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Special Effects for Composite Photography

Lesson 6 of 9

Spark Effects

Corey Barker

Special Effects for Composite Photography

Corey Barker

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Lesson Info

6. Spark Effects

Lesson Info

Spark Effects

Cool, all right. So let's move onto fire, sparks, things like that. Another design element very common in a lot of movie posters and streaming ad designs and stuff like that are you see sparks and fire, and stuff like that usually out of the bottom or something like that. It seems like it's the law these days. Almost every movie poster has that little trailing spark or fire at the bottom. And why, because it looks cool. I don't see any other reason for it to be there. But I really wanted to figure out how to add those types of elements to my designs and when you look for design elements, especially when you're doing it as a stock search, what I like to do is look for collections like this. This obviously has a lot of different fire elements, but the beauty is, I'm only charged for one stock image. I'm not going and looking for individual fire elements that you have to pay for each element. When you're looking for abstract elements like this, look for them as collections. You're getting...

a lot more for your money by purchasing one stock of this many elements. And I always like to show my fire extraction trick because, first, it's extremely useful. That is the real point of it. But it's also really, really cool because you can actually extract fire cleanly from a dark background. Just to kinda show you a contrast, let's just get this girl here. And in the past, what I would do when I wanted to blend a fire element to a composite, conventional thing would probably say, well, let's just take this element here. I like this one here, so I'm gonna use the lasso tool and select it, drag and drop it into my image, and then simply do something like change the blend mode of this layer to screen. And that works pretty well. It tends to get a little washed out, you know? But you can see through the fire, as you'd expect to, and you can position it and do whatever you want with it. But again, it does look a little washed out. I wanna keep that vibrancy and not have to use a blend mode, because maybe I wanna add a glow to it to enhance the fire effect or something like that. So, I wanna extract the fire, and it couldn't be easier. Because it's on a black background, we're gonna do a luminance-based selection just like we did a while ago. So, when I have the fire element open here, see, it's a flat image, and we'll go and get our channels palette. When it's fire that you're gonna be extracting, 99% of the time, probably 100% of the time, it's gonna be the red channel that's gonna give you the best selection. What you wanna do is, in that channels palette, go in here and toggle through and see which one, which channel, which individual channel has the most detail of your subject. So if I go in here and see red, and by detail, I mean which one has the most white and gray area, which one is encompassing the fire the most. So, green, obviously not so much. Blue, no way. Red is obviously the best channel here, so we're gonna make a selection based on the red channel. You can just double click, or just rather hold down the command key, or control, and click right on the red channel thumbnail. You'll see it loads it as an active selection. We're gonna jump back over to the layers panel here and we're just gonna do a simple Command or Control + J, pulls those fire elements to a new layer. Here's the problem, because we made that luminance-based selection, it has a little bit of the residual background, that black area around the fire. Normally that would probably be fine, you could work with that, but there is a feature and it's a feature that's been in Photoshop for a long time that is actually designed to take care of that. If you go into the layer menu, go to the very very bottom, this is probably why it's not widely used, because it's so obviously hidden at the very bottom of the menu, but if you go to this matting menu and simply choose remove black mat and booyah, you've got cleanly extracted fire, no residual background, isn't that cool? Now if I go and select any of these fire elements just as I did a moment ago and pull it over to an image, Now I'm seeing the fire in its full vibrancy, full transparency, just as you would expect to see it, so I can add it down here at the bottom as a design or something like that. It looks great and of course it is cleanly extracted, like I said, you can add a glow to it if you wanted to. It just enhances, that's probably a bit much, there we go, let's dial that opacity down. You can just add a glow to it because earlier when I was doing it and blending it using the screen mode, it still maintained that initial shape I selected, so if I applied a glow to that it would apply it to that selection I made, but now because the fire's extracted, I can do this. Another trick is even if you've got the fire extracted like this and you like the shape of the fire element but maybe not necessarily the density of it, here's another trick. Go and command click on that layer, will load that fire element as an active selection, go to select, choose inverse, and then just hit delete once or twice or whatever like that and it just slightly removes a little bit more, a little bit of the density of that fire. Then you can just reposition, do whatever you want with it. That is how I get fire into my images. Again, the key point, find collections and then just use that extraction method to pull them and once you have these extracted elements like this, you can actually take this, and this is something I discovered by accident, I didn't even know you could do this. An extracted layer, you can drop into your libraries and then it stays, it's transparent. It's a transparent layer that you can just pull right out of your libraries onto whatever image you're working on so you don't have to go through the labor of extracting it again. Do it once, drop it in your libraries, it's on a transparent layer ready to go. I'd probably do that, each individual fire element after I've extracted it, because now if I pull it in, it's just gonna pull the entire image. The whole point is efficiency. You want to get these design elements where you're not having to create them every time you need them, you want them ready to go and doesn't disrupt your workflows. You have the brushes ready, you've got these elements ready in the libraries panel and you're good to go. That make sense? Oh, and one more thing. I closed the image but you know what, I'll just pull my image back in. I wanted to show you one more thing. Let's scale it up a little bit more there, okay. I am gonna pull, let's just pull that same element there. Can you tell which one's my favorite? It's because I've used that one numerous times here, but alright, so I'm gonna take this, let's just scale it up a little bit more. I'm gonna add a layer style. What I want to do is create kind of the small spark embers that are kind of coming up from the fire. You can do that with a simple layer style. I'm gonna use drop shadow, and this again goes back to what I've often talked about is using a feature in Photoshop based on what it does, not necessarily what it's called. You might dismiss drop shadow because thinking I don't want a drop shadow, I don't need one, but if you play around with the settings, you can achieve some pretty interesting things. Here I'm gonna go in and activate drop shadow. Let's set the color, I'm actually gonna sample the bright color of the fire here, I'm gonna zoom in on the fire so you can better see. Sample that bright color there. For the moment, I'm gonna set this to normal and just kinda move this up, so you can manually move shadows up and it basically creates kind of a ghosting of it. I'm just gonna nudge it up a little bit here. But what I'm gonna do is, I don't want it to be normal mode, I'm gonna set this to a blend mode that nobody ever uses and it's this one right here, dissolve. It creates this kind of particle effect but it can be a bit extreme, so you're gonna wanna dial this down to like 5%, perhaps even smaller, let's go like 3%. It creates those little ember elements. Now you can move it around. That's still probably a bit extreme. Let's dial it down to one, there we go. Now we're just adding another hint of realism to it by adding those little bit of sparks and embers that are on that fire there, and that's using a simple drop shadow in a very, very different way. Again, it is a drop shadow, it's a layer style. You can go in there and adjust it, delete it, whatever you want if you don't like it. Keep it going right there, there you go.

Class Description

In this class, we will explore a variety of special effects that can add that polished look to your compositing work. You will see how you can get creative with custom brushes and layer effects. We will also explore some more advanced effects using 3D.

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Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.1.1

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Special Effects for Composite Photography Bonus

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Pat Saizan

Great short course. Love to see advanced photoshop classes like this. Cory is great and an excellent instructor.

Beth Krzes

i found this class to be very informative. the image and description were a bit misleading but I did enjoy the subjects covered. well worth the time. I think he went through the steps quickly, you do need a better than average understanding of layers and tools as he isn't always clear as to the "path" of how to do certain steps. I took notes, attempted the project and listened to the lesson again to reiterate the sections that my notes weren't too clear. also was more focused on watching the process vs just writing it down. would recommend this class to anyone who wants to step up their skils in PS.