Photoshop Composite and Editing Tutorial

Hello everyone this is Chris from Spoon Graphics back with another video tutorial for Adobe Photoshop I've enjoyed processing some photos of my car lately, using various editing and compositing techniques to enhance the flat and boring images that come out of the camera into vibrant automotive portraits

Today I'll show you the process I went through to transform this rear end shot of my Mustang in a rather uninspiring location of the local Tesco supermarket car park, into this much improved version with a dramatic backdrop, punchy colours and atmospheric lighting effects I only have an entry level Nikon DSLR that is still rocking the standard kit lens, so it just goes to show what kind of magic you can conjure within Photoshop But first, if you want access to a library of resources to help you with your projects, check out Envato Elements, the ultimate creative toolkit for designers So this is the photograph I'll be working on in this tutorial The glow of the rear lights and the positioning of the car on the wide road that recedes into the distance provide the foundation of a cool night time street shot The ugly surroundings of this original photograph don't really fit into that theme, but it did provide some nice acoustics for some exhaust sound clips The photograph is just a quick hand-held shot in one of the camera's baby modes, captured in RAW format so some initial adjustments can be made to rescue it slightly The first adjustment was to straighten it out using the Camera Raw straighten tool to set a line between two points, followed by the Enter key to crop the image

A touch of blue in the Temperature reduces the warmth slightly, then a touch more Exposure brightens everything up a little I tend to wiggle each slider and eyeball the result, but the main adjustments will come later Even when you're not planning on compositing a new background, a good first step is to clip out the car from the background using the Pen tool It allows you to make adjustments to the car and backdrop independently Click and drag each bezier point, or one of my preferred methods is to set two points, then place an additional point in the middle which is moved into place around a curve

Keeping a thumb on the CMD or CTRL key allows you to quickly toggle to the Direct Selection tool The top edge of my car has a bright halo, so I clipped as much of it out as possible so it doesn't leave a fringe around the cut-out Follow the outline of the car, roughly including the dark shadows underneath until you return back to the start Right click and choose Make Selection, then copy and paste the clipping onto its own layer To fix that highlight on the roof, I made a selection by holding the CMD key while clicking the layer thumbnail, then used the Clone Stamp tool to paint out the white portion

A clean area of the roof is sampled by holding the ALT key, which is accurately lined up on the stripes and bodylines Because the selection is active, it won't paint outside of the mask The Mustang layer is converted into a Smart Object in order to work non-destructively, so no filters or adjustments are permanently applied One of the first filters is a Gaussian Blur of just 1px to help eliminate the hard edge of the clipping The layer mask is filled with black to make the blur invisible, then with the Background visibility off, the blur is painted back in around the edge with a soft white brush, particularly where the original outline is blurry due to the depth of field

This little step just avoids the clipping looking too fake In order to apply any other filters without them being affected by the layer mask, it must be converted into a new smart object This time a Dust and Scratches filter from under the Noise menu is applied Settings of around 8px Radius blur out the texturing and highlights from the bodywork's reflections, then the Threshold is adjusted to find the right balance The layer mask is filled with black again, using the CMD+Backspace shortcut, which removes the effect, then it's painted back in using a white brush in the required areas

A low Flow setting on the brush helps you slowly build up the effect to help keep it looking natural With the original background turned back on it doesn't look like anything has changed, so let's find a new backdrop I knew I wanted a night time street scene, so I browsed for suitable stock images on Shutterstock I chose this Night Urban Scene By Sergey Molchenko because it's taken at a similar angle with a straight road that recedes into the distance, which will be easy to blend with my original image The entire image is selected with Select All, then Copied and Pasted into my working document, placed above the Background layer but below the Mustang clipping

To get it into the right position it's Transformed, then scaled and stretched so the perspective roughly matches To compare the direction of the road, the layer is reduced to 70% opacity so the angle can be matched up with the original image To properly blend the image, add a layer mask, then make a rough selection of the area to remove and fill it with black It can then be fine tuned with the brush tool, changing between hardness levels and using the X key to swap between painting with black or white to remove or restore the mask Keeping the original asphault makes things easy because the car is realistically placed on the road with the correct shading

It's just a case of masking up to the hard edge of the kerb Comparing the original background with the new backdrop image, the depth of field blurs the distant objects in the original, whereas the new image is crisp and sharp A Gaussian Blur will help replicate the focal depth, but it's first converted to a Smart Object so it's applied non-destructively About 3px worth of blur looks about right for this image, but it only needs applying to the distant areas, so the mask is used to fade it out at the sides where the bridge gets closer The new background is taken with a much better camera so there's less ISO noise too

A Noise filter will help match it to the car and foreground, but because a layer mask is already applied to the Smart Filters, it first needs converting into a new smart object Zooming in shows around a 3% addition of Gaussian Noise looks about right A Color Balance adjustment layer above the new background helps to bring out the desired blue tones in the bridge To better blend the car with its new environment some adjustments of its own are needed Curves will help brighten it up, but to apply the adjustment layer to just the car layer, hold the ALT key while clicking between the layers to form a clipping mask

After brightening up the mustang layer with Curves, its own Color Balance adjustment layer helps match the hues of the car park to the much bluer environment of the bridge Targeting the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights in turn helps you quickly colour match the two objects The window of the car is still showing the reflections from the car park roof, so a selection of just this area is made using the Pen tool, the copied and pasted onto a new layer It's converted into a Smart Object to allow for non-destructive editing, then the Dust and Scratches filter us used to blur out the details I could have left the window clipping underneath the Color Balance adjustment layer, but I decided it needed some more colour adjustment of its own so I moved it to the top of the layer stack, then applied some Color Balance to it directly from the Image > Adjustments menu

This, along with some Levels adjustments, darkened the window with more of a blue hue One of the best ways to seamlessly blend a composite is to pay attention to the details like reflections Draw a selection of some surrounding scenery, then use the Copy Merged command to take a sample including all adjustment layers Press CMD+T to Transform, then scale, stretch and position the clipping over the window Hold the CMD key and click the thumbnail of the window layer to load its selection, then apply a layer mask to the reflections layer to trim it to size

Using a blending mode of Lighten or Screen, reducing the opacity right down to around 10-15% gives it a subtle but realistic effect that makes all the difference One technique to help match an objects lighting and shading, and to just boost its contrast, is to Dodge and Burn it In order to dodge and burn non-destructively, there a clever method that uses a grey overlay layer Create a new layer and go to Edit > Fill, or hit the F5 shortcut Choose 50% Gray from the dropdown menu, then change the blending mode to Overlay

Nothing appears to have changed, but you can now dodge and burn on this layer without it being applied permanently to the image Begin with the Burn tool with the options set to Shadows with a low Exposure of around 10% Paint over any dark areas and follow the shading of the body panels Repeat the process with the Dodge tool, but focus on the highlights This is where you can subtly alter the shading by brightening up certain portions of the subject

One of the main focal points of the image is the glowing rear lights To boost their impact, I made a selection of the lenses using the Lasso tool, holding the Shift key to add multiple areas to the selection The selection was then filled with white on a new layer, then to make the white fill invisible, the Fill amount is set to zero You can't apply Layer Styles if there's nothing on the layer, but you can reduce the fill so it's not visible, but still have the layer style effects showing An Outer Glow layer style is added using a bright red colour sampled from the lens, with a large Size value to give it a soft glow

To add even more ambience, a dab of a bright red colour using a soft brush can then be squashed and placed over the lights Changing the blending mode to Screen allows the colours to interact to give a larger glow While the floor area is what is realistically captured from real life, I thought a couple of glow spots on the road would help boost the effect These spots were set to Hard Light with a low 12% opacity One of the advantages of Photoshop is you can add all kinds of special effects that weren't present in the original scene to give the image more atmosphere

I'll link to the two brush sets I used in this image down in the description area Painting in some mist with a smoke brush is an easy way to create a moody scene The key is to add a layer mask then erase the mist with the same brush, set to a low flow value to blend it smoothly The overall impact can then be tuned by reducing the opacity of the layer Particle brushes also add some cool special effects, but not too much so it doesn't look like it's snowing! I always like to add a final Camera Raw filter to the entire image at the end

This is where I used to create a merged copy, but I'd always end up wanting to make tweaks and have to delete and re-do the layer every time A better way to non-destructively make finishing touches is to combine all the layers into yet another smart object You can then double click the Smart Object to make any tweaks, then any filters will automatically update in the finished image In the Camera Raw settings, a linear gradient is first applied to darken the top of the image to focus on the subject in the centre Usually I'd apply a similar effect at the bottom, but the road in this shot was quite dark anyway, so it was brightened up a little

All the other slider values are then wiggled back and forth to perfect the appearance of the image as a whole, giving it the necessary brightness and contrast adjustments A healthy dose of Clarity helps make car shots pop nicely, as long as you don't go too far The HSL Adjustments tab is the best place to correct and boost the colours of the image I wanted to boost the red of my Mustang in particular, and bring down some of the darker blues in the background The beauty of Smart Objects is you can apply multiple Filters while keeping them separate

I like to add some Split Toning effects in the Camera Raw filter, but it's always wise to set it separately so you can tweak it individually With the Highlights and Shadows sliders in turn, boost the saturation to max to help you find the right Hue, then dial back the saturation to find just the right amount of colour grading The final result is a completely transformed photograph with a much more fantastical appearance than the original The ugly backdrop was replaced with some simple Photoshop compositing techniques, making sure the two elements matched by correcting the colour balance Little details like adding the window reflections and boosting the lamp vibrancy are subtle changes that greatly improve the overall result

Then the whole scene is finished off with special effects and colour grading to produce a stunning car portrait worthy of Instagram If you enjoyed this video or learnt any new tricks, a Like would be greatly appreciated to help spread the word Subscribe to the Spoon Graphics YouTube channel if you want to be the first to see my upcoming tutorials for Photoshop and Illustrator Head over to my Spoon Graphics website to bag yourself my free bundle of design resources, otherwise thank you very much for watching, and I'll see you in the next one!

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