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1. With several photos composited, what is the best way to get a smooth transition between the edges of them so that they blend in smoothly?
2. What is the best way, with either one photo or a few together, to achieve a gradiated level of transparency from left to right so that the composite (or even 1 photo) can blend into the background color on the right side and still have a gradient effect in the transparency?
3. How should the left side interact with the background color - what type of edge or blending effect?
This is using Photoshop 5.0 (I also have PSP6).
To blend several photos together, I generally use the eraser, with softness set to 100%, and drag it gently along the edges of the topmost photo... not the most high-tech method (perhaps someone will suggest sonething better?), but it works for me.
For gradient transparencies, I believe you'd want to use a black (opaque) to white (transparent) gradient mask in the Alpha channel for the photo layer in question... and some more wizardry and magic after that. (help me out here... I've only done this rarely, and step by step instructions would take me forever to cobble together! ;) )
Not sure what you mean by the last question....?
Another method I use is to delete all the pixels from the section of the bottom layer that will be hidden by the top layer, except for the border -- the very edge. Then, often, all I need to do is change the blending mode of the top layer. With the underlying image gone, blending mode changes only create shifts in the visible edges, and this sometimes gives a very quick and artful composite.
There is a really nice PhotoShop tutorial online at Nebulus.org [nebulus.org]. It offers a lot of in depth knowledge from a very experienced designer, even though the title sounds like it only covers the basics.
Adobe's site has a whole section of tutorials [adobe.com] on masking and transparency that you can access with a legit Photoshop serial number. Although their 'expertcenter' info is geared for PS 6 (ahh, the forced march to upgrade-land), the masking and transparency info should work down to v.4 (when they intro'd layers).