Adobe Photoshop CC Certified Expert Leitrim Ireland

I’m pleased to announce that despite never having attached much weight or significance to qualifications, certifications, exams or courses, preferring instead to learn whatever I specifically needed to know and only when I needed to know it, I have now become officially certified by Adobe in their latest version of Photoshop, CC! The reasoning behind it was that after 12 years of using Photoshop, I thought maybe it was the right time to get some kind of recognition and have something more to show! Also, I hope to use the certification to get more Photoshop work and maybe start to offer some training courses or one to one mentoring so get in touch if that’s what you need.



I thought I’d sail the exam having used Photoshop for so many years now but the exam was pretty hard and required a fair bit of preparation including taking a few online refresher courses, watching a pile of videos and taking some mock exams online in the weeks leading up to the exam in Dublin’s Exam Centre.

I’m now one of only a very small handful of certified Photoshop experts in Ireland at the time of writing so an exclusive enough club!

Leon – “expert”!

Photoshop Tip: Photo Preparation for Editing & Composition

I’ve been using Photoshop for over 10 years now. Version 6/7 was one of the first pieces of software I got hold of when I bought my first PC back in 2002 and I’ve been using it almost on a  daily basis ever since. My favorite kind of stuff to do in Photoshop is Composition & Editing, where you bring several photographic or even graphical elements together in one job and make it look like they were always meant to be together.

Typically each of my photo composition jobs follows the same process – I come up with some weird idea then go online to find the source files. Normally I just look in Google images for the best quality, hi-res images I can find. This can be a pain for 2 reasons:

  1. All images used in a composition need to match in terms of angle, lighting, levels, etc.. in order to give the best, most realistic results. It can be pretty hard finding these kind of matching files at a high enough quality and I usually end up doing a hell of a lot more editing or  compromising on something, even my initial idea just to suit the material available,
  2. Once you hit “Search Tools – Usage Rights – Labelled for reuse” in Google images results, the number of suitable images you’re allowed use decreases even more dramatically. Also, for the amount of compositions I do, buying suitable stock imagery is too expensive an option.

So what’s the best thing to do?

Even though it adds a lot of time to a Photoshop project, you can wipe out the above 2 problems pretty quickly by creating your own imagery. All you really need is an idea, a decent camera, a tripod, some free time and maybe some decent weather if it’s an outdoor shot. Creating your own shots obviously isn’t possible if you want to be working on fantasy stuff involving dragons etc but I find that if you Photoshop everyday situations, the resulting subtlety can actually impress a bit more then OTT stuff.

For example:

I was hanging around the house and garden with the kids over the weekend and a couple of ideas came to me so I grabbed all I had (Smart Phone Camera) and took a few shots of the girls as they played. For each shot I took, I asked them to move out of the frame and took another shot immediately after while trying to remain as still as possible. What this does is give me 2 fairly identical shots in terms of lighting and angle etc..with the only difference in both photos being the presence of the subject I planned to Photoshop. You then simply bring both photos into Photoshop and cut the subject out and place it in the second shot with no subject. It should blend in straight away with little further editing but you can move it around, resize, rotate etc without it looking too out of place..

Ideally, you’d plan the shot a bit more in advance than I did here, maybe having your subject pose in some special way then use a proper hi quality camera mounted on a tripod but it was a lazy, Sunday afternoon when I done all this so wasn’t in the humor of digging all the stuff out! There was a little bit of posing in the “Fairy” shot below as I asked Hanne to jump off that play frame to try capture her mid air. I then just resized her smaller and added some wings and a shadow! In the other pic I just snapped Ellie doing her thing then just made her bigger!

Even though there’s not much planning and I used a phone camera, I think the realness of the results are impressive?

More of my Photoshop stuff is on Pinterest.



For Dummies Book Cover Photoshop PSD Template

I’ve been meaning to do a few customised “Dummies” book covers in Photoshop but you gotta start with a nice blank canvas so knocked an editable template up this morning based on a typical cover off their own website.

Download the Photoshop PSD below.

It’s 300 DPI and 2381 x 3000px.

PSD Template

Dummies PSD Template

For those without Photoshop, here’s a cool “For Dummies” generator!

Photoshop Human Shadow Study

Adding shadows to simple objects in Photoshop is no big deal but adding them to irregular objects like people with awkward stances can be a bit tricky. Here I outline simply how I normally do it.


A decent hi-res image of a person against a neutral, single colour background.


I bring my image of a girl into Photoshop and cut her out of her background using the Pen tool. I’ve just started using Vector Masks so when finished tracing her outline with the Pen, right-click inside the outline and select “Create Vector Mask”. Make sure you’re not working on a background layer for this. Creating the Vector Mask will automatically cut out the object and leave the rest of the image transparent which is what we need here. The benefit of using a Vector Mask is that you can go back and adjust the Path/Shape at a later stage. Handy sometimes.

Once the girl is cut out, I duplicate her layer and rasterize it to remove the vector mask then using the Transform – Skew or Distort tool, I drag the duplicated layer to the rough angle and shape that her shadow would be, paying particular attention to the light source in the photo. Once you’re happy with that, darken this layer totally using Hue/Saturation. You might find after Transforming that the feet don’t line up properly with the shadow so using Transform – Warp, drag things back into line.

Next, add a Layer Mask to the shadow layer and apply a Black to White gradient along the direction of the shadow with black at the feet and white at the head. Next, apply some Gaussian Blur (about 10 radius depending on photo resolution) to the shadow layer and make a rectangular selection over the top half of the shadow, Feather it about 100px and apply more Gaussian Blur, this time about 30px radius. These steps give the shadow a more non linear and realistic look, fading and softening the shadow the further from the subject it is.

Finally some tidying up around the feet in the original layer where they meet an invisible floor by painting in some under-shoe shadow on a new layer with a very soft Black Brush. Change the opacity on both this and the shadow layer to about 85% to soften a little.

And yes, it is more fun to work on images of sexy girls..

Final image:

Girl Shadow

Alien V’s Curiosity

Spotted an awesome ‘very’ hi-res image of the Curiosity Rover on Mars on Facebook last week, downloaded it and set it aside to do some Photoshop trickery on it. Here’s what I came up with, a movie poster effect with Aliens V’s Curiosity!


Mars Curiosity Rover


The afore mentioned hi-res image of Curiosity
Some decent hi-res images of Aliens sourced from Google


I first imported the 4 Alien pics and cut them out of their background using the Magic Wand tool. Next I dragged them to the main Curiosity pic and played around with locations that best suited their lighting, shape, size and angle. I then used the Free Transform tool to resize them. Next, I selected each Alien in turn and added both Hue & Saturation and Levels adjustment layers to their shapes and messed with colours and levels to blend them in with the surroundings a bit better.

I decided to add a fake sun top right of the pic to add a bit of lighting drama and that was achieved by drawing a white circle, blurring it, adding a glow effect then using Filter – Render – Lighting Effects on the main Curiosity layer to shine a spotlight down from the suns location.

With the light source firmly established, it was then time for some shadow. For any aliens that needed shadows, I duplicated the main alien layer, flipped the duplicate vertically, darkened & blurred it then used the Free Transform tool to mold the shadow to the required shape and angle depending on the light source. The middle, air born alien’s shadow cast over the rover was trickiest but it turned out ok’ish using a combination of simple Brush darkening, Displacement Maps and Layer Masking. I used Layer Masking again to make the middle alien appear to be behind the rover simply by erasing out his legs around the rover’s shape.

Next it was time for some touching up on the aliens, mostly using a soft Brush on an Overlay layer with lowered Opacity to add shadows and highlights with black & white colours. I used the alien layers masks to fade out their edges a bit where the sun hit them, especially the middle alien.

Finally I added a Photo Filter adjustment layer with a colour sampled from the Martian landscape on top of everything to bring all the composition together. Hope you like it.

Click the final image below to view a hi-res version and don’t forget to zoom right in!



Alien V's Curiosity

Drake’s Equation – We Are Not Alone!

Seen some pics of eggs on the net today, can’t remember how or why, followed closely by some story about star birth or some such thing. Decided to put the two together and come up with this you do.


I once read a book called “Is Anyone Out There” by Frank Drake and Dava Sobel which was all about SETI (the Search For Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and in it Frank Drake came up with an equation which estimates the possiblilities of there being other advanced civilisations in the universe. Here’s the equation:

N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L


N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

If you do the maths, it’s nearly impossible to believe we could be alone in the universe, there’s simply too many stars and systems like our own that could support life. For us to be the only one is unthinkable! Fascinating really..


Eggs photo from
Earth photo from


I first cut the earth out of it’s background and dragged it into the eggs photo then used the Transform – Warp tool to match the existing yolk shape in the broken egg. I then added  a layer mask to the earth and cut out the parts of it with the Pen tool that overlaid the egg shell to make it look like it fitted inside the shell properly. I needed to lower the transparency of the earth layer to see where I was going doing these.

Next on the earth layer I used Layer Blending Options on the ‘underlying layer’ to bring out the shine on the egg yoke and make it look like it was on the earth too. Adjusting the layer blending also helped with blending the colours and features of the earth onto the egg yolk underneath.

I then added a glow on the earth to mimic the light source on the other eggs via Selection – Fill with white – Gaussian Blur. A new ‘overlay’ shadow layer using the Brush tool was needed to add a little shadow around the top and left of the earth from the egg shell.

Some fine adjustments using the Blur tool on the earth edge and here’s the finished article:

Drake's Equation