Layers Tennis Match 1

Yesterday, my students and I played a round of “layers” tennis. Originally conceived as “photoshop” tennis, the name was changed to acknowledge that software used to play the game extends beyond Adobe Photoshop, and also I’m sure to keep Adobe, Inc. content by not using one of its trademarked product names. I first heard about the concept from Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners when I heard him speaking about creativity, and he mentioned Layer Tennis being played by professional designers. I’ve always kept the idea around in the back of my mind, and yesterday was the day to bring it out.

My students are doing a digital storytelling course DS106, which incidentally is open to anyone who wants to join. I submitted the Layers Tennis assignment to the DS106 Assignment Bank, and we decided to play a match.

Since there are only three students in the Salina class, I decided to play so we could have two matches going on. Like a game of tennis, one player serves a photograph or image to the other player. Then, the receiving player modifies the image using graphics software like Photoshop, keeping some element(s) from the original. Then the new image is sent back to the first player for further modification. We used Twitter to send the images back and forth, so others could see the game too. In our version of the game, each player made three images each, for a total of six images in the game. Below you can see how our two matches progressed:

The first was myself (@billgx) vs @DangerRanger11b

I served this image I found on Flicker Creative Commons:

DangerRanger11b replied with:

For round two I sent back:

and received back this shot:

At which point, I nearly lost it. I don’t know how to compete with that, I thought. So I gave him a thumbs down.

Undaunted, he put my image on a TV screen with a family enjoying some popcorn:

At which point I became desperate. I didn’t know how to respond. Then I thought about what it might look like if they were looking out the window of a Star Wars ship or something. Then I remembered the asteroid field from the Millennium Falcon. Then I thought the chicken heads would make good asteroids. Then I thought they should be animated. Shoot, I can’t remember how to do animations in Photoshop. But I’ve been doing some After Effects, maybe I can do it in that. Yes, I can make a movie in AE, then import it back into PS to make an animated gif. And this is the result…


It was the end of a hard fought battle against a worthy opponent. Go to the next post to see the other match.

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