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8 Steps to Create Composite Images

Here is a typical workflow for selecting source images and compositing them to a new document

The concept is simple. Combine two or more images into a single, undetectable composite. I’m sure you’ve seen this done in most media. When experienced, the effect can be stunning. To composite images successfully — seamless to the extreme and with no trace of where one image ends and one begins — requires a sharp eye and a bit of digital sleight of hand.

Compositing workflow

Here is a typical step-by-step workflow for selecting source images and compositing them to a new document.

Step 1: Select

compositing
Fig. 1A (Image courtesy Stephen Romaniello)

Start by making an accurate selection on the source photo. (Fig. 1A)

Step 2: Mask

Choose Select and Mask and then choose the appropriate viewing mode from the pull-down menu. (Fig. 1B)

Step 3: Refine

Control the edge of the selection by refining its edge using one of the Select and Mask controls. (Fig. 1C)

Step 4: Feather

Add a feather radius that will gradually blur the edge into transparency. (Fig. 1D)

Step 5: Output

Set the Output Options to New Layer with Layer Mask. Click OK. (Fig. 1E)

Step 6: Move

Choose the Move tool and drag the content (which is on a new separate layer) to the destination document. Position the new content over the area you want to replace.

Step 7: Transform

Scale or rotate or otherwise transform the contents of the layer.

Step 8: Correct

If necessary, apply a bit of dodging, burning, cloning, and/or color correction to get the images to look natural.

Stephen Romaniello

Stephen Romaniello

Stephen Romaniello is an artist and educator teaching digital art at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, for over 20 years. He is a certified instructor in Adobe Photoshop and the author of several books on the creative use of digital graphics software. Steve is the founder of GlobalEye systems, a company that offers training and consulting in digital graphics software and creative imaging.

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