Saturday, July 1, 2006

Create a forward-looking feel with a blend


By David Gewirtz

Over the past few months, we've been showcasing some great tools that'll help you achieve interesting image effects. This week, we'll look at how to use Photoshop to create another interesting effect, a blend, to merge two pictures together, creating a special mood.

We'll start with the clipart library photo shown in Figure A.


Here's a man who's thinking about something. (click for larger image)

Here's a man who's thinking about something. Now, let's give him something to think about, like, perhaps, a tropical vacation or moving to someplace away from the city. Figure B illustrates this nicely.


It's nice down here in Florida. (click for larger image)

Combine the images

Our goal is to combine the two images, creating the impression that he's thinking about palm trees and sunny skies. To do this, we start with the scenic image. Next, copy the picture of the man and place it in a new layer in Photoshop, cropping and resizing as necessary. You can see this stage in Figure C.


The two images are now in the same Photoshop document. (click for larger image)

As you may have noticed in the figure, I also flipped the guy around, so he's facing to the right. Generally, facing right indicates looking forward while facing left indicates looking back. I wanted the final image to convey the impression he's looking forward into his future.

I also left a white layer as the background. I tend to do that out of habit. I like having a white background layer just in case some tinkering might be necessary.

Create the layer mask

There are many different ways to blend two layers, but I like to create layer masks. A mask is simply something that blocks a portion of a layer from being visible. By applying a mask to the layer with the guy, we're able to show or block some of that layer.

Then, by applying a gradient of black to white, we're able to selectively reveal a portion of the image. Black blocks the image in the layer, while white reveals it. You can see this illustrated clearly in Figure D, where the man is beginning to blur into the background.


The man is beginning to blur into the background. (click for larger image)

Finally, touch up the mask

As a final step, I like to touch up the mask with a very large, very soft brush, painting on black. If you look at the image above, you'll see a very visible dividing line between the two layers. I could have created a much softer gradient to eliminate that line, but I wouldn't have had as much control over the image. Instead, a brush helps me gain greater control, as you can see in Figure E.


The brush gives you more control over your mask. (click for larger image)

Notice, also, that I finalized the mask on something of an angle, going down from left to right. The reason for this is found in the original image of the man, where there's a play of light moving down in that direction. I liked bringing that lighting into the blend, and so that's how I chose to edit it.