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Advanced Adobe Photoshop Techniques

Lesson 24 of 25

Fantasy Characters Composite

Dave Cross

Advanced Adobe Photoshop Techniques

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

24. Fantasy Characters Composite

Lesson Info

Fantasy Characters Composite

this was the project I wanna show you the final version that I created so the two subjects were both shot in studio separately and the other background I was trying to find a background to use as a like in a forest so I went in the deep of all these forests and then actually found walking on our neighborhood at the right time of night there was actually this cool little forest right there so I ended up using that as the forest so that's what we I ended up with I want to show you the elements so here's thie things that I took photos off I wanted her to look like a fairy and I went online and I was trying to find like stock photo of wings but they're all too perfect you just looked too good so a friend of mine has a whole bunch of costumes he uses for various events so he had these very basic wings I liked them because of the way that they weren't perfect they had you know they've been in a bag for a long time and kind of squished and I want all partially as I'm doing this I want explain...

kind of my thought process because I knew ultimately I was going to do these all is layers with mass and because of the feathers on the wings and as you'll see later also that the angel characters has sort of semi see through material in my head I was thinking well eventually it's going to see through to a forest which has lots of green in it so if I shoot on a green background it won't matter that much of there's a bit of green left in it because it's going to be on green anyway so that was kind of my thought process there so I also let me continue my going through so here's the guy that posed with a looking for a menacing and I shot him on a great background just again so I think it be easier for contrast standpoint the angel when we had some see through material again seeing through the green but the other thing I thought as if she's going to be floating in the air unless she was like amazing ballet dancer a person can't stand right on there very tiptoes and looked like they're hanging and I didn't really have the ability to actually hang her from the studio so as odd as it sounds right now it worked beautifully we did a whole bunch of poses like this and then I had her sit on a table and took a photo of just the bottom parts of her legs and feet so she could let her feet hang like they would be if she was in midair and uh okay so here's my background and was taking a time of day there was already kind of some nice sunlight coming in a bit of yellow in there so I kind of like the start of that I made it just a little darker like this so this is my background other than that everything I'm going to do is based on importing into here so I'm gonna take this guy on like we talked about before place in photo shop so right away I'm going to make sure that I'm doing everything in context so again it comes in a camera raw so I'm going to decide initially this's my first run and I don't really know yet but that's okay because I'm gonna eventually get it the way I want sizing is at this point I guess because he's supposed he is a large man but it's just kind of I want himto look fairly big so I'm just going to take a guess that he should be about this big this is me just deciding because I don't have to worry about it's not like a real scenario I'm tryingto match something up notice again how even I'm in free transform I could temporarily lower the opacity while I'm transforming then I put it back forty percent press enter at this point this is this part is very similar with taco before but you'll very quickly see how we start to build on this to try and build up our believability a little bit shooting on a gray background is really nice a lot of the time if you have the right kind of lighting especially someone his case that his skin is dark enough there's enough contrast that you can really see the difference but quick selection tool overall it did a pretty good job however by press q for quick mask even see you right away didn't do so good a job in here and also I wasn't an attempt to try and get the sword because it's very straight so this is where I start with quick selection tool because it's often and give me a good start but then I very quickly switch to something else like my lasso tool in this case the polygon a lasso tool that does straight lines I want to remove this part from the selection's a hole down option or all and going here and get this part what I used to do just to let you know what I would zoom into a four thousand percent trying to get the smallest possible quick selection tool brush up on why am I doing that it's just too narrow in area when I have these other options available to me anyway and then here I need to add this so I'm gonna hold down the shift key click once just to start telling it I'm adding to the selection and I'm going to trace around the rest of this sword come back and make sure you have more than enough then go to refine agency what it looks like so far looks pretty good by the way for people who are still unconvinced about using keyboard shortcuts here is a reason why you need to know at least a few keyboard shortcuts I want this refine edge dialog box to be open but I can't go on click on tools like the hand tool in the zoom tool because it's busy doing this but you can use keyboard shortcuts like space far for the hand tool I can still use it even though this dialog boxes open so in many dialog boxes you can still do things like zoom in and out scroll left and right but only using shortcuts you can't switch tools so if I want to zoom out a bit and scroll up I can do all those things because I have that ability even this dialog box it opened on this example my first reaction is I don't need to anything in here I wouldn't touch smart radius or radius because his whole b the fact he has no hair means the whole thing was pretty sharp ads I don't really need to do anything I do notice that I'd still need to tweak a little bit of this down here but I can do that afterwards in the mask so here this was just almost like a double check to go doesn't look ok yes let's output that toe a layer mask and if we look at it you can see it looks perfectly realistic it looks like no it doesn't because there's all this stuff on the ground so it looks like he's just floating in there I want to look like he's actually standing in amongst this forest fern area greenery so a simple way to do that is something like this I'm going to turn this him back on again just for a second I use guides a lot to help me remember because I'm a minute I'm gonna hide him but I want to make sure I'm finding kind of the right zone as to where I want to worry about right in there so now I can turn that him off so now I'm just gonna make a very broad selection we talked before about the select color range if you have nothing selected select color range will look att every pixel in your entire photograph but I want to narrow the focus down to say just in this part is why I'm really worried about so I'm making an initial selection now when I go to color range it's only gonna look inside that area turn this off for a second so I can see and I click on the green and I start to move it and this is where I could now take advantage of one of these previews to see what I've got and I'm trying to have got localized color clusters turn on sometimes turn that on and off actually like a better off I think I'm trying to make sure I'm getting mostly just the green and not much else then I click okay and now I have all this stuff selected but you can see it's selected really just the greenest left everything else now I just duplicate that on two layer by itself turned him back on move this up well this up he said go and now right away the realism has gone up but not because it really looks like he's standing in the middle of all these green ferns instead of just standing there now there is one or two there's kind of like this one looks a little bit funky so take right down this moment in time dave said now I will click on the eraser tool and just erase that part because I hardly ever do that but you know I always say don't ever a race but in this case you know what I know I'm not going to ever change my mind about that kind of thing so it's okay to a race in a case like that let's go back to one hundred percent for a second and now I look a little bit closer I can see there's a little bit of ah fringe thing happening along those legs along with that little problem that I mentioned before so let's first of all address this little area in here and make sure that that's gone on in the press d for default make sure you put on the mask command delete or controlled backspace is a short cut for phil with the backing color which is currently black and then let's also address this little bit of a fringy thing I'm seeing this the first thing I would try because the easiest is with my mass selected choose levels commander control l and see if I can't just move a couple of sliders like this and that fringe pretty much goes away I would try that first because usually it works sometimes you'll notice that has a negative effect on some other area but in this case it appears to work pretty well to me now eventually I one things that caught my eye this eye like this natural bit of light that's coming in this bit of sort of yellowish late some light thing and I wanted to play with that even mohr so I'm gonna just show example of the kind of thing we can play with and it's a simple idea but it really work it's quite well so let's find a nice yellow and I know I sound like a broken record sometimes but again this is one of these you have to just be prepared to wait for something to see if it's going to actually work or not so I'm going to make a big circle right here that I will fill with yellow and initially just look course really horrible convert that to a smart object and then do gaussian blur and blur the heck out of it and now start to play around with things like opacity and blend loads like overly so now they're just looks like there's a brighter yellowy source because this is all fantasy here you don't really have angels and guys with big swords in our neighborhood for us so I don't care if I'm going into a realm where is looking a little less realistic but having done that now I'd like him to have a bit of that same look like if he's standing in that force and is that really strong yellow light that maybe he needs to have some of that as well so I touched on this earlier but I wantto we visit this idea so just take a paintbrush I still have the same yellow carve out a new layer I'm going to clip it with the layer below so when I paint it's still only going toe apply inside the shape it's not going to go on the outside areas and I'm just going to add a few little yellow things here and there which has got a first gonna look really odd because it's not finished yet and then the two things will do to try and make this look not quite so like I've done that is first of all it can always try a blend moe to see if that by itself will help which it may or may not then double click on this to use the blend of flyers I want to take the dark parts underlying and start to go through it now if I do that optional split the trying see right away how it's just taking a lot of it away like this because I just want little bits and pieces of it and even lower the opacity a little bit and I didn't do this at first but I could do it now if I wanted to or just go ahead and do a little bit of a blur on that not that much though just a little bit so another example of this is one of my recurring themes not that I in any way advocate drinking but someone once told me when they were watching creative live that they made a drinking of every time I said end up with because I know I say that a lot so don't do that in any way shape or form but it is something I can't stress enough halfway through that I know some people are like still going and I know I don't know and I'm so okay so just you have to be prepared to get to that stage where you go okay that's still looking a little weird that's still ok then oh and then you change the opacity I see so don't be afraid to do something where your first five steps you're like gosh I don't know that looks way too obvious whatever it is knowing that with a couple of more steps going to suddenly pull it back into a realm where like oh I've actually looks pretty good right there okay so part I'm doing along the way here is I'm paying attention my layers panel to make my life easier for example now I want to put the angel in there in the pieces that she's made up of so I want to make sure that she's below this yellow light source I don't want to be and I don't want her to be in front of that I can always change it later but just paying attention to where you are in here especially you have a clipping path because if you by mistake have that layer active than whatever you place in there will be part of that clipping mask and will probably cause you some grief so let's place in photo shop I'm going to take advantage of the fact that to make a better selection I might wantto bump up the green a little bit put her in here and once again we're going to decide she's going to be appear in the sky somewhere and then make my selection now in this case will you have some areas I'm gonna actually not bother including her feet because I remember I know I have new feet I'm gonna put in that sound really weird to say that but that's just the way it is I think in the actual project when I was doing this I used my same method of doing her head and hair separately just to make sure I don't bother in this case but you certainly know that you I could do that won't take away this part here and sometimes the matter just getting pretty close to start with and then hitting refinish to make sure my fairly close now here's where my theory actually me continue this first saw in this case and this will be one case where I would do I'm okay doing a bit of smart radius and moving the radio because I want to just get make sure that hairs in there but everything else has such a soft edge I'm not too worried about it normally as you saw before I would do it in two steps but they're starting to say is my theory was if I shot her on a green background then she would show through to these nice green trees and then in the final photo it's mostly brown trees and not green it also suddenly the green doesn't look so good anymore so hugh saturation adjustment layer clip to just this one go into the greens and lower the saturation because I don't want that much green in there so that will help a little bit then I would also consider going to the mask remember the mask looks like this so it's completely showing everything I want these areas to be a little bit see through so the way we hide things is black if I take black and painted like ten or twenty percent black that I'm starting teo allow to see through to the areas below now in some cases I don't think I did it in this case but in some cases what I'll actually due to be even mohr specific is I'll show you the idea here is gonna step back through that this one of course is still a camera smart object and I'm the one hand I'm a little reluctant to lose that ability but in some cases you're finding I'm just not getting the result you want if I tried to use the blend if sliders it would affect all of her so that's not going to really help me so what I might decided to do instead is select these parts here this part hold down the shift key and add this kind of party here this anywhere I'm seeing some of that green semisi through part happening like appear I'm doing this really quickly on this layer I would just duplicate that and then on the mask filled with black so the net result is it doesn't look like anything has happened step back there make sure ok wei go somewhere press the right target so now all I have is just those parts on a layer by themselves I take that same part on the layer mask fill with black so that it still looks like I have all that fabric but now on this layer of separate so now I could try using the blend of sliders and start to introduce some of that transparency that I want through the stuff in the background still looking a little greenish to me so again I would probably do same just to double up on this and make absolutely sure take greens lower that saturation that didn't seem to help too much in fact so we always have a plan b at least I tried to let's go to color range select the green in there so only showed this layer family that will help uh color arrange and a mask in the opposite so now we're getting just a little bit of that transparency showing through now the other last couple things I want to do here is I want teo adan her missing feet which is going to like tell you write advance is gonna look really weird at first because her feet are enormous compared to the rest of photograph it first but we'll do it anyway yeah big feet so I want to put these in here but at this point I'm kind of at a loss is toe now nowhere to put them because I deliberately massed out her original feats I'm going to leave them a little bigger than I think I'll need I'm going to go to this laywer mask and temporarily lower the density so I could remind myself where her feet originally were now I can come back to this layer this layer moved over lower the opacity a bit like now I have a better frame of reference to know they should be this big probably angled slightly match a little better back two hundred percent capacity and the correct layer boy I'm really missing my big monitor right now I tell you I'm having toe collapse in a large things way more than I typically do but that's reality of what we're working with today okay there we go so every so often tools don't work the way you want so that's why two things why I'm showing you this because I this is just me going through what I normally would do in a many caves like well that didn't work I don't know why I let me try something else so in this case I tried to use the quick selection tool and it was doing some things I didn't expect so I hit all the other layers and went back to color range to select all the green and then hit invert so I would end up with a selection of just the feet and then I can turn all the layers back on again and on this layer mask mask away the parts of peter that I don't want come brush stole one hundred percent now this part I'm doing way too fast but you get the idea so now she's just floating in the air with nothing so the last part would be put in the wing same thing I always do place it in I want to be somewhere over here and smaller quite a bit smaller I hope you're seeing as I'm doing this that I'm not staying out late every time but as a habit I'm pressing the space part of zoom and I are to scroll and I'm hitting I'm not every time having to go zoom in hand tool and that just this is letting me focus what I'm trying to do which is work under the pressure of everyone watching me trying to be creative without having to worry about a wait a minute I'm you know having the pause why do these other things so let's turn this off and get our wings and refine edge this case again I ok with doing some of that so I want to get all that fuzziness of the wing and adelaide mask that wing and behind her and position it where I want duplicate three transform horizontal duplicate should be just that one thing free transformed why's it so that's really weird the free transformation box is throwing me off because that's what really really big I don't know why that's really weird happens to me to everyone use the photo shop very soft because why did that happen yeah I don't know and as I was doing this there were a couple things I thought I still wanted to add some things to it so the last thing I do is somewhere I had a picture of some a cloud that I found someone that is very kind of misty and I'll see if I still have it here I'm not sure I do at some point I made a brush yes I don't have any more but I might have another one here that was just made of smoke because I wanted to give the feeling that there was a sort of mist on the ground here in their normally when I'm painting I like to paint at a fairly high opacity so I have the option of pulling it back to kind of get the effect that I want so clearly it still needs a bit of help but you could see along the way and this is my typical layers panel when I'm in the throes of doing it I don't pause and go wait let me rename that layer I will now or I would now because when I come back to this later I don't want to be lost and go what the heck is layer one but that was later too but I don't wantto slow down my creative process by constantly stopping and saying okay I should rename this this and rename that that but I think you can see is looking through the layers here let's look from the bottom up camera smart object so I could edit the forest if I wanted to at this point the guys that have me chris chris with the layer masses still cameras one object with the little bit of the yellow that I put the highlight than a little bit of grass I meaning this extra grass so this was a typical snare I'd go through would be as I'm doing it I'd start looking through it and say I should be renaming something that some of them are obvious okay those are the wings but when you have little layers like this you're like what is that then it's not about to rename and so later on you don't think that's unnecessary or you can't find something I rely heavily when I have all bunch of layers on the ability of taking the move tool pulling down the commander control key and clicking and that activates that layer automatically or right clicking and seeing these air the layers that are available and this is where seeing names like this isn't terribly helpful to me so that's one of the reasons why naming all the layers is very important at a certain point let's pretend for the signoria because there are certainly other things I would do uh let's do one other thing that I want to make sure I do just for the sake of argument I just feel like if she was floating up in the air there there would be some kind of ah um shadow be underneath her or something like that so let's get back to this time or standard brush just paint some kind of a thing down here my pass is really low so she's casting some kind of shadow on the bottom now when I did work on this project to say I had my nice big monitor so I was seeing everything much bigger here I'm doing a lot of zooming out to get the effect here I would say okay once I'm feeling like this is pretty good this is the way I want it to be I still wantto take it a step further and do some finishing touches to it I wanted to look a little more dark and gritty so I added a curves adjustment layer uh curves and dark and everything but right away I can tell clearly I didn't position this in the right place because she is not looking very dark and that's because having said before pay attention where you are in the layers panel I didn't but that's okay because we can just move it right after the top and also like sometimes to try taking a black and white adjustment layer and then right away changing the blend mode to something like overlay because it just kind of crisis dark and gritty look that I'm looking for and if I want to I could paint on the master say but don't use those areas that this is too dark over here so we always have multiple levels adjustment and I've been doing all this without a safety net has not once that I hit the safe command which I normally would at least once or twice before now so I was kind of taking a bit of a chance there so as we talked about multiple times I would save this as a psd file along the way and then if I wanted to do some further expansion experimentation I might save a copy that I flatten that version so I could try different things like playing around with different filters and things or take all these layers and just do that whole smart object thing this is going to be a fairly large file I have no idea how big but pretty big because of the layers and the smart objects but as you could see even if this one I've got quite a few of those layers at no point was I seeing that hold on a second while I'm calculating for you and I don't have any kind of special this is an off the shelf several year old laptop so anyone who's worried about if the follow gets so big my machine can handle it it has to get pretty big before that really becomes a problem so for me it was not a big problem and I let me experiment in ways that it anywhere along the way it could say well now that I see that I want to adjust the colors of this smart object or lower the opacity of that or move this over here or whatever it might be all of those things are definitely possible to do did that generate any questions along the way as we were did dave so charlene leaves would like to know wondering why you chose to do the circular blur method as opposed to that using the radiant the radio grady in when you were working on the angel um well that you mean the little light source on the side yeah that was just all is because I just wanted the ability to go back and edit it so if I used the grady it the grady in't isn't smart in other words once you do a grady in that's what you get I want the ability to be even at this eleventh hour so you know what I think that's blurred too much or not enough so just putting a simple shape with the grady and blur smart filter means now I could go in at any time and continue to say more or less whereas the grady int at that moment in time would probably give the same effect but then later on it would be harder to adjust if necessary got it is there a way to rotate a pattern brush on the fly without having you collect the brushes panel unfortunately not I wish there was but that's one of the ones there's not a shortcut for when you're working with the brush tool skit on a layer that I can actually work on here you know the closest thing there is is let's say I had a brush like this that was this size and I was working on and realized it was the wrong angle what you could do is control or right click at least in their you have quicker access and then hit enter and keep painting which is a little better than going and finding the brushes panel so right clicking in with in the context of using the brush will least lets you change things like the size and angle the brush in context and then you hit enter and continue so that's that's about the closest thing I can think of to do it more quickly than having to go and actually find the brush is especially since I want to keep my brush in a location to help me figure it out but then I just speed things up a little bit

Class Description

There is always a better way to edit in Adobe® Photoshop® – learn new, advanced techniques from expert instructor Dave Cross and develop a faster, more effective post-production process.

In Advanced Adobe Photoshop Techniques, Dave will introduce you to a wealth of little-known and under-utilized techniques that you can use to make your photographs really pop. You’ll learn new ways to work with:

  • Layers and masks
  • Composites
  • Type
  • Camera Raw
  • Color grading

Dave will show you how to speed up your work with luminosity masks and how to be more creative using the Blend If sliders. You’ll see how non-destructive methods – including smart objects, adjustment layers, vector shapes, and smart filters – can boost both productivity and creativity. You’ll also get lots of great tips on automating your work.

Open up a world of creative possibilities – join Dave Cross for Advanced Adobe® Photoshop® Techniques.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Dave's Detailed Course Notes

Using Photoshop, Illustrator, & InDesign

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


a Creativelive Student

I am an experienced photographer and retoucher and this Advanced Photoshop class with Dave Cross was exactly what I was hoping to find. I know how to accomplish everything I need in Photoshop, but was looking for the ways that I could update my workflow with the new features that have been added by Adobe. The complete use of Smart Objects and libraries is already changing my life and is incredibly useful and time saving. Dave gave a great explanation about the coarse at the beginning as to the fact that he just wanted to help users make their workflow better and he did just that...and in an enjoyable way. I highly recommend this class!

a Creativelive Student

While not highly experienced in PS I'm also not a newbie. I've done a few other online courses and am a member of other training sites but very quickly found I got information here that I hadn';t yet come across. Nesting smart objects and the non-destructive editing abilities they give me was one of those light bulb moments. Lots of other useful information in this course. Had to try the CC Library as a result. Very useful..... wish it saved the layer comps with your file though. Put some of these new learnt skills into a composite straight away.... did I say I'm loving nested smart objects!! A great course Dave.


Brilliant, love Dave's clear presentation style which is easy to follow, simply had to buy this one. I thought i had a pretty good grasp on photoshop but I'm delighted at how some of these seemingly simple tips and tricks have improved the quality of my final images and the speed at which I can work.