playing with bits one byte at a time

A Look at Plaid Paper Maker Action

I promised this months ago and I’m finally getting around to posting this. Today we’re going to take a look at my Plaid Paper Maker Action. I’ll show you what it does along with some tips on getting the best results.

My first thoughts in writing this was how a designer, like myself, always needs some extra matching papers in their collections. I often use plaids for this, but there are only so many plaid templates out there (I’ve even created a few). Plus you don’t always know which colors will work together when translated into a plaid. Then there’s the issue of which colors to use for which stripe, how many colors, how much time you have to experiment, etc. If I use a paper from my collection, I definitely know things are going to match. Check this out — below is a paper from my Market Fresh Collection that I’ve run the Horizontal Plaid Maker from Paper action on.


Here’s what the same paper looks like when I run “Diagonal Plaid Maker from Paper.”


Not bad, right? I was so happy with myself, but then I started thinking about those of you who really aren’t in need of creating papers for a kit or even for a layout. As I’ve found out, many of you just want to have fun. So I ask myself “Could I make a plaid from just a photo?” … you know, one of those photos you’d normally throw away, but just can’t. Guess what? Now you have something you can do with that photo … make a plaid. Although you can start with any size image, you will end up with one that is the typical size of a digital scrapbook paper — 12” x 12” x 300 dpi.

For example … this grainy cell phone photo is of my grandson at Christmas. Although he was staring at the bag with Joy all over it, he wasn’t feeling very joyful about being stuck with everyone (translated all his non-cool relatives) for an entire day. But I just couldn’t bring myself to toss this (I can’t wait to show it to him when he has kids of his own).


This photo is 1600 x 1600 x 72dpi. I open it in Photoshop and run the “Horizontal Plaid Maker from Image” action and just accept all the defaults. Check out the plaid I got.


Yes, I know … you want to see it on the diagonal. Below is what you get using all the defaults.

I love how it picked out just the right colors in the photo, but this isn’t really magic and I’m going to explain how it’s down after showing you one more plaid using another paper from my Market Fresh Collection.


In all honesty, it isn’t bad, but it really doesn’t reflect the colors I wanted to capture in from this paper. To capture a sample from the paper or photo, I make a 1 pixel horizontal selection from the exact center of the image.


In the versions for PS CS-CC and PSE 11-13, I’ve added a stop so you can adjust where you really want to have the selection come from. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to make the action select the horizontal Single Row Marque Tool for you, but I do tell you to make sure that tool is selected. Once it’s selected, you can either click or use the up and down arrow keys to move your selection to the area your interested in. In this case, I just clicked in an area closer to the top of my paper.


This is the plaid that I got from the modified selection. I like this one MUCH better.


Something I need to tell you though, if you’ve already run the action once, you need to first delete the layer that was created from the first run.


WHAT??? Where did that layer come from??? Remember, I mentioned that I make a selection from the center of your image? Using the selection, I create a new layer and, so that I don’t ruin your original image by accident, I create a new document using that selection (see Duplicating Layers between Files tutorial). I then work my plaid magic in the new document. If you don’t delete your selection, you may end up with what you selected the first time OR a selection of nothing at all (selection made from Layer 1). I mention this because while testing this, I couldn’t figure out why my new selection wasn’t working … I just kept getting the same one or nothing at all. It was a real DUH moment when I figured it out, but it took a while. I tell you this, so you can avoid scratching your head like I did or emailing saying the action didn’t work.

Now, there are some differences between the PSE6-10 version and the PSE11-13 and PS CS-CC versions that I mentioned above. In the early PSE versions I have removed the added interactivity that you will find in the other versions such as changing your selection. But … most of the time, you could care less (at least I got to that point). The reason I did this is because I use stops to allow the user to make some adjustments. Early versions of PSE don’t like stops … in fact it will delete everything not saved up to the point of a stop and start all over again. I decided it wasn’t worth it. An action without stops was a much more efficient way for me to make an action for these earlier versions of PSE. But what if you want to move the selection? There is a work around.
Since the selection comes from the center of your image, figure out approximately where you want that selection to be and crop your image so that it ends up in the center of your image. Then I suggest you run the one of the “… from image” actions just to insure that you get a 12″ x 12″ x 300 dpi paper.


I’ve had a blast playing with this action and I hope you do too. Be sure to check out the rest of my Paper Maker Actions in my store at theStudio.



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