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Essential Compositing Tips & Techniques In Photoshop 2021

Lesson 4 of 13

Creating Depth with Atmospheric Perspective

Jesús Ramirez

Essential Compositing Tips & Techniques In Photoshop 2021

Jesús Ramirez

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Lesson Info

4. Creating Depth with Atmospheric Perspective
Learn to use Photoshop adjustment layers and layers styles to apply atmospheric perspective and create depth in composites.

Lesson Info

Creating Depth with Atmospheric Perspective

in this video, we're going to talk about atmospheric perspective, and with this principle you will be able to create the illusion of depth in a composite. Let me first open up this group and make sure I have this blank layer selected, and I'm going to paint with bread so that you can see what I'm doing. So what is atmospheric perspective again? This is a principle that it's used a lot by people who are traditional artists painters, for example. And the principal, basically is that when you're trying to create the illusion of depth or three D space in a painting or image or in this case, a composite is that an object that is close to you will have mawr contrast, so it will be darker and brighter than a similar object further away into the distance. So you'll notice how the contrast on this fear is not as dramatic as the one in front. Also, the further an object recedes into the background, the mawr of the atmospheric color it will take. In this case, it starts taking a little bit of blu...

e, but that's not always the case. It's true in daytime images, the foreground elements are warm and the background elements are cool. Here's an example of that. We have this city and you can see how these trees are warm. But then the objects in the image start getting cooler as we recede into the background. And once we look at the objects that are furthest away, there are very, very cool, hardly any warm colors. So keep that in mind. In daytime images, the things that are closer to you will be warmer, and the things that air further away from you will be cooler. However, the opposite is true in sunset or sunrise images. In those situations, the items that are closer to you are cooler, and the items that air further away from you are warmer. And let me show you an example of that. You can see in this photo that the trees that are closest to us air cooler and the trees that are further away from us are warmer and obviously the mountains air very warm, so that is very important to keep in mind when you're compositing. So again, to recap. What you're doing with atmospheric perspective is creating the illusion off the Z axis this Z axes That means depth. We have the Y axis, which goes up and down, and we have the X axes which goes left to right. So with atmospheric perspective, we're creating the illusion of the Z axis of depth. What I'm gonna do now is show you a couple examples. We have this first scene here and we have a tree. And if I wanted to make it seem like this tree was really, really close to us in this composite well, very, very simple I would just make it completely black and said the opacity to 100% and press OK, so this tree now looks like it's really, really close to us. But what if we want to make it seem like this tree is further back and I'll transform it so that it's not so big? What if we want to make it seem like we have a giant tree there? Notice how now the contrast doesn't match. Remember the further away that we go, the less contrast and reality is one solid color, but it's the same principle. Well, I can just now select the shade that it's found in that part of the photo and notice how I created the illusion of depth. I created the illusion of pushing this object back into the background. But in reality, this is a to the image. I didn't really push it back. I use atmospheric perspective to create that illusion. And again, I can scale this down and move it up here and again. By changing the color overlay, I can continue creating the illusion of depth. So that's a very simplified way of showing how atmospheric perspective works in this example. I'm going to use this castle. And one thing I should mention is that I'm not gonna worry about perspective or scale in this example. So keep that in mind, I'm only talking about atmospheric perspective here. Very, very important to realize, since we don't want to spend time on other things that could create confusion. But with my castle later selected, I'm just gonna place it right here on this cliff. And I'll press control t command you to transform and skill this down and place it right about here. So it looks like a sitting on that cliff. Now it looks okay, but we can make it look better if I create a black and white adjustment layer that will remove the colors, and it will allow me to focus on the contrast of the image. I'll tap the Z key on the keyboard and I'll zoom in, and what you need to do is make sure that the item that you composite in has the same contrast as where it is sitting in three D space, and this place is really close to us is probably one of the closest objects to us. But the contrast is still too much because the contrast is really being defined by your background image. So notice how the darkest pixels on this castle do not match the darkest pixels in the cliff where it's sitting. So we need to fix that. And we can fix that really, really easily by clicking on the castle and going into the levels adjustment layer clicking on this icon so that we can clip it to the layer below Notices down pointing arrow. This means that the levels adjustment layer will Onley affect the castle and nothing else. So now when I make an adjustment, it will Onley affect the castle. I'll click on this icon to reset my adjustment. And the first thing that I want to talk about is just briefly how this levels adjustment layer works with this ingredient. Here at the bottom, you can control what the darkest and brightest pixels are by default. The darkest is black and the brightest is white. But if I drag this point to the right, I can now make the darkest pixel this shade of gray. And if I drag this white point to the left now I'm making the brightest pixel, this shade of gray. So what I'm gonna do now is drag this black point to the right and make the darkest pixel as dark as the darkest pixel in the cliff so that it seems like it's actually sitting on there. So in this case is just a off shade of black, just a very dark gray. This seems to work pretty well. And if I looked down at the cliff, you can see that the brightest pixels are just off white, so I'll do the same thing. I'll just make the brightest pixels off white. And now let's talk about these three points. This one here on the left controls the darkest pixels of the image. Basically, what this is saying is that any pixel that is this shade of gray, this medium gray or darker will just become the darkest pixel off this layer, which in this case, is this off black color. This point controls the bright pixels. So if I drag this over to the left now I'm telling Photoshop that any pixel that is this shade of gray or brighter will be completely white or whatever. We set as the brightest pixel in this case, this off white gray, so you can adjust these controls accordingly. In this case, you might have to adjust the center point, which is the Gamma, but not really. I think we're okay. Just leaving it at default and maybe even making this just a little bit brighter so that it matches the background a bit better. I'll double click in the handle and watch what happens when I disabled the black and white adjustment layer. See that it looks much, much better. If you could make a composite work in black and white, you can definitely make it work with color. So let me just say, with the levels adjustment layer that's before and after. It's looking much, much better. And what happens when you change your mind? Maybe you select the castle again and you decide of place it now on this cliff, and I can zoom in right about here and place this layer right about there will notice that the adjustments that we made earlier no longer work, because now the castle is in a different place, and we need to adjust the castle so that it matches the current depth that we're trying to place it in. So I also like the levels adjustment layer and also enable the black and white adjustment layer and then just keep adjusting the castle accordingly so that it matches again. If we can make it work in black and white, it'll work when we bring back the color. See that? So now it looks like the castle is sitting there. So again, this shows the importance of atmospheric perspective. We'll do it one more time, but we'll use a different technique. I'll delete the levels adjustment layer. I'll select the castle layer and I'll press the V key on the keyboard to select the move tool, and I'll place my castle back here again. I'll scale it just a bit, and I'll move it down. Another thing that you can do is double click to the side of the layer to bring up the layer style window, and you can click on color overlay and then just click on the color picker and click the color of the sky. In this case, the sky is white. But I'm noticing that there's a little bit of blue in some areas. So maybe I'll just picking off white that has just a tiny little bit of blue. I'll press okay, and I'll just bring down the opacity until the castle matches the area that is sitting on in this case at about 58% and I'll press okay, so you can see now my before and after. So again, make sure that use atmospheric perspective to imply depth in your composites.

Class Description


  • Easily color match images.
  • Use perspective to make images fit their background.
  • Use familiar tools in unconventional ways to help you create better composites.
  • Realistically combine images from multiple sources into one single image.


Join Jesús Ramirez, the expert instructor from the very popular Photoshop Training Channel (PTC) on YouTube, as he teaches you the concepts for creating realistic composites in Adobe Photoshop 2021.

Composites are more than just merging images together. To make a realistic composite, one needs to consider light sources and perspective. By using Photoshop 2021 you can create worlds and scenes with your photography that would take extreme budgets to capture in camera.


  • Beginner photographers who want to learn how to combine two or more images together.
  • Beginner designers who are replacing backgrounds from photos to fit their designs.


Adobe Photoshop 2021 (ver 22.0)


Jesús Ramirez is a digital graphics expert, speaker, and educator specializing in Adobe Photoshop. With over 15 years of professional design experience, he has worked with clients such as Adobe, Microsoft, Motorola, and Conde Nast. Jesús is best known as the founder of the Photoshop Training Channel (PTC), one of the most popular Photoshop YouTube channels in the world with over one million subscribers.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase


Atmospheric Perspective

Matching Brightness

Matching Saturation

Matching Ambient Color

Select and Mask

Masking Difficult Hair

Blending Modes

Custom Brushes

Putting It All Together

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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This course teaches what you need to know about creating composites. As alway Jesus delivers in a clear, precise and fun way. You can just tell this guy has a great personality and he loves what he does. I greatly enjoyed the course and would strongly recommend it. A big thumbs up!!!

a Creativelive Student

One of the best courses I've done on CreativeLive and that's a high bar! An incredible mix of in depth guidance but also some simple photoshop tips along the way, I had so many 'wow' moments, learning things I had no idea you could do in Photoshop. Really a good pace too. Quite a short course but so many good lessons to revisit. Great work!

Javier Tinoco

Great course by Jesus Ramirez. This course teaches you several techniques regardless of your experience level. I've learned a lot from this course and I will recommend it to anybody wanting to start with PS or would like to expand their knowledge.