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Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Lesson 50 of 60

Creating a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool


Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Lesson 50 of 60

Creating a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool


Lesson Info

Creating a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool

Let's see here, what do I wanna do? I kinda wanna get rid of that sky behind there 'cause that little bit of halo is kind of bugging me. I'm allowing some of that halo because I know the sky I'm gonna put in behind is gonna be way darker. So I'm not stressed about this. If I was putting in a really, really bright shiny, sun shiny background, of course I would have lit it differently first. But I also would have created a situation where masking this hair would have been with more contrast so that I could get the definition a little bit more clearly. One thing that I'm not super loving is that I wish I'd remembered, and this happens a lot, I'm sure this happens to other people to, where sometimes I forget to do the liquefy work first that I wanted to do. So in this case, I totally forgot. So I have to fix some of this masking here anyway, so I'm going to do, I'm gonna right click on this mask. I'm gonna say disable layer mask. I'm not deleting it, but I'm disabling it. Which just means ...

I'm gonna have to go in and do a little bit of tweaking afterwards. So I'm gonna go hit the marquee tool. I'm gonna make sure that I'm selected on the model. Highlighting the model and control shift X or command shift X for you crazy Mac users. And so, I'm just gonna fluff this out just a tiny little bit and I'm gonna bring that little bit of fabric here on her hip. Taking a brush. Because this shirt is a little bit big on her. She's not that big naturally. I mean, you guys saw her earlier. She's like doink. (laughs) Little tiny thing. So, that's just like enough, little bit of foofiness going on there. I might see about pulling that down a little bit. And I might fluff her hair a little bit, which means I have to do a little bit of work again in masking, but... Actually, better idea. I'm not gonna touch the hair. This is my brain on editing. I'm gonna edit the hair once I put the sky in because I can actually, I know that I can make that manipulation, and a little fix of flex in the sky. I've got room, I can get away with it so I'm not gonna remask her hair but I'm just gonna touch up that part of the skirt that I edited. So I've manipulated her. I'm gonna right click and I'm gonna go enable layer mask. So my mask is gonna be not totally accurate right now. Which is fine. And let's just mask this out a little bit because we have to fix, we have to fix some of this stuff anyways. So I'm gonna grab my brush. This is where everything gets really boring. I went over her arm a little bit. I need to increase the hardness. I'm letting it wrap around a little bit there because I know I can get away with it and I know that it'll be fine. I'm gonna increase my flow a touch. I'm just sliding around here. So obviously I can't see where I made the skirt bigger, so I'll just go and invert my mask and I'll make it a little bit too big here. Or sorry, invert the color of the brush. I'm leaving the mask alone. I'm inverting the color of the brush. (laughs) Do do do. If you don't talk to yourself when you're editing, you're lying to yourself because I promise you do. (laughs) I didn't notice how much I talk to myself while I was editing until I started recording tutorials, which eventually will be released through my website. I'm working on one on masking but I realized, oh my god, I have like an internal dialogue with myself that I didn't even know existed. (laughs) I was listening to it afterwards and I was like, oh man. I'm like cutting out chunks, like sentences with sound and everything and like oh my god. (laughs) Gonna be a crazy person. So yeah. This is why I actually like editing, like cutting this stuff out by hand because it's nice and smooth. I am still being a little bit rough, I know I'm missing some spots, but... Just trying to give you guys something here relatively interesting. So this edge here I don't like 'cause it's not real to reality. It's not accurate. So I'm just gonna soften it a little bit. The reason for that is look at these rocks that are around here and look at how long, how quick the, how many pixels the transition of color is. It's not just one pixel to the next, which is what a lot of these hard edge editing software does. And of course there's refine edge, yes, we know. But I have never really loved refine edge because I can't change it spot by spot by spot as easily as I can just do this. And so see here, we have a little bit of fabric coming through. So this area here might be semi-transparent, so what I like to do is I go in with like, a low flow brush. Not low enough. One. And I will just lightly allow through a little bit of that. So, that was at 1% flow because zooming out we might see a little bit of it. It's just a detail that neurotic me if I printed it at 60 by 90 I would notice, but like, that grain looks weird. Here a question, what's up? Yeah, now that you're coming to the shadow, do you always, or just sometimes delete out the shadow? I'm gonna delete out the shadow and I'm gonna bring it back. Show you what's up. Yeah, we're gonna get to that. Shadows are super important. Shadows are totally their own animal, but right now we just gotta make sure that the mask itself, the original mask, is solid. So I'm gonna increase this again. Make sure we're sitting here nice and pretty and I'm mostly just paying attention to the edges. Yes, what's up? Just kind of a side note question. I was just curious. Is there a specific reason why you choose PC over Mac? Yeah, because Mac doesn't make anything strong enough. I get this question a lot. I get it a lot. Let's talk about that as you're still doing that. (laughs) Yeah. Can you talk a little bit while you're doing your thing about the computer and what it took to get it custom made for you? Yeah, Macintosh wishes they could make something this awesome, but they don't make it that awesome. So I find for people who do a lot of really high-end work, these things, PCs are super customizable and you can make total powerhouses out of them. So that's why I'm PC. I know the operating system in Macintosh is far more stable, but I've used Macs and I'm always overheating them and nothing irritates me more than being limited by technology. I do not want my computer to be the thing that's holding me back from doing the work that I need to do. A year and a half ago, I had an ASUS that I love. I mean, I love ASUS computers. I can't fault them even tiny little bit. They have great gear. But I was sitting watching this thing render, like a brush stroke across the screen for like 25 seconds and I was just losing it. There's not too many ways that I lose my cool epically but that's one of them. And so, when Puget came along, we designed a custom computer. So this thing's got three SSD drives in it. It has 42 gigs, 32 gigs of RAM inside of it and I forget the graphics card, but it's also equally awesome. But basically, a lot of people were like, "Oh well, you know, why didn't you go Mac?" Because everyone has this illusion that high-end people use Mac which actually isn't really the case. The really, really, really high-end studios, especially high-end compositing studios such as Legendary Studios and Digital Demand and all of those guys, their compositing departments are all PCs because they can run Linux on it and Linux is free, and then they run Nuke. So they can basically soup these things up with all the crazy amount of power they need necessary and continue on. So that's why I use a PC because Mac just doesn't cut it. Does Macintosh work for tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of people? Yes. But it's a total illusion that all people who do creative work use Macintosh because it's just not the case. Actually, yeah, Pritik who does Solstice Retouch, the guy who does the amazing beauty retouch workshop here on CreativeLive is a PC guy for his heavy-duty work. He has a custom PC at home. Well, at his work studio. So yeah. It's this ongoing battle online. Everyone, I think it's really funny when I teach workshops and I'm like the only PC in the room. Everyone (laughs) else is Mac. But PC users unite. I know you're out there. (laughs) You're not alone. Yeah, we're getting closer, guys. So much closer. There's a reason why I picked skirts for this because I knew they would be relatively easy to cut out. I didn't wanna deal with legs. There's only so much masking you can handle before everyone starts to fall asleep or they start going to YouTube. (laughs) SO in this case here with her arm, I'm just softening that edge a little bit. A little bit too much there. (sighs) Instead of 13, let's go down to 5% flow again. Nice and soft. Alrighty. So I'm gonna click alt. Click on that and so I noticed there's like a little bit of texture thing going on here with her elbow. That's because the mask isn't clear, so... I could also do that technique that I was talking about yesterday. The dodge and burning on the mask works pretty well. Aha, see. This is why I like hitting alt 'cause then I can see what I missed. 'Cause it totally happens. On the topic of the gear, actually, there was a really funny comment thread on Facebook yesterday on one of my friend's profiles between, it was like PC versus Mac. So all the PC users were rallying together and all the Mac users were rallying together. (laughs) That was funny. So I'm just gonna go to my dodge tool. For those of you who were watching yesterday, if you missed this yesterday, you're gonna have to watch it. But, I'm just, oops, not mid tones. Hitting the dodge tool on the highlights. Just cleaning up that edge a little bit. Make sure I'm hitting this. And I'm not gonna get this little tiny piece around the corner because that was intentional. So I'm noticing here, this here is all still kind of splotchy, right? So I'm gonna use the burn tool. Make this nice and big. Make sure it's set to shadows. Let's crisp that stuff up a little bit. Alt click. There we go. So, alrighty. We have our subject. It's looking not too bad. It's a good start. What do you guys think? Alright. So I spent all this time working on this mask. I like to be able to save said mask project. So like, have the high res version of her saved. Control J. Let's just duplicate. Mask save. So I'm gonna stick these two guys into a group. So highlight them both, control G or command G, which is group. Save stuff. So this basically means if I'm screwing around on something and I totally screw something up, I have got all of my hard work saved so I don't have to do it again. I learned this the hard way from so many times. (laughs) I was working on something and then I botched the mask or something like that and then I was like, oh my god, I have to do all that work all over again. Sad panda. The other thing I'm gonna do is now that my mask is finished, I'm saving. File, save, file save. I'm gonna save this as a psb as opposed to a psd. It's a large document format. That means that if we wind up going over two gigs on this, which is a possibility, it's gonna save properly still going forward. I'm also turning off the maximized compatibility. So here, this is something that I wasn't able to cover yesterday. But today, I turn off maximized compatibility because I know that I'm just gonna be working on this file on this computer in this version of Photoshop. That means that this file size is gonna be a lot smaller. So that's kind of handy. (laughs) Renee, could you please give us another explanation, reiterate on psb please. Yes. So psd files have a max size limit save of two gigabytes. Psb files don't have that size limitation. That's the only thing, the only difference I know about the two. I'm sure there's more, but all I know is that when I was first getting into making Photoshop composites and they started to get around the two gig mark and I started getting over it, I noticed that things weren't able to save anymore. It was like epic crash fail, you can't save this file because it's too big. And then somebody told me about psb and I was like, aw, this changes everything. So use a psb file. I'm sure a tiff file would probably also work as well.

Class Description

With the right Adobe® Photoshop® know-how and studio shoot experience, you can merge fact and fiction into a reality that lives up to your imagination. Renee Robyn has made a career of turning everyday photos from her travels into eye-catching images. Robyn will teach you how to add people and other elements to your existing landscape photos using ethereal custom effects.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to choose or set up a shoot for your background image
  • How to direct posing during a shoot, and work with directional light in-studio to make your subject fit into the background image
  • How to composite your subject into your image using Photoshop

Photo compositing allows you to breathe interesting ideas into your photos. Open your hard drive, walk into your memory, and turn past experiences into fantastic new realities.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Why You Should Sketch Your Composite
  3. What to Look for in Your Background
  4. Posing Your Model
  5. Communicate with Your Team
  6. Elements of Compositing
  7. Learning from Failure & Criticism
  8. On-Location Safety Tips
  9. How to Nail the Right Perspective for Your Composite Photo
  10. Gauging Light & Exposure On-Location
  11. On-Location Posing
  12. Cliff Shoot Location Final Thoughts
  13. Tips for Culling Images
  14. Culling Images Q&A
  15. Preparing Your Image for Composite
  16. Composite Image Cleanup
  17. Adding Background Image to Composite
  18. The Difference Between Flow & Opacity
  19. Composite Sky Elements
  20. Using Curves to Color Match
  21. Adding Atmospheric Depth to Image
  22. Using Color Efex Pro to Manipulate Color
  23. Using the Liquify Tool
  24. Color Theory & Monitor Calibration
  25. Adding Smoke Layer to Image
  26. Selective Sharpening
  27. Crop Your Image
  28. Goal Setting for Digital Artists
  29. Review of Location Composite
  30. Understand Angle & Height for Your Base Plate Image
  31. Base Plate Focus Point
  32. Base Plate Lighting Tips
  33. How to Use a Stand-In for Base Plate Image
  34. Capture On-Location Base Plate Image
  35. Student Positioning Demo
  36. Base Plate Sketching
  37. On-Location Sky Capture
  38. What to Look for in a Base Plate Model
  39. Building Composite Model Lighting
  40. Composite Model Test Shots for Angle Matching
  41. Composite Model Shoot: The Art of Fabric Throwing
  42. Composite Model Shoot: Working with Hair
  43. Composite Model Shoot: Posing Techniques
  44. Composite Test with Final Shot
  45. Lighting Setup Overview
  46. Culling Model Shoot Images
  47. Adjusting Skintone Colors
  48. Merging Background with Model
  49. How to Mask Hair
  50. Creating a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool
  51. Creating Shadow Layers
  52. Removing Visual Distractions with Stamp Tool
  53. Replacing Sky with Layer Mask
  54. Drawing Hair Strands and Atmospheric Depth
  55. Creating Contrast in Your Composite
  56. Adding Atmospheric Elements
  57. Using Particle Shop
  58. Selective Color Adjustments
  59. Cropping, Sharpening, & Final Touches
  60. Closing Thoughts


Dino Maez

i have to say, the class was AMAZING! in every way from the tricks and technique's of mastering this art form to the personalized attention given by Renee. through the class you are able to learn information that would normally take the average person years of trial and error. Renee gives you the gift of benefitting from her her experiences and what she has learned THE HARD WAY! Renee is an outstanding instructor full of passion for what she does, and with a strong desire to not only improve the art, but more importantly, pay it forward, by sharing her knowledge with others. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event in person, truly a once in a lifetime experience for me, the staff at creative live were THE BEST! they are helpful in every way and really made this event something special, i can't say enough about the experience i had and would highly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to go down for a class, it will be an experience that you will never forget. but the best part of creative live is that wether you are there in person or wether you are watching from the comfort of your own home, you are involved in the class in REAL TIME, you have the ear and attention of the skilled artist giving the instruction, being there myself i can tell you that Renee was regularly given questions and comments from the viewers via the creative live staff and she would respond to them as they came, in that way you are very much apart of the class you are never left without getting that personalized attention of an amazing artist or that specific question you have answered, and even better you have the option to purchase the class and have it as a constant resource in your tool kit that you can refer back to at any point that you need a refresher or want to recall that special technique that was demonstrated. thank you thank you to renee and all the staff at creative live you have a life long member in me. and i would recomend that everyone take advantage of this valuable resource dino maez

stephen lenman

I have completed many creative courses. This is by far the best so far. Quite the most amazing and inspiring presenter with a true passion for their craft. The core information is excellent, but the thing i liked most were her subtle tangents, dropping incredible information completely on the fly. A complete real world honest view of business and practical side of the industry. Especially her advice on how she started to her business. Saving up enough in her day job so she could pay the rent, and do photography for 3-6 months.

Sheldon Carvalho

Awesome class. I've been following Renee for a very long time. I love her work and to finally see her work and get an image done from start to finish was quite something.. I love the way she sees things and the way she treats her work and all fellow creative. I would recommend this to everyone interested in getting into composting. Looking forward to creating and making my own art work. But it now :) Have fun creating. :)