Monthly Archives: August 2014

Light and Shade – Part 1

Two of the most important, and often overlooked, elements in a good photomontage are the shadows and the light source.  Here, again, my CS3 coursework failed me.  The CS3 textbook used only had one sentence on shadows in a three-paragraph section on how to make combined images look more realistic.  And, the course didn’t talk at all about light sources  at all.

Steve Caplin,  on the other hand, wrote 15 tutorials on the subject in his book, How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed. Again, because I learned so much in this tutorial, I am splitting it up into several parts. 

Basic Shadowdry
The simplest shadows to create are along the ground and up walls.  In the first tutorial of Chapter 7 Caplin discusses fast and easy ways to create this effect. In the image below a simple shadow is added to the floor to make the two element image look more realistic.

152 - Shadows on wall and groundLong BothNote how in the image on the left the boy looks like he was photoshoped into the room because he appears to be floating just above the floor.  On the right, just the addition of the shadow places the boy firmly on the floor and in the room. Following Cpalin’s instructions I created the shadow  simply by duplicating the boy, filling that copied image with black, reducing the opacity, transforming the image and then adding a slight gradient so that the shadow would appear to fade as it got further away from the boy.  A bit of black shading was also added with a soft brush at a low opacity underneath his shoes.

The foregoing technique works fine if there is a large section of ground space.  However, subjects have an awful habit of appearing closer to the wall.  Caplin demonstrated how to do this in the second half of this tutorial as seen in the image pair below:152 - Shadows on wall and groundWallBoth

Once again, on the left the boy appears to float in the room, he’s just closer to the wall this time.  To remedy the situation, Caplin instructs his readers to use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the top half of the shadow, where it meets the wall, and then transform the selection so that it has the proper vertical. Note how much more realistic this looks in the image on the right.

 Tricky Ground Shadows
Images don’t always allow for shadows to be created using the previous technique.  Sometimes due to the light source, or light levels, the shadow needs to be made only from part of the image.  The following image pair demonstrates:

154 - Tricky ground shadowsToasterOriginalBothIn the right image, the shadow was created by making a selection of just the bottom part of the toaster. To complete the shadow, the same process of creating a new layer, and filling it with black at a reduced opacity, was used.

Sometimes a shadow has to be created from scratch, as it were, by painting it in. This is seen in the following image pair:154 - Tricky ground shadowsClockBothIn the image on the right, first a shadow was painted directly beneath the clock and then one was painted behind the clock.

 Complex Shadows
The next tutorial came from a previous Friday Challenge and, judging by the 26 images from submissions, no one got it completely right.  I’m glad I wasn’t part of the forum at that time!  This would have been very tricky to figure out:

156 - Complex ShadowsBothlIn order to create the shadow in the right image, Caplin instructs to first select the lenses, make a copy, fill them with black, and then reduce the opacity by using the Fade dialog box.  Next, he instructs adding to the selection the sunglasses frame and filling it with black.  Now comes the trick. Instead of trying to transform the sunglasses shadow as a whole, Caplin instructs his readers to separate the glasses into  three pieces: the frame with lenses, the far bow and the near bow.  Then, transform the pieces separately.  However, he also says to discard the near bow shadow and make a duplicate of the far bow. This is because the light source is from the side and it would be easier to get the correct shape using a duplicate of the far bow.  As I said before, I am thankful I wasn’t a forum member for this challenge.

Light From Windows
Instead of shadows, light is the focus of the last tutorial from Caplin’s book I’m going to discuss in this blog post, using the following images:

158 - Light from WindowsOriginal

The image on the left is perfectly respectable and looks like something out of an interior design magazine. On the right, the added light as if coming from out doors that throws window pain shadows makes the room look as if something dramatic is about to happen. Will Philippa receive Alistaire’s letter in time to prevent her from marrying Harold? Will Reginald’s love for Fiona ever be returned? And, what about Naomi?

Next:  Light and Shade – Part 2

Friday Challenges: On Rheas, Fountains & Leopards

I often wonder whether it’s difficult for Steve Caplin, author of How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., to keep coming up with ideas for the Friday Challenges after 500-odd consecutive Fridays.  But, you came here to see some pictures – not participate in idle speculation –  so lets get to it.

A Game of Hide and Seek
Caplin entitled his 502nd Friday Challenge “Rhea on the Loose” and posted this picture of the ostrich-sized flightless South American bird:


Regular readers might recognize this bird from an earlier post, Transformation and Distortion.

Caplin provided the following instructions:

A series of news reports in the UK this week detailed the escape of a pet Rhea from captivity, and detailed the difficulty the authorities had in tracking it down. How would such a large beast go about concealing itself? This week, I’d like you to take this rhea (or choose your own) and see how well you can hide it in your own choice of background.

As my sister will attest, when I was a child playing Hide-and-Go-Seek, I could not be found. So this Challenge was right up my alley. See if you can spot the Rhea in the image I submitted:RheaInRuinsBlog

If you had trouble, apparently Caplin did, too, as he said in his critique of my submission:

It took me ages to spot srawland‘s rhea, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve got it – is that it in the foreground, a third of the way from the left? A tricky one indeed! I think the image may be just too small to be able to make it out clearly. (Unless it’s larger and much more camouflaged, that is.)

I found Caplin’s critique amusing as he did challenge us with how well we could hide the bird, after all! I’m pretty sure Caplin found the Rhea but for others viewing this post who might not have spotted it, here is where the  bird is hiding:RheaInRuinsPointed OutBlog


Getting All Wet
Caplin’s 503rd Challenge was called “Fill the Fountain,” with this accompanying image: fountainOriginalBlog

Caplin’s instructions:

I was in Paris for Easter, where I went to the outstanding Bill Viola exhibition at the Grand Palais. Outside the entrance is this rather splendid fountain. Well, it would be splendid if it had water in it. Can you oblige?

Caplin has the uncanny ability to come up with challenges that are either right where I was working in his book, or very close to it.  In this case, I’d just started the chapter that deals with creating water. Here is what I had to say about my submission and the image I submitted:

When Steve announced this challenge I had just completed the “Hot Dog” lesson in Chapter 9 of the 6th edition. In order to have something to submit, I got through the “Making Water from Thin Air” lesson, despite working full-time this week. However, I couldn’t figure out how to create the water spray in a beautiful fountain, as so many of the other entries. I hope someone can give me pointers on how to do that.

Here is my humble pool. I stand in awe of all of the other members’  greatness:


Caplin’s critique:

Some very nice water from srawland, with reflections of the fountain – sorry I couldn’t work a hot dog in there for you! I suspect the fountains other people have used have been taken from photographs, but extracting them must have been a tricky task.

Another forum member, Puffin31939, also posted this response to the comment I posted with my entry.

Sara, I also attempted to draw my own fountain but it ended up looking like a glass mushroom! I had expected cutting out the fountain to be a nightmare but Select > Colour range worked like magic. I was really surprised how easy it turned out to be.

Later, for the 10-year anniversary of the Forum, Caplin provided a “Challenge Amnesty,”  where we could resubmit any previous Challenge. I chose add a spray to my fountain, using Puffin’s  suggestions. But, that image will be for a later post.  However, astute readers might have already noticed that I added more than just water to today’s fountain!

A Dangerous Situation
“Snake in the Grass” was the title of the 504th Friday Challenge, for which Caplin posted this image:grassOriginalBlog

And the instructions:

I’m indebted to Michael Sinclair for this week’s photograph, a close-up of a field of grass. What manner of beasties might be hiding in this verdant meadow? And how hard will it be to conceal them amongst the grass?

Many forum members had difficulty with the perspective of the original image.  I noticed right away the steep angle of the scene.  I called my sister and asked if she and my brother-in-law could stage a photo shoot for me. (They were on vacation but were game to oblige.) Even their dog, Sox, got into the act (at my sister’s feet on her right), in the image I created: grassBackgroundLeopardBlog

To which Caplin said:

I liked srawland‘s entry, with the leopard neatly hidden in the grass – and the man looking over his shoulder is perfectly placed to look directly at it, making a great interaction between the two. Well judged perspective here.

Now if the “man” in the picture had only been a male and not my sister in layers of hiking clothes on a cold spring day in northern Minnesota! Luckily, she’s a good sport about that sort of thing.

Next: Light and Shade

Getting Into Perspective – Part 3

Finally, we have come to the end of Chapter 6 in How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., by Steve Caplin.  Next week I promise more Friday Challenges.   However, there’s still more perspective to learn so let’s get to it.

Vanishing Point Filter, Part 1
This filter is something unique in computer software. It allows for a two-dimensional image to be moved, copied, and cloned in three-dimensional perspective.

While I can’t say my CS3 course didn’t mention this nifty filter, I can say it didn’t get much coverage.  In fact, the only mention was a call-out box saying there was a filter that could be used for correcting the perspective of an object with multiple planes, such as adding a duplicated window to a building:140 - Vanishing Point filterCompositBlogThe original image in the upper left has lots of planes but none of them are square on.  In the Chapter 6 tutorial, Caplin shows his readers how to clone the upstairs window in perspective.

First, the perspective grid is set up, using the Vanishing Point Filter, as seen in the upper right image.  Next, the marquee tool is used to  select the window, as seen in the bottom left image.  Then, pressing the shift and Alt keys enables a copy of the window to be dragged to the left in perfect perspective.

Vanishing Point Filter, Part 2
Even more amazing, is that the perspective grid can be dragged to the side of the building.  This enables the window copied, in perspective, to the side of the building too:

VanishingPoint2 Side GirdAs seen on the left, the perspective grid is dragged around the corner. Then the window is duplicated using the same technique as before and dragged to the side of the building. On the right, Caplin has instructed the reader to insert an image file of graffiti, however this same technique could be used to add a logo or other image to a building.

Cropping in Perspective
Sometimes, instead of creating or manipulating perspective, you simply want to get rid of an existing perspective. It turns out the crop tool has a perspective check box. It turns an image that is in perspective at an angle to be cropped so that the angle is removed as seen below:

144 - Perspective cropOriginally, the picture was photographed at an angle to keep the flash from creating glare on the glass.  The right image shows the perspective angle is removed after checking the perspective box on the crop tool and adjusting the crop boundaries accordingly.

A Piece of Cake
In the final tutorial of Chapter 6, Caplin once again uses a past Friday Challenge image.  The Challenge was titled “A Piece of Cake” because Adobe had sent Caplin a cake on the 20th anniversary of Photoshop.    Below is the original image and how I completed it:

146 - A piece of cakeBoth

The Challenge then, and in the tutorial, was to cut into the cake and show it with a piece missing.  While Caplin did not supply the interior of the cake slice for the tutorial ( I searched for a suitable one online) he did supply the directions. This was far more assistance than the forum members originally received for this exercise, proving its sometimes wise to wait for the second slice.

Next: More Friday Challenge Fun

Getting Into Perspective – Part 2

Last time I discussed how to determine simple and complex perspectives for images built “from scratch” as demonstrated in Chapter 6 of the book, How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed. To recap, the chapter teaches artistic lessons, not just software functionality. In this post, we’ll take things several steps further.

Correcting Perspective
Below, How to Cheat author Steve Caplin demonstrates correction of a two-element street scene consisting of a truck and its background:

130 - Correcting perspectiveBlog2CompletedAt the top left, the original image looks “photoshopped” because the truck is not in the same perspective as the rest of the image. To create a realistic image, first  the perspective lines for both the background(red) and the truck (yellow) are applied. Additionally, there is a green the horizon line.  Note how the vanishing points (where the two red lines and the two yellow lines intersect) are very different for the truck and the background.

On the bottom left, the truck’s perspective lines are brought into alignment with the background’s lines using Free Transform.  Unfortunately, there is still a big problem with this image.  While the front of the truck is in perfect perspective with the background, the back of the truck looks completely distorted.  To remedy this, just the back end of the truck was selected and Free Transform applied, with a shadow added underneath the truck.  In the finished image on the bottom right, the truck looks like it belongs on the street.

Fixing Wide Angle Objects
Sometimes an element would be fine if it were in the front of a composition, but looks unnatural when in the back. Here, Caplin uses a car to demonstrate:

132 - Fixing wide angle objectsBlogBy using Free Transform and Image Warp the car can now be placed farther back in the image.

Using Existing Perspective
In the previous post I discussed the importance of the horizon. However, most of the time an image doesn’t have a clear horizon.  When that is the case, look for hints in the image to figure out the perspective.  For this tutorial Caplin used an image drawn from an early Friday Challenge entitled “Open the Door:”

134 - Existing perspectiveBlog2

In the top right image, the door is removed and the perspective inferred by Caplin using the bookcase on right wall (red lines) and the table, picture frame and skirting boards on the left wall (green lines).

On the bottom left, I added a hallway image I found online, transforming to fit the perspective lines Caplin provided in the book.  Then, I worked on the door. I cutout the door panels, added frosted glass, the narrow side and the hardware. Finally, I added a shadow behind the door.

The bottom right shows the completed image, without the perspective lines.

Boxing Clever: Doubling Up
For the next lesson Caplin uses a cash box to demonstrate how to increase the height by making a copy and placing it in perspective on top of the original. The technique can be used to increase the size of any rectangular object, such as an office building:138 - Boxing cleverBlogCompleted2

From the original image at the top left, the box is duplicated and the copy dragged directly above the original.  The sides and top of the box are then cut apart and put on separate layers, as seen in the middle image screenshot. Next, as seen in the bottom left image, the box components are individually adjusted to fit the perspective of the bottom box by using Free Transform.  The bottom right image shows the completed, double-height box.

While it’s clear Chapter 6 has much to offer, there’s still more perspective to be gained.

Next: Getting Into Perspective – Part 3

Getting Into Perspective – Part 1

Although my earlier CS3 course covered the mechanics of creating images, in Chapter 6 of How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed.,  author Steve Caplin gives readers important fundamentals in art. These lessons make the difference for creating truly realistic images.

Like chapter 5, Caplin begins chapter 6 with an instructional tutorial, rather than a hands on lesson. But, a very important lesson in perspective it is.  Incorrect perspective is high up on the list of errors for Friday Challenge submissions.   Caplin’s Golden Rule is:

“The horizon is always at the same height as the eyeline of the viewer.”

While I had certainly heard of perspective, it was previously only a vague theory to me. Thus, I found this chapter highly instructional.

Introducing Vanishing Points
Before Caplin’s book if I heard the term “Vanishing Point” I thought of a 1997 movie starring Viggo Mortensen.  I knew the term had something to do with perspective but didn’t know what it meant. Caplin gives a very good lesson in both how to determine the vanishing point and the use of repeat transformation as seen in the following series of images:

124 - Introducing vanishing pointsCombined images1In the top left image, the tops and bottoms of the store fronts make natural perspective lines.  In the top right image the perspective lines (red) have been added and the horizon line (green) has been calculated by drawing a horizontal line (hold down the shift key and drag horizontally) from the point were the perspective lines cross back to the left side of the image.  Note how the people’s heads in the background are intersected just as in Caplin’s rule.

The bottom left image shows the added elements (security guard and first row of the shutter). They are duplicated in perspective by using Free Transform repeatedly.  The bottom right shows the completed image.  Caplin did provide the shutter element in the exercise, but the technique he used to create it isn’t explained until Chapter 12.

Two Point Perspective
When I was in grade school I used to spend time in class doodling boxes.  I didn’t know how to create them in perspective and sometimes they came out looking more like crushed boxes.  In this tutorial Caplin shows how to box up a cow realistically and create a Damien Hirst-style image.

126 - Two point perspectiveCombinedIn the original image, besides the cow and one side of the box, Caplin also provides a nice clear horizon to help his readers create the perspective lines.  In the top right image, the perspective lines have been drawn and turned into a selection and filled. This is because copies of the side of the box will need to be distorted along the perspective lines using Free Transform and paths must be turned into objects or they will distort too. This is an important fact to remember because the final Chapter 9 tutorial requires making another Hirst knock-off. However, in the later tutorial the reader not only must draw the perspective lines, but the sides of the box must also be drawn as well.  The bottom image shows the cow neatly boxed up.

Three Point Perspective

If I had heard the term “three point perspective” before this tutorial, I would’ve thought it had something to do with an op-ed piece in a newspaper.  Not so. When an image you need to create isn’t at “street level,” that’s when you need to use the three point perspective technique.128 - Three point perspectiveCombinedThe left image demonstrates the type of perspective lines that need to be drawn.  Since the angle is now off the actual horizon, the verticals in the image will no longer be straight up and down.  An additional vanishing point is needed either above the object (if it is being viewed from below) or below it (if it is being viewed from above).  The right image shows the completed box as if it were being viewed from one of it’s top corners looking down.

That’s enough for now. As this chapter was so full of new concepts for me, I’m splitting it into three posts. Nest time I’ll cover correcting the perspectives when combining elements into one image. Stay tuned!

Next: Getting Into Perspective – Part 2