Composite Workflow Part 1 - Creative Photoshop Techniques

Renee Robyn teaches the art of dream-like composite photography

For composite photographers, creating images is bound only by imagination. In this tutorial, Renee Robyn shows her effective techniques for creating ethereal images while maintaining a feeling of realism. Her advanced post-production methods are the central element to creating her highly polished looks.

Fantasy Photoshop Techniques with Composite Photographs

Dream like photographs with incredible realism can be built from a series of different, and often unrelated, components. Renee Robyn is know across the globe for her ability to push the limits of advanced Photoshop techniques in building her unique composite photos.

In this post production only tutorial, Renee takes you through every step of her process. The composite tutorial starts with a look at fresh ideas to use Photoshop tools to better maximize post production time. Renee moves on to build the image we are calling, “Ice Warrior,” from scratch where you see Renee take the image from basic concept to it’s final polish.

You will learn the importance of the following Photoshop methods in composite photography:

  • Masking and Isolation
  • Directional Lighting
  • Texture and Color Grading

Although the Photoshop tools used in this photography tutorial may be familiar, Renee presents new ways to use them in creating imaginative and compelling composite images.

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    • Thumbnail for GETTING STARTED / Flow & Opacity
      Flow & Opacity (3:44)
      Welcome to Creative Photoshop Techniques with Renee Robyn. Dive right into this creative retouching tutorial, establishing a solid foundation and understanding of Photoshop's brush tool. Differentiate and define the functions of flow and opacity, using examples to setup proper workflow.

    • Thumbnail for GETTING STARTED / Morphing Tools
      Morphing Tools (22:27)
      Follow retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she explores creative and practical examples using Photoshop's powerful morphing tools. Examine warp, puppet warp, transform, and free transform to enhance your compositing and retouching capabilities. Enhance your practical skills for blending and disguising textures for multipurpose application. Leverage the power of liquefy to control shape and form of fabric in natural, realist way.

    • Thumbnail for GETTING STARTED / Revealing Tools
      Revealing Tools (13:46)
      In this section, explore some of Renee Robyn's early compositing work. Dissect mistakes that she identifies in practical examples and how to avoid them. Learn to create solid methodology, using native tools within Photoshop, to identify disparate elements in an image. Develop an eye for what makes professional compositing and build the foundation for achieving those results.

    • Thumbnail for GETTING STARTED / Smart Objects
      Smart Objects (11:33)
      For this example, listen as retoucher, Renee Robyn, discusses her career in photography. Hear how she almost quit the industry and what ultimately helped her to reignite her creative spark. Learn how smart objects create a non-destructive, flexible workflow in retouching, particularly as it relates to compositing.

    • Thumbnail for GETTING STARTED / Brushes
      Brushes (18:50)
      Unlock the power and efficiency of Photoshop brushes. Understand how a brush works, how it relates to transparency, and creating effective masks for compositing work. Learn to create a custom brush and save it as a preset for your retouching workflow.

    • Thumbnail for GETTING STARTED / Color Adjustments
      Color Adjustments (22:22)
      Continue to build a toolset for compositing, focusing on editing color. Manipulate Image Adjustments, blend modes, shadow and highlights, masking and painting to create compelling color work for your images.

    • Thumbnail for GETTING STARTED / Manipulating Color
      Manipulating Color (42:09)
      Transition from learning a variety of techniques to direct application inside of a workflow. In this section, follow retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she uses different example images to manipulate color, atmosphere and textures, building on the knowledge you have been building across each stage. Shift incredibly brilliant and light hair, to something dark and atmospheric. Leverage channel masks, color range selection, curves and adjustment layers for creative new looks.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Building a Composite
      Building a Composite (23:30)
      In this second part of Creative Photoshop Techniques, follow retoucher Renee Robyn in building a composite from start to finish. Build an amazing composite image - the Ice Warrior. Follow methodical and procedural processes for compositing while learning to experiment without a firm creative guide or plan. Cull through a variety of elements, work on subject placement, and select a background plate. Build out a rough composition to create a solid base. Consider perspective, direction of light, and atmospheric elements that will ultimately blend to create a realist, creative composite portrait image.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Creating a Background
      Creating a Background (16:15)
      Adapt to creative inspiration, scrapping one background element for something better. Build a composite background from multiple elements for a more dynamic perspective, story, and mood. Reposition elements, manipulate blend modes, adjust scaling to refine and push for the best combination of elements. Consider color scheme and tone and the relationship between the environment and subject. Paint highlight and shadow to begin integrating elements for a realistic and natural blend.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Masking
      Masking (33:15)
      For this section, learn to create a precise and clean subject extraction, creating a professional mask for the Ice Warrior. Using channels, curves, and brushes create a custom mask as you build up the elements of the composite artwork. Blend edges, build transitions, preserve detail - and even learn good body posture and repetitive motion techniques for optimizing your workflow in complex tasks that take intensive time and focus.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Lighting & Textures
      Lighting & Textures (14:43)
      With a clean subject extraction, begin compositing focusing on lighting and texture. Manipulate hue and saturation, leverage your knowledge of flow and opacity, layering the independent image elements into a more cohesive whole. Dodge and burn, considering perspective, dimension, and the shape of light to create a realistic, dimensional image.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Cloak Adjustments
      Cloak Adjustments (19:05)
      With the main elements of foreground and background beginning to blend, begin to hone in on more specific details of the composite. Examine reflections, color relationships and transitions between subject and background into a more realistic harmony. Leverage the power of paint brushes, completely changing the heroic, deep red of the Ice Warrior's cloak into a more mysterious and moodier green.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Wardrobe Adjustments
      Wardrobe Adjustments (21:03)
      With the Ice Warrior's cloak transformed, focus on more targeted areas of the hero's wardrobe. Create smoother transitions and integration into a new color palette, comparing each wardrobe component to each other, as well as the environment and overall composite. Learn the art of compositing focusing on the tiniest details, preserving texture, manipulating tone. Continue to shape light and craft dimension through painting, masking, and blur filtering.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Atmosphere
      Atmosphere (7:29)
      Shift your focus from subject back out to the global elements of the composite. Focus on one of the most important elements of compositing - atmosphere. Begin blocking in plates of snow textures with a dimensional approach across the foreground and background. Manipulate blend modes, opacity, painting textures to create believable environmental elements that ground the Ice Warrior within the environment, while adding additional mood and story.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Snow Elements
      Snow Elements (21:17)
      With atmospheric snow elements integrated across the environment, follow retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she experiments with snow elements that interact directly with the Ice Warrior subject, to create more grounding realism within the scene.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Additional Elements
      Additional Elements (27:24)
      After finalizing the targeted snow elements on the Ice Warrior, focus on the subjects eyes to create mood and story elements for effect. Watch as retoucher, Renee Robyn, iterates and improvises to create a burning, fiery ember element to the Ice Warrior's eyes. Follow the creative path, developing a different more menacing mood to this fantasy composite image.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Color Adjustments
      Color Adjustments (17:26)
      Expand back out to a wider perspective of the entire composite image. Shift from working in target areas to move the composite towards the final touches. In this section, focus on manipulating color across the environment. Open the composite image into Adobe Camera RAW for clarity manipulation. Leverage the power and flexibility of color lookup tables to iterate through a variety of styles and moods. Blend and mask targeted color for rich compelling vibrancy.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Cleanup
      Cleanup (10:31)
      For this final stage of the composite, use frequency separation, high pass filtering, and sharpening to enhance and embellish details across the image. Finalize lighting direction, reflection and specularity for a finishing pass of detail to complete this fantasy composite image - the Ice Warrior.

    • Thumbnail for ICE WARRIOR / Recap
      Recap (9:05)
      Congratulations on successfully completing Creative Photoshop Techniques with retoucher, Renee Robyn. We encourage you continue practicing these techniques. Try, fail, and create. We want to see your artwork. Share your progress with our community and reach out with questions and feedback. We look forward to seeing what you will create!


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