If you've ever looked at the small print in an advert for a piece of technology, whether it be a mobile phone, a laptop computer or even a television, you will have no doubt seen the words Screen Images Simulated written in them. This is because photographing a screen is difficult and using a simulated image makes the product look better. In this tutorial we are going to look at how to create a realistic simulated screen image. This process also gives you a good crash course in Paint Shop Pro's Picker tool too.
Step 1. Open the image you want to use; I'm going for a picture of a laptop but this will work with anything really. We don't need to duplicate this layer though as at no point should we be modifying it, if you're using this as part of a larger modification project then you'll most likely have already done this by now anyway. If your laptop does not have a blank screen already it will be best if you fill it with black before you begin this task.
Step 2. We need to open the image that we want to put on the monitor, normally this is something like a horse or a cyclist in adverts, but I'm going to use a quick screen cap of my desktop. If you want to do this just press the Prnt Scrn key (depending on your keyboard manufacturer it may be written out in full) to copy whatever is on the screen to your clipboard. Move over to your image in Paint Shop Pro and press Control and V to paste it into the image. If you want to use a different image you can just select the image using one of Paint Shop Pro's selection tools, though your best bet is either to press Control and A to select the whole image or use the Selection tool S to create a rectangular selection. Then press Control and C to copy the image to your clipboard as you did before and then paste it in as I did with my screen cap.
Step 3. Here I have a bit of an issue, as the laptop I am working with uses a standard 4:3 monitor whilst mine has a 16:10 widescreen. However we have to transform the monitor anyway so all this means is that I'll need to use a couple more button presses. Any differences in aspect ratio can be troublesome if there is a massive difference, however this is more likely to affect you if you are working with something long and thin like a mobile phone; in this case you'd be best cropping your image a little bit before you continue. The first thing we have to do once we've got our images ready is to move the screen image by clicking with the Picker tool and dragging it across. Align one of the corners at this point to give yourself a point of reference for the coming transformations and make sure that you position it in the actual monitor not on the plastic rim that goes around the edge.
Step 4. Next we want to transform the image. There are several ways to do this but the way is to use the Picker tool and free transform the image so that it matches your screen exactly. The quickest way to do this is to hold Control and Shift as you click and drag each of the tags on the corner of your image. If you aren't very good with remembering hotkeys you can just open the Mode drop-down menu whilst you have the Picker tool activated and select Free.
Step 5. Using the Free transformation mode, left click and drag each corner of the new screen image to the corners of your monitor as you did with the first one. It's best if you zoom in close to the image for this work so you can get everything lined up just right.
Step 6. Now the edge of our screen image is very crisp and appears very artificial, and as the corners of many monitors are slightly rounded I also have to adjust for this. The best way to do this is to use a layer mask, so right-click the layer containing the new Screen image and select New Mask Layer, Show All which will make the Mask Layer visible and available for editing.
Step 7. Since monitors have straight edges we need to make sure this remains even when we soften the edges of our new screen image. Select the Freehand Selection tool and use the same Mode menu as we did for the Picker tool to select Point by Point mode. Then, since your image should still have straight edges, click each corner with the left mouse button and double click once you have made a full lap. If you find it hard to spot the edge of your image in places, press the Eye icon next to the Background layer in the Layers Pane to hide it temporarily.
Step 8. You can make your original Background layer visible again now by pressing the Eye icon again. Now select the Brush tool by pressing B and make sure your foreground colour is black and set the hardness setting to 0 so it has the softest possible edge. At the corner of your screen place the brush so that only part of it is inside your selection and left click. You should see the very edge of it soften slightly. Make sure you don't move the mouse as you press the left mouse button at this point, we only want you to create a dot of black at the corner of the layer mask. To make sure you have a straight edge move to the next corner along the edge and position the mouse similarly, hold the Shift key and left click again. This will automatically paint a straight line between the point you are currently highlighting and the point you just clicked a moment ago.
Step 9. Now, if needs be use the same brush to manually soften the corners a bit more so they are rounded.
Step 10. Now we have our new screen image positioned correctly and blended into the image better we can begin to think about some finishing touches. Namely changing the layer mode to make it a little more realistic and adding a slight highlight to add a little something special. First we'll change the Layer Mode. Open the drop down menu in the Layers pane that will say Normal by default and select each mode in turn until you find one you like. For this kind of task I tend to find that Screen is the best setting to add realism, but it depends on your image and what you're after really. If you want an actual rendition of what an LCD monitor looks like at this sort of angle you can try other modes and alter the opacity accordingly, but here I'm trying to create an advert-style screen image so I'll stick with Screen at 100% opacity. Make sure you have the overall group selected when you change this setting rather than just the image or the Mask layer; otherwise you will not make any noticeable difference.
Step 11. Now that we have our image layered up correctly we can create a highlight to finish the image off. We could just plough in waving the Dodge tool around hoping we can create something believable without making any mistakes, but this is very destructive and can go horrendously wrong. So what we are going to do is create another Raster Layer and overlay a highlight. We start this process off by pressing the New Layer button in the Layers pane, so do this now. When a window pops up, rename the layer Highlight and press ok to create the layer.
Step 12. Now we have our new layer take the soft-edged brush we used before and resize it in the tool bar so that it's quite large. By default your background colour should be white, but if it isn't don't worry and set it as your foreground colour and paint as you would before, and if it's your background colour you can save a few seconds by using the right mouse button to use the background colour instead. Create the highlight you want; it will look awful at this point, but as long as it's a white area with a soft edge it will turn out ok in the end. Use the Eraser tool (X) to remove any areas that overlap the case of the monitor to keep things neat.
Step 13. Change the layer mode to Soft Light or any of the modes that allow colours to be lightened and change the opacity setting of the layer until you are happy with the appearance of the image. There you have it, a simulated screen image created quickly and easily in Paint Shop Pro. Which means you can now take your photographs from whatever angle you want and still have the monitor look fantastic in your photographs.