Variations in Photoshop

In non-digital art journaling, we often start our pages with something abstract like a painted background or a simple layer of collage. Snap a photograph of one of the early layers of your journal pages {or any of your abstract work} before you embellish or add layers or words. Keep that image and you can use it as a base to create digital artwork.

As you know, I work in my real, tangible, paint-edged journals every day. And as a lover of process, I often take work-in-process photographs and over the years I started using those photographs to create blog graphics for Daisy Yellow, graphics for my art journaling workshops, graphics for creative prompts, quotes, etc. 

In the digital world you can do things that you cannot do in the real world. You can flip any portion of your page around, turn it inside out, break it up, blur it, reverse it, duplicate it, rotate it counter-clockwise, change colors and wind up with something quite fabulous.

It's the pretend version of cutting up a journal page with scissors and gluing it back together in a different composition.

It's the perfect starting point.

So I wanted to share with you a very simple way to take a painted page and transform it into something else. 

It's absorbing and entertaining and honestly, quite meditative when you get into the groove. When you like one of your iterations, you can save it and draw on top with a stylus/tablet, type a quote, use it for marketing or whatever you wish.

To work through this process, you'll need a basic knowledge of Photoshop, one image of your work and Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop CC.

Photoshop is a one of the core tools that I use at DY. It's a bear to learn, but once it starts to make sense, you can do so much with it!

If you want to learn Photoshop, get Photoshop book by Scott Kelby. PS is one of the tools where I felt like I really needed and benefited from getting a book. This is definitely a valid exception to my process of "figuring stuff out" because there's just so much to PS. When I started using it years ago, I didn't understand the terminology. Even now, I feel like I've only scratched the surface of the tool; there are vast areas within PS that I haven't even touched.

In this grid, you can see some of the variations I've created from one image of one art journal page.

Oh! Before I continue, I should tell you that I have transitioned over to Photoshop CC. If you are wavering, like I was, if you can deal with the monthly fee, please know that it has been extremely stable, with no problems whatsoever - no crashes - in 3 months of solid use. And I'm exploring Audition {for audio recording} too, so it's nice to be able to use the full Adobe suite. PS. If you know CS4 or CS6 you don't need a CC book. A few menu items have been re-arranged but it was a seamless transition. And it seems faster than CS but your mileage may vary.

So let's get started.

My examples are ALL created in Photoshop starting with this iphone photo of gouache rainbow clouds taken in front of a sunny window. You don't need to start with any sort of perfect image or perfectly lit studio or scan or anything like that. And of course you can do this with a perfectly scanned image and your repeat will be more precise and crisp. I like this kind.

Editor's note - if you flatten the image, be sure to unlock the background layer so that you can move it around and transform it.


The layer Edit/Transform functionality is incredibly versatile. You can flip, rotate, warp, distort, alter perspective, etc. You can expand upon this concept ad infinitim. Start with the finished image, flatten and create more patterns with this new base. It's as engaging and habit-forming as gelatin printing! The next example shows a bunch of repeats.

And finally, you can use the various layering properties to overlay one image or repeat on top of another. I bet you are thinking about kaleidoscopes and mandalas now?