Lazy designer 15 second workshop

A quick-and-dirty way to widen photograph backgrounds in about 3 seconds using Photoshop or Fireworks. Cloning Stamp and Airbrush not required.

I’ve been using this little trick for years and figured every designer knew it. A recent chat with a colleague, who happens to be a Photoshop Guru, made me think this isn’t the case. Here’s the skinny. While I was preparing some spot illustrations for our Design Help Center section (in this case, for a McLogo article that I wrote a couple of years ago) I wanted to use the photograph above. Trouble is, the aspect ratio of the pic is square, I need horizontal, so I needed to widen the background about 25%. Using my tired and true method of ‘background stretching’ I was able to accomplish this in about 3 seconds. No big deal. Funny thing though, my Guru pal was visiting at the shop and he was watching me tinker away on my monitor. When I stretched the hamburger photograph, he looked at me incredulously.

You can’t do that.

Why not?

It’s not right.

Why isn’t it?

You have to use the Cloning Stamp.

No I don’t.

But it’s cheating.

It was as if I had broken some cardinal design rule, or offended the Fireworks Gods (I prefer Fireworks for prepping website images over Photoshop). At the risk of offending my Photoshop Guru pal even further, here’s how to stretch a photograph background in 3 seconds flat.

Select & copy

Step 1: Select a thin sliver of the background and copy.

Paste sliver

Step 2: Paste the sliver in place, to the stage, on top of the original photograph.

Stretch the sliver to width required

Step 3: Enlarge the sliver horizontally to the size required. Do not move it, or enlarge it vertically.

Drop sliver

Step 4: Drop enlarged (stretched) sliver onto photograph, making sure it’s positioned away from the subject of the photograph.

Color correct

Step 5: Color correct and serve. Total elapsed time? Just over 3 seconds (though the color correction took about another 6 seconds to fiddle with). Quick. Dirty. No Cloning Stamp required.

Here’s a bonus tip. If a ‘line break’ does become visible in the stretched area, simply feather the edge that’s starting to show up. If ‘motion’ lines start to show up, use a blur fitler to make them less noticeable (and make sure the stretched layer is on top of the original photo). That will add, oh, 2 seconds to the overall procedure.

Obviously, this won’t work with every photograph (and the sample we’ve used is particularly well suited) but you’d be surprised how many photographs you can get away with it (especially in the 72 DPI world of web design). Over the years, I figure I’ve saved weeks, if not months, of aggregate production time over messing around with Cloning Tools. It may be breaking some hoity-toity rules of Photoshop, but in this ‘get ‘er done’ world, it’s a nifty little trick to, well, get ‘er done.