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Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Lesson 22 of 31

Add Layers to Create Full Looking Hair

Karen Alsop

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

22. Add Layers to Create Full Looking Hair

Lesson Info

Add Layers to Create Full Looking Hair

Okay so the next step is adding some hair, maybe adding some extra dress flow that we captured and this is before we add all the shadows. So let's go back into Alice. And this hair here I'd like to add some flowing hair to her, so we'll do a similar thing that we did before but it's not going to be a brush, we're going to just add that in, take the green away. She's so cute there (chuckles). So going into develop mode, just to crop in. And we'll open this in Photoshop as a smart object. Same step over and over again. You guys should be getting that now, open as a smart object and select, color range, there we go, it's already dropped it out from the last time. I'm quite happy with that, I'm going to use the hue, saturation adjustment layer to get rid of the green. I'm liking all the extra texture in the hair there. I'm liking how it looks over here so I'll press okay. I'll check how it looks in refine edge. Don't want the edge shifted in quite as much because I want to see more of that...

fine hair, so I'm going to move that back to probably zero. Everything else is fine, my feather is at 0.5, as I've said, that's pretty standard for my settings, but apart from that, I'm ready to make it output as a layer mask. Okay, there's a couple of areas that I need to tidy up. You can see these areas here, not quite solid red, so we may go back again. Sometimes that happens. You create the layer mask and then you realize it didn't pick up as much green as you wanted it to, so you need to go back and go back to here. So select, color range, here I need to select some extra green and just make sure that all these areas are solid black. Looks okay, refine edge. That's looking much better, press okay. That's looking a lot better. Now I just want to paint out this area here so that I can blend it. I really want it to blend nicely into her hair so I'm going to go with a soft brush, hardness zero, and just paint in down here. And then ready to take that into our scene. I will put the hue, saturation adjustment layer on afterwards so I'll just get this in place. So we wanna shrink this down, move it to the position of Alice. Okay, zooming up. Now I could put this behind her and blend, or I could put it in front. I think by putting it in front, it's going to help it blend a little more but this area here I will soften off, even feather with the brush. Painting in and out where I need to. I feel like she needs her hair lightened a bit to match with the rest of her hair, 'cause there's some room light coming onto her hair that isn't quite hitting the flowing hair, and it was probably blocked by someone's shadow when we were lifting the hair up, so to create some extra light, let's pull this hair. We just go with the levels adjustment layer again. This time taking the shadows down. We clip it to her hair. I usually change this to screen mode. At the moment it looks too bright but what I'm going to do here is invert, and then just with a low flow brush, just paint in where I want it to be a little brighter. And then turn down the opacity as well. So overdo it. I like to paint around the edges of the hair because that's where the light was coming from more. So looking like there's some room light. Then turning down the opacity so we can sort of blend it even more. Here, I still want to blend her hair in, so I think I'm going to go with her hair brush. And just very softly, tap in to give a bit more texture of the hair. I feel it's lost some of its yellow as well in the shadows, so I can adjust that too, but before I do that, let's take the green away, 'cause it's a bit distracting. So we go back to the hair layer, go to hue, saturation. This one I did before, I've got the default preset that I've created before that I could put through but I'll do this again so you can see. We click on greens. Select all of the green but not the yellow, 'cause we don't wanna lose any of her hair. Turn up the saturation to see what it's affecting, change the color, and I want it to be more of a yellow color, we'll turn the saturation back down again so that now, all we need to do is adjust some of that color in the hair there, and it's mainly in this section here where it's lost some of its golden glow, so what we can do there is, a few different, there's actually some different ways to do this. Let's go into a color balance, levels adjustment layer and just turn the yellows up. And as I said, it's mostly in this area that I'm wanting. Too much in here will look odd. So it's even more in the shadows, so at the moment, applying some yellow to the midtones and then some yellow to the shadows, and then again, inverting and painting it back, so using that adjust layer and then painting it back where I want it, back to a soft brush. And flow about 20. Just painting that back in. Bringing in some gold to that area that lost it. You feel it's too much, you just paint it back. Wherever you think it needs to go, painting it in. And it can be turned down as well. Okay, zoom out to have a look. We've got some hair flow there, we've got some more that we wanna add to the other side so we'll do that in a very similar fashion but probably more quickly. So we've got quite a few different images that we can work from. I like this one, I'm not sure if it's going to work once we place it on her, but we can try. I think I need to turn the exposure up even before we get into the scene and bring out the shadows so there's some light under her hair and then we'll just crop up here. It could be the wrong angle, it may not work. We can see, so open as a smart object in Photoshop. So because I'm not sure, what I'm going to do instead of doing all the hard work here is I'm going to drag that straight into the scene. Make sure it's above Alice and not clipped, so something that can quite often happen when you're doing all of these clipping adjustment layers is when you drag another image in, it goes in between layers so this one ended up here and it went in between the hair and the color balance clipped layer and it automatically clipped to that layer below, so what you'll need to do is actually drag it up above all those clip layers and release the clipping mask. So if you find you're losing your images, you're not quite sure where they went, just check if they clipped to something and make sure you can unclip them. So with this one, I'm turning down the opacity so I can see through her. Resize. Zooming out. Get this to be approximate, that's quite good. The main area I'm looking at is actually the shoulder area so that that hair can drop below the shoulder, and that the hair at the top of her head is matching up with the top of her head in the scene. So that there. And this is very much how you would do a head swap, so if you're trying to do head swaps, as long as you've got an image that is very similar, the angle is the same, the lighting is the same, then you can just match it up like that, make it see through and then you can paint back the area that you want, so the trick is to make sure that it is a very similar shot, so if you take a number of shots of the same family and they're looking all over the place, as long as you're in the same place and they're in the same place, generally not too hard to do a head swap. Okay so we mask that. And I'm simply going to paint out the areas that I don't need. I'll leave some of the green around the edge, because I'm going to remove that using color range tool. I just wanna see how it's going to look first. So we need to do some blending there, once I've removed the green to sort of make it look like it's flowing and the hair's joining up. This green needs to go so back to the image, select, color range, same setting as last time, so I don't need to make too many changes. It's actually showing up the whole scene there but we can see over here what it will remove because we're selected on that layer, press okay. Again going back to refine edge. I've got remember settings selected, so this is the same as last time, it make it very quickly if you're working with the same types of images, shot in the location, you shouldn't have to change too many settings. Okay, it actually just deleted the other mask. That's okay, it remasked, I'll paint that back again. Get rid of all this bit. So this area here is the main bit that needs to blend. Above the shoulder, I need to get in nice and close and cut that in. So with this area here, we could actually use the stamp tool to blend some hair from here to here because it's not quite overlapping the way that we want it to, 'cause she had her hair forward in one shot and back in the other. Or, I could try and merge her face together. So that would be one way of doing it, which is a little more difficult because then you've gotta make sure that you're matching eyes and face and she's got a different expression, maybe slightly different angle, so it is harder to blend a face together. It's much easier when you're head swapping to try and get the whole face replaced and sort of blend at the hair line and blend at the shoulders and you'll generally get something that looks a bit better. So in here, let's add some hair there. So I'll just call that Alice there, side, okay. So in this section, I'm going to create a new layer. And just use the stamp tool to maybe pick up some of the hair from here and just paint it over here. The important thing with this is that you've got current and flow selected so if you've only got current layer selected, it's not going to work, you're on a blank layer, so current and below. And yeah just pick some up. Remembering this is a separate layer so I can mask back as well afterwards to help blend. We're just bringing in some extra hair. What I'm gonna do with this hair here is turn down the opacity so that where I'm blending it, sort of not too obvious. Want some straighter areas here. Okay I'm gonna zoom out now. I find it really helps to just zoom out, check whether something's working, assess it from a distance 'cause when you're working up really close at something, sometimes you don't see the bigger picture and for me, I'm thinking this is not working the way that I want. So by zooming out and just looking at it going no, it's not quite right, what happens if I turn that off? I think I'll stick with the hair like that. It helps you to assess it. You can spend hours working on something really close and then find it's not going to work. Anyway I hope that helps even though I took it off. (chuckles) Absolutely. What was it about it once you zoomed back out that you didn't like? I think the big thing is that she's got hair in front of her face and having the hair blown back at the same time, not quite working. If I was working on this and I wasn't running a class I might spend more time blending the face and having that hair back, but in a time restricted sort of thing, I think this works quite well, so. Yeah, yeah. Okay so now I think the only other thing we wanna try here with Alice before we go onto shadows is the dress that we had popped out so there was a bit more wind behind it. So again, we'll need to see if it works. And, I actually didn't style this one so what I need to do is go back into my filters off. And going down to where we brought the dress flowing out and having a look at these ones. So that one's quite good, it's not over the top, it's got a bit of wind in it. That one's too close to when we dropped it. And that one's not too bad either. So I'm going to go with this one. There was one thing here that I should have done that I didn't when I was shooting it and that would have been to get her to put her arm up. So I've got less blending area available to me now. Still definitely workable but had I got Evie to put her arm up, then I'd have more of the dress to blend in, so one thing to consider when you're photographing, just when you're doing those extra areas, try and get people to put their arms up. (mumbles) Open this smart object. With this one here I'm just gonna do a quick extraction using the quick selection tool. Because this is the only area that I want, and there's quite a solid difference between the green and the white so it's going to cut it out relatively well. I'll go into refine edge, check my edges, possibly use the smart radius tool just to soften it off a touch. Okay. Drag that into my scene and I'm at the point now where I need to close some windows 'cause I've got too many tabs open. Because these are all in the scene, I don't need to worry about saving them. Unless I wanna use them again for something. Then you would save it. Okay so we've got the dress. And bringing that down to size. Trying to match up where the arm sits. Then zooming out. Now this is obviously gonna need to sit behind the rabbit, at the moment this layer is above the rabbit, so I'm going to bring the rabbit to the top because the rabbit is in front. Then I can see whether I like the look of the dress coming out or if it's not working for me. I can also warp this so one thing that I'll do is take this extra arm away. In fact, I will keep this area here, 'cause one easy thing we can do to fix up where the arm is, is to use the clone stamp. So we'll get rid of the arm up here. Keep it there. If I grab current and below, and I peek up from here and then follow that line around, so joining it up with this section here. I can paint it in over the top. Gives me a bit more dress to play with. This is a separate layer, so that area that didn't quite end, I can softly mask off here. Turn the flow down so I can blend it a little more. And I think put it behind Alice. So she's down here. I've dragged the wrong way I believe, yes, I needed to drag two layers. So both of those layers, if I group them, so I've got my layer in front which is just my fixing layer, my clone stamp layer, and I've got my dress layer there, so I'll group those together and call that dress. Drag that down below Alice. And I can see whether it's going to fit or not and I can see whether I wanna keep it. One thing I can do with this particular group is turn it into a smart object and then use the warp tool and just play with the dress and see if I wanna have it sort of flowing up or not. So I'm turning that into a smart object, right-click, convert smart object. Let it do that. So you can save it as we're working. It's not always a set thing. Take as many photographs as you can, have as many options as you can so that you can play with them after, the worst thing is, if you want to do something and you don't have the shot to do it with. If you've got all the shots, you can play with it and make it work. So transform, warp. So I can sorta play with the shape of the dress using the warp tool. Which I'm liking a lot more 'cause I can have it sort of like it's flowing up behind. So that's where the general warp tool is really handy. The puppet warp tool wouldn't work as well with this because we're not working on pivot points. We're sort of wanting nice, smooth curves with our warp. Something like this works pretty well. All right, I like that. Now that I've got Alice in the scene, I haven't done her shadows yet, but I do feel like our rabbit is too big, so I do want to resize him before I put all of Alice's shadows in. So, just going to the rabbit group, I've got everything together, shadow, everything is together, so I can simply, and what will happen here, I clicked smart filters, apply to the layer, layers containing the group will be turned off temporarily. All that means is as I'm resizing, some of the smart layers that I've worked with will be turned off but when I apply the change, they'll be turned back on again. So that's okay. It does mean sometimes it takes a longer time to resize. I really like him more that size. Need to apply that. I can move him around a touch. This shadow there I'll need to add to, because I've moved him up in the scene, so that was just the soft rabbit shadow, needs a bit more down there. That's cute, that's really cool. Now I need to group Alice now, so at the moment she's sort of all over the place with all of her layers and shadows and color balance and everything else. Starting from the dress down below, all the way up to, here. So I'm going to group these together. Now I can turn it off and on as I need to. And I will rename that as Alice. And now I can add the shadows as I did before, and any highlights and toning that I want to add. One thing that I wanna do here that I didn't do with the rabbit is add some extra rim light to the dress, on the side, and on this side. And it's the same way that we apply shadows but it's the opposite way. I'm going to do that on top of Alice and I'm going to clip it to Alice, so we go into levels, adjustment, levels, and here instead of sliding the white slider up and taking the light away, let's slide that body language slider down to the middle, turn that into screen mode and invert. Then, I wanna clip that to Alice, create a clipping mask, so that I can paint that light onto the side of her. This is again a very subtle change. But it really adds to the scene. It helps to give that painterly look. So hardness down to zero, flow, down to about 15%. Just on the edges there. Now if you photograph something and you don't have the rim light that you want, you don't think the shading that you want, you can add it like this. It does work really well if it's an overcast day, as I said, if you're photographing animals, whatever it is, you can add the light in this way, so it looks like you actually had that lighting coming from behind, so adding some light where it would spill over just a touch because it is a soft-lit scene. But this will help her stand out, give her a bit more of a three-dimensional kind of look. A bit more light on the hair there. A bit more light on this hair as well. Okay, down here. And even a touch on the shoes. Because we had a light coming from way above and (mumbles), it was lighting from above, and there wasn't as much light down below, so I can add some light down here. And again, I will turn that down, so I'm overdoing it so that you can see it and then we just turn it down and adjust it, just a subtle touch to add to the scene.

Class Description

Karen Alsop is known for creating beautiful fantasy worlds through her unique compositing techniques in Adobe® Lightroom® and Adobe® Photoshop®. Whether you're a wedding, portrait, landscape or commercial photographer, this class will show you how to create beautiful and distinctive images you can offer your clients to expand your business.  

Join us for this class, and you’ll learn how to: 

  • Shoot with your composite in mind: lighting, posing and angles.
  • Choose background and subject images that will work best in the composite.
  • Learn Adobe Lightroom and AdobePhotoshop techniques to create a fantastical atmosphere.

Karen’s emphasis on creativity and imagination in her process has helped her to make a product that competitors have a hard time recreating. Karen’s beautiful, intricate work is not simply the result of vast technical skill, but rather is the careful integration of a number of elements. She puts subjects at ease and inspires them with artful direction; incorporates them into fantasy landscapes using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop and then effectively prices and markets the final product.  

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


Judy Mitschelen

I've found many great instructors at CreativeLive and Karen ranks right up there at the top! With her relaxed, thoughtful manner of presenting, I was immediately hooked. Her organization, clear explanations and demonstration, and on target response to questions are superb. This course covers an amazing range of skills and tricks of the trade. Whether you're interested in getting better shots to work with, better workflow at the computer, or better output at the end, Karen covers it all.

Endigo Rae

This was such an amazing class! Karen is so talented, inspiring, and such an amazing teacher. Very forthcoming and open about all of her techniques. I'm so looking forward to jumping into compositing, I feel like this is definitely something my soul desires to explore and Karen has made it so easy and accesible through her beautiful course! Thanks so much Karen and CreativeLive!


Karen is very talented and a great teacher and I enjoyed every minute of the course. But what I found to be the best part was seeing what an amazing person she is. The video of compositing the disabled children to make their dreams come true had me in tears. It has inspired me to use my talents to help others and not learn photo manipulation for self enjoyment. God bless you Karen.