Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Isolating subjects, part of After Effects Project Workflow.
Our first task here in Photoshop is to isolate the subject, in other words you want to get rid of the background. That way we can have a bunch of elements swinging up from behind him in After Effects and have it show up, and with this background, that won't happen. Now there are a zillion ways to do this, but let me show you just a couple of quick tips and tricks to do this. I selected the Quick Select tool. You'll find that tool fourth from the top of the Tools panel, right here, Quick Selection tool. And it's really not the best tool to use, to be honest.
It looks like it works great, like if I were to click here in this background, it just expands and it finds the edge automatically, and look how much it just goes around the contour, through our subject. It looks perfect, right. Well, it's not exactly perfect. I often find that this tool creates these really ugly edges, especially on smaller images, so you need to be careful with that. However, it's a phenomenal starting point. So I was just going to click in these areas of the background, and actually, I want to select the foreground. That's me, the subject, and I'll show you why that is in just a second, but for now I am going to select background.
Click in these areas. And if you've accidentally selected too much, so let's say, I go and I select the shadow. There we go. So I've selected too much, so what you can do is hold the Alt key on the PC, the Option key on the Mac and just draw on the subject to subtract from the selection area. So I'll de-select my pants, and there we go. Sometimes, zooming in with this tool helps as well. I am going to get the ear here. I am just going to hold the Option key to subtract from the selection.
Now it doesn't have to be perfect because we are going to do this nondestructively. So we are not going to hurt the image at all. And so what I am going to do is I am going to duplicate the background layer. I am going to drag that to the New layer icon. I am going to turn off the real background layer. This is so that if we really foul things up, we have kind of an insurance policy. We can always go back to the original. We haven't destroyed anything. So I'm selecting the background copy, and what I am going to do in this layer is create a layer Mask, but a layer Mask is going to remove whatever is not selected.
So what we need to do is invert this selection because right now, we have the background selected, and not the subject, and we actually want the subject selected, not the background. So I'm going to press Command+ Shift+I to invert the selection. That'll be Ctrl+Shift+I on the PC. Once I've inverted the selection and the subject is selected and not the background, I can create a layer mask by going to the bottom of the Layers panel and selecting the square with the circle in the middle of it. That will create a layer mask there. Very nice. And we start to see some of the problems from that Quick Select tool, but that's okay.
That's actually the reason why we created a layer mask because it was nondestructive. We could go back and fix anything later if we want to. So what I am going to do is hit the letter D on the keyboard to reset my colors, white to the foreground, black to the background. Then, with the layer mask selected, not the layer itself but the layer mask on this top layer, I am going to zoom in. I can see we've got a huge like San Andreas Fault going through my chin here. So what I am going to do is I'm going to hit B for the Brush tool, and then I'm going to paint, to fix these areas where there is undesired transparency.
So by painting white, I'm actually restoring the subject. Now if I go too crazy with this you could see that I actually can paint back the background, which is not what I want to do. So I'm going to undo that, and I could go in and fix these areas. Now there are some areas that we kind of don't care about. It's not really worth the time and effort, and that's like around my shoulders here, and that probably looks good enough. Somewhat way around my pants these edges might be a little bit choppy, but if they are kind of ugly, it's not going to be that big of a deal.
For one, this is a lot bigger than we're going to need our final project to be. So if there is a little bit of detail that's not quite perfect, it's going to be okay. We could live with it. So the thing that is not going to look that great though is the subjects hair right here. I got some spiky hair going on and selecting it's kind of a mess. So what I'm going to do is paint with white and this is kind of weird, but go with me here for a second, and I'm actually going to get back all of the stuff that we lost around the sensitive areas of the head, where there is a lot of these kind of spiky hairs that are hard to select.
Next, what I am going to do is I am going to select the Lasso tool so I can create a free-form selection. Then I want to select an area that's only the black part of my hair and the background, and nothing else. There we go, and then with the main image area selected, not the layer mask, I'm going to go to the Select menu at the top and select Color Range. So what we are going to do is we are going to have Photoshop work for us to select the differences between the hair and the background.
So I am going to click once on my hair and adjust the slider, the Fuzziness slider until it looks like I have a pretty good mat here, and that's looking pretty good. It's doing a pretty good job with my hairs. There's some semi-transparency hair, which is kind of cool. It looks like these spikes are pretty well preserved. So we can go ahead and click OK. And then we have a selection area. So we could go back over here to our layer mask, hit B for the Brush tool. Now if you zoom out, what you can do by holding Option+Spacebar on the Mac or Alt+Spacebar on the PC, you'll see that there is no selection border around the edges of our image, only around the hair here.
They indicate that only that area is selected, but we actually want to get rid of this junk. So we don't want the hair selected. We want this junk selected. So I'm going to hit Command+Shift+I or Ctrl+Shift+I on the PC to invert the selection, and now everything but the hair is selected. So I can go back here and I could hit the letter X to paint with black, and we could paint just on the background. Don't go start painting away my face or anything, and you could go around this background here and go through and get rid of the background.
Now the problem is that we kind of got rid of some of those spikes, because there are some semi-transparency here. If I de-select that, you could see that we've got some of those spikes came through okay, but not as many as we liked. So I am going to undo that, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z and then Command+Option+Z, or Ctrl+Alt+Z, and I'm just going to, maybe soften the edge of my brush. I can right-click. Take down the Hardness. You could also alternatively take down the opacity if you wanted to. I am not going to do that here, but it'll allow us just to kind of go around little more softly, around those soft edges. Oops! Actually got little bit of my head there, got to be careful with that.
See, this stuff I'm not worried about because I could always go back in with white and repaint it in. And so, as you go back and forth in Photoshop here you might want to zoom in a little closer. That's kind of what it's like. I want to make sure that your edges are looking good, which that one wasn't. I'm going to go back and fix that, but those are some tips for creating fine selection areas and making a good little area here for these spikes, that when we take this back into After Effects, that will composite really well.
And for some of these areas again you might want to harden up the brush and you could do that by hitting Shift+Right Bracket. That will harden the brush. Shift+Left Bracket will increase the softness of the brush or decrease the hardness of the brush. And so it's kind of like a little back and forth, where you erased too much and then you don't erase enough and all that kind of stuff. So you kind of got a go around and fix these edges here. It's a long, tedious process. Doesn't make for the most interesting of tutorials. So you now have the information, so you can now go on your own and practice this until you have a great outline of our character.
And again if you need to restore some stuff, you can just go ahead and paint with white on the layer mask to restore that missing information. Sometimes with Color Range you get these semi-transparent areas. You've got to go in and paint them back in. But, that being said, at the end of the day, we have some really fine selections that'll be impossible to make any other way. So there we have our selection, background free, and we're ready to put this character into After Effects. Now because of my extremely pasty white skin you also might want to go ahead and add maybe levels here or something.
Maybe darken this a little bit. And then go to Color Balance maybe, and we'll select Highlights. Maybe add a little bit of red, little bit of magenta, little bit of yellow. Somewhere around there. And maybe even in the shadows a little bit, in the midtones. Add a little bit of red. I don't want to go too much. Now before we jump over to the next movie, we are going to look at playing with brushes and shapes and stuff like that. We need to save this, but you'll notice that my image is actually in JPEG form. That's not good.
If we save this, it's going to actually degrade the image if we save it again as a JPEG. So what I want to do is I want to hit Command+Shift+S or Ctrl+Shift+S, or alternatively I can go to File>Save As, and I want to go over to Media>PSDs, and then change the Format to Photoshop and make sure layers is checked and then we can save this as a PSD file. Then you could save as many times you want and you don't have to worry about hurting the image in anyway.
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