truck originalI want to share with you all a fun little project that I completed this past week. A client, an armature photographer, took a lovely photo of an old truck with Christmas lights on it. He really wanted to use this for his holiday card, but it was out of season for the Christmas holiday. Once I received the file, off to Photoshop is went.

Converting to a Winter Scene

The client wanted a winter scene, complete with snow. First, I opened up the Hue & Saturation panel. I dulled down the image by reducing the saturation of the individual channels. Once the image is looking more wintery, it was time to move to step two.

Here I relied on the Color Range pallet from the selection menu. I played around with the selection until I had a balanced coverage for the area I wanted “snowed.” I filled the section with white on a NEW layer and changed the blend mode to Soft Light. I had a few places in the trees that didn’t need the snow coverage, so I added a mask and painted out those areas. Now to add some falling snow. From the Filter menu, I selected noise and added a layer of noise to the image. Hopping over to Filters, I applied a gaussian blur. Then I scaled up the noise layer, changed the blend to Soft Light, and adjusted the levels pallet to reduce the white density and soften the “snowstorm” a little.

A great tutorial for converting your images from Summer to Winter can be found on the Spoon Graphics blog.

truck in snow ver01 1Glowing lights

Once the truck was situated on a snowy winter day, I needed to make the lights look like they were actually on. To do that, I turned off my “winterizing” adjustment layers so that I could clearly see the lights again. I took a very soft brush and painted one of the colored lights a light gray to produce a “glowing ” effect.

Of course, at this time, the light is just showing gray. And, it’s overpowering the image. I reduced the opacity down to 35% and changed the blend mode to multiply to fix this. Now, I could either change the color of each light-that I would need to create- individually. Or, I could set up folders for each light color & apply the color effect to the whole folder at once. So, I set up 4 folders (red, blue, yellow, and green). I worked through the light strands copying the original “light” and moving it over to the next light of the color I was working on. Once I had completed this, I now had glowing lights on the truck, but the truck wasn’t winterized any more, so I turned back on my adjustments and had a lovely holiday scene.

I sent this over to the client, who added text and resized the image to print his holiday cards. During a discussion about print/digital cards, I mentioned that we could always make the lights flash on a digital card. My client loved the idea, so he sent over his finished card front.

truck in snow 10x8 1Preparing for Animation

I opened the image’s Photoshop file &, and because I had saved the working file, I had all of the light layers. When I inserted his file into my resized original PSD file, it fitted perfectly. The static lights from the image gave a great base to make them flash on. I decided that I’d follow a three-strand flashing light. This leads me to the most time-intensive task. Taking all the light files that were separated by color and move part of each color into 1 of 3 “strands.”

I went through and changed every third light’s name to indicate the strand it would be part of. Once I completed a strand, I moved all the layers of each color into a corresponding folder in the selected strand. After completing strand 1 & 2, 3 was done as well, just from removing the other two. Now, I had 3 strand folders, the client’s image with text, and my original creation files.

 I saved a copy of the PSD file. Now, if I needed to make future edits, I had a non-merged copy. In my working PDS file, I deleted the original creation files since I only needed the client’s image and the strands. To simplify the process, I flattened each of the strand folders. This left me with 3 strand layers & the snowy truck image. From here, it was time to animate.

example of animated holiday cardAnimating the Lights

I opened the timeline from the windows menu and shortened the length of all the layers down to 3 seconds. At this point, there would be no flash if you were to play the animation. So, I shortened each of the strand layers down to 1 second each. Strand 1 went from 0-1 second, strand 2 from 1-2 seconds, and strand 3 from 2-3 seconds. When I played the animation, the strands blinked on and off in sequence, giving the appearance of Christmas lights!

I wanted to send my client the smallest and least complicated files I could, so I saved the projects as a GIF file. This produced a small file size that required no player to be installed on the viewer’s machine. Exactly what was wanted!