Design Tutorial: Creating Solid Backgrounds in Photoshop

It's my cat's birthday today! For anyone who knows me personally, they know that Roscoe Santangelo is my little BFF that I spend an inordinate amount of time with since I work from home most days. A few days ago, I set up a little birthday photo shoot for him so I could get a good picture for social media, complete with confetti (which he kept trying to eat). I wanted the background to be white, so I set up a couple pieces of white posterboard, but it didn't totally come out the way I wanted to. 

Most people assume that if they can't get the background they want in a photo, it's a lost cause. This couldn't be further from the truth, because it's actually super easy to do - all you need are some basic Adobe Photoshop skills and about 15 minutes.

Here's the steps you need to make it happen:

  • When you're setting up your photo, make sure you have something in the photo that you can base your background off of. For me, it was the while posterboard. Even though I couldn't get it all in the frame, it's still a large part of the image. And most importantly, I wouldn't have to edit the background of any of the main elements of the picture (the cat and confetti). Basically, be sure that it's easy to remove all the parts of the photo you don't want to use.
  • Once you import into Photoshop, create a Layer from your Background Layer use the Lasso Tool to select the parts of the photo you want to take out. The best way to do this is to select big swatches that include very little of the background color you want (white, in this case). This way, Photoshop can tell that you're going to want that background to look white. Once selected, hit shift + F5, or Edit > Fill to use your Content Aware tool. Make sure "Content-Aware" is selected before hitting "OK."
  • It will probably take some trial and error before Photoshop figures out what you want the background to look like, but your background will look much more natural once it gets the hang of it. After most of your image is done, you're likely going to have a few parts the Content Aware tool can't figure out, or just look a little funky. To get rid of these, use the Clone Stamp tool, which you can access in the main Photoshop toolbar or by hitting "S." Make sure you have the correct layer selected, and simply click and hold down Alt in the area you'd like to copy. Then, use the tool to paint the cloned area. Just like with brushes and Erase, you can change the opacity and brush size of this.
  • The Smudge or Blur tool is also great to use if you need to smudge up an area. 

And that's it! It's relatively simple exercise to make a big difference in your photos. Check out the video below to see my process and the finished product - it only took me about 12 minutes to remove my background and add some text to the image. 

Design Decoded: Why Do I Need a Vector Logo?

A vector format logo in all of our brand services at Anchored Creative Studio, and it's something that is purposefully listed first in all of our services. To me, it's the first thing any business should look for when evaluating the branding work a graphic designer is planning to do for them. 

So, what's so important about a vector logo?

There are two types of graphics: vector and raster. I wrote more about the difference between the two in a blog post earlier this year, but the basics are that raster graphics are composed of pixels and are a set size, whereas vector graphics are composed of vectors (intuitive, yes?) and can be scaled up or down to be as large or small as you would like. 

Because raster logos are composed of pixels, they become pixelated and blurry when scaled up or down. Pixels are tiny boxes of color that take up a tiny box (which is called a pixel).

Sounds great, but what does that mean for my business?

A pixelated and blurry version of my company logo

A pixelated and blurry version of my company logo

You know what I was saying about graphics becoming pixelated when you try to size them up or down? When you do this to a logo that's saved as a raster graphic, it gets very blurry, very quickly. Having a pixelated logo can make your organization look unprofessional or amateur. 

Always having a vector format of your logo on hand is important so you can hand it off to any organization that's using your logo for events, or in the case you need to make a change to your logo in the future. If you don't have that vector file, it's difficult to make changes to your logo while still maintaining its original integrity. With a file logo, your logo can be blown up as large as a billboard or as small as a matchbox and still look crisp and clear. 

How can I tell if a file is saved as a vector?

Vector files will have the file extension of .ai, .eps, .svg or .pdf. And that's it! If you have a logo saved in .pdf format, I would recommend verifying with a graphic designer that this .pdf is a native file, since a .pdf can also be a raster file. A "native file" is the original file the designer created the graphic in, as opposed to a copy of the file in a different format. All vector files can't be viewed on your computer unless you have vector software, like Adobe Illustrator. 

So, should I ever use a raster version of my logo?

Yes! There's a huge value to raster versions of your logo. Vector files are important for long term usages, but raster files are the versions you'll be using on an everyday basis. Raster files include .png, .jpg and .gif files, which you are likely familiar with. These files can be opened on all computers and smartphones, and you don't need any special programs to look at them. 

Any other tips your average person should know about vector files? 

When starting a new brand, have as many logo files as possible! You only need one vector file per each type of logo, but it's helpful to have large, small, and social media-sized logos for each color and variation of your logo. Most of Anchored Creative Studio's branding packages include up to 16 logo files at the end of the branding process, so the client is armed and ready to go with everything they need.

Questions? Shoot me an email! I'm always happy to chat about design questions!


Design Decoded: Vectors

I'm starting a new blog series called Design Decoded. Like many other graphic designers, I'm guilty of talking shop and throwing around confusing design terms with clients. One of the downsides of freelancing and working alone most of the day is totally forgetting that the clients you work with aren't designers as well. Multiple times after sending emails or chatting on the phone with a client, I've had them kindly ask me to backtrack and explain what the heck that RBG color space was I was talking about and why it was important. 

So, for anyone who has worked with a designer who has thrown out confusing terms or acronyms, or just wants to learn more about design, this is for you!

What is a vector?

Anyone who has gone through a business branding process has definitely heard the term "vector" thrown around in regard to their logo. And if you haven't heard of the term, you probably should have. So, why is it so important? 

There are two types of graphics: vector and raster. The everyday person is much more familiar with raster graphics - any JPG or PNG image you have saved on your computer is raster, and any photo you take with your phone is raster as well. Raster graphics are very common and do their job very well - the downside is that raster graphics have a set size. They are created using a set number of pixels, and can never be made larger than that number of pixels they were originally created with. Whenever someone says an image or graphic looks "pixelated," it's because someone has made that image or graphic larger than it was originally created for.

So, how do we avoid this? You might have guessed it: with vector graphics! Vector graphics are especially important in logo design so your company's logo can be scaled as large or small as you need it to be while still maintaining its detail. Vector graphics are made with vectors (I know, as if this couldn't get more confusing) instead of the pixels used in raster graphics. Vectors are different shapes and lines combined to make the graphic, as opposed to pixels, which uses small squares of different colors. 

It's super important to have your graphic designer deliver your logo in vector format, in addition to JPG, PNG, and any other format they may give you. You don't know if you'll need your logo to be placed on large signage or scaled down for a sponsor deck in the future, so it's best to be armed with all your resources in the beginning. Even though vector graphics can be made into raster graphics, it can't be done the other way around without losing certain details in the graphic. All vector graphics will come in an AI, EPS or SVG file (the first two being the most common used by designers), and are almost always created in Adobe Illustrator. 

Make sense? Confusing? Awesome? What would you like to hear about in the next Design Decoded? Leave a comment and let me know!