Make Your Worship Song Slides More Appealing

The First NoelIf you are a visual/tech person for an a cappella church, you may be interested in this post. Otherwise, this is a fun exercise in graphic editing.

Many churches are using worship song slides that include music notation. Quite often, there is somewhat of a debate between the people who like the notes and people who want pictures and words. Some need the intellectual stimulus of singing parts from a prepared arrangement while other prefer the visual stimulation of nature, colors, backgrounds, etc. It’s very hard to find common ground. This is a tutorial on how to create song slides that appeal to both tastes.

This will not be an all-inclusive tutorial. I will proceed on the basis that you are aware of some fundamental aspects of editing graphics, and I will be using Photoshop CC 2014 as my graphical interface.

To begin, you’ll need a song. Some churches create their own notation. If so, more power to you. That’s not what I’m covering in this tutorial. If you don’t have the ability to create notation from scratch, take a look at Paperless Hymnal or A View of Worship. Both offer excellent arrangements in pre-formatted slides. For this illustration, I will be using Paperless Hymnal’s version of In Christ Alone.

Once you’ve chosen your song, you’ll need to choose the image you wish to use. This is important as you’ll need something that is 1) appealing to a wide range of people, 2) works for topic of the song, and 3) leaves room for your notation to appear in the top third of the screen. Your image does not need to actually stop 2/3rds of the way up, as this process renders the white background of the notation transparent. Your notation will overlay whatever image you’ve chosen… but your image needs to not be overly busy, or the notation will get “lost in the mix” so to speak.

It helps tremendously if your image and notation begin as the same size from the outset. In my case, our screen has a 4:3 ratio, so I will resize both the notation slide and the image as 800 x 600. This will make copying and pasting very easy. Here is a screen shot of the song slide and the image I will be using side by side.


Some people go the easy route and simply paste an image shot on top of the slide page, then pull down the opacity to about 30%. By doing so, you get something similar to the shot below. This is not what I’m looking for, but it does give you a clue where I’m heading.



As mentioned above, prepare both your image and your song slide for use by making them the same dimension. Now, edit your image slide so that it is useable for this purpose (I’ll leave that up to your taste).


Go to your song slide and choose the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M). Then, select the top line of your music by dragging from the top left corner to the bottom right corner of the staff. Begin and end your selection in the dark gray section outside the picture. That way, you will select the entire image length. once you have made the selection, copy it (cntl-c/cmd-c).



Switch over to the image you will be using and paste the staff into it. It should land dead center with a white background. Obviously, this will not work. We need to get rid of that white.



Make sure that the layer you just pasted is highlighted (check in your layers panel to the right). Now, from the main menu choose Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options.


Once that panel is open, go down to the lower section that starts with “Blend it:” and probably has “Gray” available in the drop down box.


Now, while holding the ALT key (OPTION on Mac), slide the “This Layer:” ruler to the left down to about 30. As you can see in the background, the white has already left the staff leaving the image showing through the staff.



Now that you have removed the white background, we need to do something that will make the notation appear stronger. Make sure you still have the notation layer active and then choose Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlights from the main menu.

Now great the Highlights slider and move it all the way to the right, to 100%. Boom. Your notation is now bold and black.



Now that your notation layer is ready to go, simply drag it up to where you’d like it be on the screen. It should already be centered, since you had previously resized both images to the same width. Now that it’s in place, create another layer with a song title at the top. With that, slide #1 is complete.



Finishing the song is simply a matter of repeating steps and adjusting placement. Go back to your original slide of notation and select and copy the bottom staff. Follow the steps until you have both layers of notation visible on the new image slide.

Now, drag your new layer of notation on top of the old layer of notation. Since the backgrounds are transparent and they are pre-sized the same, the staffs should line up perfectly. I generally use the treble clef as a reference. Once they are lined up, turn off the first layer of notation – leaving the 2nd showing – and slide #2 is complete. Repeat until finished with all slides.

If your original set of notation images is 15 pages, you’ll end up with 30 pages of notation/picture slides. That’s one of the drawbacks… your slide/visual tech will have to stay on his toes since the slides will now go much faster. Also, keep in mind that the same process described above can be used with the copyright info found at the bottom of the original slide. Just copy, paste and use the filters above. No need to retype everything.


And finally, if you want to avoid all the work and just get slides prepared in this manner already, look no further than Keith Lancaster’s Praise & Harmony series. He offers hundreds of songs in powerpoint format with this look. You can find them here.

I hope this helps. Let me know in the comments below how it turned out for you.

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