Realistic blending of models with environments

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Mr-Ripley's avatar
By Mr-Ripley
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Hi dear friends
It's my honor to have a chance to share my tip at Manip Academy here.
First of all, I have to tell you that I'm a lazy self-taught digital artist.
I know how to use only some simple tools in Photoshop old version (CS3).
Besides, English is not my first language.
However, I hope this article will be useful somehow at least for beginners and intermediate artists.

Last year I held KING KONG AND I contest. And I found that some contestants had trouble to put the woman stocks in their works properly, while they seemed have no any problem with gorillas and backgrounds. Why is that?

I noticed that most woman stocks they used were taken picture with brightness in daylight. And they didn't turn down the brightness of the women stock enough when they put them into darker environment like a sunset scene or a jungle. And the black hair of the giant gorillas also emphasize the error. The women ended up being too bright and jumped out of the environment. So, I chose to write about Realistic blending of human models with environments in this article to solve this problem.

Normally, to put a human (or any object) and make them look real and harmonious with a new environment (background),

I have to care about these important facts.

- direction of light

The light on the human body (or any object) and the background should have the same direction. If not, you have to flip either of them.
In case the light on the object doesn't have an obvious direction, add some light and shadow to the object.

- color tone 

You have to adjust color of the object, and make them look similar to the tone of environment. But don't make them look too close because the object will be drowned into the background.

-brightness and contrast

As I said in the beginning that different stocks were taken with different level of brightness. You need to adjust the brightness of them into same level. If there's a special source of light shining on the object, such as a human holding a lamp. That's an exception.  

There are also some other facts to think about as well. Such as... 

-sharpness and blur

-depth and distance

-size of the object and background 

-angle or perspective of the object and background


The object and the background should be related to each other in every aspect.

Besides imagination and creativity, a great photomanipulater should also be able to make a picture that looks like real until people can't tell if it photography or photomanipulation. 

My advice is you can find the best tips or secrets from any photography, and learn these facts of nature from them.



I have made 2 example works using same model in 2 different backgrounds to show you the process. Let's see. :)

The model stock is
Seraphim - Stock Reference 23 by faestock

The backgrounds are
Lady on Rock Example 1bg by Mr-RipleyLady in water bg by Mr-Ripley
The first one is a sunset or sunrise scene where the sun is down and far away in the background.
Any object placed on the foreground is supposed to look almost as dark as a silhouette. 
The second one is underwater scene. I have never tried it before.
But I guess everything under the water is supposed to be in dim cyan tone. 

I put her in these backgrounds
Lady on Rock Example 1 by Mr-RipleyLady in water example1 by Mr-Ripley
Both backgrounds have different direction of light, while there is no obvious direction of light on the model body.
She looks too bright in both backgrounds.

Don't forget the fact that she has to look much more darker than the sky in the sunset scene.
Her color tone need to be adjusted a lot in the water scene as well.

I began to decrease the brightness of the model.
In the sunset scene, I duplicated the model layer. Changed the new layer in multiply mode.
The model will look much darker and intensive automatically.
I also clicked button IMAGE / ADJUSTMENT / BRIGHTNESS AND CONTRAST to make her even darker.

Lady on Rock Example 2b by Mr-Ripley

I adjusted the color of this layer by clicking button IMAGE / ADJUSTMENT and chose COLOR BALANCE

Lady on Rock Example 2a by Mr-Ripley

Now the model looks much darker than the sky.
Lady on Rock Example 2c by Mr-Ripley

 Then I added some light on the body of the model in the same direction of light in the background. I did it by using soft-rounded DODGE tool. I set the exposure level about 50% or less dragging it around her body, and change into 100% for the front part of her body which is supposed to be touched by the sunlight.

But the body parts that touch the ground like her feet and bum should look darker because they are not touched by the sunlight. So, I used big soft-rounded BURN tool instead. 
 Lady on Rock Example 2 by Mr-Ripley

I made a new layer in multiply mode under all the model layers to make her shadow lying on the rock.
With the shadow, I realized that the model still doesn't look dark enough in this environment.
So I duplicated the 2nd layer of the model (which I set in multiply mode). This time I set the opacity at 30% only.
(you may put the new duplicated layer in other mode as well, it's up to propriety of each situation.)
If the model's color looks too less or much more saturated than the environment, then adjust it with HUE/SATURATION tool. 
Lady on Rock Example 3a by Mr-RipleyLady on Rock Example 3 by Mr-Ripley

To add some highlight on her front part and to put outer glow effect, I duplicated the original layer of the model. Placed this layer under the rock layer. Added COLOR OVERLAY effect to this layer. ( chose white color ). Then I moved the image in this layer to the left a little bit, and made it blur. Now the model has some highlight on her front part. I added some soft OUTER GLOW effect to this layer too. (The color which is used in this effect should be the main color you see in the background. ) 
Lady on Rock Example 4 by Mr-Ripley

Finally, I added some light/flare texture on the work. 
Big Lens And Optical Flare Collection by daWIIZ
I placed it above all other layers in this work, changed into SOFT LIGHT mode with opacity 75%.
This light texture really made the atmosphere looks much more charming.
I confess this light texture tends to be necessary in my works nowadays. :love:
Lady on Rock Example 5 by Mr-Ripley

I also put some bokeh texture under the model layers in SCREEN mode. It helps this scene looks more interesting. :) 
Bokeh Texture by photoshop-stock

This is the comparison between BEFORE and AFTER adjustment of the model.
Lady on Rock Example 6 by Mr-RipleyLady on the Rock by Mr-Ripley

Now you can see how much BRIGHTNESS adjustment means to your work.

Don't be afraid that the model's face will look too dark. Better be afraid that your whole work will not look real enough.
If she's in a dark place and she's not a firefly, she will have to look dark.

Lady on the Rock by Mr-Ripley

I have a tip about how to find a proper level of BRIGHTNESS of model/object in each background. Just quickly move the adjustment button of BRIGHTNESS adjustment from the minimum level to maximum level and from maximum level to minimum level many times until your eyes can find the right state where the model/object doesn't look too bright or too dark in that environment. :nod:  


As for the underwater scene. I still used the same process.
Besides decreasing brightness of the model, I adjusted her color a lot into cyan and blue tone to make her look related to the sea.
But I used water texture instead of light texture in this case.  

When I finished the whole work. I saved it in JPG file. 
Then I opened it again, and clicked IMAGE/ADJUSTMENT and chose 

This is the comparison between BEFORE and AFTER adjustment of the model in underwater scene.
Lady in water example2 by Mr-RipleyLady in water example3 by Mr-Ripley

AUTO COLOR tool is amazing. It usually brings me the best color tone to the final result. But sometimes it's not good enough.  

So, I adjusted the color of the whole work again.
If it looks too much in some color tone, you have to add the opposite color tone to the work.
In this case, it looks too much in cyan tone , so I added a lot of red tone to the final work. 
Lady in water example3a by Mr-Ripley
Lady in water example3 by Mr-RipleyLady in the Water by Mr-Ripley

The concept of this work is quite a fantasy. But I still created it with realistic technique.
Lady in the Water by Mr-Ripley


I have another work of mine that I think it fits this topic.
Soldier by Mr-Ripley
This original image belongs to Alan Welch.
I was allowed to use for a Photoshop contest in the work below. 
You can see how I changed the soldiers into a musicians.
Peace By Music by Mr-Ripley

Thank you so much all the owners of the stock I used in this article.
The credits have already been given to you on these deviation's pages. 
Lady in the Water , Lady on the Rock , Peace By Music

I guess I have already revealed you guys all my secrets.
Please let me know if you find this article useful. :heart:
If you have any question, Don't hesitate to ask. :)



© 2016 - 2021 Mr-Ripley
anonymous's avatar
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scratzilla's avatar
thank you for writing this tutorial.  solders into band , now that is creative  
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thanks so much for compliment. =D
Ikke46's avatar
A great tutorial, thank you very much! :D
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thanks so much for the kind word. I don't know if it's also useful for 3D artists. :)
Ikke46's avatar
O yes it is! Because i have an older computer, it is difficult for me to render big scenes, so very often i add a background with Photoshop Elements. And sometimes some other props or stock, so every tutorial about good blending is always good :D Thanks :D
mshellee's avatar
Thank you, I will keep this in mind. I like learning more and I appreciate you sharing.
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thank you so much dear friend. I'm glad this is useful. And sorry for my late reply. :heart:
mshellee's avatar
Rowye's avatar
Fantastic tutorial, thanks for sharing my friend! :D
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thank you so much dear friend. I'm glad this is useful. And sorry for my late reply. :heart:
Rowye's avatar
No probs, you're most welcome! :hug:
annamae22's avatar
Awesome tips! Thanks Hug 
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thank you so much dear friend. I'm glad this is useful. And sorry for my late reply. :heart:
gardjeto7's avatar
Mr-Ripley's avatar
WDWParksGal's avatar
This is great information! Thank you for creating this and sharing :hug: :glomp: :heart:
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thank you so much dear friend. I'm glad this is useful. And sorry for my late reply. :heart:
Black-B-o-x's avatar
Awesome tutorial! :heart:
Thank you for sharing! :hug:
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thank you so much dear friend. I'm glad this is useful. And sorry for my late reply. :heart:
YBsilon-Stock's avatar
Great tutorial Tom and It´s very useful :heart: :thumbsup:
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thank you so much dear friend. I'm glad this is useful. And sorry for my late reply. :heart:
YBsilon-Stock's avatar
LoloAgain's avatar
Awesome presentation. Very well done. I have learned a lot. I don't usually use models in my work so I did not think I would really get anything out of this. But the tips and how to use the right tools for the right effects, applies to anything you put in your art. Thank you for taking the time to do this for us newbiesClap Hug    
Mr-Ripley's avatar
Thank you so much dear friend. I'm glad this is useful. And sorry for my late reply. :heart:
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