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In today's tutorial I'll show you how combine different stock images to create a surreal mannequin composition. Attention to detail and observing how light reacts in the real-world are the key factors when combing multiple photographs – all of which have different degrees of light, shadow and color.
As far as techniques go, you'll learn various methods to isolate subjects from their backgrounds. You'll also make extensive use of adjustment layers and some advanced masking techniques to produce a realistic result. Let's get to it!
You'll find the Photoshop PSD file in a directory labeled "source" that came in the ZIP file that you downloaded. You may wish to look through it briefly before we begin.
You'll need the following stock images to complete this tutorial.
- Mannequin one, mannequin two and mannequin three by Marcus Ranum
- Portrait one (medium-sized version)
- Portrait two (medium-sized version)
- Bikini model one
- Bikini model two
- Woman in shorts
- Man in shorts (medium-sized version)
- Man's legs (medium-sized version)
- Woman's arm
- Man's arm
- Barbarian warrior
Photoshop has many tools to help us isolate subjects from their backgrounds; most rely on a good contrast from the object we need to select and the background color. Some of techniques we'll explore later in this tutorial. Unfortunately, for our initial images there's no quick fix to accurately achieve this.
The tool that offers most control is the Pen (P) which creates vector paths. It's this tool that causes the most fear and frustration amongst new users, but at the same time it's revered by those who have taken time to get to know it.
Open the first mannequin image and set the Pen (P) to Path in the Options bar. Zoom right in and carefully plot a closed path around the mannequin's legs, including the support pole as indicated in red. Hold Cmd/Ctrl to access the Direct Selection tool to adjust individual direction/anchor points to fine-tune your path. Now double-click the path thumbnail and label it "Path 1;.
Use the same technique to draw two more closed paths around the mannequin's arms, again indicated in red.
We now need to create a sub-path around the inner of the ankle and the pole. Set the Pen to Exclude via the drop-down menu the Options bar and create another path as shown.
Drawing a perfect elliptical path with the Pen Tool is a little tricky. Click the Create new path icon at the foot of the Paths tab and name it "Path 2". Activate the Ellipse option found under the Shape Tool (U) and ensure it's set to Path again. Now draw an ellipse to match the base plate – don't sweat if your path is a little inaccurate at this stage, it can easily be fixed, as you'll discover next.
To make your path an exact match, first use the Path Selection Tool (A) to select it, then hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to access Transform and scale/rotate accordingly. You can also use the Direct Selection option as you did earlier to tweak individual direction/anchor points as required.
You should now have two separate paths. "Path 1" (indicated in red) around the mannequin's legs/arms and "Path 2" (indicated in yellow) around the base of the stand.
Cmd/Ctrl-click the "Path 2" thumbnail to generate a selection, then switch to the Layers tab. Pick any selection tool, then click the Refine Edge button in the Options bar. In the following window choose On Layers (L) from the drop-down menu, set the Feather amount to 0.3px, leave the other settings at zero, ensure Output is set to New Layer with Layer Mask, check Remember settings and hit OK. You'll now see a duplicate masked layer appear and the visibility of the original layer disabled.
Now make a selection from "Path 1" and repeat the previous step to create another masked layer.
Both masks are no longer required, so drag their thumbnails into the trash icon at the foot of the Layers tab and click the Apply button in the next window.
Target the top layer thumbnail, then press Cmd/Ctrl + E to Merge Down.
Open the second mannequin image and use the same method to draw a closed path around the head and torso.
Create a path-based selection, repeat the same Refine Edge command, then delete and Apply the mask.
Open the third mannequin image and create two closed paths (one around the body parts and one around the base plate) exactly as you did for the first mannequin.
Repeat the same workflow to create a single cut out layer.
Over the next few steps we'll assemble the separate mannequin body parts into a single scene. Although we've used different elements from various photos, the consistency in lighting will make the final result more convincing.
Create a new square canvas 29.7cm with the Resolution at 300dpi, the Color Mode in RGB and the Background Contents set to White.
Drag over the last isolated mannequin layer into your new document and label it "Male mannequin arms/legs" Grab the Lasso Tool (L) and roughly drag a selection around the head and torso. Now press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + J to cut the selection to a new layer. Select the Move Tool (V) and reposition to overlap the right leg as shown. Name the new layer "Male mannequin torso".
Import the first mannequin to create a top layer and name it "Female mannequin arms/legs". Next, add the second mannequin as another top layer and name this "Female mannequin torso". Enlarge/reduce these layers to fix any size differences and reposition as shown.
To move elements on the same layer, use the Lasso Tool (L) to roughly draw around the body part, then reposition. In this screenshot I moved the female's arm (on the "Female mannequin arms/legs" layer) to the left slightly.
Hold Shift, highlight all your mannequin layer thumbnails and resize/position them in one transformation.
At this point we'll add a neutral grey background. Set your Foreground color to # 524f4c, then place an empty layer below all the mannequins and hit Alt + Delete to fill with the Foreground grey. Reduce the Opacity of this layer to 30% and label it "Grey fill".
The female mannequin appears a little too yellow, so target the "Female mannequin arms/legs" layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl + U to access Hue/Saturation and reduce the Yellows Saturation to -40. Repeat this on the "Female mannequin torso" layer too.
At this stage the male mannequin's base plate looks at the wrong angle; to fix this, revisit your first female mannequin layered file, generate a selection from "Path 2", then use the Refine Edge command to create a new layer. Delete/Apply the mask and add this as a new layer above "Male mannequin arms/legs".
Name this layer "Additional base" and position over the existing base plate. Add a mask to this and the underlying layer, then use a small, hard-edged black Brush (B) on both masks to blend the new base plate as shown.
Cmd/Ctrl-click the "Additional base" thumbnail to create a layer-based selection. Set the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to Current Layer and use a small soft-edged brush to remove any scuffs and scratches from the base plate. Now use the same selection/cloning technique to fix the base plate on the "Female mannequin arms/legs" layer.
Zoom in and clean up any small blemishes on the figures with a combination of the Healing Brush and Patch Tools (J).
Highlight all your mannequin layers, then choose New Group from Layers from the top-right fly-out menu and name it "MANNEQUINS" in the following window. Drag the folder icon over the Create a new layer icon at the foot of the palette to duplicate it. Now hit Cmd/Ctrl + E to Merge Group and rename it "MANNEQUINS MERGED". Finally, switch off the visibility of the original folder.
We'll be layering some real skin textures over the figures later, but for now we'll modify the color of the mannequins.
Target the "MANNEQUINS MERGED" layer and choose Hue/Saturation from the drop-down Create new fill or adjustment layer icon situated at the foot of the Layers tab. In the next window activate the clipping icon so the adjustment only affects the target layer, check Colorize and apply these settings.
Target the adjustment layer mask, then use a small black Brush (B) at around 50% Hardness to paint over both base plates and supporting rod. My mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot for clarity.
We'll now move onto extracting the girl's head. First, use the Crop Tool (C) to remove the excess around the head.
To isolate the fine hair precisely from the background we'll use a channel or density mask. If you’re familiar with my tutorials it's a technique I often use. Choose Image > Calculations. In this instance both Red channels set to Multiply produce the best contrast as a starting point for the mask. Click OK to create the new channel.
Switch to the Channels tab and you'll see the new channel ("Alpha 1") sitting at the bottom. The idea is to produce a clean silhouette, so set the Dodge Tool (O) to: Exposure: 91% / Range: Midtones and use a medium, soft-edged brush to bleach the pixels around the outer edge of the model's hair and neck.
Now darken the inner edge of the hair with the Burn Tool (O) set to Exposure: 74% / Range: Midtones.
Switch to the Brush Tool (B) and use a medium-sized tip at around 50% Hardness to fill the inner of the model with black and the background white. Don't worry about the neck area at this point – we'll sort that next.
Toggle the visibility of the top RGB composite channel to see the mask in relation to the image, then use a small Brush (B) to clean up the neck (just make sure that "Alpha 1" is the channel you're painting on). You can also double-click the channel thumbnail and adjust its preview color and density as required.
By default, white acts as selective channel areas, so hit Cmd + I to Invert the channel to negative, then use the Dodge and Burn Tools (O) again if necessary to clean up the edges of the hair.
Cmd/Ctrl-click the "Alpha 1" channel thumbnail to load a selection. Target the top RGB composite channel and switch back to the Layers tab. Now press Cmd/Ctrl + J to copy the selection to a new layer and disable the visibility of the "Background" layer.
Place the extracted layer in your project file at the top of the stack and name it "Woman head". Flip horizontally, then reduce the Opacity to help resize and position over the female mannequin's head.
Once your happy with the size and position, set the Opacity back to 100%. If you notice any white edge halos picked up from the initial head selection, go to Layer > Matting > Defringe and enter 2-3px in the following window.
Add a mask, then use an assortment of different sized soft-edged brushes to carefully blend the neck into the figure. My mask is again shown at the bottom of the screenshot.
Now add a mask to the "MANNEQUINS MERGED" layer and hide areas that protrude behind the new head.
To blend the head a little more with the color of the body, clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Woman head" layer and reduce the Saturation slider to -9.
At this stage the "MANNEQUINS MERGED" layer needs a slight boost of contrast, so clip a Levels adjustment and change the midtone value to 0.88.
Now we'll move onto extracting the male head using the same workflow as before. Crop (C) the image, then apply the Calculations command again, but this time select both Blue channels in Multiply mode to create a channel with the most contrast.
Follow the same steps to produce a clean mask. If the edges of the hair appear a little blurry, press Cmd/Ctrl + L to access the Levels dialogue box and adjust the midpoint and whitepoint settings accordingly.
Invert the channel to negative, then copy a selection to a new layer as you did with the woman's head.
Place as a new layer at the top of the stack and label it "Man head". Resize and position over the male mannequin. Add a mask, then gently blend as shown.
Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to this layer and copy the following settings.
We'll now start to add some items of clothing to the mannequins. Open the bikini model image, Crop (C), then use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a closed path around the bikini top as indicated in red.
Make a path-based selection, then apply the same Refine Edge command to create a new layer and Apply the mask.
Palace the bikini as a new top layer, then reduce the Opacity slightly. Resize, rotate, squash horizontally and position. Now hold down Cmd/Ctrl and drag the top-right control handle to distort the bikini strap around the figure's neck as circled.
Lasso (L) a rough selection around the right shoulder strap and copy to a new layer. Flip it horizontally, then rotate and move it across to create the missing shoulder strap. Add a mask to this layer, then use a small, soft-edged, black brush to blend the bottom as circled.
With the top strap layer targeted, hit Cmd/Ctrl + E to Merge Down, Apply the mask and rename the resulting layer "Bikini top". If you notice any edges around the garment that need removing, do this with a very small Brush (B) on a mask.
Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Bikini top" layer and apply the following settings to change the green to a light purple. Now use a small black Brush (B) at around 50 Hardness to on the adjustment mask to restore the outer edges to white.
Clip a Levels adjustment to the same layer and copy these settings to boost the contrast. Now Alt-drag the lower adjustment mask thumbnail over the Levels mask to Replace it.
Over the next few steps we'll extend the waist of both mannequins so the clothing will fit better.
Switch off the visibility of all layers apart from the "MANNEQUINS MERGED" and its two adjustment layers.
Target the Levels adjustment thumbnail above the "MANNEQUINS MERGED" layer. Now hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to create a new merged layer. Use the Lasso to roughly select the areas as indicated, press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I to Inverse the selection and hit delete.
Now move the new layer up slightly, name it "Extra waists", then enable the visibility of all layers except for the "MANNEQUINS" folder.
Open the woman in shorts image and use the same workflow as Step 43 to isolate the shorts on a new layer.
Place as a new layer at the top of the stack, flip horizontally and Transform/position over the female figure as shown at the top of the screengrab. Some parts still need attention, so rather than trying to Transform the layer content as a whole, Lasso (L) a small selection around the waistband and press Cmd/Ctrl + J to copy to a new layer. Now edit the new layer (you can also use the Warp function via the Transform menu). Blend with a mask, then hit Cmd/Ctrl + E to Merge Down.
Repeat this process to fix the pocket area, then to taper the waistband a little more. When you're done, set the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to Current Layer and fix any small gaps.
After merging all the patch layers it should look something like this. You can now name the layer "Shorts".
For a subtle color change, clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Shorts" layer and copy these settings.
To darken the left-hand side of the garment, clip an Exposure adjustment to the same layer, then use a large, soft-edged brush on the adjustment mask as shown.
Open the Man in shorts image. This has a clean white background, so there's no path required; instead use the Quick Selection Tool to select the background.
Inverse the selection and Copy > Paste as a new top layer. Transform/position them over the male figure, add a mask, then use a medium soft-edged Brush (B) at a low Opacity to carefully blend the area of skin above the waistband into the mannequin (indicated in red). Now use a smaller, hard-edged Brush (B) at full Opacity to mask the skin below the bottom edges of the shorts (indicated in red).
Now use the same technique as Step 52 to add patch layers to create a convincing fit.
When you're done, Merge Down the patch layers and name it "Man's shorts". Now clip a Levels adjustment to this layer with these settings to increase the contrast a little.
To keep your layers organized, place both head layers, along with their adjustment layers into a folder called "HEADS". Now add the bikini top and both sets of shorts and their adjustments into another folder called "CLOTHES".
Now we'll add some skin textures to make the mannequin's appear more human. Open this bikini model image, then Lasso (L) a selection around her upper body and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste to create a new layer above the "Extra waists" and label it "Woman skin 1". Reduce the Opacity to 75%, then resize/position as shown. Now use the Clone Stamp Tool (S)(set to Current Layer with a soft-edged brush) to add more skin over the striped blue and white material and red strap, also clone more skin to cover any holes over the underlying mannequin.
Cmd/Ctrl-click the "Female mannequin torso" layer thumbnail (in the disabled "MANNEQUINS" folder) to create a layer-based selection. Ensure the "Woman skin 1" is the target layer, then click the Add layer mask icon situated at the foot of the Layers tab. Now use an assortment of black, soft-edged Brushes (B) on the mask to gently blend the skin further.
Now we'll blend the contrast and color of the skin some more; first, clip a Levels adjustment to the "Woman skin 1" layer and apply the following settings.
To tweak the color, clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the same layer, change the Master Saturation to -14, the Reds to -25 and the Yellows to -46.
Open the same image from Step 60 and Copy a selection from the model's tummy to the Clipboard.
Paste as a new layer below the previous adjustment layer and name it "Woman skin 2". Reduce the Opacity to 75% again, Flip horizontal, then use the same process to transform/resize and position over the mannequin's tummy. Now use the same source layer as Step 61 to create a mask and modify as shown.
Clip a Levels adjustment to the "Woman skin 2" as shown.
Now clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the same layer and and apply the following.
Next, we'll add some textures to the mannequin's arms. Open the woman's arm photo and create a rough selection as indicated and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste as a new layer above the last adjustment, then reduce the Opacity to help resize/position over the female mannequin's left arm, then clone as required. Now duplicate, flip horizontal and position over the right arm. Set both layers back to 100% Opacity and merge them to one layer.
Use a layer-based selection from "Female mannequin arms/legs" to create a mask, then modify as shown. Finally, reduce the Opacity to 46% and name the layer "Woman skin 3".
Now clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Woman skin 3" and apply the following settings.
Open the woman in shorts image again and Lasso (L) a selection around both the model's legs and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste to create a new layer above the last adjustment, then flip horizontal. Lasso (L), then cut one of the legs to a new layer. Repeat the process to conform both textures to the mannequin's legs, set both layers back to 100% Opacity and merge them. Name this layer "Woman skin 4", then reduce the Opacity to 45%.
Now use a layer-based selection from "Female mannequin arms/legs" to create a mask, then modify as shown – you'll also need to fill a selection with black from the "Female mannequin torso" and manually paint over the supporting strut as circled.
Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Woman skin 4" and use the following settings.
Now clip a Levels adjustment to the same layer and copy these settings.
That's the female mannequin skin textures finished, so to keep things tidy, place them all into a folder labelled "WOMAN SKIN".
Open the man in shorts image again, then Lasso (L) a selection around his torso and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste to create a new layer above the "WOMAN SKIN" folder and label it "Man skin 1". Reduce the Opacity to 65%, then use a layer-based selection from "Male mannequin torso" to add a mask. Use use the same workflow as you did with the woman to Clone (S) areas and also mask the skin a little more.
Now clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to this layer and copy these settings.
Copy a selection from the man's legs to the Clipboard.
Paste as a new layer and name it "Man skin 2". Lower the Opacity to 68%, then use a selection from the "Male mannequin arms/legs" and "Male mannequin torso" layers to mask it. Now use a black, soft-edged Brush (B) to modify the mask further.
Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to this layer and apply the following settings.
Next, clip a Levels adjustment to the same layer and use these settings to lighten the skin slightly.
Open the man's legs image, then Lasso (L) a selection around his left leg and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste to make a new layer and resize/position over the mannequin's left leg. Now duplicate, flip horizontal and place over the right leg. Ensure both layers are at 100% Opacity, then merge them. Name this layer "Man skin 3", then reduce the Opacity to 44%. Use the same technique to Clone (S) and mask.
Now clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to this layer and copy these settings.
Open this barbarian warrior image, Lasso (L) a selection around his right arm and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste as a new layer, rotate, flip horizontal, then resize/position over the top mannequin's arm. Paste the selection again to make another layer, then Transform to fit the lower arm. With both layers at 100% Opacity, merge as one layer and name it "Man skin 4". Change the Opacity to 66%, then use the same Cloning (S) and masking techniques. We'll add a better texture for the bottom hand in the next step, so mask this too.
Open the hand image again, Lasso (L) a selection as shown and Copy to the Clipboard.
Paste to create a new layer and label it "Man skin 5". Transform, flip horizontal and resize over the lower hand and reduce the Opacity to 81%. Now use the same Cloning (S) and masking process to blend further.
The male arms need a little more hair, so Copy a selection from this arm to the Clipboard.
Paste twice to create two layers and Transform over both forearms. Merge both layers and mask. Name this layer "Man skin 6", then change the Opacity to 71%. Now clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment and copy these settings.
Next, clip a Levels adjustment to the same layer with these settings to boost the contrast a little.
You can now place all the male textures, along with their adjustment layers into a folder called "MAN SKIN".
Now we'll move onto adding shadows to the background to make the scene appear as realistic as possible. I prefer to do this on multiple layers, which allows for greater flexibility. To begin, we'll darken the top of the backdrop slightly.
Place a new layer above the "Grey fill" and name it "Grey grad". Change your Foreground color to # 918e8f, then set the Gradient Tool (G) to Foreground to Transparent and Linear in the Options bar. Now Shift-drag a gradient indicated by the length and direction of the arrow. Finally, change the Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 30%.
Were aiming for a slightly reflective floor as you'll see later, so add a new layer above the "Grey grad" and label it "White grad". Change your Foreground color to white, then use a large, soft-edged Brush (B) at around 20% Opacity to build up some highlights as circled. Now reduce the layer to around 90% Opacity and if it still looks to dominant, mask accordingly.
Before we begin to add the floor shadows, take a look at the original mannequin images as reference – this will help establish their direction and where they fall.
Grab the Lasso Tool (L) and roughly create a series of selection as shown. Set your Foreground color to # 808080, add a new layer above the previous one and hit Alt + Delete to fill with grey. Deselect and name this layer "Shadow 1".
Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter 14px, then use the same menu to select Motion Blur and set the Angle to 0 degrees and the Distance to 250px.
Change the "Shadow 1" layer to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 24%. Now mask any excess with a black, medium, soft-edged brush.
Add another layer in Multiply Mode called "Shadow 2". Now paint some more shadows with a lighter grey (# d9d9d9) and a large, soft-edged brush at around 20% Opacity.
Intensify the effect with more shadows on separate layers, again in Multiply Mode. Adjust their opacities to suit and mask as required.
Place a final shadow layer, again in Multiply Mode. Generate a layer-based selection from the "MANNEQUINS MERGED" and fill the selection with black.
Deselect, then nudge the layer content down slightly. Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter 5px to soften the edges a little. Reduce the layer Opacity to 45%, add a mask, then press Cmd/Ctrl + I to Invert the mask to black. Now use a small, white, soft-edged Brush (B) to reinstate the shadows around the bottom edges of the body parts.
To add a touch of color to the background, place an unclipped (to affect all underlying layers) Hue/Saturation adjustment above the final shadow layer with the following settings.
Now place this, along with all the shadow layers, the "White grad", "Grey grad" and "Grey fill" layers within a group folder called "BACKGROUND".
Next, we'll use a couple of filters to break up the solids and shadows a little. First, target the "Grey fill" layer, choose Filter > Noise > Add Noise and enter 3px with the Uniform option checked. Now target the "Grey grad" layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl + F to repeat the filter. Repeat this on all the shadow layers.
Target the the "Grey fill" layer again and open Median from the same filter menu and apply 2px. Now repeat the same filter on all remaining layers within the "BACKGROUND" folder.
We'll now add some subtle floor reflections. Switch off the visibility of the "Background" layer and the "BACKGROUND" folder (the "MANNEQUINS" folder should already be off), then create a merged layer (as you did in Step 50) at the top of the stack. Now go to Filter > Blur > Blur More.
Lasso (L) selections around each body group and cut (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + J) to new layers. Flip these horizontal, rotate 180 degrees, then move down to create the reflections.
Label these layers "Reflection 1" through to "Reflection 6" and place them within a folder called "FLOOR REFLECTIONS". The folder can now be placed beneath the "MANNEQUINS MERGED" layer and the visibility of the "Background" layer and "BACKGROUND" folder enabled.
Change the Blend Mode of the "FLOOR REFLECTIONS" folder to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 28%. Now mask off the base of each layer with a Foreground (black) to Transparent Linear Gradient (G). You'll also need to hide additional areas on some masks with a medium, black, soft-edged brush.
Place a new layer at the top of the stack and label it "Retouch". Set the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to Current & Below and carry out any small fixes, such as removing the woman's earring and skin creases around her neck.
We'll be adding some non-destructive darkening and lightening techniques at the end – but for now, we'll darken some white areas. Set the Burn Tool (0) to Highlights, Exposure to 15% and check Protect Tones in the Options bar. Now use a medium, soft-edged brush to darken the "Bikini top", "Woman's shorts" and the "Man's shorts" layers as circled.
Next, set the Sponge Tool (0) to Desaturate, the Flow to 100% and check Vibrance. Now use a small, soft-edged brush to remove the color from the protruding poles on the "Extra waists" layer as circled.
Next, we'll apply a non-destructive dodge and burn technique. First, add a top layer and label it "Shadows and highlights 1". Press Shift + F5, select 50% Gray from the Contents drop-down menu, then choose Soft Light under Mode and hit OK.
Ensure your Foreground and Background colors are set to black and white. Set the Brush Tool (B) to 20% Opacity, then paint with a medium, soft-edged brush within layer-based selections from the "MANNEQUINS" folder to add shadows and highlights.
For best results, paint with black to add shadows on left of the figures first, then use an Inversed (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I) selection from the garments to add shadows over the legs. If you need to paint back areas of 50% grey, temporarily set the layer's Blend Mode back to Normal, pick up the color with the Eyedropper Tool (I) and paint at 100% Opacity. Finally, paint with white at 20% Opacity within selections to add highlights.
Repeat this technique on another 50% grey filled layer called "Shadows/highlights 2", but this time in Overlay Mode to create some darker shadows and brighter highlights as shown. That's it, you're done!
Conclusion and Scope
Now you know how it's done, why not expand on the techniques used in this tutorial and create your own surreal imagery?