A Photoshop Valentine

5 Ways to say “I love you” with Software

Does the love of your life complain that you may as well be married to your computer? Well, here are five ways to turn the admonishment "You spend too much time on Photoshop!" into the happy, loving "Oh honey, you spent so much time on Photoshop!"

1. Add a secret message
Pick a photo you know your sweetie will like, and make a framed print. But before you print it out, personalize it. In Adobe Photoshop [note: you can do everything below in other image-editing software, but tools and steps will be different from these instructions], zoom in to about 1600%. Then, with the Dodge tool set to 100% Exposure, use a tiny brush of only a few pixels to write a secret message of love in a corner of your photograph. When you print, it will be visible only to the person who knows to look for it.

2. Make your own sky writing
If you want to declare your love, there's no better way than doing it in the sky for everyone to see. But if hiring a plane is beyond your budget, do a Photoshop simulation. First, have a friend take your picture in front of a big blue sky. Open it in Photoshop, set the foreground color to white, then create your skywriting brush. Go to Window > Brushes. Dial the hardness down to 0% and size it to a plausible width. Set your spacing to about 70%. Create a new blank layer, then scrawl your message, writing as an airplane might fly. Dial the layer's opacity down until you can see the sky slightly through. Finally, grab the Smudge tool and push the message around until it looks sloppily realistic.

3. One love, one poster
There's a good possibility that some of the best years of your life were shot digitally, and you don't have more than a few prints. Remedy that by printing the best of them all on one big poster of love. First, gather your favorite 98 horizontal photos and copy them into their own folder. Then, in Photoshop, go to File > Automate > Contact Sheet II. For a nice big poster, set the dimensions at 20 inches wide by 30 inches tall.

Choose your folder, check auto spacing, and set 7 columns and 14 rows. Make sure Use File Name as Caption is unchecked, and hit OK. Then walk away while the program works its magic. When you're done, save your file and bring or send it to a local or online print shop. Mpix prints it starting at $25, direct, depending on the paper (mpix.com).

4. Together forever
Sometimes it feels like you've known each other for a lifetime, so why not surprise your beloved with a picture of you two together as children? A good composite will be romantic and confound your friends and family.

Start by finding two shots where you're about the same age and size in the frame. The easiest ones to use are those school or department-store portraits-chances are you both have some posed ones with similar lighting and a not-too-distracting background. Failing that, look for pictures where you are each together with one other person. It's always easier to replace a person than to add one where there never was one to begin with.

Cut one person out using your favorite selection method, then drag the figure into the picture you'll use as your base. Use the Transform command to perfect the size.

To match color and contrast, use Image > Adjustments > Match Color. If one picture is less grainy than the other, try using Filter > Noise > Add Noise to put some grain in the picture. When you're finished, you can fool everyone into thinking that you've always been a pair.

5. Cut out a silhouette
For an old-fashioned valentine, use Photoshop to create profile silhouettes of both of you. First, you'll need a good photo. Ask the love of your life to pose, facing sideways, in front of a white wall. Take an evenly lit profile shot. Then set your camera on a tripod and get a profile of yourself, too. Stand in the same position to make sure your heads are about the same size.

In Photoshop, increase the contrast big-time to make the profile outline easier to see. If you know how to use the Pen tool, trace a path around the head. If you're confounded by the Pen tool, go to Select > Color range. Use the dropper to pick the background color, then adjust the Fuzziness slider to make sure only the background is selected. Click OK.

Next hit the Q to go to Quick Mask mode, and use a hard brush to paint out any part of the body you don't want. Hit Q again to see your selection. Go to Edit > Fill. Choose Contents: White and click OK. Then go to Select > Inverse and back to Edit > Fill. This time choose Contents: Black. Now you have a Victorian silhouette.

Do the same with the second photo. You can print each of them large (perfect for a hinged, double frame) or combine them in a single image. If you're really feeling gooey, draw a heart around them. (Just don't send one to us.)

Photoshop-Silhouette
Photoshop-Silhouette
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Photoshop-Skywriting
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Photoshop-Silhouette-2
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