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Photoshop for Kids: I'm Stuck!

This post is part of a series called Adobe Photoshop for Kids!.
Adobe Photoshop for Kids: Become the Wizard of Oz!
Photoshop for Kids: Jedi Me!
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

According to my daughters, one of the best things about being a set of triplets is that their older brother is easily outnumbered! He may be bigger and stronger, but eventually he is always overwhelmed by their sheer number. So in this latest entry for the Photoshop for Kids series, I decided on a project that captures our unique family dynamic.

Obviously, your family doesn't need to have a set of triplets with an older sibling to follow along with the tutorial (although if you do, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!). This same project can be done with any combination of older/younger brother or sister. Or even with a friend! It's a lot of fun and uses a clever camera angle along with some Photoshop techniques to accomplish the final effect.

The tutorial is designed to be a team effort between a parent and a child. The first portion of the instruction will cover steps on taking the shots and setting up the project. Then the second part is intended to be done by the younger creative partner of the team! The last portion should be a team effort to finish up a few more complicated techniques.

1. Setting Up the Photos

I should point out that actually trying to tape somebody to a wall is an incredibly bad idea. The volume of adhesive tape needed for such a task is rather prohibitive, and I'm just going to ask you to trust me on that point and not inquire as to how I know that as a fact. Instead the plan is to create the illusion by having the "victim" lying on the floor and then compositing the photo onto a photo of the wall.

Step 1

Begin by spreading a white sheet out on a large, open area of floor that is well lit. The "victim" should be able to stretch out enough to spread out their arms and legs. Also make sure there is an available angle to shoot the photo from directly above, looking down. I stood on a step ladder to get the proper angle here.

Use a white floor sheet with plenty of space for the victim lie down

Step 2

Now comes the tape! Be gentle here, and don't use too much, especially on exposed skin. It does not feel good being pulled off! Tape the child to the floor with several long strips of tape.

Apply the tape gently

Step 3

Once the participant is fully affixed to the floor, smooth out as many wrinkles in the cloth as you can. Then get a nice, high, overhead shot. Try to get directly overhead and reduce as much perspective as possible.

Get an overhead shot with as little perspective as possible

Step 4

After releasing the victim from their bonds, find an open wall area that would be a good candidate for using a sibling as wall decor. Frame the shot to include plenty of wide open area, and it does need to be well lit. Have the "perpetrators" pose in front of the wall with pieces of tape.

Base setting for the piece

Step 5

Be sure to get a variety of shots and poses to work with. Have the children suggest pose ideas or props. Keep them involved with the creative process and discuss ideas openly with them.

Use several different shots and poses

Step 6

Look through the shots and have your children help decide which ones are the best to use. Then open those in Photoshop. Before turning over the reins of the project, show your child how to switch to each different image by clicking on the tabs at top of the Photoshop interface.

Explain to your child how the tabs can switch between documents

Now it's time to call in the real creative force behind this project...

2. Hey Kids!

First of all, are you having as much fun with this project as we did? I hope so! My daughters loved the idea of taping their brother to the wall, and he was a good sport about the whole thing and went along with it just for fun!

The photos from the project should be open in Photoshop for you. If they are not, then please ask your parent to help you find them and open them up.

Step 1

Look through the tabs until you find the picture that includes the big blank wall area. This will be the setting for our project. We will copy the other pictures onto this one and make them all work together.

The base photo including a blank expanse of wall

Step 2

Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) (shown in the picture below) to draw a big shape completely around the person in the picture. Make sure the shadows are inside this outline too.

Create a selection around the individual

Step 3

Go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy (Control-J). This creates a new layer from the selection. In the Layers panel double click the words "Layer 1" to change the new layer's name, and use something that fits. In this case, the layer includes a ladder so we went with that!

Create a new layer and rename it

Step 4

Now use the Quick Selection Tool (W) and "paint" a selection onto the person. Think of this like coloring her in, so brush the tool over the areas inside her edges, not right on the edge. The tool will find those edges on its own.

Use the Quick Selection Tool

Step 5

Many times the Quick Selection Tool (W) will select areas that it shouldn't, like the "hole" between her arms. Those areas will need to be deselected. Hold down the Alt key and paint inside those spots to remove them from the selection.

Deselect the empty areas

Step 6

Press the Refine Edge button near the top of the screen. In the box that pops up, check the Smart Radius option. Then set the Radius to 3.8 px. While this box is still open, trace along the edge of her hair to adjust the selection so it isn't perfectly smooth and looks more hair-like.

Use Refine Edge to adjust the selection around her hair

Step 7

Change the Output To box to Layer Mask. Then click the OK button.

Change the output to Layer Mask

There should now be a small black and white box next to the layer. This is called the Layer Mask and it controls how much of the layer is seen. Try using the Move Tool (V) just to move the layer around a little to see how the layer mask is working.

The result is a Layer Mask

Step 8

Next use the tabs to switch over to the photo your friend or sibling that gets to be stuck to the wall. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to create a big selection all the way around them. Then go to Edit > Copy (Control-C).

Step 9

Use the tabs again to switch back over to the main project. Go to Edit > Paste (Control-V) to paste the selected area into a new layer. Rename the new layer to something like "Stuck".

Step 10

Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) and the Refine Edge feature again to create a Layer Mask for this layer the same way we did it for the last layer.

Use Quick Selection and Refine Edge to create a mask for the new layer

Step 11

Use the tabs to go through the other photos and use the same process with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select and Copy. Then Paste as new layers in the main project and create the Layer Masks with the Quick Selection Tool and Refine Edge.

Paste the other photos in as layers and create layer masks for them too

Step 12

To make sure the person taped to the wall is actually behind everybody else look in the Layers panel, and move the Stuck layer down to be just above the Background layer.

Move the Stuck layer behind the other layers

Step 13

Use the Move Tool (V) and click on a layer to move, then place each person in a good spot.

Move each person into a good position

Step 14

Click on the Stuck layer and go to Edit > Transform > Rotate. This will show a box around the stuck layer. Pull on a corner of the box to turn it so the person is at a funny angle.

Rotate the stuck layer into a funny position

OK kids, you've done a great job putting this together. Now it's time to call your parent back in so you can work together on the next part of the project.

3. Adding Realistic Shadows

Assembling a scene like this one thing, but getting the shadows to look realistic can be tough, especially if the scene involves several different shots using different lighting. This next technique is a great one for using the original images to create convincing shadows.

Step 1

Start with the Stuck layer. Duplicate it with Layer > New > New Layer Via Copy (Control-J). Move the copy beneath the original and rename it to Stuck Shadow. Then change the blending mode to Multiply.

Create a shadow copy of the Stuck layer

Step 2

Click on the Stuck Shadow layer mask to make it active and look in the Properties panel for the Mask Edge button. In the Refine Mask dialog box, increase the Feather and Shift Edge until the shadows are clearly visible. Then click OK.

Use the Refine Mask to bring back the shadows

Step 3

Click on the Stuck Shadow layer thumbnail (not the mask) to make it active again. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels (Control-L). Pull the right-most handle towards the left to brighten up the shadows layer and make the shadows appear more seamless.

Lighten the shadows layer

Step 4

Click back onto the shadow layer mask to focus on it again. Then use the Brush Tool (B) with a Soft Round brush preset and black paint. Lower the brush Opacity to 50% and gently brush out the hard edges that are visible around the shadow layer.

Use a soft brush on the mask to remove the hard edges from the shadow layer

Step 5

Use the same process to create shadows for each of the other composited layers:

  • Create a copy below the original layer and set the blending mode to Multiply.
  • Use the Refine Mask to increase the Feather and Shift Edge.
  • Use Levels to brighten up the shadow layer so it blends better.
  • Brush up the mask to remove the hard edges.
Create shadows for the other layers the same way

Step 6

Add a Curves Adjustment Layer to the top of the stack. Use the Auto button to optimize the contrast of the scene.

Curves Auto tone for contrast

4. Finishing Touches

The overall scene looks pretty good at this point. But there's just a handful of final steps I like to add to create a very finished look. These are completely optional and should be done according to taste.

Step 1

Create a merged layer at the top of the layer stack by holding down Alt while going to Layer > Merge Visible. Then go to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.

Create a merged layer and convert to a Smart Object

Step 2

Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. In the Basic tab Increase the Highlights and Shadows slightly. Then pump up the Clarity and Vibrance. These values will be different for each image, but the intended effect is to give the image sharp colors and details.

Use the Camera Raw filter to tweak the shadows and colors

Step 3

Switch to the Effects tab and, in the Post Crop Vignetting section, pull down on the Amount slider to give a slight shading to the corners. Then press the OK button to apply the filter.

Add some vignette

Step 4

Go to Layer > New > Layer (Control-Shift-N), and in the New Layer dialog box, name the new layer Dodge/Burn. Set the Mode to Overlay and check the Fill with Overlay-neutral color option.

Add a new layer filled with 50 gray

Step 5

The new layer is effectively invisible due to the blending mode. That makes it perfect to create dodge and burn effects. Select the Dodge Tool (O) and set the Range to Midtones and the Exposure to 10%. Use a Soft Round brush tip and gently dodge the highlight areas to brighten them up. Then switch to the Burn Tool (O) and use the same settings to burn the shadow areas.

Dodge and burn on the new layer for dramatic effects

You Are Done!

And that's it! Enjoy your scene of sibling retribution—I know my daughters thought it was the greatest project we've done yet. And I thank my son for being such a good sport about the whole thing.

The final scene

How did yours come out? I'd love to see your results in the comments below.

Want More?

I hope you and your child had as much fun with this project as my children and I did! I've got more Photoshop for Kids! tutorials along with some photo manipulation projects, custom brushes, and even more Photoshop fun. Check out my profile here at Envato Tuts+ for my other tutorials, quick tips, and courses.

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