Jill here. Today I’m going to show you how to do a photo montage. What is a photo montage? Quite simply, it’s described as merging parts of two or more photos into a single photographic image. In this tutorial I am going to show you how to merge a person into a snowy scene so that it looks like it was photographed that way.
I have downloaded my two photo from unsplash.com. As a note, I am using Photoshop Elements 2019, but this technique can be used in just about any photo editor. Before starting, open both files and check to see that the resolution is the same for both. In my case, both are set at 300 ppi. You also want to download my freebie brushes Snow Brushes – https://www.digitalscrapbookingstudio.com/digital-art/photoshop-tools/snow-brushes/ and install them. These brushes will be available until the end of January.
Step 1 – Open the background photo in your photo editor.
Step 2 – Place the image that you want to merge with the original (File > Place…) above the background and accept it by either clicking on the check mark or hitting return several times. In this case, I thought there needed to be a person in the photo.
Step 3 – Size the image so that it looks like it fits the scene. To do this, first adjust the opacity of the layer so you can see the background image. Then transform the image with the person by using Edit > Transform > Scale (or type CMD/CTL T) and resize it. To reposition the image, while the little transform boxes are still present, click and hold the mouse onto the image and move it. Click the check box or hit return several times to accept the changes. You now also want to change the opacity of the layer back to 100%.
Step 4 – Now we want to select the person in the photo. In my case, there was enough difference between the person and the rest of the photo, I was able to use the quick selection tool. Whatever method you choose to use isn’t relevant.
Step 5 – Create a new layer above the image with the person in it. Then select the bucket tool and fill your selection. The color doesn’t really matter because we are creating a mask that will go behind the image with the person in it. Before you go to the next step, I suggest that you zoom in and see if you have missed anything. If so, just select a round brush and paint things in. When you’re done, deselect the image by using Select > Deselect or type CMD/CTL D.
Step 6 – Making sure you still have the painted layer selected, drag it down under the image of the person. After that, clip the image with the person in it to the “mask” you just created. If bits of the photo of the person are showing through, select the eraser and erase them from the mask. If you erase too much, just paint it back in.
Step 7 – Looks pretty good, but it definitely doesn’t look realistic. I really feel it needs more snow, but only for the person. Create a new layer above the clipped one of the person and clip it to the layer below so that the snow will only appear over the person. Now select one of the snow brushes that you have downloaded and installed. We’ll be using the ones that create falling snow (the ones toward the end of the panel). Adjust the size of the brush so it fits the scale of the photo. In my case, I had to make the brush much smaller. Select a color from the photo by holding down the OPT/ALT and clicking on the snow in the background image (we want things to match). Since several of these brushes are dynamic, just start dragging your brush over the person or, for more control, just click (rather than drag) in the areas that you want the snow.
Step 8 – Create another layer above the last one and clip it to the layer below. Select a different brush (I used the round one), size it, and start painting. When your done making snow, you may want to play with the opacity of the two layers to make things even more realistic. You should now have 3 layers clipped to the painted (mask) layer.
Step 9 – It looks pretty good, but she looks like she’s flying. We really need to fix the ground underneath her. Create a layer just above the background (underneath the painted layer). Select from one of the fluffy looking brushes. I’ve created each of these brushes in two ways, the first one is dynamic and it’s duplicate is static. We are going to pick one of dynamic ones. You also need to change your colors. Since the fluffy dynamic brushes use both the foreground and background colors, you want to select the foreground color and OPT/ALT click on the background in the area of her feet. Now change the background color and pick something similar but different.
Step 10 – Resize the brush to a manageable size (I made mine smaller) and either drag it or click it in the area of the person to make a path or to just blend things in a bit. Don’t worry about how precise you are, we’ll fix that.
Step 11 – Now we want to select the snow we just painted. Use the keys CMD/CTL and click that layer. Now select Select > Feather (PSE) or Select > Modify > Feather (PS) and in the dialog box enter a number. What you select really depends on the size of your photo. I used 50 pixels for mine. What you now want is to select the Inverse. You can type CMD/CTL I or use the menu (Select > Inverse).
Step 12 – Now you want to use the delete key or Edit > Delete to soften the edges. You may have to do this several times to get the effect you want. Looks great, but we’re still not done. She’s still floating. To fix this, create a layer above the one we just worked on. Select one of the static snow brushes and change the color to one of the darker colors in the background (still trying to match things). We need only one color since this is a static brush.
Step 13 – With the static brush and shadow color selected, click just under her feet and paint a shadow. We’ll just pretend it’s noon so we don’t have to do anything fancy with it.
Final Step – You can either saved the layered file as a PSD or TIF or you can flatten the file and save it as a JPG. And with that, we’re done.
As a final note, I realize there a many ways to do this. For example, using layer masks is one of them. But I’ve found this method is the simplest way to teach beginner (and the experienced) users how to use masks.
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I noticed several of you were having problems making the “selection” in Step 4. Another trick I use is “painting” freehand with a soft round brush on the layer above the photo. So, rather than selecting your subject and using the bucket to fill the area, just paint them out. This is particularly helpful when doing a skies because you really don’t want a hard line between the two photos. But it works equally as well with other things.