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How To Turn Real Life Into A Toy Model Set In Photoshop

Learn how to turn your photographs into fake miniature toy models with the help of Photoshop.

|  Adobe Photoshop
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Tilt-shift photography is a creative photography technique you can use to turn life-size subjects into miniature, toy-like models. As the name suggests, you can use a tilt-shift lens to create this fun effect but as these tend to cost a pretty penny, you'll probably prefer the less-expensive method of recreating the look in Photoshop. 

Before we start walking you through the process, we thought we'd give you a few tips on what type of photos work best for this as ideally, you need to be high up, looking over but not above your scene as if you try and shoot directly on top of something your shot won't have the angle that makes people believe they're looking down on a tiny model. Also, you won't be able to get the depth of field that's needed for this technique to work. 

Cities, roads, railways and valleys all work well as subjects for this tiny technique, just make sure you have a wide view and try not to pick a scene that has too much going on in it.

When it comes to people, the model version of them usually aren't too detailed so if people are in your scene, make sure they're positioned towards the back of the shot so their facial expressions and other small details aren't visible. Plus, this will also help to make them appear smaller in the shot. 

Right, onto the tutorial. 


1. Open Your Image & Find The Marquee Tool

Selection in Photoshop


Once your image is open, click on the rectangular marquee tool ( Marquee Tool) as you'll be using this to make two selections. First, draw out a rectangle towards the top of the image by clicking your left mouse cursor and dragging the shape out. Next, let go of the mouse button and hold the shift key on your keyboard as this will allow you to draw out a second rectangle without the first one vanishing. Draw out your second shape towards the bottom of the image. 

The two areas that are now surrounded by 'moving ants' will have blur applied to them shortly and this is what will trick the eye into thinking you've actually photographed a toy model. 

Note: You can feather your selection (you find this option in the top toolbar) to soften the edges of it as the change in blur to non-blur areas may be a little harsh but unfortunately, you won't know how strong/weak the transition is until you've applied the effect so it's a bit of a trial and error process. However, we found between 3-5 pixels OK. 


2. Add Lens Blur

Creating Blur


With your selection complete, go to Filter>Blur>Lens Blur and a new window will open. Here, Photoshop will automatically apply lens blur to the image but you can adjust this with the various sliders available should you wish to. When happy, click 'OK' and the effect will be applied. You then need to go to Select>Deselect to remove the selection. 


3. Boost Saturation 

Increase saturation


To further enhance the toy model illusion, increase the saturation level a little to make colours more vibrant, as they tend to be on models. To do this, go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation and pull the saturation slider to the right. 


4. Finalise The Image 

Cropping in Photoshop


All you have to do now is make any final adjustments such as cropping the edges, if they need it, then hit the save button. 


Toy car on a racetrack

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