This Photoshop Compositing How-to Gets a Little Sticky
Barcelona-based Alex Palazzi Corella is a graphic designer, motion graphics animator, and self-described “art toy maker” whose work frequently straddles the line between 2D and 3D, as well as the line between digital and handcrafted. In this tutorial, he demonstrates several techniques for combining multiple photos into one cohesive image.
Alex employed multiple Adobe Photoshop CC techniques to lend a believable, cohesive look to this image, which was created from several photographs sourced from Adobe Stock, along with his own photos of a sticky substance he made out of some items in his pantry. Although the overall process may seem complex, each individual technique that Alex employed is easy to understand. You can watch an hour-long time-lapse video of his process at the bottom of this page, or try some of the techniques outlined in the steps below.
Do you want to try compositing photos? You can download 10 images from Adobe Stock for free.
Alex brought his black sticky substance into his main image, positioning it with the Transform tool and darkening the water to match its color, using the Color blending mode (learn more about blending modes here).
He also cut out some textures from previously unused photos of his sticky substance and used Transform and Warp tools to add them to the water. He masked out some elements of the image that he didn’t want and used the Curves tool to adjust tones.
Multiple images were combined to make the birds as they appear in the final image.
The primary bird’s face and body are from different pictures. Alex cut out the bird’s face from one image, using the Pen tool; he masked the fine whiskery feathers using channel masking (watch a helpful tutorial about this process here)—in this case with the Green channel. He also adjusted levels and inverted the head before adding it to the body.
After Alex had the image’s central bird placed, he added more birds—masking them out of their original photos with the Pen tool (in most cases) or by using channel masking (in one case). He cleaned up some birds with the Healing Brush, and he used the Color Balance and Curve tools to color-correct them, in addition to hue and saturation settings. (At this point, he also replaced some parts of some birds, using techniques he had already employed, and he continued to adjust the look of the sticky substance.)
To finish the image (which takes place over the course of the last nine minutes of the full video, below), Alex pushed up the white levels in the image for more contrast, and he added “fog” in the background with the Transform tool (masking the fog out where it caused detail to be lost in the bird figures and the sticky substance). He incorporated a photo of smoke for additional fog, and an image of particles for texture (he blurred the particles for additional noise).
He created an angled light ray with the brush tool and the Skew command (Edit > Transform > Skew) and then duplicated it for multiple light sources in the image. Lastly, he applied the High Pass filter (Filter > Other > High Pass—learn more about the High Pass filter here) and added noise to the image.
Watch the entire image come together in this hour-long time-lapse video: