For this article I am assuming you already know how to create an orb in Photoshop. If not, don’t panic. If you are unfamiliar with orb photography and the Photoshop steps used to create one, you should first read my Oil & Water Orb article that I wrote for The Art of Macro Photography. There you will find the 5 easy steps needed to create an orb. Fair warning — it’s addictive!
Let’s Get Started!
First you need to create 4 separate orbs. If you already have some made, great! If not, get crackin’! Fun awaits!
For this particular orb project, I recommend using four very different colored orbs. As for their subject matter and pattern, that is strictly up to you. Once you have created or chosen the four orbs you would like to use, put them in a separate folder on your desktop for easy access. Now roll up your sleeves and get ready for the next stage in your orbs’ transformation.
Step-By-Step in Photoshop
Create New Document
1. Before we can create the final orb from your four separate orbs, we first need to create a totally new Photoshop document. To do so, go to the Photoshop menu at the top of the screen and select File>New.
2. When the New settings window opens, give your new document a Name. I called mine 4 Orbs. Now enter the pixel dimensions you want for your final orb. Note: I entered 2848 x 2848 pixels to match the largest pixel dimensions of one of my four separate orbs. I then entered 300 pixels for the Resolution to make sure the file will be suitable for both web and print.
Place Guides for Orbs
1. To make sure your 4 separate orbs will all be of the same size and proportion to each other in the new document, you need to place vertical and horizontal guides that intersect in the center of your document. This will create 4 distinct quadrants — one for each of your separate orbs.
Create Layers & Place Your 4 Orbs
1. Now it’s time to place your 4 separate orbs into the new document. First, however, you need to create a separate layer for each of the 4 separate orbs. Create a new layer by clicking on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette. (It’s the icon with the turned up corner next to the trash can icon.)
2. Next, click on a layer to activate it. Note: I recommend working from bottom to top in the layer stack.
3. After you activate a layer, go to File>Place>SELECT ONE OF YOUR ORB IMAGES. After you select the orb image you want to use for that layer, click on Place.
4. The orb will now appear in your new document at full size with a sizing grid activated on top of it. To resize the orb image, hold down the Shift Key, click on one of the corners of the sizing grid, and pull towards the center of the image to reduce the size of the orb photo so that it fits into one of the quadrants on the new document. After you’ve reduced the image to the correct size, press Return on your keyboard to lock it in place. Use the Move tool as needed to move the orb into its exact position.
5. Repeat Steps 2-4 for each separate layer to place each of your 4 your orbs into position on the new document. Important! Make sure that each of the 4 orbs completely fill in its quadrant of the new document. There should be no gaps between the 4 orbs in your layout. If you need to go back and make a sizing adjustment, no problem.
How To Make A Sizing Adjustment
2. Once the layer is selected, go to the menu at the top of the screen and select Edit>Transform>Scale. The sizing grid will then appear over that orb. Hold down the Shift Key, click on one of the corners of the sizing grid, and adjust the orb as necessary. Use the Move tool as needed to move the orb into its exact position.
Remove Guides & Merge Layers
1. After all of the separate orbs are properly in position on separate layers, remove the Guides from the document by clicking on each line and dragging it back to the ruler until it disappears.
2. Once the Guides are gone, it’s time to merge the layers into one. From the menu at the top of the screen, select Layer>Merge Visible.
It’s Time To Make The Single Orb
As previously mentioned, I’m assuming at this stage you already know how to make an orb in Photoshop, or have clicked on the link to my other article that outlines the steps. Either way, now’s the time to manually do the steps OR use the Photoshop Action you might have previously created to make your new orb.
Before Printing — Increase Canvas Size!
One thing that is often forgotten when creating orbs is its canvas size. You will see when you create an orb that the orb itself comes very close to the edges of the overall image. This is fine for web viewing, but a problem when printing and matting an orb photo. Before you can do that, you’ll need to increase the overall canvas size of the image. Don’t worry. It’s very easy to do.
How To Increase Canvas Size
1. First select the Eyedropper tool from the toolbar.
2. With the Eyedropper activated, click once on the existing background color to select it. You will then see that color appear as the foreground color in the toolbar’s color picker.
3. Now go to the menu at the top of the screen and select Image>Canvas Size.
4. Add 1 or 2 inches (your choice) to both the Width & Height dimensions. The number you enter will increase the canvas size by that dimension each side. Important! Make sure the Canvas Extension Color is set to Foreground. Click OK when done.
You’ve just created a new single orb from 4 other separate orbs. Best of all, the new orb is now sized for printing if you so desire.
The first time through this process may seem a bit overwhelming, particularly if you are new to Photoshop. However, practice makes perfect and certainly speeds things along. Creating orbs can be addictive. It won’t be long before completing this process seems like a breeze.
Experiment With Creativity
Even though this article dealt specifically with 4 separate orbs, you can experiment with different numbers of orbs as long as they cumulatively form a square. My favorite number so far has been using 9 orbs. I’ve created orbs from 9 different orbs, as well as an orb from the same orb used 9 times. The process is exactly the same as just discussed, the only difference being the overall layout and number of Guides used.
When it comes to orbs, you’re only limited by your imagination. Just remember you need to make sure your new document is a square in order to produce a true circular orb.
Have fun experimenting — and send me a link to what your creativity produces!
~ Liz Mackney