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In Photoshop CS4: Image Compositing for Photographers, Jan Kabili demonstrates how to take photographs to the next creative level using image compositing techniques in Photoshop. Jan starts with a basic compositing workflow: how to choose images, move layers from one file to another, use Smart Objects to transform photos, blend photos with layer masks, and resize and sharpen the results. She then reveals her methods for blending images into a composite for a seamless look. Photoshop's powerful blending features, including Auto-Blend, the Advanced Blending sliders, and layer knockout, are explored. Jan also shows how to handle common multiple-image situations, such as panoramas, bracketed exposures, and HDR photos. Exercise files are included with this course.
One of my favorite ways to make a composite image is to make use of the Paste Into feature. The Paste Into feature comes with an automatic Layer Mask, so it saves you lots of time, and you can get some interesting effects with it, like this. Here I have a can of paint. Let's say that instead of a can of paint, I'd like to have a can of a little bit of sky. It's easy. All I have to do is go to the sky image that I happen to have open here, and I'm going to select this whole image by pressing Command+A, that's Ctrl+A on a PC on my keyboard, or I could go to the Select menu at the top of the screen, and choose All.
Then I'm going to copy everything I've selected in the sky image by pressing Command+C, that's Ctrl+C on a PC, or going to the Edit menu and choosing Copy. Now that I've copied the sky image into my computer's clipboard, I'm going to switch back to the paint can image by clicking on its Document tab. Here, I need to make a selection of the area into which I want to paste the sky, and that's basically the inside of this paint can.
Fortunately, I've already made that selection for you, and I've saved it with this image. So to bring this selection up, all that you and I have to do at this point is go up to the Select menu at the top of the screen, and choose Load Selection. Here at the Load Selection dialog box, I'm going to go to the Channel menu and make sure that inside can is showing there. That's the name of the selection that I made, and I'll click OK. That brings back the selection of just the inside of the paint can. Remember, I still have the entire sky image copied into my computer's clipboard.
So, to put the sky into this selection of the inside of the paint can, I'll go to the Edit menu and I'm going to choose Paste Into. So, I'll choose Paste Into and that's all there is to it. I now have a little bit of sky in that can. The real beauty of this is that over in the Layers panel, when I pasted into, I automatically got a new layer that contains a Layer Mask. A Layer Mask is really just another way to represent a selection.
So let's take a look at this Layer Mask. I'm going to Option+Click or Alt+Click on the Layer Mask, so that you can see it here in the document window. Remember that I had a selection in the shape of the inside of the paint can, and when I pasted into, Photoshop automatically made a Layer Mask that's white inside of the selection and black outside of the selection. If you look close, there are some great pixels in between. The black area of this Layer Mask, as on every Layer Mask, is hiding the portion of the sky underneath the black, and the sky is only showing where there is white on this Layer Mask.
So, that's how the effect is done. I'm going to Option+Click or Alt+Click again on that Layer Mask thumbnail to bring back the view of the sky in the can. I want to point out something else on that sky layer, and that is that there is no link between the thumbnail on the left and the thumbnail on the right. That means that I can move the image content, represented by the thumbnail on the left, independently of the Layer Mask. After I've pasted into this layer, I can move the content around inside the paint can until I get just the right combination of clouds and sky showing there.
The important thing to do before I do that is to make sure that I've clicked on the layer content thumbnail, the thumbnail on the left, rather than the thumbnail on the right, which represents the Layer Mask. So with the layer content thumbnail highlighted in the Layers panel, I have my Move tool selected in the toolbar, and I can just come in and click-and-drag and I'm moving the entire sky layer around. So, you see if I go too far, you can actually see the magenta paint on the background layer below. But this sky layer is actually pretty big, so I have a lot of room to move here and I'll put it just the way I want it with these clouds showing like this.
If I wanted to, I could link this layer to its Layer Mask by clicking between the two layers to add a link. There's really no reason to do so, the beauty of pasting into is that you have the flexibility to move the content around inside this Layer Mask. There is one more thing that I want to do, and that's to make this sky paint look more realistic. So, I'm going to add an Inner Shadow on the sky layer. I'll go down to the Effects menu at the bottom of the Layers panel, click there, and I'm going to choose Inner Shadow.
That brings up the layer Style dialog box. I'll move it over just a bit, and an Inner Shadow is checked and it's highlighted here, so that I can see the Inner Shadow options in the center column. I'm going to tweak the Distance, the Choke, maybe the Size. There is no formula here, I'm just moving the sliders until that this sky in a can looks a lot more realistic. Then I'll click OK, and that's how you can use Paste Into to make a really creative composite.
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