Using several photos to create a pictorial quilt


Creating your own design for a pictorial quilt is a lot of fun. Now that I’ve learnt to use Photoshop, it’s going to be a lot easier, faster and unexpected things are going to happen (i.e. mistakes), after all, I’m a beginner.  Photoshop allows you to cut and paste parts of photos and lay one over the other to create all sorts of images and effects.  For our end of course assignment at the local college, we had to use our own photos to create a dystopian landscape.  I was actually excited about this as I was one of the older people in the class (in my 40s) and had probably travelled a lot more than the others and taken thousands of photos that can be used in photo mash ups.  It was an interesting feeling to have to destroy the landscape—usually I try to create utopian scenes.

I love science fiction so I decided to go with a fantasy theme that used Gothic style architecture against a harsh landscape. My tower is the top part of a building in Melbourne, Australia and the petrified trees/landscape are images from inside the Jenolan Caves in New South Wales.  The lighting in the caves provided the perfect reflections on the ‘trees’ of the lava below.  The skeleton was also from the Caves.  The red sky and flowing lava was a sunrise photo from my front door step and the other lava was a photo of the glass door on my wood heater.  The sunrise colours had not been altered in the computer.  To create the lava flow, that photo was laid over over other photos of the caves.  The little turret was part of a church in Terang, Victoria.  All up, ten photos were used.

Here are a couple of them to show that photos don’t have to be perfect specimens and that anything can be made into something else.



Skeletal remains of an animal


This looked like petrified trees on the side of a hill, so why not?


Glass door of my heater on a winter night


The skeletal remains were puppet warped into the new shape.  It’s a fancy way of warping the image, something like one of those funhouse mirrors that make you look tall and lanky.

What do I look for in any fabric or photo?  Texture that can be made into something else.  In Photoshop, you can lay a semi-transparent photo over another to create texture.  You can do the same sort of thing with a quilt. For example, you can lay dark organza over another fabric to create a shadow but still see the image underneath, or paint a highlight onto an object to portray sunlight hitting it.

You can take your photoshopping one step further and replace each part of the finished mash up with images of your fabric.  That way you know exactly how the fabrics will work in each section.  Cheating?  I don’t think so!

I’m not technically gifted in Photoshop yet but for a beginner I thought this was a pretty good effort and was very happy ecstatic when I heard it would pass the course.

So my advice when thinking about creating a pictorial quilt is to take photos of everything from water reflections to landscapes and the sky to architecture to build up your reference catalogue.  Make mash ups of photos any way you can, change up the colour scheme to suit and start quilting.

When I decided to make another dystopian landscape during the course, I used an image of the burnt, melted glass from a rear windscreen of car for a cold river of lava through a city. It was great.

What can you create with a couple of weird images?

Happy mashing and quilting,


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