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Creativity on your desktop: How to create a cool wallpaper from your Photoshop interface

Today we will create a cool wallpaper using a single stock image and your “Printscreen” button. It’s amazing how many “stocks” pass by us every day and we don’t even notice. But that’s why we’re here, to explore this untapped “oil well”, so let’s make something fun with it!

NOTE: Tools that have the same shortcut keys are overlapped and you can cycle between them using SHIFT+<key> or right-click over it. Example: Dodge Tool, Burn Tool and Sponge Tool – hit SHIFT+O to select each.

Difficulty: Beginner
Completion time: 40 min – 1 hour
Tools: Photoshop CS3


– corgi from – now it’s a dead link, the user has deactivated his account.
hands from

Following this tutorial, you will learn how to:
– make advanced selections via Channels
– use the Path Tool effectively
– retouch photos
– create high quality shadows
– make simple cutouts
– make color palettes

Final Image Preview




Run Photoshop and hit the “Print Screen” button on your keyboard. Go to File > New … and hit OK. It will create a document with the size of your set monitor resolution. Mine is 1680 x 1050 px.



Open the “corgi” picture (File > Open…). In the Layers palette (F7), double-click the lock near the “Background” layer’s thumb and hit OK. It will now be renamed to “Layer 0”.



Go to the Channels window (Window > Channels) and click each channel to see which one has the most contrast (yes, we will make a selection via Channels). In this case, it’s the “Red” channel.



Right-click on the “Red” channel thumb and select “Duplicate Channel”. Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves (CTRL+M). Make an “S” shape curve like  below and hit OK.



The purpose is to make the corgi a white silhouette and the background completely black (maximum contrast). Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels (CTRL+L) and use the settings below.



Grab the Brush Tool (B) and paint with white over the gray areas on the dog (not outside his contour!). Do this only where there are no fur tips, we will fix the minor details later.



Grab the Dodge Tool (O), set it on Highlights with 17% Exposure and paint over the remaining gray spots inside the dog’s outline. Try not to overdo it, else the contour will get jaggy.



Grab the Burn Tool (O), set it on “Shadows” at 37% Exposure and paint over the areas around the dog. Do this until the channel looks like below. You can also paint with black to prevent over-burning.



CTRL+click it to load a selection. This will be the selection of the corgi. Go back to the Layers palette, click the layer thumb and hit CTRL+C to copy the selection.



Go back to our document (CTRL+Tab) and paste it (CTRL+V). Hit CTRL+T to enter Free Transform mode. Hold SHIFT and click-drag one of the corners to resize it (SHIFT+click-drag preserves the picture’s proportions).



Open the “hands with notebook” picture. Grab the Path Tool (P), set it on Paths and trace the hands.



After closing the path, right-click > Make Selection and copy it (CTRL+C). Go back to our document and paste it (CTRL+V). Resize it like below.



Grab the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L), make a selection of a hand and right-click > Layer Via Cut. Use the Move Tool (V) to place it like below.



Select the Path Tool and set it on “Shapes”. Now Draw a rectangle like below, but with bent edges, as if the hand would hold a picture.



In the Layers palette (F7), click the “fx” button and select “Blending Options”. Check the “Stroke” box and use the settings below.



Grab the Move Tool (V) and CTRL+click the left hand and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. CTRL+click the shape layer thumb, select the layer mask of the hand and paint over the extra areas with black. Make sure you don’t paint over the thumb, we need it to be on top.



Double-click each layer’s name and rename them to “corgi”, “ left hand”, “right-hand” and “picture base”.



Select the “picture base” layer and click the “fx” button. Select Blending Options and use the settings below.



Go to Layer > New > Layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N) to create a new layer. Name it “sketch” and ALT+click between it and “picture base”. This will create a clipping mask – the layer thumb will shift to the right and an arrow will appear near it.



Grab the Brush Tool (B), set its Opacity to 30%, Hardness to 100% and roughly paint a landscape inside the frame. Don’t be afraid to go out of bounds, the clipping mask will hide everything.

Use light tones for the background and darker, more saturated tones for the foreground. Don’t go into detail, keep it simple.



Grab the Move Tool (V) and CTRL+click the corgi to set it as the current layer, then create two new layers (CTRL+SHIFT+N twice) and name it “corgi sketch” and “palette”. Keep the “palette” layer selected.



Grab the Brush Tool (B) and paint on this layer only the colors from the corgi’s fur. Hold the ALT key to use the color picker.
Note: For detailed digital paintings, I recommend you manually create the palette with more saturated colors.



Start drawing over the fur. Use thick strokes and gradually move to thinner ones and to lighter strokes. Again, don’t go into detail, keep it a sketch.



Hit the Printscreen button and create a new document. There’s no need to have a specific setting, when you hit Printscreen, it will automatically set it to your screen’s resolution. Hit CTRL+V to paste in the screen capture.



Grab the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), set Feather to 0 px and make a selection of the Photoshop’s toolbar, as below. Hit CTRL+C to copy it. Go back to our document (CTRL+Tab) and paste it (CTRL+V).



Paste in more Photoshop interface elements, like in the previous step.



Grab the Move Tool (V) and CTRL+click one of the interface elements. Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer (CTRL+J) and hit CTRL+U. Set Lightness to -100 and hit OK, then hit CTRL+[ to send it to back. Set its Blending mode to “Multiply”.



Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set it to 4 px and hit OK. Go to Edit > Transform > Warp and distort the shadow like below. We want to create the illusion of a bent paper cutout, but if we distort the image instead, the text on it will get blurry.



Repeat STEPS 28-29 to create shadows for the other elements.



Grab the Move Tool (V) and CTRL+click the hands. Duplicate the layer (CTRL+J) and desaturate it (CTRL+SHIFT+U) and set its Blending mode to “Screen”. Duplicate it again and set its Blending mode to “Multiply”.



Hit CTRL+L (Image > Adjustments > Levels) and use the settings below.



Create a new layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N) and hit CTRL+SHIFT+[ to send it to back. Hit CTRL+] to place it above the “Background” layer. Now Grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G) and fill the layer with a dark gray color. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Use a 2% setting and hit OK.



The corgi’s eyes have a green tint that creates an unnecessary focus point. So let’s fix that! Grab the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and make a selection of the green pupil. Hit CTRL+SHIFT+U and deselect (CTRL+D or Select > Deselect). Do the same for the other eye.



Select the “picture base” layer and create a new layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N). Name it “corgi shadow” and set its Blending mode to “Multiply”. Now Grab the Brush Tool (B), set it to a soft, round brush, hit D and paint the shadows the corgi drops on the paper. Do  the same for the hands, but use the technique from STEPS 27-28.



Grab the Horizontal Type Tool (T), draw a type box and type in “Too Realistic ?”. Set the font to “Luna Bar” and a light yellow color, then rotate it.



Select the top-most layer and hit CTRL+A (Select > All), then hit CTRL+SHIFT+C (Edit > Copy Merged) and paste (CTRL+V or Edit > Paste). Don’t forget to delete the “palette” layer first!



Go to Filter > Other > High Pass. Use a 1.5 px setting and hit OK. Set the layer’s Blending mode to “Overlay”.




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