Compositing is a skill and process that spans the entire spectrum of creative industries. At the high end, compositing boasts its own specialized profession in film and television post production and visual effects. Dedicated software such as NUKE and Shake have taken the craft to powerful levels of its own, leaving behind the relatively basic compositing toolset of Adobe Photoshop. However, for many graphics practitioner’s compositing is a vital everyday process — and as with all pixel-pushing endeavors, Photoshop remains the entry point and hub to learning and ultimately mastering the fundamentals of this important skill.
Tip 1: Matching Tones, Channel by Channel
One of the challenges we face when compositing is matching the colors and tones of various images to produce a realistic and convincing composite. This method aims to save you from spending time fiddling around with color balances and layers upon layers of adjustments, by showing you a systematic approach that should become second nature and enhance your compositing skill set.
We are now entering the exciting world of greyscale tonal evaluation, deep inside the channels of our RGB image — the bare bones of bitmap imaging. We are going to go through each channel of the image and simply try to match the greyscale luminance levels to the target layer:
- In the Channels palette, solo the red channel by either clicking the channel or using the keyboard shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + 3. You should see the entire image in greyscale, representing the luminance values of red.
Tip 2: Gradient Map with Soft Light
Although this is not essentially a compositing technique, it is an especially useful adjustment to perform on a composited image, where the colors and tones often require this type of homogeneous tweaking and subtle realignment. This technique works well as a final adjustment to an image.
There is no shortcut to becoming proficient on your chosen tool or in your chosen craft, be it Photoshop or anything else; but once you have mastered a tool and understand its power, it is then up to you to do what you do best: be creative with it. This means looking at those everyday tasks you do, the time limitations you are faced with and your ability to improvise. Look under the hood once in a while, and be creative and inventive with everything you do!