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What is Compositing?

A composite is made of a selection of images with a theme. Multiple images are part of a seamless composition.

What Are Our Goals?

Goals, Conceptual

The goal of this assignment is to have you design a composition with a theme of your choice. You need to be very specific with your theme. For example, rather than simply choosing Nature or The Outdoors, choose The Grand Canyon or Tornados. The more specific you are with your choice of concept, the easier it will be for you to design your composition.


These examples are similar to what we’re looking for. What they’re missing are titles. We could imaging that the cityscape on the left could be titled New York Neglected.

Your composition can be abstract or realistic. Even if it’s abstract, it still needs a strong, specific theme. This page seems to have some pretty awesome compositions. One of our program’s very successful grads creates really cool vintage collages. Her name is Tahini Moitra; otherwise known as Tahini Sauce.

Your concept can convey a message. It could be an environmental, anti-gun, pro-Trump (!) or whatever else you can think of. It can be edgy and even controversial. Just keep it decent. The decency test is: would the College allow you to post it on their bulletin boards?

Goals, Technical

One of the principal goals here is to build a file in Photoshop which is easily editable. To this end, you must use most of these features in your file.

Use layers to organize your work and maintain editability. Make sure you name all of your layers meaningfully.
Layer Masks
Don’t erase. Ever. Use masks to show/hide content. Option-click on the mask to see it. Make sure it’s clean — no crumbs or unnecessary sloppiness.
Blend Modes
These dictate how one layer’s content mixes with the layer(s) below. These can sometimes be used in the place of a lowered opacity setting.
Layer Effects
Examples include drop shadow, colour overlay, and many more. Effects are editable. They’re accessible from the fx button at the bottom of the Layers panel.
Layer Groups
Organize your layers in named folders. Name all folders. Note that you can nest folders.
Masks on Groups
If you wish to mask all content in a group, you an add a mask to a folder.
Effect on Groups
The same goes with Effects. You can apply them to a group.
Blending on Groups
Ditto to Blend Modes.
Adjustment Layers
These are special layers which only hold an instruction to the layer(s) below to change somehow. Make sure to name them by what they do. ie: H/S Make Blue is a Hue/Saturation layer that makes things blue.
Clipping Masks
Clipping masks show pixels on the layer above only where there are pixels below. Option-⌘-G does the trick.
Point Type
Create a meaningful title for your composition. Just click and type. Do not drag a box. Feel free to add Layer Effects, Clipping Masks and the like on your text, but don’t over-do it.
Vector Masks
Vector masks hide content based on a vector path. This makes it that the mask has an absolutely sharp edge. It either hides or reveals. There are no grey areas.
Smart Objects
Use File > Place Embedded… to import a photo as a Smart Object. You can also right-click on a layer, then choose Create Smart Object. This will make that layer scalable without damaging the pixels. Just don’t scale it up much passed 100%.

Placing Images

Import images for your composition by using File > Place Embedded…. You can also drag their icons from Finder into you canvas. Do not use File > Place Linked…

Odds are, your images will start off as .JPEG files. Open them all, then save them as native .PSD files before you import them. It will make them easier to edit once they're in your main composition.

Your Assignment

Document Setup

Create a new Photoshop file that’s a minimum of 8” by 8” at 300 dpi in RGB. You can make it rectangular if that better suits your content and your theme. Landscape or portrait are both acceptable. These dimensions ensure that the file will be large enough to print for your portfolio. Choose one of these three formats:

Document Dimensions

Content Restrictions

  • You must have a minimum of 5 photos in your composition.
  • You can have vector content. This can be created right in Photoshop. It can also be placed as a Smart Object from Illustrator.
  • Leave your type live.
  • Image choice is restricted to your own photos or to the stock photo web sites below. No Google image searches allowed.

Source Images

You can take your own photos. It would really be great if you used only your own images for this. It would really make your composition unique and your own. You can, alternatively, download images from free stock photo web sites. Here’s a list.

Your Submission


Submit your composition as a native Photoshop (.psd) file. Name the file the usual way:


Create a folder in which you’ll include your original, untouched images. Name these contextually. An image of a bath tub should be called bathtub.psd.