Blending tutorial

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1. Cropping

The first step is cropping the image, this is very useful if you want to work with different layers or just change the background. There are several ways to crop the image, but I am going to explain only the one I prefer, using the "lasso selection tools".

When you open your file you will see a single layer in the layers tab called background, marked with a "locked" sign and italic text, this layer can't be edited with the lasso tool, you will have to duplicate that layer as shown in the pic.

Now you can delete the locked layer or leave it invisible mode by clicking the little eye, just in case that you need it again later.

Using the "Polygonal Lasso Tool" select the girl by the silhouette.

If you are working with an image high on contrast then you can use the "Magnetic Lasso Tool".

With the normal "Lasso Tool" you will get smoother edges, but the selection process will be a bit more complicated, not recommended for new users.

Once the selection process is done, go to the "Select Menu" and click on "Inverse" to invert the selection.

Now that the background is selected, you can go to the "Edit Menu" and click on "Clear".

Note: as you can see I didn't follow the hair line, that's not necessary and could be too complicated to do with the Lasso selection tools, but you will find an easier way to do the hair part in the next steps 2

2. Smudge

The second step is softening the image, here you can use my favorite tool: "smudge Tool". The idea is to remove the graininess and roughness of the textures by smudging with soft brushes.

First, go to the layers tab and press " Ctrl + left click" on the layer to smudge. Selecting the area is very helpful, because you won't have to worry about the edges as you can only edit the selected zone. Now click on the "Smudge Tool" and select the brush you want to use, i recommend a "medium size soft brush" for big open areas, like belly, and "tiny soft brushes" for reduced spaces like fingers.

While smudging open areas like belly, move the brush drawing soft circles, in narrow areas like arms follow the edge line direction as shown below. The strength of the brush should be under 45%. Apply short strokes, long strokes and brushes with too much strength could deform the texture, avoid that.

You can use the "Blur Tool" here too, but I don't like it because you can make some important lines go blurry, and you don't have so much control over the softening process. You can use it later over the unselected edges if they are too sharp.

Note: In your image you will have to decide the direction of your strokes, I am only giving some tips for better results, remember to change the brush size depending on the surface shape and extension.

3. Lighting

The third step is lighting, you will have to use several layers, other tools and the "Diffuse glow" filter in order to achieve a nice and soft lighting in your image. The first thing to do is duplicate the layers.

Select the new layer and apply the (Filter / Distort / Diffuse Glow filter), set the graininess to 1 , the glow amount depends on your image.

Now your image should look like picture 2 and your layers tab like the little box on the left. It is time to decide where do you want the light and the shadows. in this case I want the light on the right and shadows on the left, so with the glow layer selected I will use the "Eraser Tool" with a big soft brush to remove the light from the left borders as shown in picture 3.

Now you can use the "Dodge Tool" to add bright in a more accurate way. Use a little brush with low strength and apply several times until you get the desired results.At the end you can merge the normal and glow layers. Select the glow layer, go to the option "Merge down". You should get this in your layers tab:

Note: in this step I changed the colour balance (Menu Image / Adjustments / Colour balance) increasing yellow and red. This is optional and depends on the background you are going to use. See step 4.

4. Shading

Before starting this level, you will have to choose your background. Shading your character based on the background helps a lot because you will know where to place the stronger and more subtle shadows. All you need here is the "Burn Tool"

To add a background you can use the (File / Import) option or simply drag with your mouse any image and place it in your work window. You can select copy / paste too. Once you have the BG layer on your layers tab, place it under the normal layer to have the BG behind the girl.

As you can see, in the picture the shadows in the sky and girl are not matching, it looks fake, out of place. In order to make it look more realistic, you will have to use the Burn Tool as indicated below.

Select the Burn Tool and then a medium size soft brush with low to medium strength, depending on the zone you are going to work on.

You will have to pass the brush several times in the darker zones to see the difference. In this case I applied the Burn Tool on her right arm, right side of her face and the inner side of her left arm as indicated in the pictures with the yellow arrows.

The light comes from the upper right corner, knowing where the light comes from you can have a clear idea of which parts you need to shade.

Note: you can use different brush sizes, shapes and strength levels to make more elaborated shadows. This time I only used the basic round soft brush at 35% of strength.

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5. Colour M

Colour Matching by Zone is simple. For example in this case her right side has a pink tone and the right side of the sky has a yellow tone, it is not matching. I will have to adjust the Colour Balance but only in her left side and then make both sides blend softly.

Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool select her right side only, you don't need to select it by the border, now you are working with layers and you will only select the contents of the layer you are working on, It doesn't matter if you follow the line or not.

Ok, now that you have your selection go to Layer Menu / New... / Layer via Copy. That will give you the layer 3, with this layer selected go to Image Menu / Adjustments / Colour Balance and adjust the tones to match the background colour.

Both sides match with the background colour's but there is a ugly line in the middle, between yellow and red tones. To make both layers blend softly in the middle I will just use the Eraser Tool with a big soft brush as shown on the left.

You can repeat this process in different areas, for example I increased the red tones in the upper left corner of the background to make it blend with her face, her lips has a red tone, so it is a good idea to increase the red tone in that zone of the background.

At the end you should get something like the pic on the right, the basic blending process is almost finished.

Note: I have applied a little shadow under her left arm to make it match the dark bottom right corner of the background.

6. Others

In this section I wanted to include a very important detail, the hair, there are several ways to manipulate hair. Here I am going to explain a very very simple one. You will only need the Smudge Tool and some different brushes.


Select the Smudge Tool and then choose this brush on the left, you can change the brush size depending on the shape and size of the objects you are working on.

Based on the yellow arrows directions I have modified her hair shape. With just a few strokes you can modify the image, but you will have to use your imagination here. I decided to give her a more retro looking, nothing fancy, something very simple.

Use your own ideas and work on different layers to get more elaborated results, also you can change the strength of the brush from 20% (to give more softness to the hair) to 80% (to modify its shape and texture). Using brushes at high strengths you can make her hair look longer or shorter, change the whole style.

It is a good idea to move the hair to a different layer, so you can modify only that part without messing the whole rest. Hopefully I will be working in some In-depth tutorials based on these steps in the next months. Check the next image to see the results, thanks for reading.

Note: I had some other ideas for this section, but hair is a very important part of the design, though this is not an In-depth tutorial, there are many other hair tutorials in-depth at deviantart, check those out. This is the difference between an image over a background, and blending the image with the background. If your photo manipulation is looking fake or out of place follow the steps of this tutorial from the start.

Thanks a lot to Auralis from for her pic and many thanks to Wroth from too, for the background pics.

Thanks to all the people who voted in the Tutorial Poll, I tried to answer all your questions here, I am sorry if I forgot something.

I want to thank again all the people for supporting my work. Special thanks to you for downloading and reading this Tutorial. Learn and share, Adios!

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