“Ash’s day at the Racetrack”
Tutorial Skill Level: Mixed Basic & Intermediate
This tutorial covers:
- Lasso Tool
- Brush Tool
- Crop Tool basic use
- Keyboard Shortcuts
- Layer Masks
- Quick Mask
- Hiding Toolbars
- Brightness/Contrast layer
- Zooming Methods
- Snap Fit Canvas to Screen Size Command
- Flipping Entire Image
- Flipping an Object
- Removing a Subject from the Background
- Inserting Objects as Layers
- Free Transform Mode
- Locking Transform Resizing Ratio
Here is the final image. We are going to go through step by step how it was created.
Below is the original image. With special cooperation from Melbourne Greyhound Park, my local racetrack, we spent the day shooting the races before the racing season at this park ends, possibly for the last time. You can see the dogs chasing “Rocky”, the mechanical “rabbit” lure. A couple weeks later, I was watching a friend’s dog, Ash, as he was out of town. He was feeling down one day, so to give him a laugh I decided to do a series of pics “The Adventures Of Ash”, which are posted on our Facebook Page. We’re not going to spend a lot of time worrying about color and other things, since this image is just for laughs we are only concerned about the list above.
The first step was to snap a picture of Ash to send out on these adventures. This turned out to be a two person job, needing someone to keep him standing up and turned sideways to the camera. You should be shooting Camera Raw format. The most typical formats are Nikon Electronic Format .NEF, Canon Raw .CR2, and Sony Raw Format .SRF . If you don’t shoot that way, or don’t have a camera that is capable, it’s no big deal. We’re not covering Raw Processing in this tutorial. Once you have the image looking the way you want it, go ahead and open it.
To start out, let’s flip the entire image canvas by hitting Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Horizontal
Now let’s crop this as tightly as possible. It will cut down the amount of work we need to do later and make the file size smaller for storage and use as an inserted object. Press C on the keyboard or click the Crop Tool icon. Hold your left mouse button to drag across the area you want to crop and hit ENTER on the keyboard when done.
As you can see, the picture is still at the same zoom level it was before. To keep things easy, let’s Snap the zoom to screen size by pressing CONTROL + + the number zero 0on the keyboard.
Remember the point of what we’re doing in here is to have our subject, Ash, as an object to be inserted into another picture. We could insert this picture as is and brush out the background using layer masks, but since we have the luxury of doing this ahead of time when it is easier we’re going to delete the background using the Photoshop Lasso Tool. Hit L on your keyboard or click the Lasso tool icon. Holding your left mouse button, draw the area you want to delete, and hit DELETEon the keyboard. You will see the Fill Menu pop up asking you how you want the area you are deleting to be filled in. In this case we don’t want it filled in, we just want to delete it completely. That’s not an option, so we have to take one more step to trick Photoshop into doing what we want, so let’s cancel the delete Fill Menu.
To trick Photoshop into deleting the background completely, and more importantly to preserve the original image data before we make any permanent changes, we’re going to duplicate the background layer. To do this to any layer, Right Click the layer you want to duplicate and click Duplicate Layer. You can also do this through the menu system by clicking Layer > Duplicate Layer. It will pop up giving you the option to name the background anything you want, we will leave it as is (name of original layer + “”Copy”).
Now that we have both layers, let’s turn off the original background by unchecking the eye next to the layer.
Before we start deleting with the Lasso Tool, just to make things a little less visually cluttered and easier to work with, we’re going to use the Paintbrush Tool by either pressing B on the keyboard or clicking the Paint Brush Tool icon, selecting the color you want, and simply brushing away what you don’t want in there. Don’t spend much time on this, we will be deleting our work here in the next step, so a quick once over will do fine.
To get that fine detail in the hair, let’s zoom in to 100%. There are several ways to do that. The easiest is the keyboard shortcut, just push CONTROL + 1. After that you can click the dropdown and choose from 25%, 50%, 100%, or 200%. You can do another keyboard shortcut CONTROL + + to zoom in and CONTROL + – to zoom out (For Mac use option key) to go through preset zoom levels of 16.7%, 25%, 33.3%, 50%, 66.7%, 100%, 200%, 300%, etc, so you see there are a few more options this way. The other way is to click next to the zoom dropdown and type in any number you want. If you’re going straight to 100% the quickest and easiest way is to just tap the 1key.
Once we are zoomed in to 100%, click on the copy layer to tell Photoshop that is the one we are currently working on, grab your Lasso tool and start drawing and deleting. This is where having a drawing tablet makes things much easier. If you don’t have one, no worries, you can still do this with your mouse, trackball, or laptop touchpad. Do small areas! Nothing is more frustrating than spending a ton of time drawing then losing all that hard work because of a tiny slip. Now when we hit delete, Photoshop is simply deleting the selected areas. When we do this, it will reveal the layer underneath. Since we turned off the original background, there is now nothing under this layer, so we now get the blank grid, making it totally clear when we use it later.
Now just go all the way around and delete the background until you have nothing but the subject showing.
And of course, if you haven’t yet, save your work as a .PSD Photoshop file.
Now the tedious parts are over, let’s the Insert the Object we just created as a new layer by hitting File > Placeand then pointing the browser to where we just saved the file.
The inserted object will create a new layer popped up in Free Transform Mode already. If you start clicking in the corners and resizing you will stretch the image out of proportion, so hold down the SHIFT key as you resize to lock the proportion sizing ratio. You can also grab the object by the corners to freely rotate it. Once you have it the way you want it, press the ENTERkey.
Now that everything is in place, I just don’t like how it looks. Ash is supposed to be hanging by the pole, but instead it looks like he is standing on the ground, so let’s go back into Free Transform mode by hitting CONTROL + T or Edit > Free Transform
Once we are in Free Transform Mode we can flip Ash upside down by Right Clicking within the object and hitting Flip Vertical.
Now while we are still in transform, let’s get Ash resized just right to cover up Rocky completely without looking like a giant compared to the greyhounds. When you’re done just hit ENTER
After this I hunted through a few free stock photography sites for a picture of some rope. Once again, we insert it as another object by using the Place command and resizing it and placing it exactly where we want it. This is done best at either 100% zoom, or zoomed in so that the area you are working on is fitting in the screen. If you ever need more room to work, you can temporarily hide all the toolbars on the screen by pressing TAB. Hitting it again will turn them back on.
Now let’s add a layer mask by clicking the mask button at the bottom of the Layers window.
When using layer masks, whatever is in black is not being shown in the layer, and whatever area in the mask that is painted white is shown. As you can see, by default the layer mask is filled in with white. Remember WHITE REVEALS, BLACK CONCEALS We are going to select the Brush Tool just like before, but this time pick use black. You can click on the pallet color to change the colors, or hit X to switch quickly between background and foreground colors. To help you see what you are doing, you can turn on the Quick Mask Mode by hitting \on the keyboard. This brings up the red you see below, showing that that part of the object is being hidden because we painted it out in black. As you can see, we painted out the back side of the ball of rope. Now that only the front is shown from the ball shape, it appears to be wrapping around Ashie and holding him on the pole.
He still doesn’t quite look like he’s in the air, so the final step here will be to create a shadow using a Brightness/Contrast layer by hitting the button in the adjustments panel, or in the menus going to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast
All adjustment layers open with a white filled layer mask, meaning the entire image is being affected by your changes. We are going to Fill this in with black. Since black is the foreground color on the pallet, let’s hit ALT + BACKSPACE to fill the layer mask with the foreground color. To fill the layer mask with the background color, hit CONTROL + BACKSPACE (Windows) or OPTION + BACKSPACEon a Mac.
Now using the Brush Tool, we are going to change to white and paint in an area below Ash where we want the shadow to appear. Let’s make it rough for a little realism. Next we just use those brightness and contrast sliders until we add a shadow fairly natural looking, and watch as only the area we painted white is affected. If we really wanted to add realism, we could add shadows under each dog as well, but this is just a fun pic, so we’re all done.