Home > Project Rethink > Innovation and Photoshop?

Innovation and Photoshop?

December 12th, 2008

This week RC Concepcion gave Project Rethink a shout-out on Layers TV. I’m a big fan of Layers TV, so it was a pleasant surprise. The connection was made through twitter, I just happened to be tweeting while they were recording their latest episode (you can watch it here).  RC asked, I responded.

It’s no secret I am a Photoshop nut. I love everything about digital media and spend much of my day in various Adobe products. 

This has little to do with innovation, it’s just to have a little fun. So in celebration of Layers TV, here are 5 simple steps to the perfect photoshopped Santa hat avatar.

Step 1: Find a good Santa Hat

If you’re looking for quality stock photos, check out istockphoto.com or sxc.hu. This Santa hat is from Stock Exchange.

Step 2: Isolate the hat, quick selection

Open your Santa hat in Photoshop to mask out the background. There are many ways you could remove the background of the hat; however for this purpose I’m just going to use the quick selection tool. Simply paint around the outside of your hat with the brush to select.

Your selection will most likely bleed into hat while you paint along the outside–no worries, that’s normal. Simply hold down the option key on a mac, or alt key on windows, and  the center of your brush will turn to a ( – ) symbol.  This will allow you to paint over the areas you have already selected and deselect them.

Adjust your brush size as needed to fine tune your selection, this may take some practice. When you are finished, your hat should look something like this.

Step 3: Free Transform

If you haven’t done so already, double click the background layer (in your layers pallet) of your Santa hat to turn it into a normal layer, this will allow us to remove the background from the selection we just made.  Once your Santa hat is a layer, simply hit the delete key to remove the background.

Open up your target image and drag the newly isolated Santa hat layer.  The first thing you want to do is free transform the hat to a realistic position.  You can do this by hitting Command + T on a mac, or Control + T on a PC; or by choosing Edit > Free Transform.

By setting your width to -100%, you can flip the image along the vertical axis (or just drag the controls from one side to the other). Also, by holding down the command key you can independently skew the corners.  Position the hat so that it is in a realistic position. Don’t be afraid to rotate or skew the hat as needed.  For more advanced transformations, you might try Liquify tool (Filter > Liquify) or the warp tool.

Step 4: Levels, Gradient Overlay

If you are trying to photoshop two images together, be it a Santa hat or adding yourself to a photo, one of the most important (and easiest) steps is your levels panel. It will be very obvious that your pictures don’t have the same lighting conditions, so take the time do do this quick and simple step.

With the Santa hat layer selected hit Command + L, or choose Image > Adjustments > Levels.  This will open up your levels panel.  Your goal here is to match the levels of your hat to the levels of your photo. Since my photo is darker, I am going to move both the left and middle slider to the right.  This will deepen my reds and increase my shadows.  You can decrease the highlights by lowering the white output level.

Finally you’ll want to add a gradient overlay to add depth to your lighting conditions.  Looking at my picture, I can see the my face gets darker top to bottom.  A low opacity gradient overlay set to multiply does the trick nicely.  I also added a subtle drop shadow, inner shadow, and inner glow to help blend my picture to the background. Experiment and have fun with it.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

You can add snow, text, antlers or a beard–go nuts. Just be sure to have fun.   

I want to thank RC and Corey over at Layers TV.  I watch you guys every week, you’re great. Both of you are on my list of people I’d like to meet someday, looking forward to PSW in Boston this year. The same goes for Matt, Dave, and of course Scott Kelby (The Photoshop Guys).  I am a bigger nerd because of you guys.

Like I said, this blog entry was the result of a few tweets.  Here are some good photoshop people you should follow on twitter, as well as some good links. If I miss anyone, please don’t hesitate comment, email, or twitter me @shawnwelch.

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