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How to square up artwork using Photoshop Elements


Start with this indoor digital photo of art placed on a towel on a bed ...
How to square up artwork using Photoshop Elements

Get this digital media


Start with this sunny outdoor photo of art laying on a piece of brown masonite ...
How to square up artwork using Photoshop Elements

Get this digital media

FYI: Assuming ordinary digital camera:

For best results with fully colored art, take digital photo under ordinary indoor lighting.

For best results with art on white paper or art with white areas, best result is outdoors in the sun ... the problem with photographing white color is that it appears uneven gray instead of uniform white.

How to square up artwork using Photoshop Elements <> 65 step-by-step instructions for perfect results
Requires a digital camera, a computer and a version of Photoshop Elements
I will write detailed instruction for free open-source Gimpshop and post a link here by 1-10-10

Take a photo of your art and select best one for editing
1. Take several photos <> try the macro setting for close-up <> try both indoor lighting and sunshine
2. Don’t fill entire digital screen with art <> Leave space around art
3. The more photos you have, the better the chance of having a good one

4. Download photos of art to computer

5. Choose a photo with as little camera distortion as possible <> it must be in focus <> take more photos if needed

Get started in Photoshop Elements
1. To load photo, drag photo into Photoshop
2. Make sure Layers are visible <> go to Windows at top <> click Layers so a checkmark shows next to word
3. Your initial art photo will show as the background layer <> this layer will not be worked on

We want to create more layers
1. First, create a duplicate layer of art photo <> go to Layer at top, select Duplicate Layer <> unless you title it differently, this is called the Background Copy
2. Next, create 4 transparent layers <> go to Layer at top, select New <> Layer <> repeat this step three more times <> these are called Layers 1, 2, 3, 4

3. Now you have 6 layers <> result looks like this
4. There are 4 transparent layers on top
5. Below the transparent layers are 2 layers each showing your art 

Erase the excess from around your art <> work takes place on Background Copy layer
1. We want to isolate your art
2. Tip: as you are working, you can undo any step: Go to Edit at top <> select Undo

3. First, turn off visibility of bottom background layer using eyeball next to layer

4. Next, click Background Copy layer to make this the active layer <> you are now going to work on Background Copy layer
5. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to trace around your art
6. Complete the full lasso around your art <> it doesn’t have to be perfect, but make sure the lasso stays outside art

7. Now your art is outlined, but we want to erase everything except your art
8. At the top, go to Select <> choose Invert so the area outside the art is active

9. Use the Erase Tool and erase everything except the art inside the lasso
10. Make sure eraser is set to 100% <> check ‘strength’ just above work area <> make sure all areas are fully erased <> for ease, set the eraser size to 1000 or 2000
11. It is important to erase completely so problems don’t happen during the ‘distort’ phase later
12. If the bottom background layer is visible during erasing, it will appear as if nothing was erased <> make background layer invisible by clicking eyeball next to layer

13. Once erasing is complete, go to Select <> click Deselect so the lasso is deactivated <> result looks like this

Create a straight line border around your art <> work takes place on the 4 transparent layers
1. I find the following technique is easier than using the Grid when aligning pictures
2. Now we are going to work on the transparent layers one at a time

3. Click Layer 4 to activate
4. Select Rectangular Marquee Tool
5. Draw a rectangle above your art that spans the width of the screen and stops just above your art <> we are doing this because we want a straight line at the top so the art can be squared up accurately <> putting the rectangle on a separate layer will let you move the rectangle without moving art
6. If your rectangle is not right, start over by drawing another one <> or go to Select at top and click Deselect
7. After the marquee is complete, use the Paint Brush Tool or Paint Bucket Tool to fill the area with color <> select a color that is different than the art so it is easy to distinguish the art from the rectangle <> to change and select colors <> click on the Set Foreground Color square located at the bottom of tool area <> use the slider and mouse to select a nice contrasting color

8. Now you have one colored rectangle in Layer 4
9. Activate Layer 3
10. Draw a rectangle down the full right side of your art <> it doesn’t have to line up perfectly with the edge of your art because the rectangle can be moved later
11. Fill the rectangle on Layer 3 with color

12. Activate Layer 2 and draw a rectangle below your art <> fill the rectangle with color

13. Activate Layer 1 and draw a rectangle on the left side of your art <> fill the rectangle with color

14. Now you have 4 rectangles surrounding your art <> they should form a complete enclosure around your art <> and each rectangle should be on a different layer so they can be moved separately <> result looks like this

Time to assess your art
1. Your art is not square, and it may be bowed around the edges
2. Are each of the 4 sides straight? If they are straight, then you might skip the next paragraph and go to the paragraph below
3. Is your art bowed? Are the sides curved? Is your art way out of square? Then follow the correction steps in the next paragraph
4. For best result, use all the following information in whichever order works best

Your art is bowed or curved or way out of square so we want to Correct Camera Distortion <> work on Background Copy layer
1. First, click on Background Copy layer so your art is activated <> we don’t need to correct the layers with rectangles since they are already straight

2. Go to Filter at top <> select Correct Camera Distortion <> wait for tool to load <> looks like this before correction
3. After art is loaded, manipulate the sliders to get your best result <> perfection is unlikely <> try all the features <> use the reset button to start over fresh
4. Remember, the objective with this tool is to get the sides of the art straight as possible, the objective is not to make the art square <> you can repeat this step again later if needed

5. Now your art is fairly straight on all 4 sides, but it’s probably not square <> looks like this after correction <> note how sliders have been moved

Move rectangles to make a box around your art <> work on Layers 1-4
1. Zoom-in close to your art
2. Activate Layer 4 <> use the Move Tool to move the rectangle up or down until it meets a top corner of your art <> since your art is not square, the rectangle won’t meet both corners of your art so make it touch one corner

3. Activate Layer 3 <> use Move Tool to move rectangle until it touches one corner of art
4. Activate Layer 2 and move rectangle until it touches one bottom corner of art
5. Activate Layer 1 and move rectangle until it touches one corner of art

6. Now your art is framed with 4 rectangles <> the art touches the rectangles at 4 places <> these rectangles are going to be the straight-line border for your art while we distort the art to fit <> result looks like this

Use the Distort Tool to make art square <> work on Background Copy layer
1. Now we want to distort your art so all four corners touch the rectangles
2. Activate the Background Copy layer so work takes place on your art

3. Select the Distort Tool: At the top, click Image <> Transform <> Distort
4. Zoom in close to the art <> using the mouse on each corner of art, drag the corner into place <> 
top left corner looks like this; top right; bottom right; bottom left

5. Repeat process until all 4 corners of art are stretched to meet the rectangles

6. Zoom out and look at the art <> is it square? <> does it need adjustment? <> final distort result looks like this
7. If problems still exist, repeat some of the steps <> or select a better photo to work on

8. As you can see, it takes practice to bring your art into the digital world

Final step: Crop the art
1. Use the Crop Tool and draw a rectangle around your art
2. Zoom in close (keyboard shortcut for zoom: Ctrl +  &   Ctrl -) <> move the crop so it matches up with the rectangles from Layers 1-4 <> use the rectangles as a guide so you get a perfect crop <> if the crop doesn't work first time, go to Edit at top <> select Undo and then start the crop again <> final cropped picture looks like this

1. Don’t forget, as you are working, you can undo any step: Go to Edit at top <> select Undo
2. Usually I edit the color and lighting of the art before cropping so I have elbow room on the edges of the art
3. Sometimes when I crop, I leave a border of the rectangles so the color shows it looks like my art has a mat <> for this process, use the Grid to help with accuracy <> go to View at top <> click on Grid so a checkmark appears next to the word <> to set Grid preferences <> go to Edit <> Preferences <> Grid <> up-close cropping with grid looks like this

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