In this Photoshop tutorial, we’ll tackle the complete process of blending two images together in Photoshop to create a movie-style composite image and pull together the foreground and background to create a smooth colored composite image with depth and contrast. You’ll learn about cutting out an image and creating a mask in this tutorial as well as healing, working with Curves, Levels, Gradient Maps, Selective Color, and much, much more to create this entire effect.
Cutting Out the Model with the Pen Tool
This tutorial outline will be much shorter than the crazy level of detail covered in the video above this write-up, but after we finished treating and stretching the background, we need to add our subject to the composite. Among the many ways to cut out a subject in Photoshop, I’m going with a somewhat older method by using the Pen Tool.
I set the pen to draw a path and drew out a path around the subject and double-clicked the path in the Path panel to save the path just in case I need to use the path later on in the composite process. Load the path as a selection by using the hotkey Cmd/Ctrl + Return/Enter
Using Select and Mask to Clean Up Edges
Once you have a selection you’ll almost certainly want/need to refine it to clean up the edges. Go Select>Select and grab the Refine Edge Brush Tool and use the square bracket keys on your keyboard to make the brush tip bigger or smaller and use a brush tip that is just big enough to cover the entire edge area and paint over areas like hair that stick from the subject out into the background area to allow this tool to clean up those edges. I also turned on the Smart Radius and set that to 2px. It can also be a good idea to use the Shift Edge slider and shift the edge backward to help clean things up and also play with the Feather slider to add a *tiny* bit of blur to help make the edges look a little more realistic. As with all these steps, make sure you check out the full video at the top to see everything I do to make this selection happen.
I also turned on the Smart Radius and set that to 2px. It can also be a good idea to use the Shift Edge slider and shift the edge backward to help clean things up and also play with the Feather slider to add a *tiny* bit of blur to help make the edges look a little more realistic. As with all these steps, make sure you check out the full video at the top to see everything I do to make this selection happen.
Correcting the Haircut with the Brush Tool
In the case of this image, the hair is very close to the color of the brick background which I am cutting our subject off of. What we want to do is choose to output the selection from Select and Mask as a New Layer with Layer Mask. Select that layer mask, grab the Brush tool and right-click and choose the fly out menu in the top right of the
Select that layer mask, grab the Brush tool and right-click and choose the flyout menu in the top right of the pop-up. Choose to load in the “Assorted Brushes” and look for a brush that is a little starburst/explosion. Select that brush and go Window>Brushes. Tick on Shape Dynamics and increase both Size Jitter and Angle Jitter to 100%.
Set your foreground color to white and paint over the edges of his hair to build a realistic-looking edge of hair by simply showing bits of this layer have been masked. We’re essentially uncovering little bits of his hair, but doing it with a brush that will rebuild that edge to look like real hair.
TIP: Watch the video at the top of this article to see exactly how this all was done and learn SO much more about the compositing process and how I did everything from setting the background, cutting the model out, colorizing the image, and dodging and burning.