Words & Pictures Barry Beckham/David Rowley
Turn your car back into that glossy brochure showroom model you first bought. Not possible?
Well, maybe it's easier than you think using a simply composed digital picture of your pride and joy, your PC and Photoshop 6. Don't worry if you are working in an earlier version of Photoshop as the differences are not so great that it will prevent you following the tutorial.
No car manufacturer would shoot their cars in these surroundings so your first task is to remove your pride and joy from such a fussy background. We shall be using the pen tool for this task, which is quick and versatile.
With your image on screen start by opening your layers palette from the windows menu or by using the shortcut key of F7. In Photoshop 6 you also have the option to locate your layers palette neatly tucked away at the top right of your screen with just the tab showing. Click the tab and the layers palette appears, but as soon as you start work on the image the palette disappears leaving you a cleaner workspace. In earlier versions of Photoshop F7 will toggle the palette on and off.
On opening the layers palette you will see a thumbnail of the image you have on screen. Double click the little thumbnail and a to change your default background into a layer by renaming it.
It does not matter what you title your layer and the choice is yours. Select the pen tool from the tool bar and mark a path around your car. Covert your path to a selection and call up the feather command. The feather command isfoundviaselect>feather or via the shortcut keys alt+ctrl+D.
It is important to add a degree of feather to your selections before you cut or paste. A little feather will make the joins between the elements you introduce into the picture space much more acceptable to the eye. The degree of feather will vary a little depending on the type of image you are working on and the resolution. For our image shot with a Nikon Coolpix 990 we used a feather of 1 pixel, but 1 to 2 pixels will be about right.
Once your selection is made and feathered choose inverse from the select menu and then use the cut command of ctrl+X to remove all the unwanted background and also the bits inside the windows as shown below.
For the backdrop we used a sky and water image generated using Bryce 4. This is a super piece of software and you can create wonderful naturalistic worlds, but for this project we used a simple sky and water creation. You could also use any other dramatic sky or even a gradation created in Photoshop.
Drag and drop your car transparency into your sky.
At this stage your car doesn't really fit well into the background as it doesn't reflect any of the sky, so try this next step. From within the layers palette left click on the sky/water thumbnail and drag it over the copy icon to make a duplicate.
Left click your sky/water copy and drag it above the car transparency. Your car cannot now be seen as is is sandwiched between the two other layers. Turn off your bottom layer for now by clicking the little eye on the left of the thumbnail as we have shown below.
Hold down the alt key and move the cursor over the line between the car and the sky above and two linked circles will appear. Left click and your sky will wrap around the shape of the car.
That is quite impressive, but the best is yet to come. From within the layers palette reduce the opacity to 70% and choose hard light from the blend modes as shown below.
This step makes the process even more impressive, but there's more. You will see that the colour blends well with the paint work of the car, but is not so impressive over the wheels, lights and the interior. To remedy this add a layer mask to the top layer.
Using the airbrush and by varying the size of your soft edged brush mask the wheels and other parts of the car that you don't need affected by the colour you have introduced.
Tip Hold the shift key and with your image greatly enlarged mask around the edge of the wheel arches in short straight lines. Once you reduce to the normal size your work should look pretty good as shown below.
To create a reflection of the car drag the car transparency layer down over the copy icon in the same way as you did the sky. Select the lower layer of the two. i.e. click on the layer withinthelayerspaletteandchooseedit>transform>flip vertical.
Chooseedit>free transform and a box will appear around your upside down car. Click on the centre toggle and squash the perspective of the car until it fits into the image space. This same tool will allow you to rotate and move the layer all in one operation if you wish. Finally select hard light from within the layers blend modes and the reflection will look as we have shown below.
At this stage turn off the bottom two layers and with just the top two selected choose merge visible from within the layers menu or via the short cut keys ctrl+E. This will merge your overlaid sky and car into one layer as shown below.
Repeat this process with the bottom two layers, but make sure you turn off the finished car layer first. Your layers palette should now have just the two layers.
To give your reflection a water like ripple draw out an oval selection on the bottom layer using your oval marquee tool roughly over the reflection.
Selectfilters>distort>zigzag and in the amount box select 30 and 10 in the ridges box as shown below.
Your reflection will take on a delicate ripple.
To create more interest in the background drag your finished car layer down over the copy icon in the layers palette. Select thelowerofthetwoandusing your edit>transform>distort tool from the menu bar change the shape of your car to give it almost aleaningforwardappearance.Nextchoosefilter>blur>motion blur from the menu bar and add a little blur with the angle set for zero. Finally reduce the opacity of the layer from within your layers palette to about 20% so your image now looks like the one below.
You can now copy yourcaragainandusingtheedit>transform>scale tools along with motion blur and layers opacity you can create a string of little Beetles to add to the background.
Finally call up the image containing the VW badge and using your selection tools remove the background. Drag and drop the badge into your layered composition andusingthetransform>size tool adjust the size and position.
If you really feel ambitious you could add a slight shadow beneath the car as well.
Try the same sort of techniques with your own car and see what you can come up with.