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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Happy New Year, and welcome to the first anniversary of Deke's Techniques! This week we're going to take this photograph-- It's a candid photo of my friends, Mary and Billy, at their wedding--but they want of those people in the background removed, and we're going to remove them entirely, and we're going to end up achieving this effect here. Isn't it great? Now you may look at it and say hmm! You know, when you inspect that photo closely, you can't help but notice that Mary's face has been encroached upon ever so slightly by the bushes.
That's true, but we did get rid of the people in the background, and we will do better, but we've got to do this first. Here, let me show you exactly how it works. So here's the original wedding photograph with the lurkers in the background, and here's the final effect we're going for with all those extra people replaced by vegetation. And that's going to be our first step, by the way, is to create an all-vegetation background. So, I'll go back to the original photograph, press Shift+Tab to bring up my right-side panels, and I'm going to convert this flat background into a floating layer by double-clicking on it, and I'll call this new layer "couple" and then I'll click OK.
Now I'm going to create a copy of it by pressing Ctrl+J or Command+J on the Mac and I'm going to turn the top layer off and rename the bottom layer "foliage" as so. Now then, what we want to do is replace all the people inside of the image with vegetation, and we'll do that using Content-Aware Fill. But here's something to know about the Content-Aware Fill feature inside of Photoshop. Let's say what I decide to do is select this woman over here on the right-hand side. So I've switched to the Lasso tool here, which you can get by pressing the L key, and then I'll press the Alt, key or the Option key on the Mac, keep that key down, and then I'll just click around this woman.
Notice I'm leaving a margin here, but I'm creating a polygonal outline around her because that's the easiest way to work. And ultimately I will complete the outline like so. And now I want to fill her away, so I'll press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac in order to hide that selection outline. Then I'll go up to the Edit menu and choose the Fill command, which, by the way, you can get by pressing Shift+ Backspace on the PC or Shift+Delete on the Mac. That brings up the Fill dialog box. I'll set Use to Content-Aware. All the Blending options are set to their defaults, meaning the mode is Normal, Opacity 100%, and Preserve Transparency is turned off.
Then you click OK and Photoshop ends up filling away this woman, but we end up catching the top of Mary's head, which of course doesn't make any sense where the scene is concerned, but that's what we asked Photoshop to do. I'll press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac to bring back the selection outline. When you apply Content-Aware Fill, you'll replace everything inside the selection outline with everything outside the selection outline. So everything outside the selection becomes fodder for Content-Aware Fill, which means we need to make sure everybody is selected so Content-Aware Fill can't see them.
So I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo the filling of that woman there. And we're going to add to the selection outline by pressing the Shift key and I'm going to drag inside the selection like so. Then you keep your mouse button down-- this is a little trick, for adding a polygonal outline to an existing selection-- keep the mouse button down, release the Shift key, and now press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Keep that Alt or Option key down and now you can begin clicking around the image like so, in order to add to the previous selection outline. All right! Notice that I'm giving a pretty healthy margin around these people here.
But you don't want to give too much margin because of course you do have to have some area outside the selection for Content-Aware Fill to work with. So we sort of have to split the difference here. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and select all the way down, then back up, around-- I think this is a girl over here on the left-hand side, I'm not sure. And then finally, I'll complete the selection, and we've got now everybody in the image selected. I want you to go up to the Select menu, choose Modify, and then choose the Feather command.
And let's enter a Feather Radius value of 4 pixels-- I think we have enough room for that-- and click OK, and that'll just help us achieve some soft transitions. Now I'm going to press Shift+Backspace or Shift+Delete on the Mac in order to bring up the Fill dialog box. We still have Use set to Content-Aware. All the Blending options are set to their defaults, so just go ahead and click OK. Now this is pretty computationally intensive because you can see, most of the image is selected at this point. There's very little to draw from, including mostly this area over here, which is why we have so much repetition of detail inside the selection outline.
But that is the way it is. All right! So I'm going to press Ctrl+D, Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image. If you find that some portion of the background just doesn't work for you, for example, this little bit of transition right there, then you can paint over it using the Spot Healing brush, which by the way allows you to work with Content-Aware Fill. So make sure that Content-Aware is selected up in the options bar and then just paint over any and all offending details you like. Now you are going to see all kinds of details repeated, like this little bit of brush or bush or whatever it is that appears over and over again, but you do have to bear in mind that a lot of this detail is going to get covered up.
And if you do a good job on the masking side then you're going to take a lot of attention away from this background. Now notice down here at the very base of the image, we have this kind of smudge of detail right there. That's because Content-Aware Fill doesn't really know what to do with an edge, and painting over it with the Spot Healing brush isn't going to work any better because it's still content-aware. If you want to get rid of that detail, then what you do is you switch to the old school Clone Stamp tool, and then you have to Alt+Click or Option+Click some place inside the image to specify source point, and then you paint along the bottom like so. And if you run out of room, as I just did, why then just release the mouse button, make sure the Align checkbox is turned on up here in the options bar, and just continue to paint. All right! Now we have an all-vegetation background. Excellent! The next job is to bring back the couple layer and mask everybody but the couple away.
Now this is one of those horrible scenes to have to mask, I have to tell you. It is like a worst-case scenario. We do not have people against a flat background. Instead, we have people against this rough vegetation, and the people that we're trying to remove are about five inches away from those people, all kinds of interaction, flesh detail going on. Also there's a lot of noise in this particular photograph. There's a lot of JPEG artifacts going on. All of those things create problems when you start to mask. So this is a masking challenge, actually, I have to say, but there are some ways to make it easier.
For example, if you go to the Paths panel, you'll see that I created this path collection called interlopers. And it contains path outlines around the woman on the right-hand side as well as the pieces of the man in the background that are showing through. Those are the only areas that we really need to get rid of because we're going to crop away this girl over here on the left-hand side. This side of the image is just fine, for example, and this area of Mary's hair can be left alone. So what we really need to do is just mask away that stuff inside the path outlines, and I created those paths, by the way, using the Pen tool just by clicking.
I just clicked to set the corner points. That's it. There's not a control handle in sight. All right! So I'm going to convert these paths to a selection outline by Ctrl+Clicking or Command+Clicking. So Ctrl+Click on that path on the PC, Command+Click on the Mac. We've got our selection outline going. Make sure the couple layer is active back here in the Layers panel. Then go up to the Select menu, choose Modify, and choose the Feather command again, and let's go ahead and apply that same Feather Radius value of 4 pixels, click OK. Now drop down to that add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and Alt+Click or Option+Click on it in order to hide those offending details.
Now, as I say, we're going to crop the girl's arm away, so, not concerned about that. In fact, why don't we do that right now? Go up to the Image menu and choose the Canvas Size command, or you can press Ctrl+Alt+C or Command+Option+C on the Mac. Turn on the Relative checkbox, set the Width value to -300 pixels is what I came up with, make sure the center chicklet is selected, and click OK. Photoshop is going to say, "Hey, some clipping might occur." Actually no, because we're working in a layered document, so everything is going to be fine. Click Proceed and notice that went ahead and cropped that girl, or whatever it was over there on the left-hand side.
But we still have kind of a problem over here on the right-hand side. Obviously, we have a lot of problems we need to deal with up top, but over here on the far right-hand side of the image, we've changed what was formerly this woman's shoulder into a kind of vegetation monster. And so here's how we're going to deal with that. I'm going to grab my Brush tool, which you can get by pressing the B key. I'm going to right click inside the image. Make sure that the Hardness value is set to 0%, as it is. Good. Then I'm going to increase the size of my brush. We're not going to do any overlay painting, nothing that fancy. The Blend mode should be set to Normal, the Opacity value should be set to 100%, and so forth.
Now I'm going to press the X key in order to switch my foreground and background colors. I need my foreground color to be black, and then I'm going to paint like so to paint in a softer transition. Now you may notice that that came at the expense of Mary's arm, which is now a big disaster. Well, I took care of that in advance actually. If you go back to the Paths panel, you'll see that there's this is path called right arm. The path outline turns out to be the best way to deal with this problem. So go ahead and Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on that path outline to load it up. I'll switch back to the Layers panel.
I've got the layer mask active, and so I'm going to zoom in so I can see what I'm doing here. I'll press the M key to switch to the Rectangular Marquee tool, so I don't have that big brush cursor, and I'll press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Delete on the Mac to fill that selected area with white, and let's click off of it to check what we've done. It looks pretty darn good. We've got a little bit of a weird edge going on there, and we can solve that using the Smudge tool. So you can get the Smudge tool from the Blur tool flyout menu. Go with a big cursor like I have here. And the Strength value is 50%, as by default.
This is a soft brush, by the way, and I'm just going to paint slightly in like so, and we get this nice transition. Let's try something softer up in the shoulder as well. All right! I'm going to go ahead and switch back to the Rectangular Marquee, press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac in order to center my image on screen. We have successfully managed to remove the unwanted people from the scene and replace them with foliage. All that's left is to mask the couple back into place.
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