digital collage pet portrait by Little Shiva

I have this little side hustle where I make custom collages of people’s pets. If we KISS (Keep It Super Simple), I can offer the super sweet price of $25 (or 25€), a bargain for custom art!

You might think I need great original photos to do this, but no! Most people aren’t professional photographers, so the raw material they have to offer usually needs work. Keep reading and I’ll walk you through the process of how I created portraits for Blue Angel Kitty and Lucy.

Brenda Lee Gambill commissioned a portrait of her beloved cat, Blue Angel Kitty, and sent me the following photos.

raw photos for digital collage by Little Shiva
The pic on the left wasn’t the greatest for showing the cat’s face, nor was the very dark pic on the right. That left the middle photo, which was super small (lo-res) and also heavily orange-tinted. It would need work.

I asked if there was any special toy the cat likes to play with, and Brenda mentioned twist-ties and those plastic rings at the top of soy milk packaging. I couldn’t find a pic of one of those exact rings, but found a similar photo that would do the trick.


raw photos for digital collage by Little Shiva

The name of the game here is being able to work fast, so I left it at that and got started. First I enlarged the full-frontal pic of the cat, sharpened it a bit and did color correction. The pic was orange, the actual cat is grey, and the cat’s name is Blue Angel Kitty, so I figured that going for blue would work: this is art, after all, not reality!

Since the ears were cut off in the original photo, I was going to have to make a composition that somehow worked with that and made it seem intentional. A crown came to mind because cats are royalty, of course.

I wanted to include that pop of vivid yellow from the flowers in one of the original pics, which was just a matter of cutting out from the background and arranging. Twist-ties became spectacles and crown holder, color-altered plastic rings became the crown, and a few extra elements were added to give the crown a lush, ornate feel.

I felt that the sleek dog sculpture from the original very dark photo was interesting, and wanted to use it somehow. After cutting it out and moving it around for a bit in the composition, it seemed to fit nicely in the lower right, with the dog worshiping from below, as it should be.

Next up: Lucy!

This portrait of Jörg Albers‘ dog Lucy involved two raw photos, one stock image from pngtree (the grass), some flat graphics and a little app magic. 

The first step was to block out a composition. A detail from a photo Jörg sent me of Lucy on a beach in Komiza would be the backdrop, and a photo I took of Lucy in a bar would work for the foreground, with extra elements to make it all pop.

Next step: cut the Lucy close-up out from her background and retouch her milky left eye for the sake of glamour. She’s a star, after all! Then blow up the beach pic, arrange Lucy on top of it, and figure out what else is needed.

Bright green grass hides the missing bits of Lucy from the original photo. A flat yellow sunburst and a red star add color and graphic punch, and an imaginary sky complete the piece. It’s a good one, don’t you think?

For app magic I start with PhotoRoom, but that’s just one of many apps I use. Finishing is done in Photoshop, and final art consists of a hi-res file for printing (usually just postcard or greeting card size since originals are often not the greatest quality) plus a lo-res file to use online.

Would you like to commission a custom collage portrait of your sweetie? Get in touch: I’d be happy to make something special for you!


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