Category 'Compositing'

Dr Seuss has a story about a stalky pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them that I found deliciously frightening as a kid despite the main dude and the pants hugging it out at the end. So it seemed “fitting” to celebrate Halloween with a technique to create your own clothes with nobody inside (or maybe the person’s just invisible – who knows – either way it’s creepy).  

How to photograph the clothes for an invisible person

Creating an invisible person is just a combination of masking and compositing, both of which I’ve covered in previous tutorials but here’s some tips for shooting your outfit that will make the Photoshop process easier.
  1. Stick your camera on a tripod and grab your remote. Even if you’re shooting someone else I still recommend a tripod and remote so you can help your model with their outfit as you’re shooting.
  1. Lock down the focus and exposure on your model.
  1. If you want to keep the background you’re shooting against remember to take a blank shot of the background. Skip this step if you plan on cutting your character out and placing them on a new background as I did. If you’re using a new background analyse this scene first so you know what angle you need to shoot your subject from and how they should be lit.
  1. Get your model to pose. For my photo this week I started with some static poses but then I began to spin around as I clicked the shutter which gave movement to the outfit and made the poses more dynamic. If you’re trying to make your outfit look as if it’s alive giving it some movement will certainly help sell your effect. Just be sure that your shutter speed allows you to adequately capture the movement and your aperture is narrow enough to still allow focus if your subject is moving around. Also use a wider frame to allow an area for your subject to move in. (I ended up having to move my camera farther back from my subject.)
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2604,2603"]  
  1. When you’re shooting make sure that the parts of your model’s body that you’ll be masking out are not covering any portion of their clothes. So if they have long hair, make them tie it up and ensure their hands aren’t over their sleeves, etc. If you want to pose the clothes in a way that requires you to shoot with body parts obscuring the outfit (like hands folded over the chest) make sure to shoot the outfit both with and without the body part across it (so photograph the chest without the folded arms and then with the folded arms) so that when you remove the body part in Photoshop you can still see through to the clothes below.
[caption id="attachment_2605" align="aligncenter" width="200"]My final pose with hands, hair and legs not covering the clothes. My final pose with hands, hair and legs not covering the clothes.[/caption]  
  1. For the most realistic effect you now need to photograph the holes of the clothes without the body parts in them. Take my neck hole for example, I could have masked out my head and left only the front part of the collar. But for realism I photographed the back part of the collar too because that’s what you’d actually see in a headless dress. So either have your model pull their hands inside their sleeves and photograph the empty hole positioned similarly to how it was in your main pose, or have them remove the outfit and hold the neck hole up so you can photograph the back.
[gallery link="file" size="medium" ids="2607,2606,2608"]  

How to edit the clothes for an invisible person

  1. Set up your Photoshop document so that the background is the bottom layer, the holes are your middle layers, and your main pose is the top layer.
  1. Add a white mask to the top 'pose' layer and carefully paint with a hard black brush to remove any areas of skin. Or you can use your preferred selection tool to select the area you don’t want and Edit>Fill that area of the mask with black. I personally used the pen tool to create a path, loaded that path as a selection, feathered it by one pixel and then filled the selection with black.
[caption id="attachment_2610" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Mask out the background and the body parts you don't want Mask out the background and the body parts you don't want[/caption]  
  1. Next you’ll want to work on your holes by masking out everything but the hole (I just add a white layer mask and roughly paint black to remove whatever I don’t need), then using the move tool (V) and the arrow keys, line up the hole with the main image. Use Ctrl/Cmd T if you need to make the holes smaller or larger to fit. Then you can carefully refine the mask on the hole’s layers until they look perfect.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2612,2611"]  
  1. Clip a curves adjustment layer to the holes layers and change the brightness and colour to match the main image if necessary. Though since you shot everything at the same time they should ideally match without extra work.
  1. If need be, go back to the mask on your main pose layer and use a soft brush to blend the garment so the front and back holes match up seamlessly.
  1. If you wanted a pose where the body parts obscured the outfit, once you have masked out the body parts you will have gaps in your image. Drag that blank shot you took of the outfit into your main document and place it above the background. Blend it in using steps 3-6 above.
  1. If you find that body parts obscured your clothes when you DIDN’T want them to, create a new layer and use the clone stamp tool to Alt/Opt click a sample from another part of the outfit and then paint it over the problem area.
  1. Post the image to social media and freak all your friends out!
 

About ‘The Dark Side of the Tomb’

I knew I wanted to create a headless Halloween image with a jack-o'-lantern head so I photographed a bunch of poses against a plain wall in my living room. I then went looking for spooky backgrounds in my image library and even spent an afternoon at Toowong Cemetery collecting various shots. In the end I chose an image I took at the Glasgow Necropolis. I don’t recommend shooting the pose before finding the background but sometimes that’s just how things pan out. Glasgow Necropolis   I was going to create a Halloween pumpkin in Photoshop myself using this wonderful tutorial but I downloaded an image of a jack-o’lantern from Adobe Stock as a placeholder and ended up liking it so much I decided to purchase it. The fire is from Graphic Stock, the skeleton parts were photographed using my neighbour’s skeleton, the spider is from a Butterfly Park in Penang, Malaysia and the moon and clouds are images of the sky I shot at one time or another. I used layer styles and motion blurs to add glows and swishes. [gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="2614,2616,2617,2615"]

Happy Halloween!

Seeing as Back to the Future day is now in our past and even I, a committed fan, am quite done hearing about it for the time being, I no longer want to dwell on why I made this tribute image. But I do want to talk about how I made it and what I learnt in the process. The easy solution would have been to Photoshop Michael J Fox out of the original image and replace him with myself but that'd be cheating! Instead I wanted to photograph myself and my Lego DeLorean and then recreate the scene using stock, which ended up being a fantastic exercise because I had to analyse every little piece of the image, figure out what stock I could use to replicate it and then draw on various Photoshop techniques for the effects. I wouldn't normally recommend copying someone else's image and releasing it to the world but this is an exercise I firmly believe every budding Photoshop artist should try to really hone those skillz. Back to the Future poster   I first had to figure out what I could wear to look like Marty. This ended up being a pair of my jeans, one of my dad's shirts, a red tunic with the sleeves and buttons removed in Photoshop (I had nothing else resembling a puffy red vest), a pair of 12 year old white sneakers that were literally crumbling whenever I walked, a denim jacket, a black Fitbit and my every day sunglasses (I didn't have mirrored ones). I used a stepladder to rest my foot on and I had a Speedlite set to full power facing up from about waist height to mimic the bright light from the car. I shot the image back to front and flipped it because I don't like the left side of my face. I also learnt that underlighting turns me into Seinfeld's girlfriend from 'The Strike' (the one who looked okay in certain light and bloody terrible in others) and all of these images will soon get deleted so I never have to see them again. To get the pose and camera angle right I had to keep running between the garage where I shot it and the living room where my computer was to reference the original image and it was hot in all those clothes and uncomfortable in those flaky shoes. Why I didn't just print out the image is a mystery for the ages. I shot the pose both with and without the tunic so I could easily remove the sleeves in Photoshop and still see the jacket below. Original pose   In Photoshop I smoothed the line of the jeans, replaced my watch hand (because I was holding the remote in it), replaced the shoe that got cut off, fixed the tunic and my messy hair, retouched my face and changed my eyes because they weren't open enough which explains why I look like I've had a botched facelift in the final image. Body fixes   I photographed the Lego DeLorean on my kitchen bench, trying to keep it in as much focus as possible, particularly in the area where I knew I would be standing. I had to shoot it down low to get the angle right and my mum shone a torch on the inside of the car where the bright light would be coming from. I then liquified the front of the car in Photoshop to make it look like its melting. Lego DeLorean   To create the scene I bought an image of a road from Adobe Stock because none of my pictures of roads had the right angle. Despite actually buying the image (I promise!) I somehow ended up with the low res preview version in the final image - oops! Road from Adobe Stock   I used my own photo of dark blue clouds for the sky and then overlaid a bunch of other cloud photos to get the billowing smoke effect. The pink and orange sky came from a sunrise photo I took in Edinburgh. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2580,2581"]   The light rays came from a band photo I took of the Presets, which was duplicated over and over and moved to match the ray positions. I used this image of a streetlight for the lights and a Graphic Stock image of a flare for the light itself which was added with the 'Lighten' blend mode. The mountain was shot out of a car window in Malaysia which I then blurred heaps so the trees weren't so detailed. [gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="2585,2584,2582,2583"]   The fire is made up of about 6 different stock images purchased from Graphic Stock and Adobe Stock that I also blurred a bunch. I added a noise layer over the background and the car to get the really grainy look of the original. Finally I added a yellow outer glow around my body, drew in the shadows and bright light, and then toned the colour and lighting using about 50 different adjustment layers. Fire from Adobe Stock   The funny thing is there's a lot wrong with the original image - why the weird blue spot over the car on the left? why is there a bright white square on the road bottom right? why is Marty brightest on his right side when the light is coming from the rays on the left and the fire below? why are the shadows on his face and arms really red? why did they make the DeLorean look like it was melting? why are the fire tracks a weird angle and shape? Anyway! It was not up to me to wonder why, but how. And hopefully my image is more of an 'homage' than an insult to the world's greatest film franchise. :)   [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="2575,2587"]

We’re all aware that celebrities and models are retouched to within an inch of their lives but until I started using Photoshop I didn’t realise just how easy it is to entirely change someone’s features. Good retouching though is an art and a science and one that I’ve not yet mastered, but since I shoot primarily self-portraits I’d be crazy if I didn’t at least know how to pretty myself up a bit. Everyone’s method for retouching is slightly different but here’s the workflow that currently works for me:

  • A quick note on compositing and retouching before we get started. My image this week had fairly bad lighting. My neck has weird shadows and there is an eyelash shadow under my right eye. I could have retouched these areas but I thought it would be easier to find other photos from the shoot where these shadows were less of an issue and mask them over the problem areas in the main image. You can also try mirroring features as covered in last week's tutorial.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2515,2516"]  
  1. Make a copy of your background (Ctrl/Cmd J). If your portrait is made up of different layers as mine was, group the layers (Ctrl/Cmd G), make a copy of the group (Ctrl/Cmd J) and merge the layers together (Ctrl/Cmd E).
  1. Load your healing brush tool which we will use to fix blemishes and wrinkles just as you would with concealer. Hopefully you’ve used either this or the clone stamp tool before and are familiar with how they work, but if not, you need to sample a smooth area of skin that is a similar colour to your problem area by holding down Alt/Opt and clicking the clean spot. Then you paint over your problem spot. If the brush accidentally clones things you don’t want, just undo (Ctrl/Cmd Z) and try again. Paint over all your problem spots this way, remembering to resample often. Use discretion when removing scars and moles because they are part of someone’s appearance. Rename the layer you’ve been working on to ‘healing’.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2526,2525"]  
  1. Now for frequency separation! Duplicate your healing layer twice. Rename the layer directly above it ‘colour’ and the one above that ‘texture’. Turn off the eyeball next to the texture layer and apply a blur to the colour layer using Filter>Blur>Surface Blur. Adjust the sliders just enough so that the detail starts to smooth out and lose clarity.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2528,2529"]  
  1. Turn the texture layer back on and highlight it. Go to Image>Apply Image and in the layer drop down box choose the ‘Colour' layer. Apply the settings from the image below. What this does is analyse the two layers and subtracts out what is different - which is the texture - so you're left with a layer containing ONLY the texture from your image. When finished with the dialogue box change the blend mode of this layer to ‘linear light’.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2532,2531"]  
  1. Now for the part I struggle with the most - applying foundation and contouring. Skin generally has blotchy colours so we need to even out the transition between these colours but also be mindful of the areas where the face has contour and enhance these. For example, in this image I want to soften the gradation of dark to light on my cheek, add more highlights to the ridge of my nose to even out the bump, take the redness out of my chest and just generally make the skin look more even. SO, with the colour layer selected choose a soft brush (b) and change the brush’s opacity to 10%. Sample a skin tone colour you wish to paint with (Alt/Opt click) and then paint over the area of colour variation to even it out. Don’t go overboard though because you want to keep the face’s natural shape and not make it look like a flat surface. It took me much experimenting to get this right so take your time with it and resample often. If you’re really struggling I’ve seen another method for this which is to lasso areas of skin, feather the selection A LOT and then add a small Gaussian Blur to smooth out the colour differences. The beauty of doing this technique on the colour layer is that because we have a texture layer, any changes you make to the colour layer only affect the colours and leave the textures intact.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2538,2537"]  
  1. Add a curves layer and create a very soft S curve to put a little contrast into the skin and even out the skin tones further.
[caption id="attachment_2539" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Curves adjustment layer Curves adjustment layer[/caption]  
  1. If you’re noticing that the texture of the skin is still too pronounced (for example, if your subject has quite large pores) you can paint with the blur tool on a low setting to blur these areas a little more. Zoom right in while you do this to ensure that the blur isn’t too obvious.
  1. Decide if you need to reshape any of your subject’s features and if so head to Filter>Liquify. The main tools to use here are the ‘Forward Warp’ tool which allows you to very gently push and pull features around (good for things like minimising waist lines or smoothing flyaway hair). The bigger the brush size the broader (and more convincing) the change. The ‘Pucker’ tool makes things smaller so with a brush just big enough to cover the area you wish to reduce, tap a couple of times until you’re happy. I use this on my nose. The ‘Bloat’ tool does the opposite to the ‘Pucker’ tool and is good for areas like lips. You can use the undo shortcut in this dialogue box at any time if you go too far. I'm sure there are other useful Liquify tools but I've never used them. Press OK when you’re done.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2527,2522"]  
  1. Make two new layers and label them ‘dodge’ and ‘burn’. Set the blend mode for both to overlay. Load a soft brush tool with white and change its opacity to 10%. Paint over any areas of light to make them even lighter. Areas to concentrate on are: the bridge of the nose, under the eyes and the top of the cheeks, the eyeballs and iris and the middle of the lips.
  1. On the burn layer change the brush to black and paint over dark areas to make them darker. Concentrate on the cheekbones, the sides of the nose, eyelashes and brows, pupils, on the neck under the chin and around the hairline.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2541,2540"]   The point of dodging and burning is to further contour the face and add contrast and sharpness. It’s similar to the contouring technique used by makeup artists because it flatters and enhances facial features. In this example photo I’ve used this technique to enhance my shoulder bones, painting black on dark areas and white on light areas to make them more pronounced. If you feel your dodge and burn is making your image look cartoonish lower the opacity of your layers a touch.
  1. If you wish to add makeup to your subject add a new layer and change the blend mode to colour. Select a colour and paint over the lips, the eyes or the cheeks. Reduce opacity if needed or add a hue/saturation layer to change the colour and intensity.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2543,2542"]  
  1. If you didn’t capture any catch lights in the subject’s eyes you can add your own with a small, medium hardness, white brush. Just dot in a spot of light on each pupil. Heal any blood vessels on the eyeballs using the healing brush. You can then enhance brows and lashes by drawing in more hair with a very small hard brush if you need. And you’re done!
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2545,2544"]   [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2554,2553"]  

 About 'Gaia'

I had two goals for this week’s image: to try and recreate the look Paul Apal’kin uses in his portraits, and to create a scene similar to a print I bought a few year’s back off Etsy by TheNebulousKingdom. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2547,2546"]   I failed at both goals. I did a very rough mock up of Paul’s technique in Lightroom but when adding the animals I discovered that my stock were all shot at different angles in different light and I couldn’t work them into my hair successfully. Eventually I just started throwing images into Photoshop to see if something would stick. I hate this period of experimentation but I love it when an image begins to take shape. In this case I loaded a photo I shot out of the window of a moving train window and I liked the way the mountains followed the shape of her hair. So I started to bring in more shots from the same train journey, building up a mountainous scene and sprinkling some animals throughout for interest. The composited animals are way too large for the scene but when an image is this fanciful you tend to get away with a bit more thankfully! [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2548,2550,2552,2549,2551"]

On Thursday 1 October I exhibited my work for the very first time at RAW Brisbane's MERGE showcase. After months of planning, buying things for my display and organising prints it was wonderful to finally have everything come together. There was a great response to my work with lots of positive feedback and people spent a long time looking at and discussing all my prints. A few artists expressed an interest in collaborating - one guy was so keen he gave me his daughter's business card twice! I am really grateful to all my friends and family who came along for support. I had a fun night and I couldn't have done it without you all! Congratulations to all my fellow artists on a successful night. If you're considering having a RAW exhibition of your own, they hold showcases worldwide and it's a fantastic experience I'd recommend to all artists. Photos courtesy of Noel Roberts and Elliot Tonks of Live Exposure. [gallery columns="4" size="large" link="file" ids="2484,2488,2489,2485,2486,2487,2496,2490,2491,2493,2494,2497,2498,2500,2501,2502,2499,2504,2492,2503"]  

Shadows can make or break a composite. And while they’re easy to create, unless you’ve got a solid grasp of physics they’re hard to get right, which is why when someone is trying to figure out if your photo is a composite the shadows are usually the first thing they look at it. But since shadows are confusing for everyone, as long as you follow some basic principles you can usually fake them fairly successfully. The properties of shadows that most compositers use are:

  • Your shadow should fall in the opposite direction to your light source with the subject directly between the two. You should be able to draw a straight line between them. Light bounces off surfaces though, particularly bright ones, so keep this in mind when plotting the direction of your shadow because there may be light sources you haven’t considered.
  • The density of your shadow is dependent on the brightness of your light. Very bright light causes very dark shadows.
  • Shadows are darkest where they make contact with the object. This contact point also contains a little of the object’s colour.
  • Shadows become less dense as they travel away from the subject, so they become lighter and less defined.
  • The height of the light source dictates how long or short your shadow should be. Low is long, high is short.
  • If you don’t include shadows where your object meets a surface (even if they’re in diffuse light) they’ll look like they’re floating. Adding a simple contact shadow can make a world of difference.
BUT in reality shadows aren’t that simple. And here’s some examples I took with my iPhone to prove it. Ball shadow This is my dog’s squeaky ball in a ray of light. It’s actually LIGHTEST closest to the object because the ball is translucent and letting some light through. The shadow is long because the sun is low, and a little blurry at the farthest point from the object. Birdcage shadow The second is a bird cage I have hanging in my room. The light source is behind, to the right, and slightly above the cage which you can tell by the direction the shadow is falling. However there are TWO shadows because my lamp contains two light bulbs pointing in different directions. The shadows are WIDER than the objects because of the angle the light is hitting them. But because you can’t see the light source, if this were a composite you wouldn’t need to create the double or wide shadow because no one would ever know. So as long as you follow the basic principles of shadows no one can really prove you wrong. Let’s work through an example. Here’s a photo I took of myself in my garage. Don’t worry about my hands; they’ll show up in next week’s photo. I had an undiffused Speedlite on a light stand to my left so you can see that the left side of my body is brighter than the right. The floor and the wall are just photos of textures I’ve added in. Before adding a shadow the girl just looks like she’s floating. But by painting in a shadow using a soft brush and different opacities I can anchor her to the scene. So even though the angle of the floor is wrong and the shadow doesn’t match her shape it still looks like she belongs there. Painting in a shadow with the brush tool is the most basic technique but there’s more accurate ways to create shadows. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2418,2419"]  

How to create a shadow in Photoshop

First step – assess your light! Where is it coming from and what are its properties? This will help you plot how your shadow should look. Here’s two different methods to create shadows:   Method one:
  1. Make a selection of your subject/object. For accuracy’s sake I prefer to use the pen tool to make selections even though it takes the longest, but any method is fine.
  1. Press Ctrl/Cmd J to make a new layer from the selected area. Ctrl/Cmd click the thumbnail of this layer to load the selection again. Go to Edit>Fill and Use: Black. Press Ctrl/Cmd D to deselect the object.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2421,2420"]  
  1. Rename this new layer ‘Shadow’ and drag it below your main layer.
  1. Go to Edit>Transform>Distort and drag the middle top handle in the direction you want your shadow to fall. You can also play with the other handles to affect width and height. (Keep in mind that if your shadow is against a surface like in my image the shadow would change direction where it met that surface. You can see how this looks in my final image. This example photo isn’t accurate and is purely for demonstration purposes.)
[caption id="attachment_2422" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Use handles to transform the shadow's shape Use handles to transform the shadow's shape[/caption]  
  1. Use the corner handles OR click inside and drag the selection to make sure the shadow lines up with the feet of your subject or the base of your object. Press the tick when you’re happy.
  1. Shadows are never perfectly sharp so go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and choose a radius to your liking.
[caption id="attachment_2423" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Add Gaussian blur to make the edges less harsh Add Gaussian blur to make the edges less harsh[/caption]  
  1. I like my shadow to be blurrier the further away it is from the subject and the quickest way I’ve found to do this is to use quick mask mode. Select the gradient tool (g) and make sure the Linear Gradient is selected in the options bar. Press q to enter Quick Mask. Draw a line from the base of your subject to the top of the shadow. The red overlay will show you the area that is NOT selected. Try again with Reverse ticked if the selection is wrong. Press q again to exit Quick Mask.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2424,2425"]  
  1. Now go back to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and apply more of a blur to the top portion of your shadow. Ctrl/Cmd D to deselect.
[caption id="attachment_2426" align="aligncenter" width="298"]Blur the top half more Blur the top half more[/caption]  
  1. As well as making the farthest part of the shadow less sharp you should also make it less dark. So, add a layer mask to the shadow layer and select your gradient tool again (g). Click the gradient bar and select the third option ‘Black, White’. Press OK and change the opacity to 60%. Experiment by drawing in a gradient line. You will need to do this several times (the effect resets each time you draw) to get the fade going in the right direction and to get the right intensity (draw shorter and longer lines and vary where you draw the line from and to).
[gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2428,2427,2429"]   That’s method one done! The second method is best for giving just a little bit of shadow. For example, I have these vines climbing through a hole in my image but they didn’t feel like they belonged there so I added a little drop shadow to anchor them in place. [caption id="attachment_2432" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Composited vine Composited vine[/caption]   Method 2:
  1. Your object will need to be selected as we did in step 1 of the previous method. Add a layer mask to hide all the parts you don’t need. Ctrl/Cmd i inverts the mask if it has masked the wrong area.
  1. Double click on the far right hand side of the layer to bring up the Layer Style panel.
  1. Tick Drop Shadow and then click on the name to access its options. Play around with these to taste and click OK when done.
[caption id="attachment_2430" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Layer Style panel Layer Style panel[/caption]  
  1. Right click on the word ‘Drop Shadow’ in your layer. Choose ‘Create Layer’. This turns your layer style into its own layer which is super cool.
[caption id="attachment_2431" align="aligncenter" width="228"]Right click on Drop Shadow to create a new layer Right click on Drop Shadow to create a new layer[/caption]  
  1. Now you can add a mask to that layer and paint away any part of the drop shadow that you don’t like. You can also use this technique as an alternative to steps 1 and 2 in the first method.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2432,2433"]   And that’s it. Shadow achievement unlocked!   About ‘One Day I'll Fly Away’ Sometimes an image just works and you’re excited about it from the get go. This was not one of those images. I’ve spent two weeks massaging these pixels to within an inch of their lives and it still doesn’t make me happy - generally a sign that it’s time to put it aside and move on. Unfortunately you can’t win them all. But funnily enough I’m working on another concept from this shoot which I loved almost instantly. The image is composed of a shot of me photographed in my garage, a wall in Venice, a bird from Stradbroke Island, a Graphic Stock shot of clouds (which was just laziness as I have plenty of my own), and a vine from a garden in Melbourne. My photographs are very well travelled. I combined the shadows of the bird and the girl into one but I had to be careful using the blurring and fading techniques discussed in this tutorial so the bird didn’t disappear. I took plenty of shots of the girl lit by a Speedlite so I could see how her real shadow looked and replicate it in Photoshop but I ended up using a photo where the flash didn’t fire. I had to use Lighting Effects in Photoshop to light her side and back and make the harsh shadow believable.   [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2434,2438,2435,2436,2437"]   If you have any advice about shadows or wish to share a shadow photo of your own, please do so in the comments. I’d love to hear/see them! :)

Since the Exposing Illusions tutorial blog is now a fortnightly affair I've decided to fill the off-weeks with other bits and pieces I've been working on. Recently I'd been thinking about doing a lifestyle shoot to add to my portfolio with the stock agency, Arcangel. While driving around my suburb with my mum looking for locations we found this field that happened to be full of wild flowers and a few days later we returned at sunset loaded with costumes, wigs and props. It was good timing as the field was mowed a few days later. We didn't have a lot of time so I struck a few poses and came home with about 100 images. I challenged myself to spend no more than half an hour per image working on colour and tone, which I mostly did using Lightroom presets so no fancy Photoshop trickery here. Here's some of the results. [gallery columns="1" link="file" size="large" ids="2382,2391,2386,2389,2388,2387,2383,2385,2384,2390"]

How long I’ve wanted to shoot underwater! When girls in pretty dresses are combined with the weightlessness of water the results are elegant and ethereal. But shooting underwater is costly as it requires expensive purpose-built camera housing (around $2k) or an underwater point and shoot, which is cheaper (around $500) but offers less control. You can hire equipment but I’ve heard too many horror stories and the one rental company I spoke to said they couldn’t afford the insurance. It’s also a very physically demanding experience for both the model and photographer. All this AND I’m the only person on my street without a pool (which I sadly discovered while browsing Google Earth). So I’d love to do an underwater shoot some day but for now my options are limited to Photoshop. Please keep in mind this is an advanced tutorial.

How to photograph a fake underwater photo

First, find a blank background to photograph your model against so it’s easy to cut them out in Photoshop. I set up a black sheet because I knew this would roughly match the colour of the water I’d be compositing myself into. Light underwater is unpredictable but it definitely won’t have bright sun spots so shoot your model in diffuse light. I shot in my backyard in a shaded area as the sun was going down. [caption id="attachment_2242" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Testing the camera looking mighty impressed Testing the camera looking mighty impressed[/caption]   Set your aperture narrow enough to have all of your model in focus (you can blur them later if need be) and choose a shutter speed that gives the tiniest amount of motion blur, but not too much or your person will be hard to cut out. (My settings were 1/160 sec at f/9, ISO 800.) Resist any temptation to wet your model unless part of them will be out of the water and then only wet the exposed part. For my pose I first started out by leaning back on a chair in the same way I would pose for a levitation photo but it wasn’t until I tried jumping and posing mid-air that I started to like the shots because the movement was similar to floating. I also separately shot hair and dress flicks that I didn’t end up using but I wanted to have the option available for compositing. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2244,2243"]   For the water you have a few options including creating it in post or using stock, but I wanted to photograph my own elements. I again set up a black backdrop so it would be easy to separate the bubbles using a blend mode, half-filled a vase with water making sure the vase’s surface wasn’t reflecting too much light and photographed the water line and then the bubbles as I poured more water into the vase. [caption id="attachment_2245" align="aligncenter" width="200"]Bubbles for underwater Bubbles[/caption]    

How to edit a fake underwater photo in Photoshop

Before getting started I studied many underwater photos so I could try and replicate the look in Photoshop. The elements I decided I needed were these:
  • Bubbles
  • A water line / top of the water
  • Light rays
  • A reflection of the girl
  • Shimmers of light on her clothes and skin
  • Blue toning and matted highlights
  • Textures to give depth to the water
The following process is an amalgamation of tips from this video, other underwater tutorials found online and my own experimentation in Photoshop.
  1. Create the background. To do this I found an underwater photo with colours that I liked and opened it into my main document. Hit g to activate the gradient tool and click on the gradient bar. In the Gradient Options select the first preset ‘Foregound to Background’ and then double click the left bottom tab (‘stop’) to bring up the colour picker. Alt/Opt click on a highlight colour in the sample photo to select it and press OK, then double click the right bottom tab and sample a shadow colour. Keep pressing OK until you exit the Gradient Editor then draw a vertical line downwards over your canvas so that the lighter colour is at the top. (Make sure the 'reverse' box isn't ticked if you find this isn't the case.)
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2249,2251,2247,2250"]  
  1. Next you’ll need to create the top of the water. You can do this using stock photos (for example, waves at a beach) by going to Edit>Transform>Distort and playing around with the perspective handles, but I’d found a tutorial on how to create water from scratch that I wanted to try.
To do this create a new layer and draw a rectangle with your marquee tool (m) about 2/3 the size of your main document. Press d so that your colour swatch is set to default colours and go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Press Ctrl/Cmd t to bring up your free transform handles and drag the edges of the box to the edges of your document. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2253,2254,2252"]   Now go to Filter>Filter Gallery>Artistic>Plastic Wrap (if the Filter Gallery is greyed out you may first need to change your image from 16 to 8 bit with Image>Mode and choose 8 Bits/Channel) and set your sliders to 14, 3 and 11. Click OK. Then go to Edit>Transform> Distort and pull your handles into place as shown. Change the blend mode to Linear Dodge. Add a mask to the layer and use a soft brush to remove the harsh edges. Add a curves adjustment layer above your water line layer and clip them together by pressing Alt/Opt and clicking between the two layers. Use curves to darken the layer to match your background. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2257,2258,2256,2255"]   Convert your water effect layer to a smart object (right click the layer in a blank area and choose 'Convert to Smart Object') and then go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects and add a small spotlight to a section of the water. Play with the sliders to get an effect you like and the handles of your light to shape it. Press OK when you're finished. It's sometimes hard to get an idea of what the final effect will look like until it's applied which is why it's a good idea to apply lighting effects as a smart filter so you can keep changing the effect until you like it. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2259,2260"]  
  1. At this point I made sure my subject was perfectly cut out and placed her above these effects.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2262,2261"]  
  1. Create rays of light by making a new layer and using your marquee tool to select the top half of the image. Press d to set your colour swatch to default and then go to Filter>Render>Clouds once again. Next go to Image>Adjustments>Threshold and use the default setting, press OK. Press Ctrl/Cmd D to get rid of the selection. Now go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Take your amount to 100. Choose Zoom and Best and drag the centre point to the top of the box. Click OK. Press Ctrl/Cmd F a few times to repeat the effect. Change the blend mode to soft light and the opacity to about 50%. Use Ctrl/Cmd T and move your rays so they look like they’re coming from the spot light you created earlier. Add a mask and use a soft brush to paint out the rays wherever you don’t want them.
[gallery ids="2268,2264,2269,2267,2265,2266"]    
  1. I had no clue how to create the girl’s reflection so I created some tricks of my own. First I duplicated my subject layer and converted it to a Smart Object with Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. I then went to Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical and used Edit>Transform to move the reflection where I wanted it and dragged the top middle handle to make it quite squat. After playing around with all Photoshop’s filters I found I got the best result with Filter>Distort>Wave and played around with the sliders until I got a result I liked. Because I applied this as a Smart Filter I was able to apply and change the results as much as I liked.
[gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2270,2272,2271"]  
  1. To create the shimmers of light I created a new layer and filled it with black. Then I went to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. I chose Gaussian and Monochromatic and set the amount to about 35%. Now I went to Filter>Pixelate>Crystallize and made the Cell Size 160. This is similar to how we created snow last tutorial. Now go to Filter>Stylize>Find Edges. Press Ctrl/Cmd i to invert the layer. Choose Filter>Distort>Ripple and make it about 300. Then Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and just apply a little to make the edges less severe. Change the blend mode to screen. Zoom right out of your document and pres Ctrl/Cmd T and make this layer larger. Clip this layer to the subject, change the opacity to 60% and mask it out where you don't want it.
[gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2273,2276,2278,2277,2280,2279,2274,2281,2283"]  
  1. The bubbles were added using a screen blending mode and then I clipped a levels layer to the bubbles to get rid of any lingering background. You could also use a bubble brush to create the bubbles.
[caption id="attachment_2284" align="aligncenter" width="296"]Bubbles added Bubbles added[/caption]  
  1. I used a few curves layers clipped to the girl layer to introduce some bluey green toning and then darkened the bottom of her body. I also desaturated her skin tones and dragged the highlights down to dull them slightly. A good trick I learnt recently from Glyn Dewis is to make the opacity of your subject layer 95% so the background shows through ever so slightly and tones your subject to match the scene.
[caption id="attachment_2285" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Colour toning Colour toning[/caption]  
  1. Adding textures is optional but I thought the scene looked too flat without them. I added various bokeh textures and overall colour toning to give depth to the water.
[caption id="attachment_2286" align="aligncenter" width="297"]Final toning and textures Final toning and textures[/caption]   And we're done! It's definitely a lot of work but the more effort you put into it the more realistic your final result. And not a single camera was harmed.  

About ‘Rosewater’ and ‘I Tried to Drown my Sorrows’

The poses for both photos were photographed in my backyard wearing a $10 dress I found through a Facebook “garage sale”. Little known fact, I studied six different types of dance as a child and I finally got to use some of this training in my photos. Unfortunately my body is no longer primed for this kind of activity and my legs hurt for days. In Photoshop I was hoping to recreate the particular look used in this Adam Attoun photo. 'I Tried to Drown my Sorrows' started out with this in mind but by a happy accident when I opened a vase photo to use the bubbles I noticed how great the girl looked inside the glass, so this image took on a life of its own and was very quick to complete. To create 'Rosewater', I began by following along with the video tutorial posted earlier to see if I’d like the result which I did, so she ended up being in a bluey/green scene rather than black because the colours grew on me. I always planned to have flowers floating in the water so I shot some miniature roses in a vase and was most annoyed to discover that roses float so I had to poke them into the water with a gardening fork. Despite being miniature the roses still look way too big for the scene, ruining all my convincing underwater scene building but I like how they look and am happy with the final photo regardless. I Tried to Drown my Sorrows

While it’s currently the height of summer in the only hemisphere that (supposedly) matters, where I live in Australia it’s so cold that the state I live in saw snow for the first time in 30 years. When faced with the prospect of driving 2.5 hours to photograph said snow OR hibernating under blankets, I decided to stay in the warmth of my home and research how to make my own snow. Problem being that no two tutorials use the same method to add snow and some weren’t even convincing so after much experimentation I bring to you the Photoshop-snow-makin’-machine that I like best. Note: This was the exact workflow I used in my image this week but to demonstrate some of the steps for creating snow I’ve used a forest image from Graphic Stock so it’s easier to see the results.

How to add settled snow

Stock images:

For my image, 'Rest Stop in Winterglen' I needed to replace the floorboards and snow was the obvious choice to add to the winter wonderland scene so I downloaded a bunch of snow images from Graphic Stock to use as ground cover. I get that not everyone is comfortable using stock images, just as not everyone is comfortable driving over two hours to photograph their own stock so when you’re weighing up your options sometimes there’s no other alternative. When you’ve found snowy stock that fits your scene, you can mask it in and colour correct to make it fit. And if necessary use Edit>Transform>Perspective or Edit>Transform>Warp to make your stock match the angle of your scene. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2181,2185,2183,2184,2182,2180"]    

Channels:

Channels are brilliant at creating selections and I personally need to use them more in my workflow. So here’s how to use them … Channels panel In your layer’s panel you should see a tab labelled ‘Channels’ but if you don’t you can access it with Window>Channels. Now you need to look at each of the colour channels to see which has the most white showing in the areas where you want your snow. Do this by clicking the eye next to Red and Green so only Blue is showing, then turn on Green and turn off Blue etc, etc. When you’ve chosen the channel you wish to work with drag it to the new layer button at the bottom of the layer’s panel to duplicate the channel. If you want to get fancy you can add a curves (Ctrl/Cmd M) or a levels (Ctrl/Cmd L) adjustment to the channel to create more or less white in your image. [gallery size="medium" ids="2190,2189,2187"]   Now stay with me here ... Ctrl/Cmd click on the channel to turn it into a selection and then switch back to your Layers tab. Create a new layer. Click on the top square of the colour swatch in your tools palette and choose a colour a little under white. Click OK. Go to Edit>Fill and choose Foreground Color. Ctrl/Cmd D to get rid of the selection. Pretty magical right? [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2194,2193,2192,2191"]   If you aren’t entirely happy with the result you can continue to create more snow by pressing Ctrl/Cmd J to duplicate the layer or follow this process again with different colour channels. You can also mask in some snow in areas that you feel need more. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2195,2197"]    

How to create falling snow

There’s two ways to create falling snow – the automated method and the brush method – and to get the best results I recommend a combination of the two.

Automated method

Create a new layer at the top of your layer stack and Edit>Fill with black. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Make the amount somewhere between 80 and 100%. Choose Gaussian and Monochromatic and click OK. [caption id="attachment_2198" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Add noise Add noise[/caption] Add a Threshold adjustment layer and drag the slider until you get a nice spacing between your snowflakes. Clip the threshold layer to the noise layer (by alt clicking between the two layers). [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2201,2200,2199"]     With the noise layer selected go to Filters>Pixelate>Crystallize and move the slider to 10. Press OK. Change the blending mode of the layer to Screen to get rid of the black background. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2203,2202,2204"]     Add some movement to the snowflakes with Filter>Blur>Motion Blur and adjust the angle and the amount to taste. Pull down the opacity of the layer a touch. Done! This gives a nice snowfall to use in the background of your image but it’s all the same size so we don’t want to stop there. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2206,2205"]  

Brush method

I created my own snowflake brush which I considered offering for download but what would you learn then? So let’s do it together! First you'll want to create two new layers. One will be for medium sized snowflakes and the other will be for large snowflakes to signify snow close to camera. Name your layers ‘medium snowflakes’ and ‘large snowflakes’. Highlight the medium snowflakes layer, hit b on your keyboard to activate the brush tool and select Photoshop’s standard soft round brush. Press F5 to bring up the brush settings. [caption id="attachment_2207" align="aligncenter" width="203"]Photoshop's soft brush in brush settings panel Photoshop's soft brush in brush settings panel[/caption]   Under Brush Tip Shape start off with a brush about the size of a grain of rice. Make your hardness 0 and your spacing around 230. Under Shape Dynamics, change your Size Jitter to 100%, your Angle Jitter to 10% and your Roundness Jitter to 35%. Under Scattering tick the Both Axes box and take your Scatter all the way up and make your Count about 10. Under Transfer take your Opacity and Flow Jitter sliders all the way up. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2211,2208,2209,2210"]   Now start to paint in your medium snow using a few clicks because it’s easier to control than dragging your mouse around. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2212,2213"]   On your large snowflake layer make your brush about the size of a small coin and just dot in some large snowflakes. Save this as a brush preset if you wish to use it for future use by clicking the menu icon at the top right of your brush settings panel and choosing ‘New Brush Preset’. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2214,2215,2216"]     If you have people in your scene spend some time brushing snow into their hair and clothes. Using the same brush we created, set the size to 25 pixels, scattering to 60 and with this you can draw little piles of snow. It’s time consuming but will really help make your scene convincing. Lastly, depending on the original colour of the image it might help to add some bluish toning. I chose to add a solid color layer filled with blue, set the blend mode to Hue and reduced the opacity slightly. Let it snow! Let it snow. Let it snoooow. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2218,2217"]   About 'Rest Stop in Winterglen' Every Christmas in Brisbane, Australia a magical world appears called Lollipop Land. The keepers of Lollipop Land, Jule Barten (visual designer) and Chris Boston (doll designer) were kind enough to let me photograph there after hours last January but I haven’t had the right project for the photos (until now). [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2226,2225"]   I chose to work with their gorgeous Enchanted Forest scene, posing myself on the unicorn (supplied by Natureworks) and taking a 25 shot panorama. I composited in snow and hedges to cover the wooden floor. I added icicles (from Graphic Stock) to the roof and and an ice cave (from DeviantArt) to cover the ceiling. The trees outside of the ice cave are also from Graphic Stock. The dragon was photographed in another area of Lollipop Land but moved into the scene. My favourite part is that the unicorn has a seat built into him so I had to composite in a real horse’s “ass” for realism. I added snow using all the methods above and spent days colour toning the image (only to later delete three-quarters of what I'd done). Lollipop Land is a magical place to spend time (their high teas are great fun) so do visit if you get the chance.   [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2220,2221,2222,2223,2224"]    

Using special effects can instantly transform an ordinary photo into a magical scene, and they’re not nearly as complex to create as it seems. Traditionally artists use bright, glowing light to signify magic or special powers but if you set off fireworks or bring out your glowsticks during the day you’re not going to impress anyone. That’s why when working with special effects you’ll ideally want a dark base photo. I’m not saying it’s impossible to use special effects on a light background but they’re probably not going to be super effective.  

How to shoot a photo for special effects

You can add special effects to any image you like but if you’re shooting specifically with special effects in mind there’s a few tricks you can do to really sell the effect.
  • Shoot against a dark backdrop – even if you’re going to replace the background later you’ll probably be replacing it with a dark scene so you want the tone of the scenes to match. (This was the first time I’ve shot against a black background cos I was under the mistaken impression that it’s easier to cut out brown hair from a white background. N.B. It’s not. Just try and match the tone of your “studio background” to the tone of your replacement background and everything becomes much easier.)
  • Try and replicate the light your effect will create. For example, I was shooting with a top hat and I knew I wanted light coming from the hat so I put a small torch inside the hat shining out and then lit the top of the hat with a lamp so the rim was lit up. What I didn’t do but should have was to remove the hat from the scene and position the lamp so the light was shining upwards roughly where the hat would be and then photographed myself next to that spill of light so my face was properly lit. You can recreate this lighting in Photoshop but light and shadow are always going to be more accurate if you shoot them for real. You should also colour the light to match the final effect if you're comfortable working with gels.
Hat with lighting

How to add special effects in Photoshop

There’s a tonne of different way to add special effects so I’ll go over a few of them.

Using stock

This can be stock you’ve shot yourself (light painting, sparklers, smoke – all techniques I will cover in future) or stock from an agency. I’m no graphic designer and I don’t have the talent or the know how to create graphics from scratch so I prefer to use a stock agency for graphic art. I signed up for a 7 day trial with Graphic Stock and searched for images using search terms like galaxies, rays, flare, glow, bokeh and fractal. Images on a dark background are best. Open up your chosen stock as layers above your main image, and working through them one by one choose the move tool (v) and cycle through your blend modes using Shift + or – until you find one that gets rid of the dark background (I used Screen, Soft Light and Lighter Color the most). If you can’t entirely get rid of the black background add a levels adjustment layer (clip it to your stock layer by alt clicking between the two layers) and move the sliders until the background disappears. Then just move your stock into place and mask parts out if necessary. Remember you can also use warp (Edit>Transform>Warp)and liquify (Filter>Liquify) to shape the stock to fit your image. So easy! [gallery link="none" ids="2151,2152,2153,2154,2155,2156,2157,2158,2159"]

Flame Painter

Flame Painter is a nifty little tool that creates light effects. You can have some control with the free version or full control with the paid version. Play around with the settings and draw! Then just download the result and use a blend mode to make it fit your scene. So cool! [caption id="attachment_2149" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Light effect from Flame Painter Light effect from Flame Painter[/caption]

Layer Styles

To make it look like my top hat was glowing I used a couple of layer styles. To access the layer style menu double click on the layer of the object you wish to give a glow to (this will have to be cut out and on its own layer). Click on outer glow (make sure the check box is ticked to apply it to the image) and play around with the sliders until you’re happy. Photoshop defaults to a glowing yellow colour but you can change the colour by clicking on the colour swatch. This gave my hat a glowing outline but for realism I wanted it to have some inner glow too so I also ticked the Inner Glow checkbox and making sure the name was highlighted I played around with the settings in here too. Layer styles can sometimes behave in odd ways but I learnt some super useful tips from Phlearn on how to manage these. So glowy! [gallery size="medium" ids="2163,2161,2160"]  

Brush tool

Which brings us back to our old friend the brush tool. Using a soft brush and a bright colour you can paint in glows wherever you like. If you need to light a lamp / lantern a great trick is to create a new layer set to Color Dodge, choose a medium hardness small brush with a yellow colour loaded and dot it once on the lamp. Then make the brush softer and larger and dot it again. Do this a few more times until you have a realistic effect. I also created the smoke in my image using a smoke shaped brush and a bright lavender colour, painting some on a layer under the girl and some on a layer above her to make it look like it was wafting around. So handy! Photoshop brush glow   If you expect to use special effects a lot in your work the designer sevenstyles creates and sells amazing actions designed to add special effects with a couple of clicks.  

About ‘The Magic Show’

Photo 26-07-2015 8 31 56Photo 26-07-2015 8 30 46Because magic is the underlying theme of my blog I decided that turning myself into a magician would be a good way to illustrate how to use special effects. Coincidentally, I recently realised that the bird on my business card (created for me by a designer in the UK) is almost the same bird on the cover of the book I'm currently reading, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which just happens to be a book about two magicians. I photographed myself in my garage against a black sheet using a household lamp and Speedlite for lighting. It took forever to get a flattering light set-up. The girl is made up of different photos of parts of my body while the hat and flying hair were shot separately. The rabbit came from a Graphic Stock image that I turned into a Photoshop brush and added a glow to. The background curtain and all light effects are from Graphic Stock. I was thinking about Donnie Darko while conceiving this image which might be how I ended up with a Frank-like light flare over my eye. This is why it's important to ingest as much culture as you can if you're a creative person so all this stuff can swirl around in your psyche and manifest itself in interesting ways. Hey presto!   [gallery link="none" columns="4" size="medium" ids="2167,2168,2166,2165"]

Photoshop brushes are a brilliant way to add interest to your photos but did you know you can use brushes on layer masks? Say, for example, you want to create a bird made of fire, you could take a picture of fire, add a black layer mask to it and then using a bird-shaped brush paint with white on the mask to reveal the fire in just the shape of the bird. Here, let me show you what I mean … [gallery columns="2" link="none" size="medium" ids="2112,2113"]

* Fire stock and bird brush courtesy of DeviantArt.

Yeah, phoenix baby! Using brushes on layer masks you can create a fun dispersion effect that makes your subject look like they're breaking into pieces and scattering away. Perfect for those moments when something really awkward has happened and you wish you could dissolve away into nothing.  

How to photograph for the dispersion effect

If you Google dispersion effect you’ll notice that 90% of the results show subjects against plain backgrounds, which is most likely because the effect would get lost against a busy background. So if you’re shooting a subject specifically for this technique I recommend shooting them against a plain wall or a seamless backdrop (since I can’t afford a seamless I use a bedsheet hung over a clothes rack. Fancy.). Then to save yourself a bit of work take a second exposure of the same scene without your subject in it. But really, you can do this technique with any subject you please. To show you how this is done I’ll use a single photo example for this tutorial. For interest's sake the photo I've chosen also shows the background and lighting I used to shoot my main image.

How to edit the dispersion effect

  1. Open your image and duplicate your layer twice using Ctrl/Cmd J so you have three copies. Make an optional fourth copy if you want to change the background. (If your background is already separate place it below the subject layer and duplicate the subject once).
[caption id="attachment_2114" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Dispersion effect base image My base image[/caption]
     
  1. Highlight the top layer and go to Filter>Liquify. Keep the default settings and use the Forward Warp Tool in a largish size start to push the edges of your subject in the direction you want the scatter to go. Press OK when you’re done. (It’s weird to me that Photoshop has misspelt Liquefy, but whatever). (Also weird that my spell check thinks misspelt is misspelt.)
[caption id="attachment_2115" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Pretty Pretty[/caption]
     
  1. Add a layer mask and invert it (Ctrl/Cmd i) and using the brush you wish to scatter with (I used Photoshop’s default maple leaf brush) paint white on the layer mask to reveal the liquify layer. If you’re not getting random scattering with your brush please refer to my previous tutorial on how to change your brush properties. I usually have to scatter a few times until I’m happy with the result.
[caption id="attachment_2116" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Dispersion effect on liquify layer[/caption]
     
  1. Now we’ll work on the background (bottom layer). Just skip this step if you have your background already separate. You need to have background behind your subject so that when you start scattering them there’s something behind them to see through to. I roughly selected my subject using the Quick Selection Tool and then chose Edit>Fill and selected Content-Aware in the ‘Use’ box. This replaced my subject but left a yucky outline, so then I created a new layer (Layer>New>Layer) and selected the clone stamp tool (s) making sure the sample was set to ‘Current & Below’. Holding down ‘Alt’ I clicked to select a blank piece of wall and then painted over the messy area. It doesn’t have to be perfect as you’ll only see small snippets.
[gallery columns="2" link="none" size="medium" ids="2118,2117"]
     
  1. With the middle layer selected, add a layer mask and paint black with your chosen brush around the edges of your subject to make some holes.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2119,2120"]
     
  1. And that’s the answer my friends! But if you want to take it a step further and give your subject a new background highlight the fourth layer and select your subject using the selection tool(s) of your choice. You may want to turn off the other layers so you can see what you’re doing. Go to Select>Inverse and then press delete to remove the background. Then add in your new background which can be as simple as a layer filled with a colour. You can even add a texture to give it some interest.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2121,2122"]   There is ANOTHER way to achieve this effect by using the clone stamp tool and it can be done on one layer. Press s to select the clone stamp tool, choose your brush and go to Window>Brush to change its size and scatter amount. Alt click to sample inside your subject and then paint the scatter around them. Alt click to sample your background and paint over your subject. This technique is not as easy to control but it’s handy if you only want your subject to scatter a little.  

About ‘Under the cloak of night’

I’ve seen a few people use the dispersion technique with bird brushes and I always look at their photos and think ‘that would’ve been better with bats’. With a bat theme in mind I set out to photograph a cave, settling on Kweebani Cave at Binna Burra National Park (which turned out to be more of a rock formation than a cave). I photographed myself in costume in my garage and Frankenstein-ed different body parts, hair, dress and cape flicks to make the final girl. I replaced the sky and composited in a moon from photos I’d shot separately and added the bats using the method above. The only difference is that my subject became all streaky when I liquified her and I didn't like how this made the bats looked so I used a black solid colour layer instead. Always better with bats! [gallery size="large" link="file" columns="2" ids="2123,2131,2129,2130,2126,2127,2125,2132"] [caption id="attachment_2124" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Bats added Bats added[/caption]  

1
Nov

How to create an invisible person.

Dr Seuss has a story about a stalky pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them that I found deliciously frightening as a kid despite the main dude and the pants hugging it out at the end. So it seemed “fitting” to celebrate Halloween with a technique to create your own clothes with nobody […]

25
Oct

Back to the Future

Seeing as Back to the Future day is now in our past and even I, a committed fan, am quite done hearing about it for the time being, I no longer want to dwell on why I made this tribute image. But I do want to talk about how I made it and what I […]

18
Oct

How to retouch a portrait.

We’re all aware that celebrities and models are retouched to within an inch of their lives but until I started using Photoshop I didn’t realise just how easy it is to entirely change someone’s features. Good retouching though is an art and a science and one that I’ve not yet mastered, but since I shoot […]

11
Oct

RAW Brisbane Showcase – the show goes on!

On Thursday 1 October I exhibited my work for the very first time at RAW Brisbane’s MERGE showcase. After months of planning, buying things for my display and organising prints it was wonderful to finally have everything come together. There was a great response to my work with lots of positive feedback and people spent […]

20
Sep

How to create shadows in Photoshop.

Shadows can make or break a composite. And while they’re easy to create, unless you’ve got a solid grasp of physics they’re hard to get right, which is why when someone is trying to figure out if your photo is a composite the shadows are usually the first thing they look at it. But since […]

13
Sep

Lifestyle shoot in a field

Since the Exposing Illusions tutorial blog is now a fortnightly affair I’ve decided to fill the off-weeks with other bits and pieces I’ve been working on. Recently I’d been thinking about doing a lifestyle shoot to add to my portfolio with the stock agency, Arcangel. While driving around my suburb with my mum looking for locations we […]

23
Aug

How to fake an underwater photo with Photoshop

How long I’ve wanted to shoot underwater! When girls in pretty dresses are combined with the weightlessness of water the results are elegant and ethereal. But shooting underwater is costly as it requires expensive purpose-built camera housing (around $2k) or an underwater point and shoot, which is cheaper (around $500) but offers less control. You […]

9
Aug

How to create snow in Photoshop.

While it’s currently the height of summer in the only hemisphere that (supposedly) matters, where I live in Australia it’s so cold that the state I live in saw snow for the first time in 30 years. When faced with the prospect of driving 2.5 hours to photograph said snow OR hibernating under blankets, I […]

26
Jul

How to add special effects to your photos in Photoshop.

Using special effects can instantly transform an ordinary photo into a magical scene, and they’re not nearly as complex to create as it seems. Traditionally artists use bright, glowing light to signify magic or special powers but if you set off fireworks or bring out your glowsticks during the day you’re not going to impress […]

12
Jul

How to create the dispersion / scatter effect with Photoshop.

Photoshop brushes are a brilliant way to add interest to your photos but did you know you can use brushes on layer masks? Say, for example, you want to create a bird made of fire, you could take a picture of fire, add a black layer mask to it and then using a bird-shaped brush […]