How to Composite a Car onto a New Background

In this tutorial, we will take a photo of a car on the street and cut it out and move it over to a different background and make it look as realistic as we can. We’re going to cover how to choose images that can work together, how to adjust the perspective of the background image with Perspective Warp, how to cut out the car with the Pen Tool, how to find the correct perspective to make the car look like it is in the correct place, how to clone away reflective details, how to add the reflection of the sky to the car windows, and a bunch more! This is a pretty deep tutorial and there is a bunch to learn. I hope you love it! Thanks for watching!

1. Find the Right Photo/Angle

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If you have not shot the photos that you’re trying to merge together, you’re going to want to take particular care to choose good images for your composite. You need images of road and a car that look like they belong together and are going in the same direction, additionally, you want to make sure the angle of the camera is somewhat similar (i.e. you don’t want an image of a car looking down on the car, but a road where the camera is low and looking upward.)

2. Cutting Out the Car

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I like to use the Pen tool (P) to create a path around an object with sharp edges (like a car) and then use the hotkey Cmd/Ctrl + Enter/Return to load that path as a selection. Check out the video above to see me hyper-speed draw the path or check out this tutorial on how to use the Pen tool if you don’t know how to use it. TIP: I like to select the shadow of the car as well as the car, but I draw my path line a little bit back from the blurred edge of the shadow. (We’ll create a new shadow later.)

3. Bringing the Car into the New Background

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Once the selection is loaded around the car, grab the Move tool (V) and drag the car up to the tab for your background image in Photoshop and when you see the background image pop up, drop the car and move it roughly into place, we’ll adjust the placement in a little bit.

4. Adjusting the Perspective of the Car

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When we place a car in place, more than likely there will need to be some kind of perspective adjustment. You can use Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl + T) and then right click and choose to Distort the object. This, however, is not the best way to do this. I’ve found that I have the most success by adjusting the perspective of the background. See my video to see exactly what I did with Free Transform and Distort to adjust the car. Let’s move on to the next step.

5. Adjusting the Perspective of the Background pt. 1

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When perspective needs adjusting, tweaking the background is the way to go. First thing I want to do is widen the image canvas by going Image>Canvas Size and push the image to the right about 1000px. Then go Edit>Free Transform and stretch the image to the right until the frame is re-filled. See my video around the 8:35min mark to see how I do this.

6. Adjusting the Perspective of the Background pt. 2

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In addition to stretching the background, I can use the Edit>Transform>Distort trick again to push or pull corners of the background image that may need to be stretched. You can also use Edit>Perspective Warp (if your system is able) and really adjust the perspective of the foreground of our image. Check out the video to see how I use this feature and also check out my video here to learn a little more about how to use Perspective Warp. (NOTE: You may need to create a new layer and do some healing in areas where your Perspective Warp has created sharp lines in the image.)

Double Note: I am not so concerned with the stretched look of the background because we’re planning on blurring this background and making it look like this car is racing by the camera, so all of this stretched look will not be noticeable once that blurring takes place (different tutorial.)

7. Build Car Shadow

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Once we have adjusted the perspective of the background we want to create a new shadow beneath the car just to make sure it’s faded out to the road surface well. Grab the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and create a new layer beneath the car that you dragged into this document and draw a selection around the edges of the existing shadow and then around “underneath” the car. Fill this selection with black by going Edit>Fill and choose black from the drop down menu. Go Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and blur this shape until your shadow looks good. (pixel amount depends on how large/small your image is.)

8. Finding the Correct Perspective

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Figuring out exactly where the car belongs in this image is tricky, but you can find the vanishing point of this car and the horizon of the background image and link the two up to determine perspective. Check out around the 22:28min mark in the video to see how I do this.

9. Cleaning up the Windshield/Reflective Surfaces

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Create a new layer above the car and grab the Clone Stamp tool (S) and use Alt/Opt to select a source from which you are cloning (TIP: Look to the control bar and set the “Sample” drop down menu to “Current and Below”) and carefully clone away unwanted reflections in any body panels of your car as well as the windows.

10. Finishing it Off & More Detail!

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There is SO much more to getting a good composite image and I highly recommend you check out the full video above and see exactly how I do everything. I spend over 40 minutes explaining everything in detail and showing you exactly what I am doing. I hope you love the video and it helps you create some cool stuff!

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