Extract Real Shadows with “Solid Color” in Photoshop!

December 10, 2019 0 By Peter Engel

One of the most challenging aspects of creating
a Composite is making realistic shadows, right? But, what if you could use the original shadow
of the subject in the new background? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Well today I have a technique to do just that,
very simply. However, what if this technique doesn’t work? No problem at all. We have got another one. Either way you are covered, my friend. So without any further ado, let’s get started. Back in the brilliant world of Photoshop and
before we begin, how about an exceptional resource that will make it super easy for
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Pro version forever. Just use the code PIX20. Back in Photoshop and here we have the subject
open with a clean nice shadow which we propose to us with the new background. However, the first thing we need to do is
to separate the subject. And by the way, if you want to go ahead and
download this for and follow along, you already know what to do. Check the links in the description. Now, since we are using Photoshop CC 2020,
we will use the Object Selection tool. You can use any selection tool of your choice. This is just my favorite at the moment. So, the Object Selection tool is inside the
Quick Selection tool group. Just select the Object Selection tool and
then just make a rectangle around the subject or, right now, the Lasso is selected, we can
change the mode to Rectangle. That’s pretty easier. And now let’s make a rectangle. Now, Photoshop is going to use its AI and
kind of..Wow. That was fast. Now, we need to tell Photoshop that this was
the area which was not supposed to be selected and this area is not the subject. What do we do? Again, hold the Alt key or the Option key
and drag a rectangle around it. That area will be subtracted automatically. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Now this area additionally has also been subtracted. We need to add that back. Let’s change the mode back to Lasso and this
time, hold the Shift key and then add back this area. Perfect, isn’t it? Now, let’s do the same for this area as well. Hold the Alt key or the Option key and then
let’s subtract this area. Wow. Look at the selection. It’s so nice, isn’t it? Look at this area, we need to subtract that
as well. Hold the Alt key or Option key and just make
a selection around it and let Photoshop do the magic. Now, we need to still subtract this area. Hold the Alt key or the Option key again and
let’s do the same for this area. Now, it didn’t do a pretty good job. So, we’re going to have to go back to the
Lasso tool and kind of add that. So, hold the Alt key or the Option key and
then simply make a selection around it. Now, I’m not making a perfect selection. You can take all the time in the world to
do that. But, we have less time here. We don’t want to kill so much time. Alright, once we have the selection made,
we can just first make a duplicate of the Background layer by just dragging it to the
New Layer icon and then with the selection active, click on the Mask button and we can
name this Subject. All right. Now, this layer, the Subject layer, just has
the subject extracted with the mask. Now let’s turn back on the Background. The next step is simply extracting the shadows. However, have look at the wall where the shadow
is falling or any surface where the shadow is falling. It is best, and you will be lucky, if the
surface is clean and smooth. But in this case, there is a discrepancy. Have a look at this, the wall has a line that
we need to get rid of before we start extracting the shadow. So, make a copy of the Background layer. With the Background layer selected, press
Ctrl or Command + J, and this is kind of temporary, to just remove this line. And how do we remove that? Well, we can use the Clone Stamp tool, we
can use the Spot Healing Brush tool, we can use the Healing Brush tool or since we are
using the latest versions of Photoshop, the Content Aware Fill has gotten really, really
good. So, all we have to do is to select the Rectangular
Marquee Tool and then make a selection around the discrepancy just like that. And then, first of all, let’s just turn off
the Subject layer so that we can have a look at just this layer, and then let’s go to Edit
and then Content Aware Fill. Now, it should automatically do the job. I don’t think I have to make many changes
here. It’s fine. Just hit OK. Now you can take the time, do whatever you
want. Once it’s gone, press Ctrl or Command + D.
Now we have a clean surface. Now, the hand is not looking right. We can take care of that later. Don’t worry about it. If you turn on the subject, see, it’s fine. All we have to do – turn off the subject. We can easily use the Clone Stamp tool to
cover that up. So create a new layer on top of that, select
the Clone Stamp tool, make sure the Sample is Current & Below. Now, take a sample by holding the Alt key
or the Option key, click to take a sample, and then just simply paint. Now you will notice that this is a bit lighte,
if you zoom out. All you have got to do is to darken it. So, simply go to Image – Adjustments and then
Curves, directly applying it right there and just take it down. Click a point in the middle and take it down. That kind of looks better. Once you’re satisfied, just hit OK. Now, you can merge both of these layers – select
Layer 1, hold the Ctrl or Command, select the Background Copy and then press Ctrl or
Command + E. And you can name this Shadow. All right. Now, we need to make a selection based on
the brightness levels. Let me ask you a question. What is a shadow? A shadow is an area where the light does not
reach. And what about the area where the light does
not reach? What do we call it? Dark, right? So, we know that shadows are dark. So what if we tell Photoshop to make a selection
of the dark areas? Or in other words, what if we tell Photoshop
to make a selection based on the brightness levels? Wouldn’t that be perfect for extracting the
shadow? Of course it will be. And to be more specific, we can use Channels
in this case. So let’s go to the Channels. You can use the RGB channels to make a selection
directly based on the brightness levels. But, if you want to dig deeper, let’s just
browse through the Channel. So, here’s the Red channel, the Green channel
and the Blue channel. We need to find out which Channel has the
highest contrast between the shadow and the surrounding areas, which channel has the darkest
shadow. In this case, I can see that the Red channel,
have a look at this, has the darkest shadow. So, all we have got to do is to hold the Ctrl
or Command click on the thumbnail of the Red channel, it will make a selection based on
that, and then let’s come back to RGB. Let’s come back to the Layers panel. Just click on Layers. However, at this point, the bright areas are
selected and the dark areas are not selected when the Red channel was selected. We need the opposite of that and to get the
opposite, what do we do? We simply invert. Press Ctrl + Shift + I or Command + Shift
+ I to invert. Now, let’s create a Solid Color Adjustment
layer based on the selection. So, click on the Adjustment layer icon and
then choose Solid Color at the top and choose Black as the color. Hit OK. Now we don’t need this Shadow layer, we can
just simply delete that and rename this as Shadow. All right, you can now turn on the Subject
and turn off the Background and have a look, we have the shadow extracted. And look, the transparency is so well maintained. Now you can easily add any new patterns or
backgrounds. Let me just show you a couple examples. With the Background layer selected, we are
going to just create the pattern below the shadow. So, click on the Adjustment layer icon and
then choose Pattern. And this is a nice pattern, isn’t it? So let’s go ahead and choose some other pattern
from here. There are lots of patterns that we can choose
from the trees, grass, water, lots of them. So, let’s choose this pattern, this is also
a nice pattern, we can also go with this one. All right, now you can increase the scale
if you want to make it bigger. So, I want to keep it this big and hit OK. Isn’t that perfect? Look at the shadow. It’s so good, isn’t it? Also, if you want to clean up the selection,
it’s pretty simple. All you’ve got to do is to go to the Subject
Mask. Since the shadows already there, it will be
covering the hair anyway. So, select the Mask of the Subject and then
take the Brush and just paint with black, inside of the mask, not inside of the layer. Just here in the Mask. Look. Well, they have gone you covered. This area is fine. Again, what did I tell you? You can take all the time in the world to
make the perfect selection, but have a look at the shadow. Isn’t that amazing? Now let me show you how this would look in
a completely new background. So here we are in our Finder or Explorer,
we’re going to drag the new background and drop it into Photoshop. Just here. And you can adjust it all you want, I’m going
to make it a little bigger and place it beneath the shadow, click it and drag it, just place
it beneath the shadow. Have a look, that’s looking nice, isn’t it? However, in this case, we need to make a few
adjustments. If you look at the Shadow Mask, hold the Alt
key or the Option key, click on the Mask of the Shadow, it’s not very clean, because it’s
taking up texture from the previous wall. So to clean it, it’s going to be pretty simple. We can apply Curves directly. So with the Mask selected, let’s go to Image
– Adjustments and then Curves. Now, we need to make this shadow area even
darker, we need to make the dark areas darker. And to do that, take the slider on the left
to the right, just like so. Also, you can use the hand inside of Curves
to make it even simpler. So have a look at the hand right there, just
click on the hand and click and drag it down. We need to make this area as dark as possible. All right. That’s totally dark. Now, we need to brighten this shadow area
up, click and drag it up, bring it back to Normal. Now we are looking at something. Once you’re satisfied with this just hit OK. You can easily clean these areas up by choosing
the Brush tool, black as the foreground color. You can decrease the Flow if you want to. So, I’m going to decrease it to 20%. Now let’s change the Blend Mode from Normal
to Overlay. What happens is, in that case, when you paint,
it just won’t paint on the white areas, only on the areas which are closer to blacks. Alright, so that would be much safer that
way. You won’t accidentally paint anywhere. All right, and you can take the time to easily
clean this area up. Also, if you want to brighten the shadow or
in other words if you want to make the shadow darker because if you brighten something inside
of the mask, the intensity of that increases. You can change the color to white. With still the Overlay Blend Mode selected,
you can paint on the shadow areas to make it even darker, just like so. Hold the Alt key or the Option key, click
on the Mask to bring everything back in and have a look. Everything is looking so nice and amazing. Now of course, we need to adjust the subject
according to the new background. So with the Subject layer selected, click
on the Adjustment layer icon and choose Curves. Now, we just need to add a little bit of contrast. So with the hand here selected, I’ll just
click on the dark area and just bring it down just like that, and click on the bright area
and bring it up. Okay, now, it is also affecting the Background,
if you have a look right here. If I turn off and on the Subject, it’s also
affecting the Background. We don’t want that. We just want to limit it to the Subject. So simply click on Create Clipping Mask button. And there we have it. It’s just limited to the Subject. Now, we didn’t want to affect the color. So simply try changing the Blend Mode from
Normal to Luminosity. That way it won’t affect the color when you
just work with the Curves. That’s how you can easily use Solid Color
to extract shadows. Now, let me give you one more tip, you can
also change the color of the shadow by double clicking on the symbol of the Adjustment layer
of the Solid Color right there, and you can change it to whatever you like – a reddish
shadow, bluish shadow. And also if it doesn’t look dark enough, you
can also do this – hit OK and then change the Blend Mode from Normal to Multiply, because
Multiply is a Blend Mode which darkens. That will make sure that the shadow is always
darkening the image. So we can change it back to black or whatever
color you’d like, whatever color shadow you would want. We can change this kind of blue and make it
even darker to create a kind of blue shadow But anyway, I think the original was fine. Just giving you a tip in case you want to
change the color of the shadow for a Composite. And you might have to do that in some cases. Now, what if this technique doesn’t work? No problem, I have another technique. Go watch this video. And we have more videos linked up in the description. So for shadow extraction, just a quick little
recap. First of all we need to start with extracting
the subject. Always separate the subject first. Then we need to extract the shadows using
Solid Color along with Channels. Now, keep in mind, you might need to clean
up the surface where the shadow is falling first like we did with the Content Aware. Then, simply make a selection based on the
brightness level, you can just individually select any Channel where the shadow is the
darkest and where there’s the highest contrast between the shadow and the surrounding areas. Hold the Ctrl or Command, click on the thumbnail
of that Channel to make a selection and then create a Solid Color Adjustment layer and
you might have to invert it to just be applicable on the shadow areas. Once you have created the shadow, you can
just bring in new backgrounds. Also, you might want to clean up the Shadow
Mask. Sorry about that. Hold the Alt key or the Option key, click
on the mask of the Shadow and then just paint with Overlay Blend Mode on the areas which
are not the shadows, in black. Those areas will go away. If you want to just increase the intensity
of the shadows, paint with white on the areas where the shadows are falling with the Overlay
Blend Mode. And that’s practically pretty much it. And then you can use any of the techniques
that we have discussed in hundreds of tutorials to match the elements of the Composite. I hope this tutorial helped you and if it
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