A Haunting Image

Introduction: A Haunting Image

About: A student of Biological and Chemical sciences in UCC, Ireland. I'm an obsessive geek with a lot of interest in prop making and indie film making, not that I'm experienced or good at it..... yet! :D

This is a very simple tutorial on some ghostly photo editing techniques using Pixlr. While the basic principles can easily be applied to any photo editing software, I recently discovered Pixlr and as it is free, online and equipped with most of the tools a retail editor like photoshop has, I felt it was more appropriate to give the instructable from the point of view of a Pixlr user.

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Step 1: Tools

A short list I know:
  • Tripod
  • camera
  • laptop
  • milk crate
  • yourself!

Step 2: Taking the Photos

This can actually be one of the more difficult steps. The idea is to take two almost identical pictures. Background movement in particular should be kept to a minimum. Set up your tripod or other very stable substitute and take a couple of pictures without anything in the scene. Once you're happy with the set up and have a few empty photos you can put your subject (I just used myself) in the scene. Standing on something like a milk crate will let you add a floating effect to your ghost.

My advice with this step is take lots and lots of photos. The more you have then the more you can choose from and it's better to have it and not need it than... well, you know! You'll probably be a small bit concerned about posing for the photo, don't worry about looking stupid, nobody's going to see anything but the finished product..... unless you decide to post an instructable about it. 

Step 3: Setup

Go to Pixlr.com and open the advanced editor. Open two images; one without the subject (from now on called image (a) ) and one with the subject (image (b) ). Select image (b) and double click on the padlock icon in the Layers palette to unlock the image, you can then drag image (b) directly over image (a). Try to line up the images to overlap as much as possible.

Step 4:

before you go further select image (a) and open the settings in the layers palette. You can play around with the opacity setting to check that it's lined up. If there are small details slightly out it might not matter as long as they are not too near the subject. bring opacity back to 100%.

making sure that image (a) is selected, go to the adjustment tab and select desaturate. This will keep most of the details and remove colour from the picture. This effect should only be applied to image (b), there should be plenty of colour in image (a) for this to work.

Step 5: Adding Layer Mask

Title pretty much says it all. select image (b) in the layers palette and add a layer mask. The layer mask is the icon at the bottom of the layers palette that's just right of the settings symbol. It looks like a rectangle with a grey circle in the middle. 

Step 6: Gradient Tool

Select the gradient tool and adjust the settings. Precisely how you change them depends on a lot of things but primarily it's down to your own personal preference so play around with these settings and find your own perfect setup but these are what I feel work best.

Select the gradient type and pick the one that blends from black to background (represented as a black and white chequered grid), change the type from linear to radial and the opacity to about 80%.

Note that opacity in particular will vary depending on lighting and contrast of the background.

Step 7: Apparition

Now this takes a small bit of skill as you'll be eyeballing where and how much gradient tool to use. It's probably easiest to click and drag from roughly where the torso of your subject is. At this stage you'll only be able to see image (a), but each time you use the Gradient tool a faded circle of Image (b) will become visible.

Keep revealing your "ghost" in portions, you can use Ctrl+z to undo any mistakes and try again until you feel you have a fairly good image. Adjust the opacity of the gradient tool as you go because some details need to shine through more than others, the shins and feet in particular need to be faded much more to hide the platform the subject is standing on.

when it comes down to the final details and touch-ups it's best to use the brush tool set to black with reduced opacity. This will vary so much that there's no point in giving the settings I used, just remember, less is more and you can always go over the same spot twice. 

Step 8: Finishing

The final touches are down to personal feelings. I added the Glamour Glow filter and left it at that but there are plenty of options. For example, blur filters and smudge tools could be used to create a shimmering effect. You could combine these techniques with others to make a ghost phasing through a wall or a table.

I hope you enjoyed my instructable! please vote for me in the Halloween Photo Editing Contest.
You might also like my previous instructable Terminate Yourself

Let me know if you've any questions or need a step to be clearer. Thanks :)

Halloween Photo Editing Contest with Pixlr

Participated in the
Halloween Photo Editing Contest with Pixlr

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    2 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Cool effect! Good idea to stand on something to appear floating.