Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Q&A: Using Photoshop Brushes To Make Believable Composites

The foliage isn't the only thing colorful at this time of the year in the northeast.  Sometimes graffiti artists can come up with some pretty colorful artwork.  Our town (Bethel, CT) is a fairly sleepy little burg and typically is kept clean, with no "tagging" of the buildings.  But, there is one little section , over by the new train station (about fifty yards to the south) where "artistic expression" is alive and kicking.  Take a look at the enlarged view (click on the image to see it "full size").  To the right of the image someone just got stupid and randomly sprayed paint haphazardly.  To the left of the two walkers there is some real talent.  You may have guessed (today's title should have been a hint) that the two guys walking in the grass weren't really there.  The "trick" to today's image comes from a question I was asked over the weekend.  We were having lunch after Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photowalk and one of the photographers said they were having all sorts of problems making composites look convincing.  To find out what was done to the background and how the guys were added realistically, hit the "Read More"

There are only three Layers to today's image.  That a lot less than most of the images seen here on the Gallery.  Most images are more likely ten to fifteen Layers and occasionally go up to twenty, thirty or as high as fifty Layers.  When the Layer count gets that high there's usually a bunch of Smart Object containers involved.  Three Layers is a piece of cake, especially when two are the same image.  The brightening of the background colors was all done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 (LR4) before the images were ever brought over to Adobe Photoshop CS6 (CS6).  The Background Layer was untouched and the other two Layers had Layer Masks.

The image of the guys walking has a Layer Mask made from a Selection.  I get asked the question about why use a Layer Mask rather than using the Eraser Tool (E) a lot.  The answer is very simple.  Once you erase pixels they are gone.  Never to be seen again.  Using a Layer Mask, if a mistake is made, the pixels are still there.  If the part that's wanted is black, use a white Brush (B) to bring them back and vice versa.  Being "nondestructive" at this point is crucial.  You can bounce back and forth using a Layer Mask. 
The sequence of the Layers is important.  Looking in the Layers Panel, the first Layer (the lowest in the Panel) is the Background Layer.  The next is the guys and the top Layer is a copy of the Background Layer.  A black filled Layer Mask is added (ALT - add new Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Panel).  Now, here's the trick.  Rather than using a round soft Brush (B), there's a large selection of brushes  in the dropdown where the Brush size is shown.  One of the choices is a brush the looks like a few blades of grass.  The Brush shape controls can be accessed by clicking on what looks like a folder in the Brush Options Bar.  Click on the word Scattering and spread the frequency (Scatter) of the brush out.  On the black Layer Mask, paint with white using the grass Brush.  Alter the size of the Brush as needed.  This will give space between the blades of grass, making a better looking cover for the shoes.  The shoes won't be totally blocked.  Adds a more convincing set of grasses in front of the walkers shoes and lower legs.