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Make It on Mobile: Witchoria’s Cosmic Composites

By Charles Purdy

Brooklyn-based designer, photographer, and artist Victoria Siemer (more commonly known as Witchoria) has a distinctive digital touch. Her trippy, evocative photographic compositions blur the edges between reality and fantasy. In this tutorial, she explains how she created the image seen here.

Witchoria’s final image is a composite of two NASA shots and her own photograph of a model. (Click to enlarge.)

A master Photoshop artist, Witchoria has recently incorporated the Adobe mobile app Photoshop Mix into her creative workflow, and she used the app to create this work. “I love using Mix because it lets me take some of the essentials from Photoshop with me on the go, so I can sketch out ideas anywhere, anytime,” she says. “Lugging a MacBook Pro around isn't always feasible, especially when I’m hiking out to locations to shoot.”

 

 

WITCHORIA’S PROCESS

The cosmos—and NASA’s treasure trove of public-domain space images—were the inspiration for this image. “I've always been fascinated with outer space,” says Witchoria, “so it's been a consistent theme in some of my work over the years. I did the initial versions of this ‘space babe’ technique a few years ago with vintage shots that I found in the public domain and mixed with NASA images.”

Witchoria frequently incorporates public-domain NASA images in her creations.  

STEP 1

These days, Witchoria says she shoots most of her own images (except the ones taken by NASA in outer space, of course). So her first step was shooting a portrait of a model posed against a black background. “I learned quickly that shooting the models on black backgrounds for this particular technique will save a bunch of time that masking would normally take up,” she says, “although masking is something I use heavily in almost everything else I do.”

Witchoria took a series of photographs of her model against a black background, so she would have several poses to choose from.

STEP 2 

She opened a photo of her model in Adobe Photoshop Fix to do some minor retouching. (You may choose to skip this step, but as Witchoria demonstrates, making some corrections in Fix may make compositing easier.)

Using Fix, she cropped out parts of the background that were not black. Then, “just eyeballing it,” she slightly desaturated the photo and deepened contrast (using the slider controls under Fix’s Adjust menu) so that her space image would overlay the model image in a more striking way.

Click to watch a brief video showing how Witchoria used Adobe Photoshop Fix to make some minor adjustments to her photograph.

STEP 3

Witchoria opened Photoshop Mix and started with an all-black image as a background layer. “The black image may not be necessary,” she says, “but I like it as a base.” It also gave her a larger canvas to work with. On a second layer, she placed her photo of a model. On a third layer, she added a space photo from NASA.

Witchoria started with three layers (an all-black layer, a layer with her image of a model, and a layer with a NASA image). In Photoshop Mix, you add a layer by clicking on the plus sign on the right side of the screen.

STEP 4

With her photos in place, Witchoria moved on to blending modes (which you access by selecting Mix’s Blend menu). Many of Mix’s blending modes will be familiar to users of Adobe Photoshop; if you’re not familiar with Photoshop, spend some time exploring what Mix has to offer—different modes will give you very different effects.  

Witchoria focused on the blending modes Lighten and Screen. She explains, “With these blending modes, the pixels darker than the blend color are replaced, and the pixels lighter than the blend color don’t change. Because we shot [the model] against a black background and we’re using space images that also utilize a lot of black, all these darker colors…are going to become translucent.”

Photoshop Mix offers several blending modes; each combines photos in a different way. Witchoria focused on Lighten and Screen for her composite.

STEP 5

After experimenting a bit, Witchoria chose a position for her space layer, relative to her model. She also decided to add two more space images to the composition. To remove some portions of the space images that she didn’t need, she chose Fix’s Cut Out menu, clicked on Subtract, chose a brush with a soft edge, and simply erased those areas. Then it was just a matter of finessing the creation by blending, positioning, and making other adjustments.

Click to watch a 12-minute video that details Witchoria’s work in Photoshop Mix.

Witchoria’s process was quite exploratory—trying things out and seeing what worked—and we recommend working the same way on your creation! If you want to learn some Mix basics before you start, check out this tutorial. Then check out the contest rules, and share your creation by September 7.

Witchoria created two more cosmic composites to inspire us! Learn more about this young artist in “Artist Victoria Siemer Shatters Expectations.”

THE MAKE IT ON MOBILE CHALLENGE

We invited Create readers to follow part of this tutorial and make their own cosmic composite with Mix—with the winner receiving an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. And that winner, chosen by Witchoria, was Porsche Little! Visit the Make It on Mobile landing page to learn more, and to stay up-to-date on the new contests we will be hosting throughout 2016.