Adobe Photoshop for Kids: Multiple Me!

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

As a digital artist who tends to spend too many hours in front of my computer screen, I always enjoy finding a project where I can invite my kids to take part in a digital art adventure! 
In this project, I wanted to craft a tutorial that would be fun and interesting for kids to actually produce. So my daughter and I set out for the local town square early one morning with a handful of props and camera gear, and ended up with a laughter-filled project that she got to create!
I've divided the instruction into two sections: parents and kids. The parents' portion will involve the actual photography and setup of the files in Photoshop. The kids' portion will be aimed at children ages 8 and above. That section will have simple instructions so the kids can follow the steps to create this fun Multiple Me effect!
Finding a good location is critical for this effect to work well. You need an open space with plenty of room for several poses. Yet the space needs to be visually interesting, safe for kids to climb around on, and completely empty of other people!  
My recommendation is to work in the early morning hours before the crowds set in. My daughter tends to wake up at dawn anyway, so she was thrilled at the idea of going out somewhere! We decided on the courtyard at the local shopping plaza. 

A good location is key

This part is crucial. Use a tripod for your camera! While it's possible to carefully hand-hold the shots, remember that the intent is for the kids to do the editing, and pictures that don't easily align will certainly make it tougher and more frustrating for them. I used a sturdy tripod and a remote shutter release to ensure there was no camera movement between shots.
Please Note: The security personnel at many public spaces tend to frown at the use of a tripod, so be courteous and explain to a security guard what you are doing first. Usually the fact that you are taking pictures of your child will reassure them you are not up to anything nefarious! 

Use a tripod to keep the images stable easy to align

Frame the composition and take at least one shot of the open area completely empty. This serves as a background and a type of "safety net" for solving potential compositing problems later on. 

Take a shot of the scene completely empty first

Have your child pose for several shots in various places and positions throughout the scene. Do not make any adjustments to your camera settings! Get creative and have fun with the photos. Use props and make poses that are big and show action. Try not to use the same expression or posture more than once. 
Encourage your child to suggest ideas, and take even the silliest of pictures! You don't have to use them all, and the kids will enjoy laughing at the fun ideas! I ended up with about 30 to 40 different poses to work with, and my daughter had a blast.

Use lots of fun poses and props

Note that the thumbnails above are zoomed in just to show the various poses—the actual photos are the same composition as the empty scene.
After the shoot, go out for ice cream to thank your child for being such a huge help! That's not essential to the project but is fun to do and they will love it! Then transfer the photos to your computer and sort through them. Put all the best shots into a different folder that also includes the empty scene shot.

Put the best shots into a seperate folder

Open Photoshop and go to File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack. Change theUse to Folder and Browse to the folder containing the images. Be sure to check the box for Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images and hit OK

Use the Load Files into Stack automated process

Photoshop will load the photos as layers into a single project file. It will also align them to ensure any accidental camera shake doesn't disrupt the project. Before turning the project over to your junior partner, make sure the empty scene layer is at the bottom of the layer stack, and the Layers panel is open and easily accessible.

Now it's time to call in the real artists in this project!
Hi there! Thanks for helping out with this project. I hope you had as much fun posing for all the photos as my daughter did! Now we are going to take those photos and put them all together to make it look like there lots and lots of you running around. Won't that be cool?
First of all take a look at the program open on the screen. That's called Photoshop. Somewhere on the screen is a box that has a whole list of tiny pictures. These are called Layers. Think of these layers as all those photos all stacked up, like if we printed them all out and put all the papers in a stack. 
Right now the top picture is the one we can see. Click on the top one to make sure it is the one that is active. You can tell because it has a little white outline around the tiny picture.

Layers panel with active layer highlighted

Look at the left side for the little symbols of different tools. Click on the one that looks like a lasso made from rope with sharp corners. It's called the Polygonal Lasso Tool. Or just press the L key for "Lasso".

The Polygonal Lasso Tool

Use this tool to click points around the picture of yourself until you draw an outline completely around you. When you finish the shape it turns into a bunch of blinking dots called a Selection.

Create a selection around your picture

Now look at the bottom of the Layers panel for a little rectangle with a hole in it. Press this to create a Layer Mask

The Add New Layer Mask icon

Layer Masks work a lot like a mask you wear on your face. Only instead of hiding your face, this mask is hiding the rest of the picture by making it invisible! 
So the outline you created is now the only part of that layer you can see, and the rest of it is hidden behind an invisible mask! That means you can see another copy of you from the layer below it. Also, the first layer now has a little black and white box next to it to show that it has a mask.

Now we see two of you

Now we will do all that again on the next layer. So click on the layer below the first one, make the outline Selection and press the Layer Mask button. It's just like what we did before. Easy right? 

Repeat the process again

Keep going through each layer and making selections and masks to reveal more and more copies of you! 
Sometimes it can get confusing to know which copy of you is on a layer. To help figure it out, use the Move Tool (V)—that's the white arrow at the top left of the tools bar. This tool will move the whole layer around and make it easy to know which copy of you to outline. Just be sure to press Control-Z or Edit > Undo to move the layer back before making the outline!

The Move Tool

Sometimes copies of yourself will be overlapping other copies. Oh No! The best thing to do is to choose which one is best and hide the other one by pressing on the little eyeball next to that layer. That means the layer can't be seen.

Hide layers that overlap Keep the best one

Keep going through each layer to create Selections and Masks for every copy of you until the scene is full of lots of you! The last layer at the bottom will be a background and won't need any selection or mask.

OK, for this next part both of you will need to work together! Parents, please make sure the young artist is happy with these steps, because you don't want to ruin all their hard work!
Go through and check the layers and masks, paying particular attention to the edges of the masks. If there are areas that could use a bit of touch-up, use the Brush Tool (B) on the mask. Remember white paint reveals and black paint conceals. Show your budding artist how this works and let them try using the brush too!

Add a Curves adjustment layer at the top of the layer stack and make any necessary adjustments to the overall lighting of the scene. My scene was in bright sunshine, so I chose to reduce the heavy contrast a bit by using a slight inverted S-shape for the curve.

Adjust lighting issues with Curves

Increase the color in the scene with a Vibrance adjustment layer. Set the vibrance level to a point where you are both happy with the way the color looks. We used a setting of +53.

Adjust colors with Vibrance

Create a merged layer at the top by holding down Alt and going to Layer > Merge Visible. Then go to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.

Create a merged layer for a Smart Object

Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. In the Basic tab make any additional color and lighting adjustments. My daughter and I decided to increase the shadow settings to help lighten up the darker areas, and we both liked the way the Clarity slider made the image look, so we increased that too.

Make light and color adjustments in Camera Raw

Then move over to the Effects tab and reduce the Amount slider in the Post Crop Vignetting section. This darkens the corners for a fun photographic effect.

Great work to both of you!

Great work Enjoy the finished piece

This is a fun project that gets even more fun and creative the more you do it. We had so much fun with it, we wanted to try it a second time! Here's the result from our day at the playground. We want to see your Multiple Me projects in the comments below!

Do you want some other digital art projects you can do with your kids? Are you inspired to tackle more photo manipulation projects? Want to try your hand at some custom Photoshop brushes? Check out my profile here at Tuts+ for my other tutorials, quick tips, and courses.


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