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Making a "kaleidoscopic" image in Adobe Photoshop

kaleid8.jpg (72246 bytes)Recently a customer brought two photos to my store asking that I make extra copies so she could cut them into pie-shaped wedges and make a composite image that would look like a kaleidoscopic picture. I did as she asked, but then started wondering how to do the same effect entirely in Adobe Photoshop. When she picked up the copies I showed her my initial attempts. You can see any of these pictures larger just by clicking on the image.

This exercise will challenge your skills with selection and the copying and transformation of a selected area. The finished product looks like an old-time kaleidoscope. You can start with almost any image. For your first trials, I recommend a small image size on a computer with lots of memory.

Start by choosing your picture or artwork. At this point you may want to touch up any glitches or artifacts in the image, so you only have to do it oncekaleid1.jpg (25815 bytes).

Rotate the canvas 22.5 degrees.

kaleid2.jpg (33040 bytes)

Using the cropping marquee, crop to the section you want to replicate. kaleid3.jpg (21368 bytes)

Select the entire image (control-A, control-C)

Copy the selection to a new layer. Now increase your canvas size for some more work space.

kaleid4.jpg (39506 bytes)

Edittransformflip vertical your selection. Move the flipped copy so it precisely joins the original along the line you want for your first mirror-image seam.

Flatten the layers.

Now rotate your canvas 45 degrees. 

kaleid5.jpg (42087 bytes)

Use the crop tool, putting one corner at the inside end of the seam between your two images. Crop a square section that is somewhat bigger on the outside than you think you’ll really need.

kaleid6.jpg (32948 bytes)

Congratulations! You’ve now got one-quarter of your kaleidoscopic image. Select the entire area (control-A or command-A) and copy it.

Increase your canvas size by 100%. Make it twice as tall and twice as wide. Be sure to put your existing area in one corner.

kaleid9.jpg (14509 bytes)


Paste the selection three times. This will make 3 additional layers

Complete your "pie" by rotating one segment 180 degrees, one 90 degrees clockwise and one 90 degrees counterclockwise.

Nudge the segments into perfect alignment and flatten the image again.kaleid7.jpg (113910 bytes)

Chances are the outside of your kaleidoscopic image is still a little rough. You can trim it to a perfect circle by using the elliptical selection tool. Here are two tips about that tool:

Make your ellipse a true circle by holding down the shift key while you drag the tool with your mouse.

Draw your circle from the center in the following manner. Place the cursor on the exact center and start dragging the tool. After you’ve started dragging depress the control key. The circle is now drawn outward. Be sure to release the mouse button before you release the control key.

If you’ve followed the instructions, you’ve now got a perfect circle that neatly encloses your kaleidoscopic image. Go to selection – inverse. Now you’ve selected everything except your circle. Hit backspace and you delete the surround, leaving only your background color.

kaleid8.jpg (72246 bytes)

Shortcuts – hitting control/command-D reverts your palette colors to their default black and white. Swapping them before you do the paragraph immediately above this one gives you a nice black background around your kaleidoscopic image!

Now print it out on your Fuji Pictrostat and wait for the oohs and ahhs!

A kaleidoscope is a tube which has mirrors – usually three – aligned at equal angles and facing in toward the center of the tube. You look in at one end and see a multiply reflected image of something at the other end.



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