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Creating a Mac-Type Background in Photoshop

This tutorial is about making a “mac” style background. You can use these in all sorts of situations, including the obvious –your desktop– as well as part of your designs or for corporate work (Powerpoint presentations, Flash work, etc). Naturally, you wouldn’t want to use this exact set of steps, but following them will give you a good idea of the technique. Good luck!

Step 1:

We begin with a blank canvas and then draw a subtle gradient across it. (I’m using a 1280×1024 canvas here.)
Don’t be fooled by the black border, incidentally, that’s just Photoshop. So anyhow, I’ve chosen two orange colors that are similar to each other to make a very subtle gradient indeed.

Step 2:

Now take your Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) and draw in a rough triangular selection as shown.
Then take a really fat soft brush (size 300 or so) and draw some faded-in white with the edge of it, again as shown. Be careful not to make it too strong.

Step 3:

Set your white from step 2 to Overlay.
Now again, take your Polygonal Lasso Tool and do a similar triangle but back and against it (like shown). This time add some black. I actually used a gradient fill here using black and nothing. You can get this type of gradient by selecting your gradient tool then dropping down and choosing the second one along:

Step 4:

Set your black layer to Overlay at 34%.
Now use the Pen Tool and draw a nice-looking curve. The secret to nice curves with the Pen Tool is dragging the handle a long way.
Join the path back up so it is one continuous blob, then right click and select Make Selection

Step 5:

You should now have a selection of a nice curve (as shown). Once again use the Gradient Tool, this time with white fading to nothing and add some white.
Set this layer to Overlay and you should have something similar to what is shown.

Step 6:

And again grab the Pen Tool and this time make a new even more interesting shape. You can see the shape I created on the left…
Close the shape back in on itself so it is one continuous path and again right click and choose Make Selection.

Step 7:

Now with your selection, grab that fat soft brush again (size 300) and add some black just at the top on one side (as shown).
Don’t let go of your selection as you’ll need it for the next few steps.

Step 8:

Now choose a selection tool (doesn’t matter which one) and hit the Down arrow key 10 times. You need to have a selection tool on to move your selection around or Photoshop will try to move some of your artwork (since you are on a new layer, it will give you an error). So make sure you’ve chosen a Polygonal Lasso Tool or one of the others.
Now press Ctrl+Shift+I to inverse your selection. Then with your soft brush (size 300) paint some black down the bottom as shown. When you’re done set the layer to Overlay and fade it back to 60%.

Step 9:

Now press Ctrl+Shift+I to inverse your selection again (back to the original) and this time paint some nice white as shown. Note that because we moved our selection down back in Step 8, this won’t quite align with the black.

Step 10:

Now grab your Gradient Tool, choose white to nothing and set it to Radial Gradient. Then add a white light at the top left as shown. Set this layer to Overlay.

Step 11:

Now at the moment, the colors aren’t looking quite right. If I were really energetic, I’d go back to the beginning and start again with a different set of oranges. But instead we’re going to do a quick adjustment.
On the new layer, add a fill of a good orange similar to the one shown. Set the blending mode to Color and set the Opacity to 55%. This should adjust nicely.

Step 12:

Now that’s looking a bit better.
Now once again, use the usual method of using the pen tool to draw a nice curved selection (as shown) and then right click and choose Make Selection.

Step 13:

Use the White – Nothing gradient and add a smooth white transition from left to right as shown. And set the layer to Overlay.

Step 14:

As you can see, we’re getting close. Now create one final curved selection down in the bottom left add a white gradient fading to nothing (our favorite tool as you can see) and switch to Overlay.

Step 15:

For the final touches, I added a tinge of black overlayed bottom right and a bit more white overlayed on the top left. But these are inconsequential changes.
You might want to go through and polish yours up a little too at this point because other than that you’re done!
You’ll find the Photoshop PSD file for this tutorial available up above on the right. Enjoy!