Catch the Wave: Alter a Palette for Fun!

Choose Pointillize cell size.

In my last post, I introduced you to the idea of easily expanding the color range of a basic color palette by using the Mosaic filter in Photoshop. Now, starting with that expanded palette, we’ll take it to another level to create The Confetti Wave Palette! And when we’re done, I’ll show you some of my favorite ways to use this super-fun new version.

Let’s start with a new palette, with a sneak preview:

From palette to party!
If your simple palette needs a little dressing up, transform it into this party-worthy version, complete with confetti!

Note: As with all my graphics tutorials, I’m using Adobe Photoshop CC 2014. Many paint programs, including Photoshop Elements, have all the tools needed for this project. I used Layers, Blend Modes, filters Pointillize and Wave, and the Layer Mask and Gradient tools (optional).

While each step in this tutorial is simple, there are quite a few steps, so let’s get right to it.

Step 1: Expand your palette with the Mosaic filter (as in my last tutorial):

Duplicate palette layer.
Duplicate your palette layer. (This is optional, but I’m in the habit of always working on a duplicate of the original image; if you make a change you don’t like, you can easily start over by making a new duplicate of the original.)
Go to Filter, Pixelate, Mosaic
Go to Filter, Pixelate, Mosaic…
Choose mosaic cell size.
… and choose your cell size, then click OK. I like 200 (the maximum cell size) for my palettes, but it’s worth experimenting to see the different effects you can get with other sizes.

Step 2. Make your stripes wave!

Go to Filter, Distort, Wave...
Go to Filter, Distort, Wave…
Choose wave parameters.
… and choose your waviness factors and click OK. Being able to preview the effects is so helpful. Be sure to try the different Types (in circle) too!
My Wave settings.
Here’s a close-up view of the Wave dialog box, so you can see the settings I chose.

Now that your palette is waving hello, you can just stop right here. But if you really want to add that party atmosphere, add some confetti!

Step 3: Pointillize (a.k.a. confetti-ize)!

Duplicate wavy palette layer.
First, Duplicate your wavy palette layer. 
Go to Filter, Pixelate, Pointillize...
Go to Filter, Pixelate, Pointillize...
Choose Pointillize cell size.
…choose your cell size and click OK. I’m using 50, but do play around with this setting.
Results of Pointillize filter.
After applying Pointillize with a cell size of 50.

Step 4: Soften the edges of the confetti.

Add layer mask to confetti layer
With your confetti layer selected, click the Add Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers window.
After adding mask to confetti layer.
Your confetti layer should now look like this, with the mask added.
Apply Gradient to mask layer.
With the top layer (with the mask) selected, choose the Gradient tool (in circle), then click and drag from above your image down to somewhere around the point of the arrow.
Choose gradient.
Here’s the gradient I used; when using the Gradient tool on a mask, I generally use the black-to-white gradient. Feel free to experiment with others, though!
After applying gradient to mask.
The result of adding the gradient to the mask. In the circle, you can just make out the black/white gradient at the top of the white mask.
Apply the layer mask.
When you’re happy with the effect of your gradient mask, go to Layer, Layer Mask, Apply to save the mask.

Now, repeat the Step 4 process, but make the gradient from the bottom up this time.

Repeat gradient mask on bottom of image.
Repeat the add mask/gradient/apply process, but this time, start the gradient below the bottom of your image, and drag upwards.

Step 5: Blend the confetti layer with the wavy layer beneath.

Choose a Blend mode.
With your top layer selected, from the Layer window, choose a Blend mode. I like Screen for this one, I think; notice how the colors soften up considerably? It’s definitely worth taking some time to try each one on this list— you’ll be amazed by all the different effects you can get from this one palette!
Multiply Blend mode
Switching to the Multiply Blend mode creates a completely different effect.

Tip: If you’re liking the colors you’re getting with a particular Blend mode, but the overall effect is too harsh, try adjusting the Opacity of either (or both) of the wavy-palette layers.

Hard Light Blend mode.
I think I’ll go with the Hard Light Blend mode.
Close-up of finished Confetti Palette.
A closer view of my Confetti Palette, using the Hard Light Blend mode for the top 2 layers. In the top layer (in circle), you can see the effect of the gradient masks on the layer; they’re now allowing the layer underneath to show through.

Once you’ve settled on a Blend mode, you’re done! Isn’t that fun?

Bonus round: Now to see what we can do with our palette-in-a-party-mood: I’m going to start by enlarging it a little, to position the wavy stripes closer to one side.

Enlarging the palette.
Enlarging the palette: With the top 2 layers (both the wavy ones) selected, using the Move tool (top of the tool bar), click and drag until your palette is the size you want. The bounding box shows how much I’ve enlarged mine.

Notice how this change alters where the gradient is at the top?

Centering the gradients.
To maintain the gradient effect at top and bottom, move your palette (with both layers still selected) so that the bounding box is centered. Here, you can still see the gradient at top and bottom, but some of that part is getting cut off.
Crop the image.
When your palette is the size you want, with the top 2 layers still selected, choose Select All, then go to Image, Crop to remove all the excess (outside the actual image).

Finished! Now to do something fun with our party-in-a-palette!

Title with confetti palette background
These quirky typefaces work perfectly with both the colors and the style of my Confetti Palette background! (To make the horizontal wavy line, I just used the pencil tool, gave it a 30-pt. Stroke, then applied the Filter, Distort, Wave filter again.)
Blend modes for text layers
Here you can see the details of my title image, including the Layer Effects added to the Text layers. The Blend modes I used were Color Burn for both Text layers, and Multiply for the horizontal wavy line. Notice how this makes the colors of these layers blend with the colors beneath them, particularly on the word WAVE.

Tip: If you find that the background is competing a little too much with the text or whatever you put on top of the background, try changing the opacity of the background, or experiment again with the Blend modes of the palette layers.

How can you use your Confetti Palettes?

  • Title screens for YouTube videos;
  • Backgrounds for photo book covers; party invitations, etc.
  • If you keep your resolution at 150 ppi or better, you can print your palettes and cut them in strips to make bookmarks
  • Incorporate them into scrapbooking projects and découpage;
  • Make your own party invitations and greeting cards.
  • This type of design is also well suited to custom fabric designs— this confetti design would work particularly well for children’s clothing and art quilting designs.

I’m anxious to see what you’ll do with your own Confetti Palettes, so post your comments and links here!

How am I putting this tutorial to use? Ever since I came up with this party-palette tweak, I’ve been applying it to a lot of the palettes in my catalog on Shutterstock; you can look at all I’ve uploaded so far right here.


Want to see sewing stuff from Colormusing? Check out myBratelier (lingerie sewing, including bras!), and Changing Your Clothes, which covers everything from repairs & alterations to dyeing and remaking thrift-shop finds. And don’t miss all my newest projects, including sew-alongs, at the brand-new SewColormusing blog!

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