Hey, just a really quick gloss over the basics of how to create three dimensional space in your composites.
I’m going to show you how to take your image from a boring 2D image like this, and turn it into a totally awesome 3D one like this (slide to see the impact of going the 3D and depth route)
Here is a video of how it’s done, if you prefer to follow a written tutorial just scroll down a bit
It essentially boils down to using Gaussian Blur to match the depth of field within the image to create a 3D space allowing us to focus among the chaos! The closer the object is, the blurrier it is, the further away, the blurrier too! Though of course, this is entirely down to the aperture the image was shot in and of course where it was focused within the shot. Using this technique you can really start to create some thick / dense images!
Step 2: Import your desired effect (I wanted to use dust and note sheets), if you don’t know how to do this what I usually do is “File>Open>OPEN FILE YOU WANT>Use the move tool to drag the newly opened image into the other tab where you are currently working.
Step 3: Change the blend mode to “Screen” to get rid of the black background (SO SIMPLE!).
Step 4: We want to remove the dust in the blue circle (because the dust would be coming from the hole).
Step 5: Click the “Layer Mask” button at the bottom right of the screen and this will create a white “visibility mask” on your current layer.
Step 06: Make sure you click on the layer mask to select it, then paint with a BLACK brush on the areas you wish to make invisible (that you don’t want to see). Don’t worry about this screen shot being white and black, for you it will just look like you are erasing the dust / special fx away. I simply made this image to show you what you are doing “behind the scenes”.
Step 07: Press CMD (CTRL on windows) + U to bring up the Hue/Saturation box, here you can click on “Colorize” (#1) to allow you to change the colour of your effect, I went for a sandy colour to match the guitar and the lighting that would be bouncing off the wood. Make sure you select the actual layer again and that you’re not on the layer mask from earlier (#2).
Step 08: Add some motion blur to the effect by going to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur, pay attention to the direction of the dust and where it’s traveling! (#3)
Step 09: Lower the opacity (#4) if desired to help the effect blend in better.
Step 10: Repeat the above steps with more dust until you achieve the amount desired.
Step 11: Use the exact same techniques above to add in your note sheets (drag, position, screen blending mode).
Step 12: Don’t forget to set your layer blend mode to “screen” to get rid of the black. Next we clean up anything out of place, as you can see from the blue outline near the guitar hole, a piece of paper is visible when it should be behind the guitar, so add your layer mask and paint black over that sucker to get rid of it!
Step 13: Add in more sheets for a “close to the camera” layer, these sheet needs to be bigger (closer to the camera) and blurrier (further from the focus point in this particular shot.
Step 14: Add our motion blur again, but this time make it more extreme as the sheets are closer to the camera / our eyes so it would appear to be moving much faster!
Step 15: Match the focus to the scene (circled in blue) to make it more believable. For this use Gaussian Blur, found at Focus>Blur>Gaussian Blur.
Step 16: Repeat the motion blur and Gaussian blur with the rest of the sheets to get it all matching where they are placed in the scene (blurrier the further away from the focus point and more motion blur the closer to the camera, less motion blur further away from camera.
Step 17: Repeat this process for the “Back” sheets. Remember to have less motion blur as it’s further from the camera and the motion would be perceived as less. Think about when you’re in a car and you look outside the window, the road looks crazy fast but the distance looks like it isn’t moving.
Step 18: Toning, here I raised the blacks but I didn’t want the image to become brighter, so I simply matched both of the numbers in levels to not only raise the black point reference but also the output.
Here I added a purple fill and am about to blow your brains with a great tip I picked up from Barrington Russel! (Also the dude who got me into Capture One!).
Set the blend mode to “Exclusion” and this is where the fill automatically creates complementary colours for you :O
Set the opacity right down or to taste.. I opted for a humble 21%.
For final toning I added a curves (#6) adjustment layer (#5) to add a custom vignette to the image.
Drag the Curves center point down a touch.
Add a layer mask (like before) and paint with a brush in “BLACK” over what you want to be brighter / the eyes to be drawn to, I wanted to focus the eyes on the music “exploding from the guitar” so I painted over them (circled in blue) to make the darkness of curves “invisible” (essentially giving us the old brightness back).
Step 19: Exporting out is simple (har har for what’s ahead), hold CMD+OPTION+SHIFT / (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT) and press S to bring up the “Save For Web” box, alternatively you can find it under File>Export. Make sure you have Quality (#7) set to 70%, Image Size (#9) set to 2048px and the second Quality set to Bicubic Smoother. I know you’re thinking where on earth is #8? And I wish I could tell you, I just literally do not know. I think 7,9 and 10 must’ve painted a layer mask over the poor guy!
So there you have it! A complete guide on how to nail those future composites depth and believably! I really hope you enjoyed the article
About The Author
Joseph Parry is a photographer and digital artist based in Cinderford, United Kingdom. You can check out more of his work on his Instagram.