(Editor’s note: Photofocus author Jason Hahn continues his photo transformation with Part 2. Catch up on the core concepts in Part 1.)
How to Create a Textured Composite
For this composite, my goal was to produce a version of my galloping wild horses image that looks like it’s been drawn and woodburned onto an old board. Not sure why, I just thought it would look cool… the inspiration behind many my composites. Having an idea of what you want to make before you start usually produces the best results. But, don’t be so in love with your idea you can’t change as you create your composite.
At this point, I have my horse picture processed and saved as a high resolution TIF file, and have found a nice wood texture I want to use as the background texture. Ideally you want these texture files to be high-resolution also, so that you can print your finished piece later. Using a 400 pixel wide texture will result in a blurry, grainy mess, which is too small to print big later.
Background Texture Layer
- Open Luminar 2018, and click the big blue “Open Image” button
- Browse to your texture file and select it, we will be using this as the foundation of the composite.
- Make any adjustments you want to this layer, at this point all I am going to do is brighten it up a little, but you can go nuts with effects if you like. You can always come back to any layer and adjust it later, none of this is set in stone until you are happy with the result and save the file.
- Browse to your photo file and select it. Here I am using a photo of a pair of wild horses galloping across a plateau. Now the fun starts!
- First, I converted the image to black and white by using the Classic preset as a starting point. Then I adjusted the contrast of the horses using the Luminance sliders under the black and white settings (right). Here, sliding the red and yellow luminance up noticeably brightens the scene, while leaving the shadows dark.
- Change the Blend mode of your horse layer to “Multiply”.
Technically speaking, this blend mode multiplies the luminance levels of the current layer’s pixels with the pixels in the layers below. Artistically speaking, this is one of the better darkening modes. It helps create and deepen shadows, while removing white and other light colors. Here, we don’t have any color in the horses, so the dark grays and blacks darken the colors below, while the whites and light grays allow the wood grain to show through.
This is also why I adjusted the Red and Yellow Sliders in the B&W settings (step 2, above in the photo layer). When you adjust these color sliders, you are pushing that color more towards white or black when it’s converted to B&W. Here pushing up the luminance of the reds and yellows makes the horses coats, the trees, and ground all disappear, leaving only the shadows in the image.
As you can see, the wood layer has been darkened considerably. While we have hidden the highlights and whites from the horse layer, all the dark pixels are still there and being used by the “Multiply” blend mode to darken any pixels below them that are lighter. We are going to fix that by applying a Vignette and a Mask to the horse layer.
- Make sure you still have the horses layer selected and click the “Add Filters” button. From the menu that appears, scroll down and select “Vignette”.
- The “Vignette” setting works by lightening or darkening the corners and edges of your image and can be used to add or remove vignetting as needed. It is often used to remove vignetting caused by some lenses, or added as a special effect to focus the viewer’s attention in the image.
- If we were to change our layer blend mode back to normal for a moment, this is what we would see after applying the Vignette filter. Pushing the slider to the left produces black corners, pushing it to the right produces white corners.
- But, remember we are using the “multiply” blend mode. If we choose the black corners, they would appear, as they are dark pixels. But by choosing the white corners, we can effectively make the corners disappear. Sure you could do this with a mask, but this provides a fast, easy way, that you can also change later just through the slider.
I know some of these changes are subtle, so hang in there, it’s all worth it in the end! Now let’s make sure the vignette isn’t hiding any parts of the horses themselves. If you look at the muzzle and front leg of the left horse, and the rear leg of the right horse, they are faded. This is because the vignette is hiding these areas, so we will apply a mask to the vignette effect that excludes the horses.
When you first apply any effect, it’s applied across the layer. However, in Luminar, you can mask an effect so it applies to only part of the layer.
- Scroll down to the “Vignette” panel, and click on the brush icon to open the “Mask” controls.
- Click on the small eye shaped icon. When you do, you will see the whole image turns bright red. Don’t panic! The “eye” button toggles the mask overlay on and off, showing you where your layer is masked. Red is anything not hidden by the layer mask, the part of the layer you can still see. Think “Red = Reveals”. Anything not red will be hidden by the mask, think “Clear = Conceals”. For layers, this is pretty straight forward. (For filters, it is basically the opposite, anything painted in red will have the effect of the filter applied to it, anything clear is excluded from the effects of the filter.)
- Click on the image, and you will see the red all disappear. By default, when you go into the mask mode and click on the image, Luminar creates an empty mask, removing all the red. Paint over whatever areas you don’t want the effect applied to, don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be super exact, just slop the paint on for this project!
- We have now created a mask where the effect is only applied to the horses. But that is opposite of what we wanted, right? I find it’s usually easier to paint over what I want to exclude, and then flip my mask, using the Invert feature. Click on the small gear shaped icon for the mask’s settings, in the upper left above your image. Click invert, and you will see the mask is the opposite of what you have painted. The effect will only be applied to the areas in red, not the horses.
Finishing Texture Layer
As a last step, I added a second copy of the wood texture at the top of the stack of layers. With a little adjusting and masking, this layer will help the horses stand out more from the wood background.
- Create a new image layer, and select the texture as before.
- Change the blend mode to “screen” or “overlay”, whichever you prefer, and adjust the opacity until the wood texture around the horses looks the way you like. This step will brighten the entire image, but we will again use a mask to fix this..
- Click on the photo layer. Scroll down to the “Vignette” panel, and click on the brush icon to open the “Mask” controls.
- Click on the small gear icon, and click “Copy”. This will copy the mask you made before to your clipboard.
- Return to the top texture layer, and click the brush icon to open the mask controls for this layer. Again, click on the gear icon. But, this time click the “Paste” button.
- Remember the mask we created in the horse layer was to remove the horses from the effect, by hiding them with the mask. By copying that mask to the top wood grain layer we are basically cutting a hole through this wood layer, so it affects the horse layer below it. By using the “Screen” blend mode, we selected for the wood layer, it lightens everything below it except for this masked area over the horses.
- Now, experiment! For example, under the Mask settings (the “gear” icon, again), hit “Invert”, and see if you like this better (the background will be darkened, and the horses lightened). Change your blend modes and opacity, too, these can dramatically change the look of your image.
One of the hardest parts about compositing is knowing when to stop! What I have found with digital art is you need to periodically walk away from your piece, and look at it with fresh eyes an hour or more later. Often this break will give you new inspiration, or help you see things that need more work.
While this was a fairly simple transformation, you should now have an idea of the power and flexibility of Luminar to create composites, and the essential steps and concepts to get started. Please feel free to post your creations in the comments or on our Photofocus Readers page on Facebook, we would love to see your creative transformations and creations!
- Skylum’s new Luminar 2018
- Canon 5D Mark IV
- Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
- Gitzo GT4543LS Tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head
Like this article? Follow this link to read more of my photo tips and techniques. Jason’s Articles at Photofocus
When not writing about himself in the third person, he enjoys sunsets and long walks on the beach while carrying 40 pounds of camera gear. He can most often be found wading through a swamp, hunting down a good burger joint, or enjoying time with in the great outdoors.
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