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Photoshop tutorial: how to extend a graduated background

bamboo basket, "Inside Out," 2006, by Ueno Masao

Some photographs — like this one of “Inside Out,” 2006, by Ueno Masao (b. 1949; Kanto region: active in Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture; madake bamboo, rattan, and gold leaf, Asian Art Museum, gift of Ueno Masao and Tai Gallery, 2006.41, photograph by Kaz Tsuruta) — set an object against a background that subtly blends from darker to lighter tones. (The photo appears in the book Masters of Bamboo.)

In page layout you might want to fit this vertical image into a more horizontal space without losing any of the image. For a long time I struggled with the best way to accomplish this in Photoshop. If you did something like sample a tone near the edges and fill the background with that color you would get an unacceptable result like this one (copying and pasting bits of the background give results that are little if any better):

the wrong way to extend a background

Currently I use the following simple technique. (I can’t provide many screen shots because for some reason they don’t show selections and cursors very well.)

  1. First, I increase the canvas to the desired size.
  2. I select a rectangle of background right up to the outside edge of the original image.
  3. Next, I paste that rectangle into a new layer.
  4. Then I flip the rectangle horizontally. This puts all the pixels on the edge of the selected rectangle adjacent to identical pixels in the original image.
  5. With the rectangle still active, I select “free transform” and stretch it to the edge of the canvas.

This image shows the original and the two rectangles as Photoshop layers:

photoshop layers

Here you can (sort of) see one of the rectangles that has been flipped, now ready to be stretched. I’ve circled the selection markers where you do the stretching. I unchecked the original image in the layers palette in order to show this better. Of course it fits in the blank space in the middle of this image.

stretching a background in photoshop

This technique results in something like the image (here a little funky because of saving down for the web) below :

a successfully extended graduated background

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1 Comment

  1. C.A.

    Really makes some good sense. Thanks for your information about how to extend a graduated background.

    (Edited by xensen per policies: no keywords in commenter names)

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