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Dash of Inspiration: Blending of Elements

November 5, 2012

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Blending of Elements

One of my favorite ways to create is to do so using many different bits and pieces of photographs to offer a visual image as a new derivative work.  Of course to do this, you must become a ‘master’ at removing the background from an element.  Though there are many tricks and ways to do this, the bottom line is unless the image you are ‘cutting out’ has crisp lines and a solid background in a color not in the section you wish to cutout … chances are you will not get all the background, nor will your new element have smooth edges.

When removing an element from a background, no matter what technique you use to get rid of the majority of the unwanted photograph, there are two final steps which must happen for the final image you are creating to have the appearance of being created by someone who truly is a master of the digital medium.

  1. View the element at 100% and using the eraser (small size), you need to go around all the edges of the new element. This will smooth out harsh cutouts if you use a med-soft or very-soft selection and in areas which need it, choose a hard eraser brush for a clean, crisp edge when appropriate.  Here’s a tip:  It’s often best to work with a Black Layer behind your transparent one to more easily see artifacts and poor edges.
  2. After you’ve done a good job of preparing the element: When you are confident that ALL your elements are placed where you want them to be, then it’s time to do the most critical and final ‘cleanup’.  If your element is an animal or person with hair, then you need to blend those edges to offer a feeling of wisps of hair or fur.  I prefer using the Smudge tool in PS with a fairly small (2 to 8 point) brush and a strength between 75% to 100% depending on realism I wish to portray.

When GCU came out with the Submission Guidelines, one area caught my attention because it was once an area I struggled with … background removal and blending of elements.  Here is what the Submission Guidelines say for “Excessive Effects”:

“Artists should use a light hand when using special effect filters and blending options offered in digital software. There are many tutorials on the Internet on the use of the various filters available. Filters are not intended to be used in their default settings; it often takes a lot of tweaking and the use of more than one filter or blending mode to achieve an attractive image. A filter will not save a bad photo. Declines may include, but are not limited to: excessive beveling on objects, text and borders, overuse of digital filters, poorly executed effects, poor blending from masking and background removal, etc.”

Here are some tutorials to help you and as always, the real key to mastering a digital work environment is to begin with a tutorial, then from there develop your own personal tweaks to those techniques until you find a ‘method’ that works for you.

PART 1: 50+ Tools & Techniques to Remove Image Backgrounds in Photoshop from How to Geek

PART 2: 50+ Tools & Techniques to Remove Image Backgrounds in Photoshop

PART 3: 50+ Tools & Techniques to Remove Image Backgrounds in Photoshop

Off to school with you now!  See you next week!

BEFORE cleanup/blending. Shown is the initial background removal using PS background removal techniques.

AFTER cleanup and blending. Notice the fur has been blended out from the edges

Finished card design

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2012 10:54 am

    Extremely useful Doreen, many thanks.

  2. November 5, 2012 11:02 am

    Thank you so much for this info Doreen, extremely useful indeed!

  3. Laurie Schneider permalink
    November 5, 2012 11:50 am

    Hi Doreen! Had to take the time to thank you for the tips on the smudge tool. I have a very hairy subject a Pomeranian and getting her fur right can be a nightmare. Thanks to you I have finally perfected it!!! 🙂 I can’t thank you enough for all the expert tips you share with us all. Take care, Laurie

  4. November 5, 2012 2:20 pm

    Another much appreciated article. I was especially glad to know about the blending hairs with the smudge brush. I was using a blur brush and loosing more detail than I wanted to.

  5. November 5, 2012 2:48 pm

    Thank you Angela, Janet, Laurie and Tracie for stopping by! Delighted to have been able to offer a useful tip! I look forward to your furry creations!

  6. November 6, 2012 1:55 am

    Great advice. Thanks a million.

  7. November 6, 2012 1:29 pm

    really love your holiday kittens, it must be a great seller!

    • November 6, 2012 3:51 pm

      Thank you Judith! It is definitely off to a good start, brand new release 🙂

  8. December 14, 2012 6:35 pm

    Thanks Judith, and to Corrie and Doreen for their help. I’m using Paint.Net, but it has some similar tools

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