In this tutorial, I’ll show you a really simple effect that together with good photography can be used to make gorgeous results. We’re going to compose a room using photos of objects. This room can then be used in Flash to build a Web site or simply as a graphic.
I actually produced this composition about a year-and-a-half ago. It was used in the FlashDen Showroom website that I built as a marketing.
In this tutorial, I’ll be comping up the first room. In the sequel I’ll do the third room. In the final part of this series, I’ll produce a brand new room with more in-detail steps than the first two tutorials, because for these first two, I’m going over old work rather than making something from scratch.
This effect basically relies on lots of good photos. Unfortunately, that means this tutorial is more a general guide than for you to explicitly follow step-by-step. Unless, of course, you feel like going and buying all the stock photos you’ll need to do so. You can get them all from iStockPhoto, though I don’t have the exact URLs as I bought them long ago and my account there has literally thousands of files downloaded In any case, here is a mini image of them all!
The Finished Product
First of all, here is the finished product. After I produced this mockup in Photoshop, I then recreated the site in Flash with animations and buttons and so on. You can see the Flash Showroom site here. You can also click the image below to see the full view.
Now the final image is 1024×768. The first thing I did was place the main background image. Unfortunately for me, it’s the wrong dimensions (as you can see below). I could enlarge it and crop, but then I’d lose some of the nice detail that I wish to use later, so instead I chose to extend the photo.
Fortunately, the job isn’t too hard because the top area of the photo is fairly straightforward. The trick is to use gradients of colors picked out of the current background to extend the photo.
I first used the Pen Tool to draw a shape (shown) that I wanted to fill over with my gradient. Notice that the shape covers some of the area of the actual photo. This is so that afterwards I can use a soft eraser to erase the edges and have it fade gracefully in. I then picked a dark shade from the right-hand side and a light shade from the left and drew a linear gradient across in a new layer above the photo. This was followed by some gentle erasing along the bottom to blend.
I repeat the same step but on the left side with the light grey area. Again, the shape I draw over the photo is larger than necessary so I can erase back for a smooth blend.
Finally, the shadow on the right looked a bit uneven, so I added a third layer on top and using the Pen Tool traced out a shape around the sofa and gave it a dark-to-light gradient to have a more consistent shading, thus doing away with any last traces of where I blended the images.
Now that the background is ready, we can start placing objects. Before we do that, I should say a few words about the type of images you want to choose:
1. You need photos taken at the same angle as the background image you are comping them into. In this case, it’s a front-on view. Note that this is by far the easiest angle to do this effect on.
2. It’s also best if you get photos of objects that are isolated, as it makes cutting them out way easier
3. Finally, avoid photos where any part of the object is out of focus. For example, a shot with some perspective may have an edge of the television a little blurry. If that’s the case, cutting the object out is much harder, if not impossible.
Anyhow, so for each object, you simply use the Pen Tool, trace around the object, and then right-click on the canvas, select Make Selection from the menu that appears, and then copy the object out of its background and paste it on your main canvas. There are other ways of extracting objects: you could use the Magic Wand Tool, for example, when the object is on flat white, however, I find it’s much cleaner and not that much harder to do it with the Pen Tool. If you do use the Wand Tool, make sure to use a larger photo and then scale down to hide any crappy pixelation effects.
You could also use the Filter > Extract Tool, however, that’s not much easier and the result isn’t always as good.