Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background
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Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background

with Chris Orwig

Video: Correcting the horizon line

Are you ready to learn another advanced technique, which straight line. Well, why is that?

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Watch the Online Video Course Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background
41m 56s Intermediate Feb 07, 2014

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What do you do with a sky that's dark and stormy, blown out, or just plain ordinary? You can spend hours trying to enhance it, or you can replace it in just a few simple steps. Chris Orwig shows you how in this Portrait Project. He'll show you how to make and refine a selection, mask out the sky, and insert a new, more dramatic sky—all in Adobe Photoshop. In order to make your replacement look natural, Chris spends the second half of the course showing how to improve the detail, color, and tone of your new composite.

Chris Orwig

Correcting the horizon line

Are you ready to learn another advanced technique, which will help us to improve the edges of our mask? Well, here it goes. In this movie, we'll look at a technique which will help us to improve the horizon line in this photograph. Which is a really important edge, because that's where the background touches down or connects to the foreground, or the image the portrait that we have here. And this technique all revolves around painting a straight line on the mask with the brush tool. What you know, if we look at a horizon line, here I am pressing the space bar key and clicking and dragging.

We'll notice there's some variation on it. If you grab the Zoom tool and zoom in into this area, for example. If we get really close, you'll notice it almost looks like a little mountain range there. Here we have some peaks and some troughs, some valleys, and it isn't a consistent straight line. Well, why is that? Well that's because when we were using quick select, it didn't do a great job at making this edge because the background was blue, the ocean was blue, and it was just a tough edge to work with. So what we're going to do is to go in and take a look at how we can improve this edge. Now as I mentioned, this technique revolves around painting straight lines. Let me show you on a demo layer how we can do that. Here I'll create a new layer just for demo purposes. Then I'll grab the Brush tool. And with the Brush tool, what I'll do, is I'm going to try to paint a straight line. So here goes, I'm just going to click and paint, and as I do that, you notice that it isn't very straight. Yet, if you click once, hold down the Shift key, and click again, you can create an exact straight line. And that's what we'll do. Except we'll be painting with black. We'll be painting that line on the mask. Let's see how this will work. Here I'll click and drag this to the trash can icon. And then what you want to do is target the mask for the layer you want to work on, in this case our topmost layer. Then choose the brush, we want to paint with black. Up in the Options bar we need to choose an appropriate brush size and hardness. For our brush size, we're going to need to bring this down to something really small. Maybe something around eight or nine pixels. Next, for the hardness, we want a little bit of softness, but not too much. Don't go all the way soft, otherwise the edge will look, it'll look a little bit too unnatural. Of course, the amounts here depend upon the photograph, but for this image, what I'm guessing is, we want a little bit of hardness, I should say, and somewhere right in there, I'm guessing, will work. And here I'm hesitating, one of the reasons why I'm hesitating is this technique takes a lot of precision. It's going to be hard to perform this. We'll see if I can pull it off. And so what you do is, you have a really small brush. And then the goal here, is to click to set a new line. And we'll go ahead and click once. Then hold down the Shift key, go all the way to the other edge of the horizon there. And then hold down the Shift key, and click again. And what you should have been able to do, is just trim off the inconsistency. And it looks like it actually worked pretty well. Up to the point where we got to the subject. So I just want to double check that. I think again, that looks pretty good. The next thing that I'm going to do is I'm going to make my way over here, zoom in of course. Cmd + on a Mac, Ctrl + on Windows. I'm going to make my brush much smaller, and I'm going to finish this off here. And I need to get really precise about this, because I want to make sure I'm not getting rid of any of the details there in the back. Alright, well what about this other edge on this side? Here we'll do the same thing. I'll zoom out a little bit so I can see the edge. because we want to have a nice consistent line across that area. I'll bring the brush size back up to where we were. We were right about 10 pixels or so, and then I'm going to click once to create that new edge. Go ahead and create that. Click right there and hold down the Shift key, and make my way all the way over to the other side, and then I'll click again. You can see how I just trimmed off that top edge. Created a more consistent horizon line. And because we're using the same type of brush and softness on the brush, this will allow us to just rebuild the entire horizon. Now we need to get back close to the subject here, because when I got there, I have a little bit that I need to trim off so I'm going to go ahead and do that. Click here, and you can hold down the Shift key and click there. I just like to try to make sure that it's nice and level throughout. As you're working on these small details, if you make a mistake, like I did right here, and you divot down into that. We'll just go back and paint with white, and you can correct the mask. And do your best job to try to make sure it looks nice and even, and natural. If you bring in too much, go ahead and paint with black. And you can try to go over that again. Click and Shift-click, right over that same exact area. All right, well, for the most part, I think that I got lucky. And I was able to level out the horizon line there, and I think that that's looking a lot better. It's making for a bit more of an even and also cohesive horizon line, which is great. In your own images, you'll want to practice a little bit with that technique and give yourself the luxury of making a few mistakes. In other words, let yourself off the hook. If it doesn't look right on the first few tries, don't give up, keep at it because this technique can really help out, especially when you're combining images and when you need to have a level or a linear line. This is one of those techniques that can really save the day.

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