Retouch Yourself Into the Picture




About: Eldest of five, son of two doctors, 10 years in Graphic Design and marketing, then retrained as a Biomedical Materials Engineer, don't ask me why, I think it was because I had always wanted to design artific...

Do you want to be part of that incredible scene in Star Wars or Bladerunner, Alien or Harry Potter, or maybe you just want a really nice photo of something you've made in an incredible setting. Well move over Hollywood, fantastic retouching capabilities are here for everyone.

In any case most actors are shot in front of blue screens and the backgrounds, animals, buildings and SXF are added digitally, so why not have a go at it. When you've made a model, what will survive in 10 years? The memory, a few photos... hang on, in the end the memory fades and the photos are what keep that paths open, so fantasize a bit and put yourself in the picture with this instructable, it's easier than you think.

Also why not put you own models in film settings. You'd be surprised how fantastic things look when put in the right setting, and you don;'t have to be a Hollywood model maker to make them look fantastic. At the end of this instructable I've posted an image of a paper rocket, looking ... well, you be the judge and tell me what you think.

For me there is nothing like Adobe Photoshop, now if you haven't got it or have never used a photo manipulation package before, this instructable is not a substitute for learning how to use it. What I hope to do is fire your imagination and show you a few tricks to help your composite retouches look better.

In this instructable I am going to show you how I dropped myself into a poster for the most recent Harry Potter film, wearing a Mad Eye I made from some junk (see another instructable about how to make that).

The picture you see here is a crop of the full image.

Step 1: Source an Image You Like and Want to Be In

Find a picture of a scene that you would have liked to be part of. make sure it is the biggest size and resolution possible. If you are going to make a poster of it then you will need it to be at least 1000 pixels wide and possibly more. If it for the web, then probably no more than 500 px wide is fine.

When I was looking to make the Mad Eye for my instructable, I looked for reference and found this screen saver / poster. It seemed a bit grainy but I liked that distressed look, it seemed to match the style of the project I was doing.

Step 2: Take a Photo of Yourself

Trying to match the lighting and the angles as closely as possible, take a photo of yourself, or your model or in this case, have someone else take it. It might be that the original was outside, then you have to do it outside really as the quality of light is so different and it makes it much harder to merge the tow images if they were taken under dramatically different light. If the original was at night, then take your at night etc etc.

Try to get the light coming from the same angle. Very simple to achieve, and worth paying attention to. How many of those UFO hoax shots are sussed out because their lighting and shade isn't quite right. What about the controversy over the moon landings (you think those pictures were faked??) well you'd have thought NASA would be able to get the shadows right! derrr).

If you are only going to be dropping your head into the image then it doesn't matter what you are wearing as long as there is enough neck visible to be able to drop it in the image at the right angle. Remember that not only should you be at the right angle (ie looking the right way etc etc, but that the camera should be positioned so that the image looks in the same proportion as the one you want to drop into. Look at eye lines, look at the horizon line. The horizon line is not always visible in a picture, but it is always there. Above it lines and things arranged in the z axis of the image appear to go down towards it, below it, those same things appear to go up to it. (imaging a book case side on to you. At your eye line you can't see above of below the shelves, but for the ones above your eye line (you are looking up to) and can only see their undersides, and for the ones below you eyeline (you are looking down at those and can only see their top surfaces). So, in the photo you take, make sure that you or your model is in arranged so that the horizon line of your photo matches that of the base image.

Act up the part, scowl, say cheese or generally try and look like you are in the scene and mean to be there, acting is half of the fun and half the battle to making it look real. use a mirror if you need to so that you can see how good ( or what a berk) you look.

In this image you can see that I am roughly cutting out the image using the lasso. Do a rough cut first so that you can drop it into the base image and move it about to see if it is about right. If it isn't, then you can always take another picture, rather than waste time cutting carefully round and finding it looks wrong when it is positioned.

In this image

Step 3: Drag the Rough Cut of You Into the Base Image

Drag the rough cut out of you into the base image. It will probably come in on a new layer (definitely in Photoshop) depending on what package you are using you might have to make a new layer and copy and paste the cut out into the image.

As you can see the images are a size mismatch and the image of me is much too big, so ...

Step 4: Resize Rough Cut to Match Base Image

with the two parts of the image on separate layers it is an easy task to resize the rough cut of you to make it fit the base image. measure by eye the height of the head or some other prominent feature to make sure that the rough cut looks the right size. This is a visual thing so resize till it looks right.

Step 5: Colour Correct the Rough Cut

Use hue and saturation to adjust the colour and the intensity of the colour of the rough cut to match the base image. Often digital cameras taken nice saturated images but pictures from films have been graded to desaturate slightly (looks more moody), or if it is a picture of a big structure the image may be desaturated by distance haze.

You might have to add "noise" to the rough cut or "blur" it slightly to make it look more in keeping with the base image. change the hue slightly if you have to. All you are trying to do is get it to match the background. Often film and live action shots are slightly blurred or grainy, so take you time to make it blend in.

In this case I felt it didn't match because it was too drk so I also adjusted the brightness contrast (see second image). However it was plenty grainy enough as it was taken in a poorly lit room at night (actually right after I finished making the instructable.

I didn't go too bonkers on the brightness, becuase I felt that the original face (Moody's face) was a bit too light anyway, and I knew that I would be completely covering that, so I was looking for a match on the clothing and background.

Step 6: Neatly Cut Out

If you're happy that these few tweaks has brought the image into the same colour cast and grainyness as the original base image and that the angle is right and the lighting matches, then now is the time to do a neat cut out.

Using the lasso, with striaght lines carefully and slowly click round the image to be cut out. USe straight lines because they are easier, but use very short lines so that you can follow the curves. Pay attention to hair, and don't take too much off. Ideally you will have shot the image on a back ground that has a similar colouring, very important for hair and such like. Unfortunately for me I only had this wall and that was it so my background is rather too light. But as you can see it is possible, with patience, to cut it out.

I cut the head and neck out and discarded the clothes, because I wanted to use Moody's jacket. Every picture is different and you may be dropping you whole body in to the picture. Either way, pay attention to detail. If you can set the cutting tool to have a slight feathered edge (1 or 2 pixel blur) then do so, so that the edge is a little less distinct.

If there are things that should be in front of you, that are currently in the background, don't worry about them for now, we will get them to come on top later.

I zoomed in to the image to make sure that I cut it out nice and neatly. Once you have outlined the image with the masking tool, delete the YOU image background See second image. Now at this stage the cut out may not be perfect and the odd bit of the old back ground might show, especially on the hair. Don't worry too much about that we will blend that in later

Step 7: Clone Away Some of the Background Base Image

Once my head was cut out properly I could see that my head wouldn't fully cover Mad Eye's head. So I moved my head to one side (still on a separate layer) using the clone and patch tool I cloned the base image background over Moody's head to get rid of his hair till I could see that my head would cover over the rest of what was left.

I slid my head back and forth until I was sure you couldn't see any of Moody's head peaking out from behind mine when it was in position.

It meant cloning a bit of his jacket and some of the background behind the lettering of the poster. All quite easy to do because the original image was a bit indistinct at those points

Step 8: Cut Out the Part If the Base Image That You Want to Be Behind

Ok this is so easy, but hard to describe.... If there is a part of the image that you need to be behind, a lamp post, a fence another person in the line up, a car etc etc then it is important that you look like you are in the photo and making it look like you are behind these things is part of the gag and very easy to do.

All you need to do is cut and copy them on to a new layer. That's it. The original image is there and you only have to cut carefully where the actual thing goes in front of you. ie if you are leaning up against a lamp post in the image and a bit of you is behind the lamp post, you only need to cut out the bit that you are behind and copy and paste that bit.

For this image I wanted Moody's collar to go over my neck, so I roughly cut out the front of his jacket and then only careful traced round the neck line (again using the straightly line mask tool in little steps). then a quick copy and paste (in Photoshop) and you have that bit of clothing on a new layer

Step 9: Reorder Layers and Position Your Head

Now you can reorder the layers so that (layer wise) your head is behind the shirt front but on top of the back ground image. Now position you head / image exactly in the right place.

If you think that the size isn't right or that the colours are not quite right now that it's in position, then you can still adjust these as it is still on a different layer.

Step 10: Feather the Edge of the Cut Out

As I said earlier, the edge might stand out a bit, especially if the backgrounds were not compatible. If this is the case go round the edge of the cut out layer (your head) with a small size eraser set to about 30% to 50% intensity, carefully nibbling away at the remaining hard edge colour.

If you are doing this close up, be careful to check regularly by zooming out because it is very easy to do something that looks ok close up but looks very bitty and ragged from a normal viewing distance.

Step 11: Add Shadows and Tidy Up

I thought that the left hand side of my face (right as we are looking at it) was much too bright, so I masked up the cut out again (trace round with the lasso) and addedd some shadow by airbrushing black at 10% intensity using the colour "Overlay" setting on the brush so as not to obliterate any of the image features.

Shadows are important and they often give away a fake. take time to consider the shadows. If you have got the lighting of your image right, then most of the shadows should be right. However if you are standing in a picture you will have to put shadows in the background when they should have been. (another hoax mistake is to forget about shadows or forget to take out the real shadows of the part of the image that is being replaced.

In the last step I have posted an image of a rocket and you can see that that has a completely fake shadow, but that this makes the image look so real.

(Shadows generally: To add shadows, make a new layer and use the lasso mask tool with straight lines to drww the shadow. This might take a bit of practice, so it really helps if you have a shadow in your taken picture to trace round. then airbrush over it with black set on 10 or 20% intensity. Shadows tend to be darker nearer the object and more blurry farther from the object. When you are happy use a blur tool to make the edge of the shadow a bit more blended, unless it is a bright sunny day and the shadows are hard.)

I also added in a bit more jacket collar, because there was a tiny bit missing

Step 12: Finished Image

So now you're done, we'll I was, it was about 2.30am by this point. But the image looks so cool. My kids love that sort of thing, in fact who doesn't. If you go to my websitedadcando you'll see that I try and make up a picture like this whenever I make something suitable. Playing and making stuff is all about fantasy, so why not enhance the fantasy and give yourself something nice to keep as a memento. (I have also attached one of my latest fantasy images to show you how effective it can be. You don't need to be a Hollywood model maker to make a rocket image, or another fantasy image for that matter. have a look at my rocket photo. This was made from a paper rocket that i designed (one afternoon) and folded up in a few minutes. And then there's the House image that I did after wbd's and Chabias's excellent suggestions...

Just think what you could do...

Print out your image on nice photo paper and put it in a scrap book or photo album and keep it to show your kids, or if you already have them, your grandchildren, and if you already have them, then what are you doing staying up till 2.30am retouching yourself into a Harry Potter poster... ?



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    47 Discussions


    11 years ago on Step 2

    You should put yourself into a "House M.D." poster! You sorta look like Hugh Laury...a little bit.

    14 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Do I look that rough? I'm gonna let you off this time becuase Hugh Laurie is one of my favourite actors. Anyway, do you think House would look good with a Mad Eye, he's already got a bad leg and is pissed as hell! I would have thought a ping poing ball patch is the last thing he needs (ho ho ho)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    House is back! His leg is better, but now he is madder than ever. He has a magical eye. No need for old fashioned X-rays or expensive MRI scans, House is just a one-man radiology department... Did you picture him a bit like this? My best House / Hugh Laurie impression, although not quite enough stubble.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    LMAO!!! My goodness, I should've looked closer! You really look ALOT like House in that pic! I guess you can take that as a compliment?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    After what you said about him being hot and all that I take it as a great compliment, thank you very much. As I said i was doing my best Hugh Laurie impression... are there any other people you think I look like, whom I could impersonate while wearing a Mad Eye... seems like it could be the start of a niche website cult type thing bet you know one has registered that URL


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    hmmm....Chris Martin of Coldplay looks a bit like House, I think, so you could easily do him. You could probably pull off a Tim 'the toolman' Taylor too. Maybe even Wilson from House. Heck...try & do ALL the House characters. ~:o)


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 2

    you are absolutley right about chris martin! they have long, gauntish faces!!! wow


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Chris Martin looks too young, I've got too many lines... and Tim Allen (is that who you mean?) I don't think he's cool enough, I get the Wilson thing, but that would be a little too much being John Malcovich for me... eeeuw


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    You're right...Tim Allen is a bit too goofy for the Mad Eye. But now that you mentioned John Malcovich.....(not that you look like him)...HE would look pretty creepy...or more creepy, I should say. Perhaps Keifer Sutherland or Nic Cage is more suitable?


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Magic Wand tool!! ;P Sadly it doesn't work the best all the time. . .


    yeaaaaah xDDDD buahaha, OH-MY-DEBBIECUPCAKE!!! Is it me or you kind of look like Hannibal Lecter in that pic? xDD COOOOOL


    Oh yeah??? Well, I always wear my fake mad-eye monocle when I am eating liver ... th th th ... which I find especially nice with a little chianti... if I can see the glass with one eye covered up!