As frightening as the Obama administration can be at times, I’d like to think that the following is a much cheerier exhibition than anything Rod Serling ever proffered to TV network audiences. Back in November of 2011, I ran a retrospective of some of my more interesting Photoshops, created both for my own PJM column and for other authors here at the PJM Website. Since then, as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve produced many more. Here are some of the more interesting ones, either from an aesthetically interesting point of view, or because of what went into creating them, or simply, like the image above, because they were fun to produce. Apologies for all of the techno-wonk details to follow, but those who wish to jump-start the potentially steep Photoshop learning curve may benefit from them.
Road to Iran: Victor Davis Hanson’s September 22nd column was titled “Goodbye Syria, On to Iran!”, which immediately suggested a parody of a Bing Crosby and Bob Hope “Road” movie, and Road to Morocco certainly fit the theme nicely. VDH had emailed in his column early enough on a Sunday morning that I had sufficient time to knock this out. This took almost three hours, beginning with tracking down suitable photos of Obama, Kerry, and Samantha Power, then sizing them to fit. There are plenty of layers as well, one of which is the base “wood” of the road sign. After realizing that using either the clone tool or the content-aware fill tool would have been a brutal task to replace the background under the sign, I ended up replacing the whole sign with a photo of a wood panel from Shutterstock, which I painted with the Photoshop Paint Daubs filter. I then found a free font that was close enough to the original whimsical “Road to Morocco” font, then resized the stock Myriad Web Pro font to 130 percent of the original height to get close to the tall letters used for the stars’ names on the poster.
The whole poster was a lot of work, but the end result looks pretty darn good, I think.
Obama Hope Drones: This was originally created for a VDH article that ran in April, titled “America in the Age of Myth.” On Friday, September 27th, Obama “Hope” artist Shepard Fairey was recorded in an interview by TMZ saying that if he had to do it over again, he would replace the word “HOPE” on his iconic poster with the word “DRONES.” As soon as I read the story, I quickly found my Photoshop file, and thanks to the power of Photoshop layers, simply blanked out the word “Hope” in his poster, and substituted his newly preferred slogan. (Hey, Rube!)
The original image was a combination of Fairey’s artwork and his source photo, in between a Shutterstock image of a white canvas on an artist’s easel, in front of a neutral gray photography backdrop, and a separate Shutterstock photo of an artist holding a paintbrush. That image had the artist wearing a white polo shirt (isn’t that what all artists paint in?), which I colored black to give him more contrast from the gray wall. I simply cloned the shirt to another layer, colored it black, and then on another layer, painted on folds and the bottom of his collar in white, and then adjusted the opacity, to allow them to blend into the “fabric.”
For the “Hope” poster, I sized it to fit the canvas, then on a separate layer underneath, sized the original photo it was based on to match up, and then using a soft basic Photoshop brush, erased away the right portion of the “Hope” poster, revealing the photo underneath.
In order to create the impression of a shadow of the painting on the wall, on the layer between the “Hope” poster and the wall behind it, I drew a black box, and then blurred it with the Gaussian Blur filter, and then adjusted the opacity down. Little tricks like that really help to create the suspension of disbelief that you’re looking at a photograph of an event, rather than a bunch of files cobbled together in Photoshop. Though in retrospect, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have added a filter to simulate the texture of fabric on the polo shirt.
The Obama Calculator: I created the above image for a Tom Blumer article from September 25th, titled “Obamacare’s ‘Cool Calculator,’ Part 2: The ‘Wedding Tax.’” This was a Shutterstock image of a businessman typing into an imaginary calculator. To replace the original businessman’s face with Obama, I had to first paste in an photo of Obama in the same angle as the businessman, and then I applied a layer of Gaussian Blur to match the fuzziness of the photo of model in the original shot, neither of which was difficult. But the real “fun” was creating new calculator keys to go in front of the area that had been Obama-ed. To do that, I copied the keys from the original photo, pasted them in as a separate layer, and then cut everything away from them, except their white outlines. Underneath that layer, I added white squares to fill in the keys, and then turned the opacity of that layer down to match the remaining keys from the base layer. On the layer above, I replaced the missing numbers and mathematical symbols.
Addicted to Terrorism Billboard: This was an example of a Photoshop within a Photoshop. Both halves was originally created for Patrick Poole’s series of reports in early September on the World Summit on Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, but it was never used, except for the tiny thumbnail of the billboard I had also created. So when Roger L. Simon wrote a post one night in late September titled “Islam Needs an Intervention,” and I needed some artwork fast to meet our midnight publication time, I dusted off the unused artwork I created for Patrick’s series. After searching on ads in Google images for real drug and alcohol rehabilitation firms, I modified my existing billboard by changing the text, and adding a telemarketer. I deliberately picked a woman — if Islam needs an intervention, I thought that the first step is being comfortable around a woman not wearing a burka. I then placed the billboard artwork inside of a photo of a real billboard at night. It’s a very subtle touch, but I created a series of conical white shapes on a separate layer, and then dialed back the opacity, to match the floodlights on the billboard frame in the surrounding photograph.
All of which is a reminder to Photoshop users: Always save your original layered Photoshop file — you never know when you’ll need to modify the original, particularly when on deadline.
Vladimir Putin, Paperboy: This was originally created for Roger Simon’s column from September 11th, written in response to, as Iowahawk memorably quipped at the time, Vladimir Putin doing donuts on Obama’s front lawn, the op-ed page of the New York Times. I would have loved to have done an image of Putin selling papers shirtlessly, but I couldn’t find a pose that could be easily manipulated into that of him holding a newspaper. I also would have loved to have Putin looking a bit more animated, as he shouted “Extry! Extry!” into his makeshift megaphone, but just about every photo of Putin on the Web features him wearing the same blank “We will bury you” expression.
So I ended up putting Putin’s head on a Shutterstock model holding a newspaper. I cut off the model’s right arm – which is fortunately a painless procedure in Photoshop! – and moved it down slightly to meet up with Putin’s mouth, and the replaced the stock newspaper in the model’s hand with a copy of the New York Times. I ended up replacing the brick background behind the model with a stock brick wall image, because moving all these elements around made a hodge-podge of the original background as well.
After I was done, it still looked a bit too much like “Putin’s head stock on model’s body,” so I duplicated the whole image using the Copy Merged function and pasted it all in on top of the original as one contiguous layer, and used the Poster Edges tool to help make it look more like an illustration, which helps, a bit, to it all together. It’s not perfect, but Roger really liked it, and it was pretty good for something created in about 45 minutes between Roger first telling me about his column, and our midnight publication deadline.
Obama’s Mom Jeans: Created for Tom Blumer’s September 5th column titled “Obama’s Extra-Constitutional Abdication.” Everyone remember’s Allahpundit’s classic “Mom Jeans” crack from 2009 regarding Obama’s leisure-time trousers, and poking around Shutterstock, I found an image that had a blank white card in a blue jeans back pocket, perfect to replace with something else. That something else in this case was a pocket copy of the Constitution. I couldn’t find a decent large version of a Pocket Constitution that contained the Founders’ original script, so I went with the cover of A Pocket Guide to the U.S. Constitution by Andrew Arnold, PhD, and placed it over the white card of the original Shutterstock image. I duplicated the pocket of the Shutterstock image to go above the Pocket Constitution. I used the Photoshop Texturizer tool to add a fabric look to the ObamaCare logo, so that hopefully, it looks like one of those iron-on jeans logos that were so popular in the 1970s. Because this was another image created on deadline, I had dreaded the notion of adding simulated stitching around it, so I simply used the eye-drop tool to match the color of the jeans’ yellow-gold stitching, and drew a circle on a separate later over the logo, and then used the Photoshop Craquelure texture, combined with the bevel and emboss layer tool, which both worked extremely well, and was extremely fast. Finally, I drew freehand a black stripe on a separate layer between the Pocket Constitution and the jeans pocket, and then hit it with Gaussian Blur to simulate shadow of the pocket on the Constitution underneath.
Rolling Out the ObamaCare Red Carpet: This was created for a series that ran in early September at PJM on the rollout of ObamaCare. Aaron Hanscom, PJM’s beneficent chief editor, asked me if I could Photoshop Mr. Obama into a photo of red carpet being rolled out. I got lucky – I was able to find a photo with the back of Obama’s head that perfectly matched up the pose of a Shutterstock model in a business suit on a red carpet that was being rolled out. I then created a combination of the Obama logo and a medical caduceus symbol as a separate file, and then used Photoshop’s perspective and distortion tools to place it into the carpet. I then used a little noise on the combined logo to help make it look like it was sown into the fibers of the carpet.
Neville Again: This was for another Tom Blumer column, a piece from March titled “Obama: Our Out-of-Control Debt Is ‘Sustainable’ for the Next Decade.” I’ve also used it several times for my own posts referencing Obama as the umbrella-loving Neville Chamberlain. It was originally a Shutterstock photo of a businessman metaphorically drowning in debt, to which I swapped out the model’s head with one of the many, many images of Barack Obama looking reverently to the heavens that the MSM shot in 2008. The real trick in this Photoshop was matching the rain in the image. I created a new layer, drew several white lines, hit them with a little Gaussian Blur, then rotated the layer to match the angle of the rain in the shot, then sized it to fit, and then adjusted the transparency until it blended it right in. I think it worked extremely well, and it’s a pretty powerful image.
Obama Administration as Black Swan: This one came out really nice. It was created for a piece last year by contributor Jeff Durstewitz titled “The Obama Outrages: Government as Black Swan,” asking if Obama was the black swan of politics, building on author Nasem Taleb’s metaphor for unexpected and out of control events. It was built upon a Shutterstock image of a black swan in water, logically enough. I first used the scissors tool to create a separate layer of the swan, then placed the Obama logo underneath it, using the perspective tool and, I believe, a little of the warp tool to place into the same angle as the swan. I hit the logo with one of the stock Photoshop filters to give it a rippled watery look, and then drew a shadow of the swan in front of it, which I then lowered the opacity to blend in.
Barry in the Matrix: (Obama_hope_matrix_6-4-13-4) This was inspired by a similar image (sans Obama of course) in the 2008 book, Art and Design in Photoshop: How To Simulate Just About Anything From Great Works Of Art To Urban Graffiti, by Steve Caplin, a book that greatly catapulted my Photoshop chops. While Caplin explains how to create a background of endless ones and zeros via the Photoshop text tool, a grid to hold all of the ones and zeros, and a whole lot of typing, I used multiple copies of a black and white Shutterstock image filled with ones and zeros, which was a huge time saver, which I colorized to create that early LCD monitor look. I desaturated Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster, then placed it atop the green and black ones and zeros, and adjusted the layer blending options to “Multiply.” When the Obama NSA scandal first broke, I had lots of fun using these techniques to create Matrix-style images of all sorts of things.
Incidentally, while I highly recommend Art and Design in Photoshop as a great learning tool (though with a few leftwing sucker punches along the way, unfortunately), this is one of the few times where I strongly suggest paying the hard copy rather than the Kindle edition, which is a jumbled mess.
The Chechen in the Rye: Obviously, this was inspired by an early edition hard cover dust jacket for J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, when in late April, the New York Times‘ Michiko Kakutani attempted to justify the Boston bombing by the murderous Tsarnaev brothers on “a more Holden Caulfield-like adolescent alienation.” Basically it just involved removing and replacing the background image under the original text. Using the clone tool, the content aware fill tool and a little Gaussian Blur to hide the seams, and then finding similar fonts. I then placed the completed book cover in one of my usual backgrounds I use for author interviews.
Middle East Crystal Ball: This is an example of the sort of thing you can do by carefully manipulating Photoshop’s layers function. There are two separate images here, both from Shutterstock. The first is a man holding a crystal ball, into which I placed a map of the Middle East with the opacity lowered to about half-way, to allow the model’s arm to show through. I then cut and pasted the author’s hand, to go over the map. I then added a white glint onto the crystal ball, which is an easy technique straight out of the 2004 book, Photoshop Classic Effects: The Essential Effects Every User Needs to Know by Scott Kelby, whose tips are still perfectly valid today.
This is another image where keeping the original layered Photoshop file makes it easy to go in and add new images inside the crystal ball, which is why you’ve seen this image on the PJM homepage with all sorts of things layered into it.
And there you have it. Francis Bacon once said that “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery,” and while I’ve done just the opposite here, I hope that these images, and the how-to books I’ve linked to, inspire you to experiment with creating your own Internet artwork. Happy Photoshopping – and I look forward to visiting your museum wing, next.