Here I've taken a picture of a person, extracted from their original background, and placed them in different settings.  Once again, my friend Bill is the obliging model.

Here is the original picture of Bill. That background wasn't very exciting, so I thought I'd change it!  (Yes, that is a real sword. It is quite heavy and substantial.)


Bill on transparent background

I extracted him from the background by using several Photoshop tools - the Magic Wand, mostly, and then just getting in the nooks and crannies and erasing. I added a shadow by making a copy of his silhouette on a new layer, and then filling it with a shadow color. Then, I skewed it with the "Transform" function to make it look like a shadow. I then blurred it a little, and lowered the opacity. I thought I'd leave the background transparent for now.

(Click on the images below to see a larger version.)

Bill in Wawona

Now Bill is on the lawn of Yosemite National Park's Wawona Hotel. I plopped the extracted picture of him onto the Wawona picture. I had to move his image (which is on its own layer) around, making sure I put him in a spot that looked right (proportionally). I added the shadow on its own layer, and fiddled with it using the airbrush tool to make it blend naturally with the lawn. I also adjusted the color on Bill a bit until I felt he looked like he belonged in the picture.

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Bill in Carmel

Now Bill finds himself in Clint Eastwood's stomping grounds - Carmel, California!

I had fun with this one.  I used the eyedropper tool to get a sample of the purple color of the background shadows. I used this color for Bill's shadow, so it would match all the other shadows in the picture.  As usual, I made his shadow on a separate layer. I added a bit of texture to the shadow (using the filter "Texturizer - Sandstone").  This shadow was going to be on pavement, and I thought a little texture made it "blend" a little better. I then lowered its opacity a bit. I didn't blur the shadow very much. The other shadows in the background are pretty sharp and defined, and I wanted his to match. I used the "Dodge" tool to make the shadow lighter where it was over the white painted crosswalk line.

Bill and Sword

Now Bill is on a mysterious dark background. I did all of this with Photoshop, I didn't need any other photo as a background.

I added a new layer behind Bill and his shadow (which I made in the same way as I did for Wawona and Carmel). I added a gradient to the whole background, having the light side in the top right corner (where the source of light is for Bill's picture). Using the airbrush tool with a large brush size (and adding more layers as I went along for each new level of shadows) I "painted" the background. I pressed the Shift key when using the airbrush tool, so my brushstrokes would go straight across. This is where I had to use my artistic judgment and intuition - I just painted light and shadow areas until I felt like it looked like Bill was on something substantial and real.

I then used the Marquee tool to select what I considered to be the "backdrop" area - the dark upper two-thirds of the picture. I chose to feather the selection by about 15 pixels so the transition would not be too abrupt. I used Gaussian Blur to blur my various brush strokes, and then I flattened the entire background. (I left Bill and his shadow "invisible" on the Layers Palette, and then used the "Merge Visible" function to merge - or flatten - everything else.) Then I added a gentle amount of noise to the background. Just because I liked it that way!

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Much thanks to W. Thompson, for the design of my email graphic!

All images and graphics © J.R. Dunster 2001 - 2006

Last updated July 29, 2004

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