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 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.
- 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.
- Lock down the focus and exposure on your model.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
How to edit the clothes for an invisible person
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.