ads that will catch customers’ attention. In the example below, this stock photo of pasta and stock photo of an empty bowl show that the meal must have been delicious (or somebody was hungry) since the bowl has been scraped clean. The two images are visually very similar, but the disappearance of the pasta is dramatic and eye-catching.

stock photos



Nothing sells like nostalgia. Often you’ll see split screen advertisements that portray the same subjects years apart or in different situations, but the added nostalgic element allows audiences to identify with the images. The result is still dramatic, but the visual is meant to evoke stronger emotions than an empty bowl of pasta.

These two stock images play on feelings of nostalgia by comparing images of similarly happy young and old couples. Even though the pictures aren’t of the same couple, they are similar enough to show that love is timeless.

stock photos


Split screen images aren’t just in advertisements and articles—they’ve become incredibly popular in viral humor and online memes, too. As with most internet fads, advertisers are now trying to use these memes in their own ad campaigns. The “Expectation vs. Reality” visual is hugely popular in advertisements and viral media alike, and it’s common for both to feature stock photos. We’ve provided our own example of this technique below.

stock photos


Online tutorials often use split screen images to show how the difference the learned tools or techniques can make. The primary goal of these images is to get people’s attention; your tutorial won’t help anyone if you can’t get people to click.

Graphic design nerds like us love tutorials that lead with split-screen images. It saves time when you’re scouring the internet for specific tips, and it’s exciting to see how far your artwork can go.

From a business perspective, we know that our customers also like our split screen visuals. It makes sense—we all want to know what to expect from a tutorial. These images can also drum up enthusiasm for the skill that the image promotes.

Here are some of the most popular split screen images for our tutorials—and you can also check out the tutorial section of our blog.

How to Add Textures in Photoshop

stock photos


How to Create a Visually Striking Text Portrait in Photoshop

stock photos


How to Add a Vintage Grunge Effect in 5 Easy Steps with Photoshop

stock photos
Ready to create your own split screen visuals? Find your inspiration browsing our library of royalty-free stock images.


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Maddie StearnWhy Split Screen Visuals Are So Effective

Tutorial: How to Create a VHS Glitch Effect in Illustrator

by Maddie Stearn on July 26, 2017 No comments

VHS has come and gone, but it has left its mark in a surprising way—the Token Creepy Video, or that analog distorted screen effect synonymous with old VHS tapes. Maybe there’s a better name for this, but we’re talking about the glitchy screen on old home movies that show up in movies and TV shows, usually because someone in the home video has gone missing.

Whether it’s for nostalgia or an investigation, this effect often foreshadows something sinister. You’ll see lines across the screen and some glitches in the video—unwanted interruptions that set a dramatic tone. All in all, the Token Creepy Video is meant to cause goosebumps and prepare audiences for more trouble ahead.

But the influence of this effect extends well beyond movies and TV. Nostalgia for the 80s and 90s is at an all-time peak, which means this simulated old school visual effect is potential marketing gold. So if you want to create a mysterious, foreboding still image—or channel some throwback nostalgia—simply imitate the VHS glitch in your Adobe Illustrator design. This tactic extends into the realms of advertising, art, and even logos, making it perfect for pairing with stock images. Plus, this distorted effect instantly adds a vintage feel to whatever artwork you’re creating without overpowering the image.

To prep you for this tutorial, we created a gallery of 20 stock images that have some serious mystery potential.


Step 1. Open the Background Image in Illustrator

Select your background photo and open it in Illustrator. We used this stock photo of a forest.

stock images


Step 2. Add Text

Select the text icon and type anywhere on the artboard. Go to the Type menu to edit the font and size.

stock images


Step 3. Group the Background and Text

Select both the text layer and the background layer (Command/Ctrl + click) then go to Object > Group (or hit Command/Ctrl + G on your keyboard).

stock images


Step 4. Create a Gradient Mesh

Draw a rectangle the size of the background image.

stock images

With only the rectangle selected, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh. A menu will pop up prompting you to enter the number of columns and rows that you want.

For this tutorial, we chose 20 rows and 1 column to allow us to make distortions with smaller portions of the image. We only used 1 column since we needed the distortions to go across the width of the entire image.

stock images

stock images


Step 5. Envelope Distort

Select the rectangle layer and the group you made from the background and text. Go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object.

stock images


Step 6. Experiment!

Click and drag the boxes of the mesh to distort the image. To gain more control, click on an anchor on one side of the image then Shift + click on the corresponding anchor on the other side. Use the left and right arrow keys to distort. You can also click and drag the handles to the left and right to create a different type of distortion.

stock images

stock images

stock images


Step 7. Draw a Rectangle and Make a Clipping Mask

Once you are happy with the adjustments that you’ve made, you can make an additional type of distortion using a clipping mask.

Draw a rectangle over part of the image (the color of the rectangle does not matter). The rectangle should be as wide as the background and as short as you like—the bottom of the rectangle is where the distortion will appear.

stock images

Select all of the layers then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.

stock images

stock images


Step 8. Duplicate and Move

Copy the top portion (the non-white part) of the image and paste onto the artboard.

stock images

Move the copied portion to the left or right to create a broken glitch effect. While you do this, you can hide the layer that contains the white box so that you can see what your final image will look like.

To hide a layer, click on the eye icon to the left of the layer name.

stock images

stock images


Step 9. Draw Lines

Use the pen tool to draw a straight line across the top of the image. Make sure that the fill color is white or gray and that the outline color is set to transparent. Copy that line and paste it at the bottom of the image.

stock images

stock images


Step 10. Blend

Select both lines (Shift + click on each line) and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options.

stock images

A menu will pop up. Select “Specified Steps” from the drop-down menu then type 200 in the box and click OK.

With the two lines still selected, go to Object > Blend > Make. Finally, go to Object > Blend > Expand. Lower the opacity of the lines if they are too prominent.

stock images

stock images

stock images


Step 11. “Crop” the Image

The distortion process is done, so pat yourself on the back!

Now we just want to crop the image a bit to get rid of the white parts on the sides. Unfortunately, Illustrator does not have a crop tool but a clipping mask will do the trick.

Draw a rectangle over the area of the image that you want to keep.

stock images

Select all of the layers and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.

stock images

Now your image is “cropped.” You can also adjust the size of the artboard to get rid of the white borders.

stock images

stock images

There you have it! You are now the master of the Token Creepy Video effect (we’re not sure if this name will catch on). This glitchy VHS look will serve you well in all of your mysterious, vintage designs. Now go forth and raise some goosebumps!


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Maddie StearnTutorial: How to Create a VHS Glitch Effect in Illustrator

Tutorial: How to Create Pop Art in Photoshop

by Maddie Stearn on July 6, 2017 No comments

If you want to give your photos some extra “POW”—or channel your inner Andy Warhol—then pop art is the way to go. Pop art’s characteristic bold colors will make any photo stand out, which makes this technique especially great for stock images.

After mastering this tutorial, your next creative project is guaranteed to attract attention. Earn a reputation for dynamic, modern artwork, all while easily staying within budget. Sound as realistic as a unicorn? We promise that this tutorial will make a believer out of you.


Step 1. Open the File in Photoshop

To get you started, we created a gallery of stock images that pair well with this tutorial. Select an image and open it in Photoshop.


Step 2. Select and Mask.

Click on the Quick Selection Tool, then click the Select and Mask button.

stock images

A new window will open. Set the transparency to 50% so that you can still see the image underneath. Make sure that the View Mode is set to Onion Skin.

Now we are going to create a selection around the woman in the image. Click and drag over the woman to create a selection.

When selecting the woman’s hair, you’ll probably end up selecting small parts of the background, too. Don’t worry if you do—this isn’t a big deal for this tutorial.

Once you’ve finished selecting the woman, make sure that the Output is set to Layer Mask. Click OK.

stock images


Step 3. Add a New Layer and Set the Background Color.

Add a new layer below the original and set your foreground and background colors to black and white. With the new layer selected, hit Command/Ctrl + delete on your keyboard. This will set the background color to white.

stock images


Step 4. Add a Black & White Adjustment Layer.

Select the original layer (Layer 0) and add a Black and White Adjustment Layer.

stock images


Step 5. Convert to a Smart Object.

Select all of the layers, right click, and select Convert to Smart Object. You will now have a single layer.

stock images


Step 6. (Optional) Rasterize the Layer.

Note: Steps 6 – 10 are optional. For this photo, we want to create more contrast around the woman’s shirt. Pop art turns out best with high contrast images.

Right click on the layer and select Rasterize Layer.

stock images


Step 7. Select the Shirt.

Click on the Selection Tool, then click and drag within the shirt area until the entire shirt is selected.

stock images


Step 8. Make a New Layer Via Copy.

With the shirt still selected, right click and select “Layer Via Copy.”

stock images


Step 9. Use the Burn Tool.

With the new Layer selected (Layer 1), click on the Burn Tool. This tool darkens the image wherever you drag your cursor. Use the right and left bracket keys “[ ]” to adjust the size of the Burn Tool. Click and drag across the shirt to darken the shadows and creases.

Pro tip: Hiding the bottom layer will make it easier to focus on the area of the image that you want to burn. To hide a layer, click on the eye symbol next to the layer icon.

stock images


Step 10. Convert to Smart Object.

Once you are satisfied with the contrast of the shirt, select both layers, right click, and select Convert to Smart Object.

stock images


Step 11. Apply the Filter.

Open the Filter Gallery by going to Filter > Filter Gallery.

stock images

Select the Halftone Pattern filter. Set the size to 2 and make sure that the Pattern Type is set to Dot. The contrast should remain at 0. Click OK.

stock images


Step 12. Sharpen.

Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen.

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Experiment with the sliders until you decide that the image has enough contrast. You want a lot of contrast to make the image pop.

Once you are satisfied with the overall contrast, click OK.

stock images


Step 13. Set the Blending Mode.

Set the blending mode to Linear Burn. This will allow us to paint underneath the black dots.

stock images


Step 14. Get Coloring!

Now for the fun part! Create a new layer underneath the current one, then select the foreground color and pick a new color.

stock images

Click on the bottom layer (the one that you just created), select the Paint Bucket Tool, and click on the canvas. The entire image will turn pink, but the black outline of the woman will still be over the pink.

stock images

Click on the foreground color again and select your next color. Select the Paintbrush Tool and start painting over specific areas.

stock images

Now go crazy with color!

stock images

And WHAM, there you have it! You’re now a pop art master. Looking for more inspiration? Check out our collection of portraits and get ready to make them POP!


Get Poppin’ with Stock Images


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Maddie StearnTutorial: How to Create Pop Art in Photoshop

Top 20 Creative Professional Photos for Digital Advertising

by Maddie Stearn on June 23, 2017 No comments

Once upon a time, stock photos of “professionals” only featured smiling, grey-suited executives. The smiling businessmen would shake hands, talk on the phone, and point at computers, but something was missing from the story…Where was the rest of the world? Our stock image library is filling that gap, highlighting a wide range of professions as well as the different ways that people conduct business.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all stock photos. The world is rapidly changing, and our stock image library is changing right along with it. Employers value collaboration and creativity like never before, and people are finding new ways and spaces to do business.

Advertisements for the present day need to keep up with the ways that businesses and professions are changing, so our stock image library is here to help. To find inspiration for your next digital advertising campaign, check out our top 20 creative professional photos.


Top 20 Creative Professional Photos for Digital Advertising



stock image libraryDownload this image of coworkers using a tablet outside.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a graphic designer.



stock image libraryDownload this image of coworkers collaborating.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a photographer.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a woman sketching outside.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a photographer using a laptop.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a man writing in the park.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a hairdresser and client.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a woman drinking coffee at her desk.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a home office with a cat.



stock image libraryDownload this image of hands playing a piano.



stock image libraryDownload this image of coworkers looking at a laptop.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a woman working in a modern office.



stock image libraryDownload this image of colleagues working late.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a man typing on a laptop.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a woman using a tablet and drinking coffee.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a woman outside typing on a laptop.



stock image libraryDownload this image of colleagues outside with tablets.



stock image libraryDownload this image of a man on the phone drinking coffee.



stock image libraryDownload this image of an artist.


Download All 20


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Maddie StearnTop 20 Creative Professional Photos for Digital Advertising

Tutorial: How to Turn Photos into Watercolor Paintings

by Maddie Stearn on June 19, 2017 No comments

We all know that watercolor paintings can be stunning, but they can also be incredibly useful. One of the easiest ways to unstock your advertising is to alter stock photos, and this watercolor alteration is a great way to get more bang for your buck. The technique is quick, simple, and cost-effective—simply pick any image from our stock photo library to get started.

This watercolor technique is also a great way for beginners to get their feet wet with Photoshop. In this tutorial, we’ll show you that you don’t need to be a seasoned designer to make dramatic alterations to photos.

To make things even easier, we created a gallery of stock photos that can transform beautifully into watercolor paintings. You can also check out the stock photo of boats that we used for this tutorial.


Step 1. Open Your File in Photoshop and Unlock the Background Layer.

stock photo library

Step 2. Convert the Photo into a Smart Object.

Right click on Layer 0 and select Convert to Smart Object.

stock photo library


Step 3. Open the Filter Gallery.

Go to the top menu and select Filter > Filter Gallery.

stock photo library


Step 4. Play with the Adjustments.

Select the Dry Brush filter, then play around with the adjustments (Brush Size, Brush Detail, and Texture).

stock photo library

It’s as simple as that!

stock photo library

Ready for your next Photoshop challenge? Check out some of our favorite Photoshop tutorials for beginners.


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Maddie StearnTutorial: How to Turn Photos into Watercolor Paintings

Tutorial: Create Bold Photo Collages in Photoshop

by Maddie Stearn on June 2, 2017 No comments

Say goodbye to the cut-and-paste collages of the past and hello to the bold, trendy Photoshop masterpieces of the future. That might be a bit of an exaggeration (we’re still big fans of crafting over here), but the Photoshop collage trend is exploding and we can’t get enough of it. We’re not the only ones—advertisers are eating it up like it’s cereal. No, that’s not a saying, but we’re about to show you how to make a pseudo-cereal collage in Photoshop that will have your clients’ mouths watering.

Photoshop collages and stock images go together like milk and cereal, and armed with these tools you’ll be creating your own delicious designs in no time. Like a certain popular breakfast food, stock photos won’t break the bank either.

We’re done with the food analogies, so go ahead and check out this gallery of stock images to get started on your own Photoshop collages. You’ll also find the materials used in this tutorial, including the following images:


Step 1. Open Your Stock Images in Photoshop

Open all four images in Photoshop and and unlock the background layers.

photoshop collages

Step 2. Erase the Backgrounds

Using the Eraser Tool or the Magic Wand Tool, erase the backgrounds of the mountain, the milk, and the pitcher. Do NOT erase anything from the photo of cereal with the bright pink background.

photoshop collages

In this granola photo, we just want the stream of milk, so we’re going to erase every element that does not have milk on it. For this image, we used the Magic Wand Tool to erase the background since it was able to make large selections and accurately avoid the milk. (To use the Magic Wand Tool, just click on a piece of the background and the tool will make a selection out of similarly-colored areas in the image).

photoshop collages

Once the background is mostly erased, you might find that the checkered grey-and-white background makes it difficult to see the milk. To make sure that you’re erasing accurately, you can add a new layer in a different color to the background. Create a New Layer and move it below the layer with the milk. Set the foreground color to black, select the Paint Bucket Tool, and click anywhere in the background of the new layer (Layer 1). Now, zoom in on the milk and use the Eraser Tool to erase the non-milk parts of the image.

Note: You want to keep the areas where the milk is on the granola (pictured below). Erase any granola that does not have milk on it.

photoshop collages

For the image below, erase everything but the pitcher and the stream of milk.

photoshop collages

Step 3. Place the Mountain

Once the entire background is erased from the mountain image, use the Selection Tool or hit Command/Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select the mountain. Copy the mountain and paste it onto the cereal image (the one with the pink background).

Place the mountain over the cereal.

photoshop collages

Step 4. Resize

With the mountain still selected, go to Edit > Transform > Warp. Use the warp tools to change the size and position of the mountain so that it covers the majority of the cereal and slopes naturally into the bowl. The mountain will still extend below the rim of the bowl, but we will fix that later.

photoshop collages

This is what the mountain should look like after you’re done warping:

photoshop collages

Step 5. Add a Layer Mask

With the mountain layer still selected, create a new Layer Mask. Invert the layer mask by hitting Command/Ctrl + i on your keyboard. Set the foreground color to white, select the Paintbrush Tool, and paint the areas where you want the mountain to appear. This will cause the mountain to appear only where you want it to. The key is to not paint below the rim of the bowl.

photoshop collages

Step 6. Fix It Up with the Paintbrush

Use the paintbrush to cover the last few rogue cornflakes. Select the cereal layer, click on the Eyedropper Tool, and select part of the pink background that is close to the cornflake. Select the Paintbrush Tool and paint over the top of the cornflake. Use the Eyedropper Tool again to select part of the bowl that is close to the cornflake, then use the Paintbrush Tool to paint over the rest of the cornflake.

photoshop collages

Step 7. Add Milk and Smudge

In the milk file, select the milk (Command/Ctrl + A) and paste it onto the cereal file. Move the milk so that it is on top of the mountain peak.

Now, select the cereal layer (Layer 0) and click on the Smudge Tool. Click on an area just to the left of the milk stream in Layer 0 (NOT the milk in Layer 2), and drag your mouse to the right. This will smudge the milk out of the way. You want to smudge it so that the milk stream from Layer 0 is hidden under the milk in Layer 2. This trick is a little lazy, but it gets the job done.

(Note: The pink background color has a subtle gradient, so that’s one reason why using the smudge tool is so helpful. As we smudge the poured milk in Layer 0, we’re also making sure that the pink gradient isn’t interrupted. If we were to simply select the milk from Layer 0, delete it, then fill in the empty space with pink, the result would be noticeably different from the rest of the background.)

photoshop collages

See, all hidden!

photoshop collages


Step 8. Add Drops for Effect

You can already see some flecks of milk in the original pink cereal image, but you can easily add more if you’d like. Set the foreground color to white and select the Paintbrush Tool. Open the Brush Presets folder and select a brush tip that you think would work well and adjust the brush size so that it’s close to the size of the other flecks. Then, just experiment with the size and placement of your brushstrokes.

photoshop collages
photoshop collages

Step 9. Add More Milk

In the pitcher file, select the pitcher of milk (Command/Ctrl + A), copy it, and paste it onto the cereal file. Place the pitcher layer below Layer 1 and Layer 2. Move the pitcher around as needed.

To blend the two streams of milk, click on the Smudge Tool and select Layer 2. Smudge in the direction of the milk until the two streams are blended.

photoshop collages

There you have it! With a little fancy footwork, you’ve turned a mountain into cereal. Click below to check out more stock images for your next Photoshop collage.

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Maddie StearnTutorial: Create Bold Photo Collages in Photoshop

Photoshop Tutorial: How to Creatively Crop for Images That Pop

by Maddie Stearn on May 26, 2017 No comments

It can sometimes be hard to unstock your advertising, but there’s one unexpected technique that can really come in handy: the crop tool. This simple feature is often overlooked as just a way to fix image dimensions, but in reality the crop tool is so much more. You can easily create dynamic portraits by experimenting with different ways of framing stock images.

We’re going to take cropping to the next level by showing you how to combine creative cropping with warped text. You’ll be able to create minimalistic, fresh photos that are sure to unstock even the stockiest of images—or take already visually striking images and give them even more of an edge.

As always, we’ve come prepared with a full gallery of stock images that are certified fresh and perfect for testing out this cropping and warped text technique. You can also find the stock photo of a woman with sunglasses that we use in this tutorial.


Step 1. Open the file in Photoshop

fresh photos


Step 2. Straighten the layer

This step isn’t necessary for all images, but we wanted to straighten the sunglasses here to make the photo easier to crop.

Unlock the background layer by clicking on the lock icon next to the layer name (“Layer 0”). Click and hold the Eyedropper Tool and wait for the other tool options to appear. Select the Ruler Tool.
fresh photos
Find a line in the image that you want to make level (i.e. the line is angled right now, but you want it to be level). For this image, we drew a small line across the bridge of the sunglasses, since we want the sunglasses to be level instead of angled. Once you have drawn the line, click the Straighten Layer button.
fresh photos


Step 3. Crop the image

Now you’ll need to crop the image to get rid of the empty space that Photoshop created when straightening the layer. We also decided to crop the image to only show the woman’s head and neck so that we could highlight the sunglasses.

We’re not quite ready to finish cropping the image, so don’t cut the sunglasses in half yet. If we did that, we would also be cropping the woman’s fingers. This isn’t necessarily bad, but the image will look more polished if we keep the fingers fully intact. In the next few steps we’ll show you how to fix this problem.
fresh photos


Step 4. Duplicate layer

Right click on Layer 0 and select Duplicate Layer.
fresh photos


Step 5. Select and delete

Select the bottom layer (Layer 0), then click on the Selection Tool. Select the area of the image that we will eventually be cropping (from the middle of the sunglasses to the top of the canvas). Once selected, delete the area inside the selection. Note: Nothing will look different because we still have the duplicate layer on top.
fresh photos


Step 6. Erase

Now select the top layer (Layer 0 copy) and click on the Eraser Tool. Start erasing the top of the image, but avoid erasing the woman’s index finger.
fresh photos

Once the rest of the top is erased, zoom in and erase the area surrounding the woman’s index finger.
fresh photos


Step 7. Fill background

Select the bottom layer (Layer 0) and click on the Paint Can. Set the foreground color to white and click on the canvas. This will fill in the top part of the image with white, but the index finger will remain visible.
fresh photos


Step 8. Add text

Select the Text Tool and write your message. We put the words “creative” and “cropping” in two separate layers because they need to be warped separately.

You will want to adjust the length of the words to align with the length of the lens frames. To do this, select the text layer (in this case we selected the “creative” layer) and hit Command/Ctrl + T on your keyboard.

Finally, right click on the text layer and select Rasterize Type.
fresh photos


Step 9. Shape the text

With the now-rasterized “creative” layer still selected, click Edit > Transform > Warp.
fresh photos

Experiment with warping the text until it matches the shape of the sunglass lens. You could also draw a temporary circle to help guide you. To do this, create a new layer underneath the text (but on top of the two background layers), click on the Shape Tool, and draw a circle that is the size of the sunglass lenses. Once you are done warping the text, you can delete the circle layer.
fresh photos
Repeat steps 8 and 9 with the “cropping” text layer.
fresh photos

There you have it! This simple cropping and warping technique is sure to come in handy when you need to make stock photos your own. Just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean that your images can’t look custom-made—plus this fresh technique is perfect for vibrant, creative summer projects!


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Maddie StearnPhotoshop Tutorial: How to Creatively Crop for Images That Pop

Tutorial: The Simple Way to Create Low Poly Portraits in Photoshop

by Maddie Stearn on April 27, 2017 No comments

Low poly portraits have become hugely popular for their minimalistic, edgy, and three-dimensional look. And while you may not recognize the term “low poly,” you’ve probably noticed these geometric portraits popping up everywhere—whether it be in advertising campaigns, illustrations, or even decorative art. Considering the popularity of low poly images, this technique is a great design hack to have under your belt, and it’s surprisingly easy to replicate.

Stock images pair perfectly with this design technique because of their versatility and color variation. Your end product will also look completely different from the original, so you save money but won’t risk running into the same image anywhere else. Our stock image library is also easy to search, so you can quickly find images that are perfectly suited to the low poly technique.

To make the process even easier, we’ve curated a gallery of stock images that work especially well as low poly portraits.


Step 1. Open Stock Image in Photoshop & Unlock the Background

We used a stock photo of a flamingo for this tutorial, but you can also check out the gallery mentioned above for even more stock images.

Open the image in Photoshop and unlock the background.

step 1 unlock


Step 2. Select the Entire Figure

Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool and start outlining the subject of your portrait. It’s totally fine if your outline is a little boxy or sharp—this will just add to the geometric effect of the final product.

step 2 outline

Be careful to include as little of the background as possible. Cutting off the edges of your subject a little bit won’t hurt and might make it easier to avoid including any background colors. You can see in the image below that I outlined the flamingo from the inside to avoid including any of the blue water from the background.


Step 3. Open in a New Photoshop Document

When you finish creating the outline, you will notice a moving dotted line surrounding your subject. This is the selection area. Cut this selection (Command/Ctrl + X) and paste into a new document.*

*If you want to keep the original background, create a new layer and paste your selection onto this new layer. This will prevent any background colors from merging with the subject when you start creating the low poly effect.

low poly


Step 4. Make a Triangular Selection

Select your subject’s layer (in this case, the flamingo layer). Make sure that the Polygonal Lasso Tool is still selected, and pick an area to draw a triangle. For each of your triangles, you want to select areas that have similar coloring.

Now, draw your triangular selection.

low poly


Step 5. Filter the Selection

With the triangular area selected (you should see the moving dotted line), select Filter > Blur > Average. This creates an average of all of the colors within your selection area.

Once the selection area is “averaged,” you can draw your next triangle. Make sure that one side of your triangle lines up with one side from the original. This will prevent any gaps between triangles.

Now that you’ve already used the Average command once, you can simply hit Command + control + F (Ctrl + Alt + F on PCs) on your keyboard. This keyboard shortcut repeats whichever filter was last used.

low poly


Step 6. Repeat Forever (Not Really)

This is the time-consuming part of the tutorial. The low poly technique itself isn’t hard at all, but making all of those triangles does take a chunk of time. Settle in with a good podcast or TV show in the background and the time will quickly fly by.

low poly


Tip 1: Filling in the Gaps

You might notice gaps between some of your triangles. These are easy to fix—just draw another triangle that covers the gap. (The gaps also might not even be visible once you zoom out to look at the final product.)

low poly


Tip 2: Getting the Details

Make smaller triangles to capture the more detailed areas of the image. Luckily, you don’t have to use small triangles for the entire portrait. The low poly effect looks best with a wide range of triangle sizes.

low poly

Keep on making those triangles until you’ve covered the entire image.

low poly


Now give yourself a huge pat on the back (and maybe take a break from the computer screen). You’ve successfully created a low poly portrait! This is an incredibly useful technique to have in your design arsenal, so congratulate yourself on a job well done.


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Maddie StearnTutorial: The Simple Way to Create Low Poly Portraits in Photoshop