Last December I focused on brushes. I taught how to install and use brushes and even how to make your own. I made my own first set—a collection of Paris flea market brushes you can download for free. Using brushes, I decided to try a William Klein-inspired "contact sheet" montage that, to me, has a real album cover feel. Read on and see if you get inspired to try a contact sheet look of your own.
If Wikipedia entries are any indicator of public esteem, then Klein—whose entry is currently a seven sentence stub—could use some good PR .
William Klein’s innovative street photography in the 1950s and ‘60s has influenced everything from documentary to fashion work. Equally impressive is his vast filmography , some of which has been canonized in the form a Criterion boxed set. Born in 1928 in New York, Klein’s style has been linked to his “mean streets of Manhattan” (you will see that phrase in almost every biography of Klein) upbringing. Equally important to his artistry, however, are the forty years he has spent living in Paris. You can read more about Klein’s work on the Masters of Photography site, or view interviews and film clips on YouTube.
The key elements are:
- The contact-sheet look (which he usually blows up to a large size)
- High-contrast, grainy black and white photos
- Painting, usually in a grid-like composition with bold strokes in primary colors or simply black and red.
This tutorial will stick closely to Klein’s style, but your own less literal adaptations might be good inspiration for web design.
The contact sheet
1. Open a blank document 10x8 inches at 320 dpi with a white background. Note that I am going for a print size, but you can re-size to suit your needs.
2. Copy the white background layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J). This is where you will create the look of the contact sheet.
3. Stamp on the film border in the center of your document. I used photoshopgurl’s Freedom of Preach Brushes Brush 400 set to the maximum size of 2500 px
4. Extend the sides of the negative frame. Unfortunately, the side frames of the brush do not extend as far as we need. If you want to make your own brush you can skip some of the following steps. If not, it’s time to get copying. If you have CS3 or CS4, you can clone the sides and line them up with the help of the clone source overlay. Just open the clone source window, check “show overlay” and clone.
But unless you have the hands of a surgeon, cloning will lead to frustration in earlier versions of photoshop. For an alternative to cloning, select the rectangular marquee tool (M) and make a selection of the edge you want to extend.
Copy the selection onto a new layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J), and use the move tool (V) to bring it over.
Repeat the process as needed until you have extended all the film borders to the edge of your image.
When you have finished, merge all the layers of your negative frame.
5. On the bottom right side, you will be left with a series of arrows (see above picture) the last two of which you will want to clone out. For the sake of realism, you should now add a “24A” to the right of the remaining arrow by cloning the “23A,” and replacing the “3” with the “4” from the previous frame. Since the “4” is too big, I suggest you do the following: Select the “4” with the rectangular marquee tool,
copy your selection onto its own layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J), drag it into position with the move tool (V), and then transform it to the right size (Mac: Command–T, PC: Ctrl–T). A seemingly more elegant alternative may be to clone source with scale, but I find it easier to eyeball the scale with Transform.
6. To complete the frame, you will need to grunge up the edges. Select the Eraser tool (E) with a medium-soft brush at about 35 px and 60% opacity.
Erase the edges for a less clean look. Next, with the eraser tool still selected, load your favorite grunge brush (I used Recife dirty 2 brush 684) and chip away a little more at the edges.
NOTE: You will want to rotate brushes often in this project, so if you have never done that before now is a good time to start. To rotate a brush, bring up the brushes menu on the right (hit F5). There, you will see your brushes and various presets. If you highlight “Brush Tip Shape” you will see a compass shape. You can drag the arrow (or type angles in under “Angle”) to modify the brush direction.
7. Prepare your black-and-white photos. I used photos of skaters that I took at Place de la Bastille in Paris. I converted the photos to a high-contrast black and white using the channel mixer method and then added grain with Filter—>Texture—>Grain with a “contrasty” setting.
8. We are going to sandwich the photos in between two layers of frame, so before putting in the photos, we will need to create the top of the sandwich. On your frame layer, select the black film outline using the magic wand tool (W). Click on the black (tolerance was set to “5”) to get a selection,
and then click “Refine Edge” from the top magic want toolbar to pull up the Refine Edge dialog box. With the “Preview” box check, adjust the settings to get a selection that feathers gently for a soft edge without including too much white.
When you are satisfied with your selection, copy it onto its own transparent layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J). This will become the top of the sandwich.
9. Now its time to bring in the photos. With the move tool (v), drag one of your photos into the center frame. Transform it (Mac: Command–T, PC: Ctrl–T) to the approximate size needed to fill one of the frames. Don’t worry about extending into the sprocket area or into neighboring frames. Just put the photo layer in between your base frame (the one with the white background) and your top frame (the one with the transparent background).
10. You will now see something like this:
With your photo layer selected, you can now select the Eraser tool (E) and erase the areas that extend into the sprockets or neighboring frames.
Repeat the process for the right and left frames and you will end up with something like this:
11. If your frame is looking a lot less black than your photos (as mine did), add a curves adjustment to that top frame layer to darken it up.
12. You are almost ready for the fun part. But first, we need to darken up those sprocket holes. They should be mostly black with a thin white border. With the bottom layer of your “sandwich” frame selected, go to Image—>Adjustments—>Replace Color. We are going to replace the white with black. I set the fuzziness to 45—enough to see rounded corners, but not enough to fill in the holes completely. I used black as the replacement color.
Next, add a black mask,
and paint in the holes with a quick stroke (brush set to white) across the top and then the bottom of the negative (if you accidentally paint into the numbers or letters, just switch to black and paint it back out).
13. This is where it gets fun. You will need to select your color palette. I used bright red (RGB 204, 0, 0) and Yellow (RGB 255, 215, 1). There is no right or wrong at this stage—only choices. But here are a few tips:
- For the large splashes of color, stick to the same brush. I used Thick Heavy Brushes, brush 104. You probably won’t want something with built in canvas texture because it just doesn’t make sense. Stick to brushes that give the appearance of enamel paint.
- Switch to a pencil brush for thin white lines.
- If you need a more distressed texture in your large brush strokes, remove some of the paint with the Eraser tool (E) set to a textured brush.
- For the jagged paint, you will want to vary your brushes, adding with some, and erasing with others. I used a combination of Recife brushes for the messier look of the central frame. Change the rotation often (as explained in step 6) and don’t try to everything on one layer.
Once again, the finished product: