Thursday, 19 May 2011

Masterclass (!) on Digital Background Shenanegans in Photoshop


By popular request (well, one or two comments...) this is a more detailed description of how I cut my pastel illustrations from the pastel paper in Photoshop (version 7.0), to substitute a digital background colour that 'knits' with the pastel artwork.

One quick Health and Safety warning: what follows is aimed at Photoshop users. Do not read on if you are not digitally-inclined, or there is a serious risk of brain injury!!

OK - eyes closed all you non-Photoshop types? Then here goes...

First create a new layer beneath the main image and fill it with the intended background colour:


Then use the lasso to select the entire inside area, keeping just within the pastel edges:


Select inverse, so you now have all the pink paper, plus just the edges of the illustration selected.

Use a 'colour range' selection to grab just the pink paper and not the pastel edge (I usually set the scale at 50 - 60%).

Select inverse again and click the icon that creates a mask, which visually kills the paper background, doing most of the work, revealing the colour behind:


On the actual image (not the mask layer) lasso all the background area again, leaving a margin around the illustration, and delete: this will instantly kill any small specs or smudges you might miss.


Zoom right in and work on the mask layer to tidy up any anomalies (I use a fragmented or 'dissolve' brush to keep any marks as close to the pastel marks as possible).


As you go work your way round, you can swap to the clone tool (transferring to the image layer), to repair any edges that have unwanted pencil lines, or 'halos' of the previous background colour:


Next, lasso the shadow and, again on the image layer, adjust hue / saturation / brightness (or 'selective colour') until the shadow 'sits' properly on the background colour. On this example the original shadow's not too bad, as the purple is not a millions miles from the original pink paper, but if it was going onto yellow, it would be completely wrong:


Apply the mask.

Do any last minute tinkering (eg, I felt the hat was a bit washed out against the lilac, compared to the bears, so I altered the levels).


And then you're pretty much done!

I wish I was - I'm still working away on them every day at this end, with several more to go, and going slowly crazy.

11 comments:

Bethany Hissong said...

Thank you for this excellent explanation! I only know how to delete the background with "multiply" layer but this is much better at keeping the fine detail. Congratulations on your new book too! It looks like a lot of fun!!

Debra Cooper said...

Fantastic! I've done some halloween illustrations using colored pencil on grey paper and this technique will keep the rough edges, thanks!

I love following your blog, and congrats on your book, your images are so fun to look at. One of these days I am going to go out on my own sketch crawl. I enjoy and appreciate everything you put forth. Your a gem.

Keith said...

Great tutorial there. Many thanks. Some tips I wouldn't have thought of.

Matthew Gauvin said...

Thank you soooo much!!! This is helpfull beyond belief. I'm mostly a traditional illustrator as I never had money for the programs while I was in art college (still don't but luckily got photoshop elements with my camera).

Anyway, these days I use photoshop for tons of stuff just like this but I never really learned a good way to take out backgrounds particularly for rough textured art like this. Instead I just got into the mindset of thinkign I had to make all of my art with crisp edges so i could cut around it easier in photoshop. This will be extremely helpfull in allowing me other options. Can't wait to try it out. I knew of the lasso and of course knew of the magic wand but those only go so far. Your detailed explanation is fantastic!

Even something as obvious as using the lasso to surround the characters and delet any little specs is going ot be amazing for me. On my previous book cover I must have spent abotu fifteen minutes just despeckeling and never even thoughts to do what you suggested. Makes perfect sense.

Sue Pownall said...

Oh my... thanks for the explanation, I had wondered how you went from the pink to colours.

Lynne Chapman said...

So glad it's proved helpful. I gradually evolved this method ocver the years, as I learned new stuff on Photoshop.

Matthew: you may find that not all of it is possible in Elements. The Color Select option in particular. (NB in my version of Photoshop, this is an option from the menu bar at the top, under Select, then Colour Range, which brings up a box where you select the colour/s with a pipette.

Glad you're enjoying the blog folks!

Jon Davis said...

Aha, I've not used colour range yet, but I shall look into it. It'll be useful to have up my sleeve. Thank for posting :)

Katie Weymouth said...

Thanks Lynne. This is just what I need - a step by step tutorial. Hoping this will work more or less the same with gimp. You are brilliant! By the way, can I come to the family event on July 30th and do I need to bring my whole family or just highlighted extracts? x

Lynne Chapman said...

Be great to see you Katie - drop me an email (see my website for address) and I'll send an invitation across when they're ready.

Selected highlights...? Makes it sound like you have 40 children (maybe you do?)!! x

Clipping Path said...

Masterclass on Digital Background Shenanigans in Photoshop so nice .

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