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Putting together composite images is a great way to exercise your creativity, and in this course Tim Grey shares his tips for getting great results when you do so. After introducing the basic concepts and looking at some automated methods of creating a composite, Tim covers a wide variety of nifty techniques, from creating composites based on a gradient, to painting on a mask, to using a selection as the basis of a mask. Plus, learn how to clean up and improve the overall quality of your layer masks, apply adjustments to specific elements of a composite, add creative effects, work with layer groups, and much more.
With certain composite images, you may find that you want utilize two Layer Mask, with one image layer, and that is absolutely possible, through the use of Layer Groups. Let's take a look at an example. I'd like to take this tern, and blend it into the background, I've got a little bit more colorful scenery here, for the tern. And so I want to place the tern onto that background, I'll place him essentially into the water on the shoreline here. Now, I've already created a selection for the tern, so I'll go ahead and select the Tern layer, and then I'll choose Select, Load Selection from the menu. And then I'll choose the tern channel, that's the save selection that I created for this image.
I'll then go ahead and click OK, and that will load the selection of the tern. I can certainly add a Layer Mask, based on the selection to the Tern layer. But I'm going to instead use a Layer Group. And that will enable me to apply some adjustments, if need be that effect only the tern. So, I'll go ahead and click on the Add Layer Group button, the folder icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. And then I'll double-click on the name, and then I'll just type Tern, the name of the layer, that I'm going to put inside of that Layer Group. And then I can click and drag and drop the Tern layer, inside of the Tern Layer Group.
I'll then click on the thumbnail for the Tern Layer Group. And with that Layer Group active, and with the selection loaded in the image I can click on the Add Layer Mask button. The circle inside of a square icon, at the bottom of the Layers panel in order to add a Layer Mask based on that selection. Now, the Layer Mask is attached to the Layer group, but because the Tern layer is inside of that Layer Group, the mask effects that image as well. Now at this point I have a reasonably good composite image, at least in terms of a starting point, but the tern doesn't really blend into that water very well.
And so I'd like to add another Layer Mask, and I think I will just use a Gradient Layer Mask. So, that we can get that tern blending into the water with a little bit of a transparency in terms of the transition. Of course I already have a Layer Group with a Layer Mask. What I really want is a second Layer Group with a second Layer Mask, so that I have a Gradient Layer Mask that is independent of my Tern Layer Mask. And that way if I need to go back and clean up the Tern Layer Mask or change my Gradient Layer Mask, I can do either of those, very, very easily. So, I'll go ahead and add a new layer group, and then I'll add a Layer Mask to that Layer Group. I can also rename the Layer Group, I'll just call this Gradient, for example. And now, I have a Layer group, with a Layer Mask, called Gradient, that Layer Mask is filled with white.
Because I didn't have a selection active when I created the Layer Mask. And what I want to do now is place my Tern Layer Group inside the Gradient Layer Group. So, I'll just drag and drop the Tern Layer Group onto the Gradient Layer Group. So, now the tern image layer is the Tern layer Group. And the Tern Layer Group in tern is inside the Gradient Layer Group. So, I'm nesting these Layer Groups together. I now can select the Gradient Layer Mask, and then I'll choose the Gradient tool from the tool box. I'll make sure that I'm working with the black to white gradient in a linear fashion with a normal blend mode and a 100% Opacity. And now I can draw a gradient on that Layer Mask in order to blend the tern into the water a little bit.
I'll go ahead and press X on the keyboard to exchange foreground and background colors, so I'm painting from white to black, with that gradient. And then, I'll simply click and drag across the image, in order to add a gradient. So, we can take a look at that gradient, if we hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh. And what that's doing, is causing the top portion of the image to be visible, the bottom portion of the image to be invisible with a smooth transition in between. A very short transition but a transition nevertheless. I'll go ahead and Alt or Option+Click on that Layer Mask again, so, that we can see the overall image. And now I have one Layer Mask that is constraining the visibility of the Tern Layer to just the tern.
And another layer mask that is causing that tern to blend into the background. At least in terms of its feet with a gradient transition. And I can always go back and replace the gradient with a different one or fine tune that Tern layer as needed in order to improve the result. And of course, because I'm using a Layer Group here, I can also fly a targeted adjustment. I do need to make sure that I change the Blend Mode for my Layer Group from Pass Through to Normal. I'll go ahead and adjust that just for the Gradient Layer Group. And then inside of the Tern Layer Group, I'll select the Tern Layer, and now I can add an Adjustment Layer for example, possibly adjusting the overall color balance.
And now you'll see that I'm affecting only the tern when I apply that adjustment to color balance. So, I can shift things a little bit more toward an orange value with the yellow and red addition for example. In order to shift the color values for the tern so that it blends in a little bit better as far as the overall color. So, you can see by stacking multiple Layer Groups, each with its own Layer Mask. I'm able to really maximize my flexibility in terms of creating a composite image that blends multiple Layer Masks that are fully editable.
I can always go back and modify either of these two Layer Masks if I like, and in fact it's possible to stack even more Layer Groups. I can stack up the ten layer groups each with their Layer Mask if I'd like to, but of course in most cases, two is going to be more than enough. But the point is that we can use multiple Layer Groups, each with their own Layer Mask. So, that we can work with maximum flexibility as we're creating a complex composite image.
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