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Making Passport Stamp Design Elements

A lot of people use Apple’s iPhoto to create their photo books, because it comes with such cool built-in templates, making the process really simple with great results (I use it for all my vacation photo books). In an older version of iPhoto, Apple had templates with little passport stamps on the pages, and they really had a nice look, but sadly, those templates have been replaced. Be that as it may, the passport stamp idea was really cool, and if you learn how to create those passport stamps, you can apply them anywhere. The trick is making them not look “too neat,” because passport stamps are notoriously smudgy.

  • Step One: Start by pressing Command-N (PC: Ctrl-N) to create a new document (I created a document here that’s 800×600 pixels at a resolution of 72 ppi), and then create a new blank layer by clicking on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Next, get the Ellipse tool (press Shift-U until you have it), go up the Options Bar and click on the second icon from the left (so the tool creates a path, rather than pixels or a Shape layer), and then click-and-drag out an oval like the one you see here. Now click on your Foreground color swatch and choose a dark bluish gray color (I used R: 72, G: 80, B: 101).
  • Step Two: Now you’re going to create some text and have it follow along that oval-shaped path you just created. Get the Horizontal Type tool (T), then go up to the Options Bar and click on the Center Text icon (it’s two icons to the left of the color swatch). I chose Helvetica Neue Condensed Bold for my type, but you can use any sans serif bold condensed font. Now move your Type cursor right over the top part of the path and you’ll see your cursor change into the one you see inset here. Just click and start typing the words “IMMIGRATION OFFICER,” and it will wrap along the top of your oval (as seen here).
  • Step Three: Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to duplicate this layer, then switch to the Path Selection tool (A; the black-filled arrow just below the Horizontal Type tool in the Toolbox). Move your cursor over the curved text at the top, and it will change into a double-sided arrow. That’s your indicator that you can now click-and-drag your copied text around the oval, so... do it—click-and-drag to the left until the duplicate of your of text rotates all the way down to the bottom of the oval (as shown here).
  • Step Four: Go to the Layers panel, and double-click directly on the “T” thumbnail for this duplicate Type layer. This highlights the type at the bottom of your oval. Now, type in the city you want your passport stamp to be from (in this case, I typed in “PORTOFINO, ITALY”). If you look at the position of the text at the bottom of the oval in the previous step, you’ll see it sits inside the path (the bottom of the type is resting on the path), but here it’s moved down so the tops of the letters are touching the path instead (which is what you actually want). To make this happen, highlight your new text, and just press Option-Shift-Down Arrow key (PC: Alt-Shift-Down Arrow key). Keep pressing that shortcut a few times until your text moves downward into the position shown here. This is the keyboard shortcut for Baseline Shift and what you’re doing is shifting the type below its original baseline.
  • Step Five: Create a new blank layer, then get the Elliptical Marquee tool (press Shift-M until you have it) and draw a large oval-shaped selection that’s a little larger than your text-on-a-path (by the way, when you do this, the path you created back in Step One will be hidden from view). Once your selection is in place, go under the Edit menu and choose Stroke. When the Stroke dialog appears, set 8 px as your Width, for your Location, choose Center, and click OK to put a stroke around your oval-shaped selection.
  • Step Six: You’re going to make another oval selection inside your text area (like the one you see here), and then you’ll add an 8-pixel stroke to this selection, as well. Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect.
  • Step Seven: Go back to the Horizontal Type tool and create a line of text in the center with the date of your trip (as shown here). Add another blank layer, and then get the Custom Shape tool (press Shift-U until you have it). Go up to the Options Bar, and click on the third icon from the left (so the shapes it draws are made of pixels, rather than a path). Then click on the Shape thumbnail and, from the Shape Picker, choose the Flower 5 starburst shape, and add one on either side of the oval (like you see here). They seem to add these little ornaments and shapes, like stars, or little airplanes, or other little do-dads, to these stamps, and since you’re creating your own, you can pretty much choose any shape you’d like.
  • Step Eight: While you’re still on this same layer, grab the Brush tool (B), choose a very small brush tip, and scribble out the signature of your pretend Immigration Officer (all passport stamps don’t have a signature, but we’re going to add one here). Once the scribbly signature is in place, you’ll need to select all these layers and merge them into one single layer. Go to the Layers panel, press-and-hold the Shift key, and click on each of the Type and oval layers until they’re all selected (as seen here, where all those layers are highlighted in the Layers panel).
  • Step Nine: Now, press Command-E (PC: Ctrl-E) to merge all the selected layers into one single layer, and then you can apply some effects that will make the stamp look more realistic. One attribute that is pretty common among passport stamps is that they’re kind of smudged a bit. You can get a similar look by going under the Filter menu, under Noise, and choosing Median. When the Median filter dialog appears, choose a Radius of 3 or 4 (see which looks better to you, based on which font you used), and then click OK.
  • Step 10: Duplicate your stamp layer, then change the layer blend mode of this layer to Dissolve (as shown here). This makes the edges of your stamp a bit frayed, and helps make the stamp look more realistic. Merge this layer with the one beneath it. Now you can set this document aside, as we’re going to build a page for your photos, and stamps, to sit on, and just for fun, we’ll build a background that’s pretty much like one of the page backgrounds Apple used to use in their photo book travel templates (the ones I talked about in this project’s intro).
  • Step 11: Create a new document that’s 800×600 pixels at 72 ppi. Set your Foreground color to a light brown color (I used R: 196, G: 159, B: 68), then press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) to fill your Background layer with this color. Now add a new blank layer, then click back on your Foreground color swatch and choose a darker shade of your brown color (as shown here, where I chose R: 137, G: 111, B: 48).
  • Step 12: Press Command-R (PC: Ctrl-R) to make your Rulers visible, then get the Line tool from the Toolbox (as shown here, or just press Shift-U until you have it), press-and-hold the Shift key, and draw a series of straight horizontal lines, each ¼” down. Here I’ve drawn four lines, but you’ll need to continue this all the way down the page. You can either draw all the lines, or once you’ve drawn those four lines, you can duplicate the layer, get the Move tool (V), and then click-and-drag it down to add four more lines. Just keep repeating this again and again, until you’ve filled the image (if that sounds confusing, then just draw all the lines. It doesn’t take long at all).
  • Step 13: The lines stand out a bit too much, so once you’re done, go to the Layers panel and lower the Opacity of this layer to 30% (as shown here). Here’s what the image looks like after you’ve filled the layer with these lines and lowered the opacity. Okay, now go open the photos you want to appear on this page (I’m using two photos for this particular layout, and they’re shown here). Note: You can turn off the Rulers now.
  • Step 14: Get the Move tool and drag-and-drop one of those photos onto your background image. Once it appears, press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform, press-and-hold the Shift key, grab a corner point, and click-and-drag inward to scale the photo down to size if needed, so it fits better on the page (as seen here). While Free Transform is still in place, move your cursor outside the Free Transform bounding box, and your cursor changes into a two-headed arrow. Click-and-drag in a counterclockwise motion to rotate your photo (as shown here), and then press Return (PC: Enter) to lock in your rotation.
  • Step 15: To add a white photo border effect to your image, click on the Add a Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Stroke from the pop-up menu. When the dialog appears (shown below left), increase the Size of your stroke to 12 px, click on the black Color swatch and change your stroke color to white, then from the Position pop-up menu, choose Inside (so your stroke doesn’t have rounded corners). Now, in the Styles section on the left side of the dialog, click on Drop Shadow. In the Drop Shadow options (shown below right), raise the Size to 13 to increase the softness of the drop shadow, then click OK to apply both the Stroke and Drop Shadow effects to your photo (as seen here).
  • Step 16: Bring in your second photo and, in the Layers panel, click-and-drag it beneath your first photo. Now resize it to fit, and rotate this photo in the opposite direction (as seen here). To get the exact same Stroke and Drop Shadow effects applied to this new image, just press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key and, in the Layers panel, click-and-hold directly on the word “Effects.” Drag-and-drop this word directly onto the second photo’s layer, and it copies the effects from that first layer and applies the same settings to the second layer (as seen here).
  • Step 17: Head back to your passport stamp document. You’re going to distress the stamp a little bit more before we apply it to your main page. In the Layers panel, click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the panel. Now, press X to make black your Foreground color, and then get the Brush tool (B). From the Brush Picker in the Options Bar, scroll down to the last row of brushes, and choose the Wet Sponge brush (it’s second from the left in the bottom row). Click-and-drag the Master Diameter slider over to around 300 pixels. Then move your cursor out over the image, and just click once or twice on different parts of the stamp to age and distress it a little (a pretty common look for real passport stamps).
  • Step 18: Now get the Move tool and drag-and-drop your passport stamp onto your main image document. When it appears in your main document, use Free Transform to resize and position it, then go to the Layers panel and click-and-drag its layer down in the layer stack, so your passport stamp appears behind the other photo layers (as seen here). Lower the Opacity of this layer (like you see here) to help it blend into the background a little.
  • Step 19: You now know the formula for creating other passport stamps (I used the exact same formula you just learned to create another stamp, which is shown here below). This one was easier because there’s no circular type on a path, and because it’s mostly text. Start by getting the Rounded Rectangle Tool (press Shift-U until you have it) and, up in the Options Bar, choose 20 as your corner Radius (the higher the number, the more rounded your corners will become). Then you do all the same things you just learned, but this time, finish it off using a round soft-edged brush.
  • Step 20: Here’s the final image with a couple of photos, a couple of passport stamps, and the background you created from scratch.
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Photoshop CS4 Down & Dirty Tricks

This chapter is from the book

Photoshop CS4 Down & Dirty Tricks

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