June 6, 2012

Photo Collage: "Disjointed"

If you look deep into the depths of my web site's archive, you will see a section titled Desktop Pictures. I began creating these collages in Photoshop back in 2002, though it wasn't until January of 2003 that I began to use the single word or phrase searches that I've stuck with since. You can see more recent creations in my DeviantART gallery.

I used to use Google Images, but now I'm trying to be a good netizen by only searching Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr. Unfortunately, this cuts down on the number of serendipitous screenshots and gif diagrams I get, but the photo resolution is better, which has become important as screen sizes have increased and I've made my collages bigger.

So, here's my formula:
  1. Pick a word or phrase. For May 2012, I chose "disjointed."
  2. Search for CC-licensed images on Flickr using that word.
  3. Select the most interesting results and download.
  4. Use the downloaded images (or a subset) to create a collage in Photoshop.

"Disjointed," May 2012

click to see full size image
I had some great photos for this collage, but I was having trouble putting them together. Then, I read the article Breaking Bits in Pretty Ways on BoingBoing and got inspired.

The background is a photo of some shopfronts by Nick Findley. I used the Cutout filter with the edge simplicity up pretty high to make it flat and angular. Then I adjusted the colors until the green gate stood out.

The letter Y was photographed by Monceau. I masked out the background and used Add Noise with a fairly high number. Then, I made a copy of the Y cut out, used Mosaic with a cell size of 4 to make it look pixellated, and adjusted the color so it matched the door. I set the layer blend to Color Dodge and gave the Y below it an opacity of 33% so the background showed through.

The wing was probably the toughest part. I cut it out of a photo by Travis S of a girl on a beach holding a dead bird's wing. After removing the background and the girl's hand, I upped the contrast and took it from color to black and white. Using black and white as my colors, I applied the Graphic Pen filter. Finally, I set the blend mode to Screen so only the white showed up, and added a layer filled with one of the grays from the background at 27% to keep the wing from being pure white.

I think there are many ways to interpret this: "Wingy," "Birdy," "Fly why?" I haven't decided myself. But I'm really happy with how the final image came out, and I think it definitely looks appropriately disjointed.


  1. love rubber pixie, but my fave peaty is the devolution. yes, anddisjointed courtesy of Swype. xo

    1. Ginny, whatever you're on, I want some. :)