You don't have to buy expensive border making plug-ins if you own an image editing
program. Here we show you how you can create the effects using one of the preset
Words & Pictures Peter Bargh of ePHOTOzine
Here's a technique I've developed for making ragged borders just like
those you'd get using a plug-in such as AutoFX Photo/Graphic Edges. I've
chosen a photo with a dark surround and, although original shot on a medium
format camera, I've resized it to simulate a conventional 3 million pixel
digital image. This is so you can follow the technique with one of your
photographs and use the same settings that I use. The file is a 2048x1536pixel
I'm using Photoshop CS, but older versions or Photoshop Elements can be
used and most other makes will have similar features that you can apply
The first stage is to create a new layer that we will use to paint on
the ragged edge. In Photoshop CS this is done by going to Layer>New>Layer
or Shft+Ctrl+N. You can also click on the small layer icon in the layer
palette indicated by the red arrow.
2 Now make a selection using the rectangular marquee tool. Click
in the top left corner where you want the selection to start, hold the
mouse down and drag to the bottom right corner where you want the selection
to end. The dotted selection is where we will create the ragged border,
so make sure this is where you want the effect to occur. In this photograph
that's a fairly small drop in from the edges of the frame because I don't
want to crop too much into the hair.
3 Go to Select>Inverse so the selection changes from the inner
area to the border as illustrated here.
4 Now go to Edit>Fill and, depending
on whether you may want the outer part (frame) of the photo black or white,
select the desired fill colour from the pop up box and click okay. The photo
will then have a layer with just a border in it and will appear as a surround
on the photo. For best results use black when the inner area has light tones
and white when, as in this example, the inner area has dark tones.
5 Now the creative bit. Make sure the frame layer is selected
by clicking on it and select the erasor tool from the toolbar. At the
top of the page you'll now see various brush options under the normal
menu. Click on Brush to bring up the brush preset picker. From here click
the little arrow, top right, to take you to a list of brush styles and
from the list select Dry Media Brushes. You will be asked if you want
to replace the current set. Click okay. Don't worry, you can go back to
this point and reset the default set or choose different ones at a later
Select the Pastel Medium Tip brush indicated by the red
arrow to the right and adjust the diameter of the brush to 75pixels to
give you a decent ragged effect.
6 Magnify the photo on screen so just
a small area of the border is showing and begin to paint using the erasor
brush on the border layer. Work from inside the picture so the edge of the
brush creaps into the border area. You will see that the white is erased
so the background shows through and it will have a ragged effect. You can
do this really quickly by erasing around the edge following an uneven line,
but to get best results take your time and change brush size to vary the
evenness of the ragged edge.
7 When you are happy with your paint job you can apply some blur
or try one of the artist filters to change the way the edge looks. I'm
pleased with the straight erasor brush version and won't make any further
But, before you flatten the image why not save the work you've done so
you can apply it to other same size images in the future?
8 With the border layer active click inside the white frame area
using the Magic Wand tool, making sure the tolerance setting is 1 pixel.
Then go to Select>Save Selection. In the pop up box call the selection
something that makes it recognisable (I named mine ragged edge 1) This
will save your work as an alpha channel. Then when you want to apply the
border to a new photo open the new one and this one. With the new one
active go to Select>Load Selection. From the drop down list in the
source box choose the photo that you saved the selection in and pull up
"ragged edge 1" from the channel box. The selection will appear
on your new photo providing you have both pictures in the same orientation
and saved at the same dimensions. All you have to do then is go back and
redo step 4 of this tutorial to apply your border.