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  • How'd They Do That? :: Once Upon A Summer Scene

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    Once Upon A Summer Scene
    by adigitalromance

    I am going to show how I used various blending methods to believably add mushrooms to a forest scene. We start with this. I chose to leave the leaves in the foreground to create the appearance of "sneaking up" on the scene.

    Section I

    Here is the mushroom as I originally shot it against a baby blue background. I have already applied a rough layer mask using the Channels palette.
    This is a warped Smart Object. When you warp a smart object it does not destroy pixels, so the transformations become a non-destructive modification.
    There is a lot of reflected blue light that doesn't match the scene we are compositing into.
    I might have done some color matching in Adobe Camera Raw before bringing it in to Photoshop, but I chose to color match with adjustment layers.
    I would suggest bringing the object in as an Camera Raw Smart Object for maximum editability.

    I am editing my previously existing PSD document, so some of the layers have already been created and may not be explained in this tutorial.
    Here, I am editing the smart object of the mushroom layer, big mushroom.psb. I have added a green Color Fill layer set to the Soft Light blend mode. The green has been sampled from the original image.
    I have also added a Hue/Saturation layer that desaturated all the Cyans in the image.
    I have clipped these layers to the "main mush" layer, so they are only effecting this layer.

    Here is what that looks like. A much better match, but a little green and cold in temperature. We will get there.

    Inner Glow will add either a shadow or highlight to the inside edges of a layer. Here we want shadow so we use inner glow set to Multiply and a large pixel size (this is a fairly large image).
    I used a warming color here, a soft brown.

    This is what that looks like in the image. Scroll two images up for comparison. It's subtle but significant, especially near the edges.
    Here you may also notice I have a disabled layer mask on this layer. I created a mask for this layer fairly early in the process, but I will explain the details of that in a moment.

    I added a subtle Add Noise Smart Filter here. I used Add Noise to match the grain in the background of the original and set the blending mode to Darken.
    (You can set the blending of the smart filter by clicking the triangles-looking logo to the right of the words Add Noise.)

    Next I decided to add more warmth and realism by adding porch lights.
    The brown, white and top yellow shape layers are the light "fixture" and are set at Normal blending and high opacity.
    The layer defining most of the falloff light is a Soft Light color fill layer with a feathered vector mask and a layer mask added to mask the lighting from the foreground leaves.

    Here the other two mushrooms are visible. I added another color fill layer set to Soft Light with the areas where the light is falling painted on a mask with a soft, low opacity brush.

    This is an important blending layer. This layer is acting as a shadow on the inside edges of the mushrooms, where "porch light" would not reach if it was a real scene.
    Using the Multiply blend mode with a color that was picked from the scene casts a realistic shadow. Using colors from your scene for shadows mimics what happens in the real world.
    One trick I did with this layer is to Ctrl+Click the "big mushroom" layer to create a selection using a transparency mask; then I inverted this selection. This allowed me to paint shadows inside the Color Fill mask without worrying about painting on the foreground mushroom.

    Now, onto the layer mask. For the tutorial I wanted to save my original layer mask. I could have saved my selection as an alpha channel, but I used another quick and easy way. I created an empty layer, then Alt+dragged my layer mask to that layer; now I have a copy of my layer mask on the layer I named "save mask."
    I painted with a soft brush with the leaves, and a large bristled brush for the botttom of the mushroom. Most of the masking looks ok, but I zoomed in here to illustrate another trick with masking.

    Compare the left edge of the large mushroom in this image with that of the image above. The version with the softly blurred edge is much more realistic, especially considering that the background of the image is out of focus.
    If this were a real picture, the edge of this mushroom would not be near as crisp as the one in the above image.

    To create this softness, I Ctrl+Clicked the "big mushroom" layer again, then inverted this selection. I then painted on the edge of the mask with a large brush.

    Of course, this wouldn't do anything, since there are no pixels on the mask covering any pixels on the actual mushroom. I need to blur the edge of this mask, but I will not use the blur tool. I need a little more control.
    We are going to use the smudge tool. I used 50% strength and a large brush (700px), I clicked and softly moved back and forth. The red arrow is pointing at the smudge tool itself, not indicating the direction of movement.

    This is the final mask for the mushroom.
    (Most of the rough part of the mask at the bottom is not actually masking anything. It's just a renmant of the large brush I used to mask the bottom of the mushroom.)

    And this is the effect of that mask.

    Section II

    Now I will discuss a bit more detail involving layer effects. Here is the window to the mushroom close to how it was originally shot. Again, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    This is actually the window from the door. I added some inner and outer glow effects to create the effect of light coming from inside the house.
    The color is much more green here than it needs to be; this is because I will blend this with other effects later on.

    The first blending is using the same Soft Light Color Fill layer I used on the large mushroom. Then I added a Hue/Sat layer set to Colorize to add a brown coloring. Then I added some curves effects to match brightness and contrast.
    The Curves 2 layer, which is turned off here, is a darkening layer with a layer mask masking the upper left of the window. This creates light falloff effect as if light were coming from the porch light and casting a shadow on the inside edge of the window.
    I also used the Smudge tool to soften the edges of the entire "window" mask in a realistic and controlled way.

    Now the Curves 2 layer is on to show the effect of that layer.

    Now the Drop Shadow is added. I set the direction to match light falloff from the porch light, and curvature of the stem.
    Also, that is not a black shadow, it's actually very dark brown. I used Color Burn to really utilize the color of the brown.

    This is inner shadow added with a slightly lighter brown and a less intense blending mode, Multiply.

    Finally, outer glow for a subtle blend.

    This is the window's final appearance.

    That's it for now. I hope this gives you some techniques to use for your future compositing projects!

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