There are a myriad of ways to create cool border effects in Photoshop, but I bet you never thought of this method. The updated Refine Edge feature in Photoshop to create interesting border elements from just about any photo. No kidding! Once you learn this, you’ll try it on almost every photo you have, and even try it on different parts of the same image.
Now, the really cool part about this little trick is that you can try it on just about any image and you’ll get something pretty interesting. Images of textures are always fun, because they can be so abstract. Here, we have a simple wood texture. Start by grabbing the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) from the Toolbox, and then draw a selection over the center area of the wood texture.
Now, just click on the Refine Edge button in the Options Bar to open the Refine Edge dialog. From the View menu, choose Black & White. Then, in the Edge Detection section, turn on the Smart Radius checkbox and move the Radius slider to around 40 px. Next, go down to the Contrast slider, and move it to around 50%, and push Shift Edge up to +13%. These settings will, of course, vary on different images, so remember to experiment. Finally, choose Selection from the Output To pop-up menu and click OK.
Click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to create a new blank layer. Then, fill the active selection with black by pressing Shift-Delete (PC: Shift-Backspace), choosing Black from the Use pop-up menu in the Fill dialog, and clicking OK. Now we have a shape we can generate a selection from, or even clip an image into (I turned off the Background layer here, so you could see the shape better). Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect.
Here, you can see I used this shape to create a border effect for this photo. Open the image you want to add the border effect to, then press Command-N (PC: Ctrl-N) to create a new document. In the New dialog, choose the name of your image file from the Preset pop-up menu to make the new document the same size. With the Move tool (V), click-and-drag the frame layer into your new file, then drag the image file into your new file, and make sure it’s above the frame layer in the Layers panel. With the image layer active, press Command-Option-G (PC: Ctrl-Alt-G) to clip it to the frame layer below. Now, click back on the frame layer, go into Free Transform (press Command-T [PC: Ctrl-T]), and resize the frame around the image. Press Return (PC: Enter) when you’re done.
Here’s another example: Remember this wood plank image from Chapter 4? Open that file up and let’s see what we might get out of this texture. Go ahead and use the Rectangular Marquee tool again to make a selection over most of the center area of the texture.
Now, click on the Refine Edge button and feel free to play around with the various settings to see what you might discover. You can see the settings I chose here are giving me a nice wood grain effect with some scattered elements— all from a simple selection. Go ahead and set the Output To pop-up menu to Selection and click OK.
Once again, create a new blank layer and fill the selection with black. We now have another interesting shape. Remember to save these files as you create these shapes, so you can use them again without having to re-create them. You can even define them as patterns (see more about defining patterns in Chapter 4, as well), or Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) on the shape’s thumbnail in the Layers panel to make a selection from it, and from the Paths panel’s flyout menu (Window>Paths), choose Make Work Path to convert it to a path. Then, you can convert that path into a custom shape by going under the Edit menu and choosing Define Custom Shape. There are multiple options for having cool custom design elements on tap!
Excerpted from Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers, Volume 1 by Corey Barker