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Photoshop Variations Tool

Have you ever wondered how graphic artists produce such a high volume of graphics? Well, the secret is to create one design element and then change the color, size and other properties of the graphic to get several versions that you can use for many projects. Let's take for an example a graphic of a barn star, which is a popular design element in country style gifts and decor. So, you will probably use this star design element often. But you don't need to create a new star for each project. The secret is to create a basic barn star and change it as needed for each project. You will want to create this basic star in the largest size and resolution that you might need. This is assuming that you are not creating vector art. In that case, size really doesn't matter. This maximum size will vary depending on your type of design work. For my work, I create digital graphics for business printables, websites and digital scrapbooking products. Therefore, the largest star that I might ever need would be 5 inches x 5 inches at 300 dpi. This is a good size for digital scrapbook products and it can also be reduced for business cards and web graphics. The barn star will also need to have a somewhat neutral color such as medium gray so that it will be easy to change later.

Now that I have my barn star, what is my next step. One of several ways to alter the star is to change the color of the star to match the color scheme of your current project. Let's work on the barn star by changing it from the gray color to a rust color. PhotoshopR has several tools for this task. One easy-to-use tool is the Variations tool. This tool works on the contents of a single layer in the Layers palette. So, we will want to select the layer containing the star and then click Image - Adjustments Variations. This will open the Variations dialog box.

At the top of the dialog box, you will see two previews. The left preview is the original star and the right preview will display the updated star as we make color changes. Below this are the boxes that we will use to "mix our colors". In the center is another update preview. To the right are the boxes that let you lighten or darken the star. We will use a combination of these boxes to build our rust color.

You will want to experiment with different combinations until you get the results you need. If you don't like a combination of colors, just go back to the original star by clicking on the upper left box. For our rust colored barn star, we used the following combination.

2 More Red
1 More Green
2 Darker
1 More Red

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