Monday, October 1, 2007

Monster mash: free-roaming, vaporous, full-torso apparition


By Dianah McDonald

You wouldn't want to really make somebody into a ghost, but it's easy to Photoshop that special someone into an ethereal form. WARNING! Do not use this technique to fake evidence on you ghost hunting blog!

Get started by choosing two pictures: one of the person soon to visit their own mortality and one of the location that person will manifest.

For this example, I'm using a photo of my teenage nephew Glen, shown in Figure A.


The future ghost hanging out at a you-know-who exhibit in Wales. (click for larger image)

Sure, teenagers are more along the line of zombies, but that's a lot more complicated project! Use your Polygon Lasso Tool to select your victim. Don't worry if you get too close. Ghosts are meant to be a little fuzzy around the edges. Since you won't need this background, choose Inverse from the Select menu and then delete the selection.

The picture is now just your friendly non-ghost. You'll want to take the edge off your subject. Right-click on the layer and select Select Pixels. You should feather that selection, as shown in Figure B.


He's already looking hazy! (click for larger image)

The location of this option will depend on what version of Photoshop you're using. In CS3 it's located on the Select menu as Modify->Feather. For most projects that involve dropping an object into a new image I like to choose 1 pixel, but for this you will want to expand that to at least 5 pixels. Depending on your photo and image resolution, this might be too much or not enough.

Again, choose Inverse from the Select menu and then delete the selection. Next, on the Layer Palette lower the opacity slider to about 60%.

Open the location photo you are going to paste the ghost into. Remember: depending on the location photo, you may need to resize your ghost image. Return to you ghost image and right-click on the ghost layer. Select Duplicate Layer and choose the location photo as the Destination Document. Your image should look something like Figure C.


He wasn't really there when I took the photo! (click for larger image)

Sure, he's see-through, but we want to make him really ghostly so let's select the ghost level, hold down the Alt key and select the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layer Palette. On the fly-out menu select Levels.

Check the box "Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask" then click OK. Adjust the Input Levels slider bar towards the peaks and adjust the Output Levels slider until you find the level of ghostly pale you want, as shown in Figure D.


Don't be afraid to adjust the Input and Output Levels. You can always undo it. (click for larger image)

Next, add a glow to your ghost. This is the effect that sells the effect. Choose the ghost layer and select the Layer Effects menu. Select Outer Glow. Select the color of the glow. For this project white would be a good choice. Under Elements increase the size of the glow, as shown in Figure E.