Skip to main content

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Lesson 26 of 31

Spill Light: Painting with Light to Blend

Karen Alsop

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Karen Alsop

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

26. Spill Light: Painting with Light to Blend

Lesson Info

Spill Light: Painting with Light to Blend

After I've done that, then I want to bring some light over like there's light rays sort of spilling through the person. So turning on a new layer and this one here we'll call light, this is light that's going to spill over the top of Alice and it's going to spread not only on Alice but also on our background as well. There'll just be a few spots, mainly where the light is hitting the corner of her head. So you'll have more of this, the more light and the more sky you have behind your subject, the more of this sort of light spill that you could create. In one of my images, Geppetto's workshop, there's a lot of light spill and if you watch the speed edit that I've got up on my website, there's light cracking through the background, light cracking through all the cracks in the walls. So that has a lot of light spill, whereas this particular image, she's in front of trees as well, so you wouldn't see as much light coming through. But we'll turn this onto the light layer, pick up from the s...

ky, again, looking at the lightest part of the sky, that pinky color that's coming through, a bigger, very soft brush, the flow is up to 100% just so we can see it, the hardness is down to zero. And just a dab here. Again, I need to pull it down, but you can sorta see that light now over the top of the tree, over the top of the sky, and over the top of her. Perhaps another little dab here, and again, it's bringing her into the scene more. Perhaps some of the ground color, no that's too dark, so let's go with the sky color and turn the flow down. And just have a couple little light spills coming through the hair. We wouldn't have as much down at the feet here because there's not as many areas where that light would spill through, but we can have just a touch. Remembering I'm gonna turn this down again, so just a touch coming through the bottom. It all helps to bring our subject into the scene. Turning down the opacity. Until its subtle effect of light flowing over the top of our character. Let's zoom back out. So if I turn these on and off, all of those adjustments, we'll just turn them off individually. Okay, that's before. And that's after, it probably still needs a little bit of refining but just to give you that idea of light spilling over characters, so every single element that you put into your composite, if you do that, if you just bring some light around the side of them, then that helps to bring them into the scene more. Let's do the same with the rabbit. So up to the rabbit group. Zooming up on him. Mr. Rabbit. So as I was saying before, this is kinda the point where I would transfer my image to the main computer, because we're working with so many layers and we're keeping all of those smart layers and all of the information in the image which I feel is important. There's many times that I've needed to go back to an image and refine it, and if I had flattened it off, I wouldn't have the ability to do so. There's plenty of times where, as you're learning, you realize you can do a bit more work to an image, you wanna be able to come back to it, so having all of those layers is important, but you do need to have a lot of RAM in your computer to handle it, so, desktop computers that you can put a whole lot more RAM into them, when you start to get to this amount of layers can be very helpful. Okay so we've got our rabbit. Let's do the light spill clip to the rabbit first, and then some light spill outside of the rabbit. There won't be as much, he's right on the ground, so there's probably a little bit of that sandy colored area that needs to com onto his feet. Okay, so, grabbing a brush, again it's the soft brush, and alt, pick up the color. We'll just paint some around his feet. We did have a question that was kinda more in general, that says please ask Karen what she believes is the initial learning curve. So many people who showed their student work in our student work gallery are so top notch. Yikes, do I not have a chance? So can you talk a little bit about, as we wait, just what it does take, but maybe some encouragement. I need to post some of my early work, I think. That would be great. See. Oh I thought it was wonderful what I was creating and then I look back at it, I notice all the issues that I had with it. I wasn't considering the light. I wasn't considering the angles. I wasn't considering, so all these things that I've been focusing on, perspective, light, color, all of these things I just think that you learn over time and it's certainly doable. My early images are terrible. I think everyone has the images that they go back to and think, oh, I wish it wasn't even out there on the web. It's a learning curve and it does take time. It's not something that you're going to get right overnight. That's the thing I found, the best way that I could learn is just every image that I create, set myself a goal, start simple, start with one background, if you're just starting out, start with one background, one subject, try and match that up, get that all right and then move on, try and keep it simple and then give yourself a challenge. Every single image that you create, make it a little harder each time so that you're learning something every time that you do it. It just takes time. So, yeah. (chuckles) Pick it up, painting it on. Still struggling with it, that's okay. Going to zoom out. And so you can see a little bit of color coming into the rabbit there. Just around the edges, that light that would be bouncing up from the floor, from the ground. And turning down the opacity. So looking at it from a distance just to see how it looks. Zooming up again. So it's just subtle. Now, the next layer for the rabbit, I don't want to clip, I just want the light flowing around so releasing the clipping mask. Picking up even some light from the sky. And, just painting it on, particularly around the edges. Just where there might be some light spill coming around the corners of the rabbit, just soft little dabs. Turning it down. Now some of these layers you could actually make, I'll make them darker so you can see. So it's more obvious. You can actually change the modes here. So these modes here, the overlay, soft light, hard light are often the ones that I use when I'm overlaying light and painting with light. Particularly soft light. So it's just a subtle color coming over the top that's bringing in some of the light around. Again, it's very subtle. Hard light is more obvious. And overlay, it does it a different way, so it's good to play with the three different ones there and see if any of those are working well. So going onto probably soft light for this one, and what you can do is you can actually paint some of that very subtle pink color over your subject, and I am probably going to clip this one to our rabbit here, so create a clipping mask and then do one more layer which is just that light spill, so that layer there is some of the pink that's cascading onto his fur, and then one more layer, just some very subtle little dabs. And turning it down. Zooming out. Okay.

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.


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.

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!