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Enhance your photos with digital frames 12 easy steps

If you’re like me, my best photos are viewed on a monitor. Very few ever get printed. No doubt your computer desktop is displaying dozens of your favorite images because it’s a great way to enjoy your digital photography.

Full screen viewing definitely brings you right into the picture, but it also crops the image to the aspect ratio of your monitor. Also, your folders, tool bars, icons, and other mouse-operated links can clutter your desktop, and thus your image. If you edit your photos, you probably have a fair share of images cropped square, panoramic, and other aspect ratios along with your standard portrait and landscapes. Even most landscapes don’t have the exact aspect ratio as your monitor, so few images really fit.

So, what do you do? Cropping to the size of your monitor may work on a few images, but probably very few. The best way I’ve found to display images if you want to see them like the works of art they are, is to add digital matting or a digital frame or both, and then size them so the frame of the picture doesn’t interfere with the typical placement of icons and toolbars.

How do you go about this super complex procedure just to see your images the way they are meant to be seen? My software of choice is Photoshop, but probably the technique or at least the concept will work with other image software.

First it’s important to know your monitors display resolution. This is pixels wide x pixels high. The framed image you create has to be smaller than the pixels displayed on your monitor. You will probably note that you have resolution choices for your monitor. For best results, always choose the highest resolution your monitor can display.

Now the fun begins:

1. First choose one of your favorite images and import or open it in Photoshop. Please note that there are probably 101 ways to skin a cat, even in Photoshop, so feel free to experiment as you go along. The more you know about Photoshop, the easier this will be, but if you don’t have a clue and follow the instructions, you are going to learn some pretty amazing techniques.

2. For what we are going to do, first save your image as a JPEG if it’s not. I generally save mine as a PSD, but that’s because I have multiple layers, and the digital frame is the last of those layers. (Note: choose Image>Mode and make sure that RGB Color & 8 Bit/Channel are checked.)

Because sizing is one of the last steps, you need not worry about your image size when you first open it if it exceeds the size of your monitor. You may want to be concerned about image quality if it’s much smaller than the displayed pixels on your monitor.

3.Now look at your image. If there are any white or near white pixels such as a cloud at the boarder, you will want to stroke the image with black. If not, you can skip this step. If so, go to you layers pallet and right click on the background. Duplicate the layer. Now go to Edit>Stroke, choose Width: 1px, Color: black, Location: inside, Mode: Normal, Opacity: 100% and choose OK.

4. Next choose Image>Image Size. Check Constrain Proportions and Resample Image, and Choose Bicubic Sharper, then set the Resolution to 300 pixels/inch. Under Document Size: make the image 15” wide if landscape, or 15” high if portrait. (Note: I use 15” maximum width or maximum height as a convenient standard for printing, but you can use much smaller dimensions, as long as the pixels aren’t significantly less than the size of your monitor.) The pixel width of a 15” image @ 300 dpi will be 4500. This is quite a bit more than 1920, the width of my monitor, but doesn’t matter at this point. Choose OK.

5. Next choose Image> Canvas Size: Check Relative and put .25 inches into both width and height. This will create a 1/4-inch boarder around your image. Leave the anchor centered. Choose white for Canvas extension color and choose OK. (Note: Adding matting or framing changes the aspect ratio.)

6. You will now have an image with a white border. In your toolbar, choose the magic wand, set your tolerance to zero, point into the white border and click. Now choose Layer>New Layer and name it frame and choose OK. Next, in your toolbar, select the eyedropper and choose a color in your image that you think will make an attractive frame color. Go to Edit and choose Fill. Use Foreground Color, Mode: Normal, and Opacity: 100%. Choose OK. Deselect the magic wand by control D on a PC, Apple D on a Mac, or you can choose the magic wand and click between the crawling ants.

7. Now go to your frame layer and right click to bring up the menu. Choose Blending Options. In Blending Options there are numerous choices. Play with them all, but only a few will be necessary to create a frame. More choices are adaptable to mats. In this example check inner shadow and outer glow. Highlight Inner Shadow by clicking over the words, then set blend mode to normal, opacity 75%, adjust the angle to match shadows in your photo, uncheck Use Global Light, Distance 5 pixels, Choke 0, and size about 30 pixels. Next highlight Outer Glow, blend mode to normal, opacity 75%, noise 0, choose a color if the displayed color doesn’t go with your photo, technique softer, spread 0, and size about 15 pixels. For now choose OK. Please note that the possibilities here are endless. Also note that you can have multiple frames and/or mats with multiple colors and textures if you want. For now we’ll keep it simple.

8. It’s time to save what you have done. Go to save as, choose a folder (I call mine Matted Images) and add something like w/f at the end of the title, which stands for with frame and save as a Photoshop PSD. If I’m doing a mat, I’ll use w/m.

9. We are almost done. Now save the PSD as a JPEG. Important: close the PSD and open the JPEG. Go to Image>Image Size. For a my monitor I make the image a maximum width of 1800 pixels and a maximum height of 1050 pixels, or about 100-200 pixels smaller than the monitor. Note that you should check both the height and the width. For instance, if you image is square and you choose 1800 pixels wide, then that will make the height 1800 pixels, which exceeds the 1050 limit.

10. Next go to Image and choose Canvas Size. Uncheck Relative and select pixels for width and height. Type in the width and height of your monitor, 1920 x 1200 for this example. Leave the Anchor centered. If you want a black, gray, or white background or other, which will let you choose any color under the rainbow, choose Canvas extension color and select and skip the next step. I think Black makes a great backdrop. Choose OK.

11. If you would like a pattern, select white and choose OK. There will be no need to create a new layer. Select your magic wand from your toolbar and select the white boarder. Go to Edit and Fill. Choose patterns. Experiment with your fill. Choose OK. In this example I used textured tile for the fill. Deselect you magic wand, choose save as, choose a folder (I call mine Matted Screensavers) and save as a JPEG. You may alter the name if you wish.

12. Now you can add the image to your desktop. I import mine to iPhoto and then share by choosing set desktop.

In this tutorial, I  used 1920 x 1200 pixels (the size of my monitor) as the finished size of my image. In this instance, I will not want my framed portion of the image to exceed 1800 pixels wide, or 1050 pixels high. Please note: That is the size of the image with the matting or frame. I added a background to border the frame as a last step to make it 1920 x 1200 pixels. If your monitor is smaller or bigger, you will need to adjust the size of your framed image accordingly.

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