Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Photo Transparency over Collage: A Quickie Tutorial

  Photo-Transparency over Collage
(words only)



• Photo, either digital, or scanned to digital format
• Ready-to-paint canvas, 8”x10” (Note: it is possible to tile more than one sheet of Lazertran to make a larger collage, but for the sake of simplicity and brevity, I will use 8”x10” for these instructions.)
• Lazertran Inkjet (If your canvas is larger than 8”x10”, you will need more than one sheet.)
• Collage papers – I like old book and magazine pages, light-weight scrapbooking papers, vintage sheet music, etc. It is important to limit your paper choices to pale colors and non-busy patterns. Avoid solids, shiny surfaces, and anything with a raised texture.
• Collage medium – I like Golden’s Soft Gel Matte, but Mod Podge Matte is acceptable.
• Colored pencils – NOT watercolor pencils! These are optional, but nice for adding color to a specific area of
• Paint Brush – I like a 1” soft bristle flat brush. This should not be one of your good brushes!
• Paper scissors
• Solvent-based polyurethane, either spray or brush-on. (Look for mineral spirits on the ingredient list)
• Embellishments to coordinate with your photo


Step One: Edit and Print your photo


I will demonstrate my editing steps on this photo of my granddaughter; I use Photoshop Elements 6. Open your photo in the editing software of your choice. Make a duplicate of the image (File,  Duplicate), then close the original.

Optional Step: Straighten the image. Most people hold their cameras at a slight tilt when they snap a photo, so I always level the horizon line. In Elements, the button for this tool is the one that looks like 2 overlapping rectangles about half way down the tool menu. This photo is pretty straight already, so I will leave it alone.

Crop the photo to fit your canvas. The click on the crop button, which looks like 2 overlapping L-squares with a diagonal line through them, a little less than half way down the tool menu bar. In the width box type 8, in the height box, type 10.

Convert your photo to black and white. (Alt+Ctrl+B, or Enhance, Convert to Black and White, Portrait; Enter.)

Adjust the levels of your image. I like to really tighten up the value range, so I use a somewhat extreme approach with the levels command. Open the Levels Command dialog box. (Ctrl +L, or Enhance, Adjust Lighting, Levels). The box with the mountain shapes at the bottom is called a histogram, and under it you will see 3 triangles, a black one on the left, a grey one in the center, and a white one on the right. Click and hold on the black triangle and drag it toward the center of the histogram – see how the blacks get blacker? Drag the white triangle toward the center from the other side and see the image brighten back up again. Now play with the grey triangle, dragging it one way then the other, until you reclaim the details in the middle value ranges of the image and you like the way your photo looks. If you *don’t* like the way your photo looks, click on “reset” and start over.

See the difference? These darker darks and lighter lights will show up well when applied over your collage.
Make a test print. I find that what I see on my monitor is almost never what comes out of my printer, so I print my photo out on plain paper to see if it is really what I want, then make adjustments until I like what comes out of my printer. Then and ONLY then do I print my image onto a sheet of Lazertran Inkjet.

It can be difficult to determine with is the correct side to print on the Lazertran. Hold the paper up to natural daylight – the printable side is a creamy eggshell color, while the wrong side has a slightly blue-ish tint.

Print your photo onto the Lazertran and set aside at least overnight. The manufacturer says half an hour is enough, but I experienced significant ink bleeding if I tried to apply the transfer too soon.

Step 2: Plan and Create the Collage

Trim your printed Lazertran to fit your canvas, (I have tried letting the edges fold over the canvas, but to me it looked very sloppy that way) then lay the photo over the canvas. Notice where your center of interest (usually your subject’s face) is located, then lift up a corner of the photo and lightly indicate with a pencil where that focal point falls on the canvas. This is where you want to use your lightest most subtly designed papers so as not to detract from your image.

(Of course you may choose to obliterate your subject’s face for artistic reasons, in which case you can use any paper you want to create your effect.)

Cut your chosen papers to fit your canvas. For an 8”x10” canvas, I suggest using 8-12 pieces cut to fit. You may also choose to tear and layers your papers, but be aware that overlapping the papers will leave a visible ridge in the finished project and will also make it harder to avoid air bubbles when applying the Lazertran.

Apply your collage medium to your canvas AND to the back of your papers. (If you are using vintage papers, use a generous amount of medium and allow it to absorb for a moment. Sometimes those old papers are so dried out that they literally drink in the medium.) Apply the paper to the canvas, smooth it down thoroughly with something like a brayer or a bone folder, and then add another coat of medium over the top of the paper. Repeat this process with all the papers you cut. Make sure the canvas is entirely covered, as any bare spots will show.


Step 3: Add color. Or not.
If you choose to add some color with colored pencils to emphasize details in your photo, now is the time to do so. Use a light touch, as it is easy to damage the print.

Step 4: Apply the Lazertran Transfer to the Canvas
Fill a container large enough to fit the Lazertran with water about 1” or so deep. Immerse the Lazertran in the water. It will curl up almost immediately, but this is OK. Leave the transfer paper in the water for about 2 minutes to activate the adhesive.
While the Lazertran is soaking, apply an even coating of collage medium to the whole surface of the collage, taking care not to leave any dry spots.

Keep in mind that once the Lazertran is wet, the printed surface is fragile, so be gentle when perform the next few steps! Lift the transfer paper out of the water by the corners, letting the excess water run back into the container for a few seconds. (The transfer should slide easily on its backing paper – if it feels like it is still stuck to the backing, put it back in the water for a little bit longer.) Slip the top edge of the transfer up and off the backing paper by about ½”, and then lay that exposed edge down along the top of the canvas. Carefully slide the backing paper out from under the transfer, watching for air bubbles. If you see an air bubble form, gently lift the transfer back up and release it.

Once the backing paper is out from under the transfer, gently smooth the entire transfer with a brayer or a soft squeegee or sponge, working from the center out to eliminate any air bubbles that may have formed. Be sure to use a VERY light touch while you do this, as it is easy to damage to wet transfer at this point. It is important to clean your smoothing tool after each stroke. A mixture of water and collage medium will likely ooze out from under the edge – do not let this water get back on to the surface of the transfer or it will interfere with the finishing process.

Let the whole thing dry completely. Overnight is best.

Step 5: Creating the Transparency Effect
I prefer to use brush-on polyurethane in a satin finish for this step. It gives a great transparent effect every time. If you choose to use a spray, make sure it has mineral spirits in the ingredients list. Others don’t perform as well. Any oil based varnish will also work. Also, I prefer not to use a glossy finish as I feel this detracts from the work.

Step 6: Embellish as Desired
The sky is the limit here. Charms, ribbon, alcohol inks, beads, glitter… anything goes! Have fun, and I hope you enjoy the process as much as I do.


Judi W. said...

Great tutorial! thanks so much for sharing.

MaryO said...

Judi, this isn't something I will probably ever do, but that photo of your granddaughter is adorable!!

Shashi Nayagam said...

It is a great tutorial but like Mary I probably won't do it. I rarely do collages. I am sure it will be very useful to many others.

ruthanne said...

Judi, You did a great job on this tutorial. Details I did not remember have been covered and I think I will try this again. I do love the picture of my mother and will put it on the Iowa Retreat site the first of the week.

Kathy said...

What polyurethane did you use? Thank you for posting. I am ordering the transparency paper and thought I would get the same one you used as I know nothing about it. Thnaks!! Kathy