photoshop creative
Oct
20

Work with colour and texture

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 20, 2016

Give your composites the video game look using lighting effects, layers, textures and adjustments adding intensity and drama

final

1. Clean mask

step1

The key to any great composite is having a very clean mask. There are many ways to mask an object or person. Always add a layer mask so you can use black to remove and white to add back. A pen tablet comes in handy. Take your time. You want to make sure you don’t have a black edge around your mask. You want your edges to blend into the background just as they would if it weren’t a composite. If you make a mistake, just switch your brush to white and paint it back in.

2. Photography tip

step2

If you are shooting your own images, it is always good to think about post-production while at the photo shoot. Shooting a clear mask while using strobes can sometimes cause unwanted reflections that can add extra time to the editing process. By simply grabbing a shot of the face without the mask, you can place it on top of the mask in a separate layer. Simply bringing down the Opacity of the face layer will allow you to add some details back into the face and eyes while still giving the appearance they are behind the mask. Make sure that the eyes line up and the scale matches the underlying layer. You can Transform and Warp if needed.

3. Adding detail

step3

If you are shooting your own images, it is always good to think about post-production while at the photo shoot. Shooting a clear mask while using strobes can sometimes cause unwanted reflections that can add extra time to the editing process. By simply grabbing a shot of the face without the mask, you can place it on top of the mask in a separate layer. Simply bringing down the Opacity of the face layer will allow you to add some details back into the face and eyes while still giving the appearance they are behind the mask. Make sure that the eyes line up and the scale matches the underlying layer. You can Transform and Warp if needed.

4. Aligning layers

step4

When placing models on a background, matching perspective is imperative to making a composite believable. It’s always better to adjust your perspective on your background rather than your models. As long as the perspective is close, you should be able to tweak it by selecting Edit>Transform>Perspective. By dragging the top corners in or out it will make the perspective higher or lower. If you drag a corner up or down it will cause that side to move closer or further away. Adjust the perspective until it matches the angle and perspective of your foreground models.

5. Adding textures

step5

Paste the fog textures between layers. Because it is on a black background, select the Screen blending mode and all the black will become transparent. If your fog or texture has colour in it, choose Cmd/ Ctrl+U and pull the Saturation down. To bring down the fog, press Cmd/Ctrl+L and move the left slider to the right. Do this for any added texture. Select the texture layer and add a mask. Use a soft, black brush with the Opacity set to 25% and paint out the part of the texture you don’t want.

6. Matching colours

step6

Use a Curves adjustment layer on the background. Make sure it is only clipped to the background layer by selecting Layer>Create Clipping Mask. Use the RBG channel to adjust the exposure so that it matches the models. Next, use colour channels to match the temperature of the models. Add another adjustment layer over the whole image. To warm the image up, select the Blue curve and drag the middle of the line down slightly.

7. Adding light flares

step7

You can create light flares with a plug-in or within Photoshop. Select Filter>Render>Lens Flare, then choose your flare and the brightness. Now go to Edit>Undo. Create a new black layer on top of all your other layers. Change the blending mode to Screen. Next, select Filter and you will notice at the very top it will say ‘Light Flare’. You will now notice you can move the flare. If you want to change the colour of the flare, simply hold down Cmd/Ctrl+U. Check the Colorize box and move your Hue slider to the colour you want.

8. Matching highlight colours only

step8

Our highlights should match your ‘light source’. In this image the highlights need a little more yellow/orange in them. Create a Curves adjustment layer below your flare/lighting layers. Go to the Blue channel and pull it down slightly in the middle. This will add some warmth to the image like you did before. The adjustment will affect the entire image, but you only want it to affect the highlights. To do this, select Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options. Hold down Opt/Alt and click and drag the right corner of the black slider all the way to the right. This will cause the curve to only affect the highlights in the image.

9. Flash light beams

step9

Create a new layer on top of the others. Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool. Make a selection along the path the light from the flashlight would travel. Add a Curves adjustment layer. This will automatically create a mask and only the part you selected will be affected. In the RGB channel, click in the middle of the line and move it up slightly. This will give you a hard, bright light where your selection was. Double-click your mask and you will see a Feather slider to adjust. Move the slider to the right to soften the edges. Repeat this process again but with a narrower beam this time.

10. Adjusting highlight only

step10

If you feel that your highlights are too bright or not bright enough, you can adjust them without affecting your shadows. Add a new Curves adjustment layer above all other layers. Adjust the RBG channel accordingly. This is just like step 8 but you are using the RBG channel instead of the Blue channel. With your Curves adjustment layer selected, go to Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options. At the bottom of the window you will see two sliders under Underlying Layer. Hold down Opt/Alt and click and drag the right corner of the black slider all the way to the right.

11. Adjusting shadows only

step11

To adjust the shadows separately from the highlights, follow step 10 and add your Curves adjustment layer, then select Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options. Again, at the bottom of the window you will see two sliders under Underlying Layer. Hold down Opt/Alt and this time click and drag the left corner of the white slider all the way to the left. This will cause the curve to only affect the shadows in the image.

12. Final colour grading

step12

First, add a Channel Mixer adjustment layer. Choose the Black and White With Green preset. You will notice this turns your image black and white. You want to use this adjustment for some desaturation, so bring the Opacity down to 15%. Next, add a Color Balance adjustment layer. The Color Balance adjustments will vary from image to image, so play around with them to get the look you want. For this image the Shadows and Midtones were pushed towards the cyan and green tones, while the Highlights were pushed towards the red and yellow tones.

13. Sharpening

step13

Save your Photoshop document. Once you have saved it, select Layer>Flatten Image. Make a duplicate copy of the flattened image by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+J. Select your top layer. Next, select Filter> Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. Adjust the sliders as needed based on the file size. While still on the top layer, select Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. You can then use a soft brush set to black to remove the sharpening from any areas you don’t want it. You can also use the Opacity to pull down the sharpening over the entire image.

14. Adding grain

step14

Lastly, add grain. Create a new layer above your sharpened image. Hold down Shift and click Delete. Choose Fill With 50% Gray. Change the blending mode of this layer to Soft Light. Next, select Filter>Noise>Add Noise. The size of your image will determine the amount you use. Choose Uniform and leave Monochromatic unselected. Once you have applied it, hold down Cmd/Ctrl+U. Then pull down the Saturation to -85%. Leaving a little colour in the grain will make it look more natural. Be sure to perform this step at 100% zoom. You can adjust the Opacity if it feels like it’s too much. Once this is done, save your PSD.

15. Saving

step15

You can save the image in several different ways depending on its use. If you are going to use a good-quality printing lab, you can leave the image in Adobe RBG and select File>Save As. Save the file as a JPEG or TIFF. If you are planning on using a low-end printer or saving for online use, you want to convert to SRGB. Select Edit>Convert to Profile. Choose Working RBG. Save it the same as before. For online use it’s good to scale it down before saving. Select File>Automate>Fit Image. Do a Width of 2048px and a Height of 204px. Save it as a JPEG, and put it in a separate folder so you know it’s for online use.