An unobtrusive little feature in Photoshop, the Stroke command makes it easy to paint borders around whole images or within them. Use a stroke to set off a photo with a colorful frame or highlight a section of an image or stroke an image layer for artistic special effects. Get ready to take the plunge!
For practice, open any portrait or landscape image. We’ll start with a portrait.
Suitable For Framing
If you expand an image window in Photoshop, the image appears to have a fine black border. (Expand a window by dragging the corner or side of the window outward with the mouse.) This line is just a software artifact, however, a handy way for Photoshop to demarcate the image from the window in which it appears. In other words, it is not a visible border.
To create a visible border, one that shows in print or on a Web page, you’ll need to stroke one in. To start, click the foreground color palette and choose a color. Black is a standard choice, but consider using a color that complements or contrasts with a dominant color in the image. From the Select menu, choose All. Then from the Edit menu, select Stroke.
The Stroke dialog box lets you specify the width and color of the border, set the location of the border in relation to the edge of the image, and choose among color blending options.
Choose a border width of 3 pixels. Next, choose the color you’d like to use for the border. Under Location, select Inside. This sets the 3-pixel border within the edge of the image. If you chose Center, only one half of the 3-pixel border will show. If you select Outside, the border won’t show at all.
The ability to set the color-blending mode of the border is nice, but in a 3-pixel line, the differences between these options aren’t easily discernable. We recommend leaving the mode at Normal and Opacity at 100%.
Click OK. Press CTRL-D to remove the selection lines.
A Different Stroke
A stroke is also useful within an image, say to highlight a geographical feature within a landscape.
For example, we have a NASA photo of the Olympus Mons volcano on Mars. We’d like to highlight the caldera at the top of the volcano, and for that, we’ll use a stroke. For practice, you can use your original image, or you can browse over to the NASA Web site and copy your own planetary photo.
Instead of using the Select menu, click the Rectangular Marquee tool. Use it to draw a rectangle on the photo. Select Stroke from the Edit menu. Set the stroke size and color. This time, you can set the location outside the selection if you wish. Again, leave the blending options at the default. Click OK, then CTRL-D to remove the selection lines.
As an alternative, you can use the Elliptical Marquee tool to create a circular stroke.
Stroke A Layer
In our final example, the stroke becomes an artistic effect, highlighting an individual layer. Our image is a collage of three layers.
If you do not have a layered image handy, you can practice with one of Photoshop’s sample files, such as Bear.psd. (From the File menu, choose Open and browse to C:/PROGRAM FILES/ADOBE/PHOTOSHOP 6.0/Samples.) Stroking the bear image’s single layer will result in an image border, similar to the one in our first example.
First choose a foreground color for the stroke. In the Layers palette, click to select the layer you wish to stroke. Select Stroke from the Edit menu. This time, for dramatic effect we set the stroke width to 18 pixels. We also used the Exclusion blend at 90% opacity, which provides an interesting contrast between the image and the blend color.
Now you’re in the swim of things. You’ve used the Stroke command for making image borders, marking sections within images, and creating artsy outlines. Have fun practicing your new strokes.