Adding natural shadows with Field Blur
Video: Adding natural shadows with Field BlurIf you're a motion picture fan, particularly, if you like film noir, you're probably aware of the cinematic lighting technique of dramatic shadow patterning that was used in these Hollywood crime thrillers. The use of such a cinematic device is often employed to introduce an additional layer of mystery or intrigue to a scene. This lighting pattern, known as a cucoloris, or cookie for short, is projected onto a scene, background, or character. For our image, we are going to add a raking shadow of leaves and branches across the facade of the castle to introduce an additional layer of texture and a sense of mystery.
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Learn to think like a painter and render images that look like they were created with oils or acrylics, using the latest digital artist's tools. Author and artist John Derry introduces the process of interpreting a photograph into a painted work of art. He begins by explaining his system of visual vocabularies, which describe how to replace the visual characteristics of a photograph with that of expressive painting, and also shares the custom brush sets and actions he uses to achieve these results in Adobe Photoshop. The course also covers working with filters, layers, effects, and more to add further detail and texture.
- Setting up a Wacom tablet
- Removing lens distortions
- Correcting distracting image elements
- Making shadow and highlight adjustments
- Simplifying details with filters and Smart Blur
- Modifying color
- Cloning layers
- Using a traditional paint color swatch set
- Using custom actions
- Working with canvas texture
- Creating physical surface texture effects
- Painting with custom brushes
Adding natural shadows with Field Blur
If you're a motion picture fan, particularly, if you like film noir, you're probably aware of the cinematic lighting technique of dramatic shadow patterning that was used in these Hollywood crime thrillers. The use of such a cinematic device is often employed to introduce an additional layer of mystery or intrigue to a scene. This lighting pattern, known as a cucoloris, or cookie for short, is projected onto a scene, background, or character. For our image, we are going to add a raking shadow of leaves and branches across the facade of the castle to introduce an additional layer of texture and a sense of mystery.
The presence of the shadow additionally serves to anchor the building into the scene. Let's see how we can add a cookie to our scene. We are going to cast the shadow, but we only want it to occur on the facade of our castle. It's not going to go everywhere in the image or it would look funny. It wouldn't look correct. So what I need to do is isolate where that shadow is going to appear, and because we only want it on the castle, we conveniently have that as a layer in our layer palette. And if I hold down my Command or Control key, and position it over the thumbnail, you'll see how the cursor changes so that it will let me, when I click, select that particular layer.
So now we've got a selection, and what we're going to take advantage of in a minute here, but I'm going to show you where it is, so you'll know where we're going. We are going to be going into Paste Special and do Paste Into. And what happens is, when we paste the other element we're going to look at in a moment, it will only go into that selection. And it will be floating on its own layer, so that we'll be able to move it and position it. That may sound a little bit like mumbo jumbo. But you'll see here in a moment exactly how this works. So we've prepped our image by having it selected in advance of pasting something into it.
We're going to move to the image of a tree branch and limbs that I shot, and the trick here was, you want to shoot this against sky. So we have a very definite background that is a different color than anything else in the scene, which is the tree and the branches and the leaves. So, now, we need to somehow isolate only the branches and remove that background, and a very convenient way to do that is to go over to the Channels palette. So we're going to switch here, and you can look at each one of these, and see which one already has the most separation between the background and the foreground.
And that looks better. Oh, but look at blue. Blue really has a real strong separation, so what we are going to do is we are going to crunch this into a high contrast version of the branches, and then use that selection to construct a shadow pattern that we will then transport back over to our other image. So what I want to do here is, with this blue channel selected, I'm going to use the curves command on that blue channel, and we're just going to really kind of crunch down highlights and shadows.
So that we're going to end up with a very, almost kind of just black and white, with very little definition in it. And I don't need to worry a whole lot about some of the structure within the shadow peeking through like that. It's not going to be a big deal, because as a shadow you won't even notice all that. So, the trick here really is to just get it very high contrast. That looks pretty good. Now that we've done that, we're going to use the same trick we used a moment again by holding down the Command or Control key and then going to that blue channel thumbnail, I can select that particular element.
Now this is backwards, it's selecting all of the background rather than the actual construction of the branches. So I need to invert that selection, so I'm going to use Shift+Command or Contrll, and I for invert. And now, we've transposed that around. Now, let's go back and look at our regular image over on the Layers Palette. I'm going to create a new layer, and because I have this selection created, all I need to do now is fill this layer in with black. So let's go ahead and fill this with black.
And I'm going to undo my selections with Command, or Control+D. And we can even turn off this background. So you can see that there I now have a very nice selection in black and white of our tree. When a shadow rakes across the facade of a building, it's not going to be clear and crisp like this. It's actually, it's going to be distorted, depending on, you know, how the light is hitting this element, and it's also going to be softened. So we're going to take advantage of a new feature in CS6 called Field Blur, and let's go ahead and go to that.
This will open up a dialogue that this is going to be in. What this let's me do is adjust how soft a shadow is, and it's going to do it in a continuous change across the image. So, I'm going to use this little icon to plant a new point of focus here, and as I adjust this little ring element, you can see I can make it get much more softer or I can make it get back to harder. So this allows me to control how soft this is, in fact when you pick this up and move it you can see how it interactively actually changes where that softness is happening.
So let's take this other one and we're going to move it over here, and I'm going to reduce the softness. So now we've go this transposition from fairly sharp to soft, and if you see how a shadow rolls across a facade, you'll get it where the closest element is going to be less soft, and as it gets farther away from the actual element that's casting the shadow, it gets continuously softer. So, we're introducing the look of a shadow, by creating this change of focus from sharp to soft, and once we've got this set up the way we want, and this looks pretty good.
I'm going to go ahead up here and say OK, and it will apply that to the branch element. Now, all I need to do at this point is get this over to the other image. And again, I'm just going to hold down my Command or Control key over the layer thumbnail. This lets me select all of that area, so we'll do Command or Control+C. Let's go back to our image, and now I am going to use the Paste Into command, which is under Paste Special, under the Edit menu, say Past Into. And now we've got our element contained within the facade of that building.
We are not finished yet though. Now because this is not locked, you see right there how there is a lock, it is not locked when it comes in. That means I can now pick this up. See how I can move that around? So now, I've got the ability to position this and orient it exactly the way I want to. I'm going to reduce this down a little bit, because now that I've got this in here, I can go ahead and transform it, and start to adjust it, so that it looks even more like a shadow. Remember, these things are always rather distorted, so I'm going to really elongate this.
I can also kind of rotate this to get the angle of the branches they way I want it to look. And see how I can just move this around, I can just see how that pattern affects my image. I kind of like the way that looks. So I'm going to go ahead and hit Return and that will commit my transform. Now, what I want to do is just start to play with the opacity of this. So I'm going to start turning down the opacity, and you can see here how I can start to get that nice look of a shadow on there. Now, here's the trick with this.
You don't want this to be something that calls attention to itself. And I find that you really have to turn this down more than you think. The way you see how it's working is to turn it down, and then turn it on and off. Now, it's there, but Ithink it could use a little more emphasis. So I'm going to turn this back up a ways, somewhere around here, so I'm what, at 30% or so? See now the difference is, when it's not there, and when I turn it on, it definitely makes a difference.
But also, with it on right now, as I look at it, I don't find myself paying a lot of attention to it. Like, oh, why is there that pattern on there? It just naturally seems to be part of the scene at this point. And that's what we want. So, what we've done here is added another dimension of mystery to our scene. And remember, as I said in an earlier video, you don't want to be a slave to the original, so this is yet another step that we're removing this from its original context, and we're adding this kind of sense of mystery to the overall image, so that now it's starting to reinforce the storytelling aspect of this little girl, who may be a ghost, or may not be in the scene. And it just starts to seal the image into this kind of mood that we want.
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