Firelily Designs

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Firelily Designs

Unnatural acts... with a Lily

This is photo-manipulation with a vengeance; it's the creation of an unnatural object (the fire lily) from a straight-forward photograph of a flower.

Original flower

The original flower. For those who are interested, this was shot with Kodachrome 64, and scanned with a Polaroid SprintScan 35 Plus. Yes, it does matter; your local one-hour photo-finisher probably couldn't give you this red in a print.

If you want to play along, you can download the flower (73K). (Copyright © 1997 by Diane Wilson, all rights reserved. You may copy for personal use only; no republishing rights are granted.)

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Selected reds

Duplicate the background layer; call this "black flower." Using Select Color Range, select the reds (by color name, not with the eyedropper). Invert the selection, delete, and deselect. Hide the background so you can see what you've done. (You might want to set the "transparency" preference value to "none" instead of a grid.)

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Cleaned up

There's a lot of faint color that got selected along with the flower; now is the time to clean this up. Use the magic wand to select in a clear-white area, then use the lasso tool (with the shift key) to extend the selection so that everything except the flower is selected. When you're happy with the selection, delete and deselect.

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Solarized flower

Duplicate this layer and call it "solarized flower." Hide the other layers. Do Image -> Adjust -> Desaturate. Then do Image -> Adjust -> Curves. Shape the curve into a double sine-wave, as shown.

adjust curves dialog box

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Black flower layer

Go to the black flower layer and make it the only visible layer. Use the magic wand to select in the white area, then invert the selection. Fill with black, ensuring that "preserve transparency" is off. Deselect.

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Black flower

Just for fun and to see where we're at, make all the layers visible.

The center of the flower is very obviously the result of solarization, but in the next steps we're going to hide that.

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Yellow center

Duplicate the background layer. Make it the top layer, hide all others, and call this layer "yellow center." Now select the center of the flower: all the yellow, orange, out to and including the transition to deep red, and including the stamens and pistil. The magic wand works well for this, even though this gets tedious (but so would the lasso). Remember that you can use the shift key to add to selections, and the alt (command) key to subtract. Enlarge this section of the image to 400% or more, so you can see exactly what you are getting. Then feather the selection by two pixels, invert the selection, delete, and deselect.

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Tall flame

Duplicate the yellow center layer; call the new layer "stretch center." Make all layers except yellow center visible. With "stretch center" as the active layer, load the transparency mask as a selection, then choose Layer -> Free Transform. Stretch the selection upward, approximately as shown at left. Deselect and apply the Distort -> Ripple filter; use a medium ripple.

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Second ripple

Duplicate "yellow center" again, calling this one "rippled center." Give this layer the same ripple treatment, then move this layer above the "stretch center" layer. Make all layers visible.

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Pistil cleanup

There's some cleanup to do. The pistil on the stretched layer doesn't look very realistic, nor does it look like fire. Go to the "stretched center" layer and erase it with a soft-edged brush.

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Edge cleanup

A problem with the flower at this point is that the petals have a cloth-like texture. Breaking that up will be a two-stage process. First, duplicate the black flower and solarized flower layers. Move the black flower copy up one layer so that it's between the solarized flower layers. Select the solarized flower copy layer, and merge down one layer, so that the copies you just created are now a single layer. Call this combined layer "ash" and hide all the other layers. Load the transparency mask as a selection. Modify the selection by contracting it 10 pixels, then setting it to a 20 pixel border selection. Feather this by 5 pixels. Invert the selection, delete, then invert the selection again. Make sure that "preserve transparency" is on, and apply the Artistic -> Watercolor filter with its default values (brush texture "9" and others "1"). Set the layer attribute to "dissolve." This will make the edge look a little patchy, as though there are ash and soot deposits. (It also hides a few more residual side-effects of solarization.) Deselect.

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Completed lily

Almost done. Go to the solarized flower layer. Open the Noise -> Add Noise filter. Check Gaussian distribution and monochromatic, and set the noise amount to about 60. Click OK. Make all layers active.

Now the flower looks like something might have been burned there. (Yes, the size for the tutorial barely shows this at all. See the original for a better view.)

We're done!