How can I cut a fig­ure out so I can paint just its back­ground?

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - ImagineNation -

Iona Camp­bell, Scot­land

An­swer John replies

There are many ways to do this in Pho­to­shop, with sev­eral tools at your dis­posal. It will de­pend on back­ground com­plex­ity, and also the con­trast be­tween your char­ac­ter’s sil­hou­ette and the back­ground pix­els. The quick­est way is, of course, the Quick Se­lec­tion tool, which is just a brush that you use to paint your se­lec­tion. It au­to­mat­i­cally de­tects edge pix­els, and you can hold Op­tion/Alt while paint­ing to sub­tract from the se­lec­tion if it picks too much.

The Mag­netic Lasso tool is an op­tion I pre­fer, be­cause you can finely ad­just its tol­er­ance and fre­quency. Once you have your char­ac­ter se­lected, save that se­lec­tion as a new chan­nel just in case you need it later. Next, us­ing that se­lec­tion, copy your char­ac­ter to a new layer, then hide that layer. Now you can paint freely over your back­ground with a nice broad brush, with your char­ac­ter pre­served on its own layer.

Re­mem­ber that the light­ing on your char­ac­ter will change with the am­bi­ent light­ing in the scene, so make sure to re­touch the char­ac­ter af­ter­wards. Re­flec­tive sur­faces like pol­ished metal and shiny ar­mour will be es­pe­cially no­tice­able if the light­ing doesn’t match. An easy way to get a jump on this is to add a Color Bal­ance ad­just­ment layer to your char­ac­ter and tweak the light to be warmer or cooler as the re­worked scene de­mands.

The char­ac­ter, with the new back­ground painted in the back. I’ve added an Ad­just­ment layer to the char­ac­ter, shift­ing him to a slightly cooler hue.

The orig­i­nal im­age with a very warm back­ground. The Mag­netic Lasso Tool wraps nicely around edge pix­els much faster than the regular lasso.

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