Layering, Masking & Blending; The Conspicuous Strawberry

Welcome to the Tutorial for The Conspicuous Strawberry. 

The evolution of, what I like to call, Mobile Device Imagery is an exciting phase and it is my pleasure to share whatever I learn along my personal journey. I’ve found the MDI community to be genuine and amazingly creative people who are obsessed with creating great work. Hopefully MDI will eventually become a viable and widely enjoyed art form.

First, I would like to share my basic raw images. These are the fabrics that will merge to create the final image. This gives a clear example as to how we can draw useful images from anywhere. These photos are all shot with the iPhone 4 with either the native camera or the app- ClearCam. 

The Process

The following apps are used in this tutorial and I highly recommend that you have them:

Juxtaposer  indispensable for this type of work

Snapseed – powerful image editor

Iris Photo Suite – good range of effects and resize capabilities


Raw iPhone shots


Let’s begin-

1. Open Juxtaposer (this is where the lion’s share of the work will be done)- I usually begin with a large white square at least 2048X2048. This is the full size that Juxtaposer currently exports at. I then begin to build. Layer after layer, by adding my raw images and piecing them together by erasing the parts I don’t want and blending the remainder together. This takes a little practice.

*HINT- use either the white or grey soft tool when doing this, at about half diameter and be as precise as possible. The image will benefit.

In this image I blend the ripped fabric with the outdoor moulding of a building.



2. I add the photo where I use the wooden floor portion. I have my erase tool set for soft-white, I erase the large portion of the wall and moulding. Then I use the soft-grey to be more precise between the bottom of the moulding and my remaining floor.

3. The eye in this image will play a significant role and my lighting is not ideal for getting the most remarkable clarity, color and contrast; therefore, I go into Snapseed and go to ‘Selective Adjust’ and place the small blue ball over the eye, adjust the size of the edit and bring the brightness to +100. I do this twice to bring out the information in the eye.

4. I now add this to my previous image in Juxtaposer. I want some detail in the tears in the wallpaper so I set my tool for UNerase with a tiny diameter and I reintroduce portions of the wallpaper as threads. I then add the ripped paper to the bottom of the opening to add to the torn effect. Once again, take the time to be as clean and precise as possible- it is crucial.

5. Now let’s get this headless dude involved! I shot this in my living room using regular ambient lighting with the addition of a large industrial floodlight and ClearCam. I have to get rid of that pesky head, so I blend in an image of the shirt, tie and jacket on a chair. It is important that the collar is round to give volume and enhance the headless illusion. 

 6. Once that is done I want some volume inside the shirt so I add the interior. The earlybirdninja is now ready to join the party. Cut out the figure and save it as a Stamp.  


7.  Start new session, open background and add stamp of the figure and Strawberry. All done in Juxtaposer.

*HINT- always save your cutouts as Stamps in Juxtaposer. You never know when you want to change something and the last thing you want to do is waste your time doubling efforts.   



8. The area around the eye should be as smooth as possible to allow the detail in the eye to pop. I go back to Snapseed and make a blur mask of the image. I used the Tilt-Shift tool and set the blur strength to +100. Then back into Juxtaposer where I use only the portion to go around the eye. I use the soft-grey tool and work the blur in slowly and try for a natural blend. 



9. Now the drama unfolds- I use the following technique extensively: In Snapseed go to ‘Tune Image’ and set the brightness at minus(-) 100. Save image. We are now masters of shadow. In Juxtaposer place the dark image over the base image. Tap with two fingers while the ‘Move Top Image’ is activated. The dark image is automatically placed perfectly in sync over the base image. Tap the red square and erase the entire dark image. Next, tap the first set of squares in the upper tool column and you should only see the base image. Tap the UNerase tool and set it for soft-grey and draw where the shadows will go.  



10. The fine tuning begins- In an effort to expand the dynamic field beyond the limitations of the iPhone camera, I create exaggerated versions of the image and then blend them as needed within Juxtaposer. Here I created a Sharpened version and a Drama version in Snapseed. In Juxtaposer I selectively add drama and sharpening where I like using the technique outlined above. This is my Salt and Pepper to taste. 

I add sharpening to the eye, tie, strawberry and bottom portion of the floor.

I add drama to parts of the wall and the creases in the suit.




11. Final touches- The torn wallpaper needs to look a little rougher so I go to Iris and create a grunge version and blend in some of the gritty paper effects. I then bring in the string that will appear to be wrapped around the strawberry. I create another darkened version to add the string shadows. 

I usually go back and forth changing small details until I am satisfied. The image is now complete and ready for visual consumption.


-Save important changes along the way

-Think outside the box

-Be patient and thoughtful in your editing

-Create your own techniques 

-Only use images that are yours 


The Final result: The Conspicuous Strawberry



See more of Earlybirdninja’s (Markus Rivera) work here:


One Comment;

  1. Gareth said:

    Thanks for the walkthrough of your processes to building some great surrealist (iSurrealism?) work. I must get into Juxtaposer and similar apps, i have many (i am an appaholic).
    It would seem another tip is to create a ‘one scene story’, as it seems it can be more captivating than random imagery (which can also work well).



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