Still trying to blur backgrounds in PSE7

Discussion in 'Photoshop Challenges' started by lvcrtrs, Aug 20, 2009.

  1. lvcrtrs

    lvcrtrs TPF Noob!

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    Well, I tried someones suggestion to blur the background on a separate layer with the following result. I was thrilled I could blur it because its my first layer try (there was a fence in the back) but now the bird looks unnaturally sharp, and like I superimposed him on the background especially along the back of his neck and under his chin (and if I think it looks too sharp that's saying something).

    I think I selected the bird with the magnetic outline tool and copied to another layer. Then blurred the other layer. So it's a step in the right direction but I need someone to help know what to do from here to make it better. Sherry

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm not sure if Elements allows layer masks (it should) but if so, try this. Rather than selecting the bird (or any subject) and coping them to another layer. Just duplicate the whole layer (so that you have two identical layers). Then apply the blur to the top layer (it's good practice to always leave your bottom (background) layer untouched).

    Now you want to add a layer mask to the top layer. A layer mask allows you to hide/show just parts of a layer. So turn off the top (blury) layer (click the eye icon in the layers pallet). Now use the lasso (or whatever) to select around the subject. Then turn the blurry layer back on and make it active. Then click on the 'new mask' icon in the layers pallet. If it's backward (blurry subject), then undo it and inverse your selection (under the select menu) and try it again.

    This should get you pretty close to where you are now. But the advantage of a layer mask, is that you can always edit/change it. So make the layer mask active (click on it) then choose a small brush size and zoom in on the edges of it. You can use the colors black and white to paint the mask on or off. So rather than the smooth edge that the lasso selection gave you, you can go in and around the individual hairs & feathers on your bird. This will take a long time, but the results will be better than what you have.

    It may also help you, if you add a solid color layer between your two layers. So add a new adjustment layer and choose solid color. Pick a color that contrasts with the subject and background. Drag the new layer in between your two layers and set the opacity down to around 30%. That should make it easier to see where you are painting the mask on or off. When you are done, just trash that colored layer.

    You can also adjust the size, shape and opacity of your bush, which can make it easier to paint the edges. Doing things like this is also easier with a pen & tablet, than with a mouse. Wacom
     
  3. lvcrtrs

    lvcrtrs TPF Noob!

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    Thank you Mike
     
  4. Soocom1

    Soocom1 TPF Noob!

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    Keep in mind (I don't know if PSE has this or not) but feather the edges of your mask. This allows a fade out of the sharp image to the fuzzy image. This takes time and is something of a special move, but it cleans up the image and makes it look more natural.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You have to be careful with feathering the edges. A very small feathering can help to 'dull down' that hard edge between blur and no-blur...but too much and it will bleed into your subject or background.

    An actual image with a shallow DOF will have hard edges, so if you can emulate that, it's probably the best way...but it can be hard with a complicated subject.
     
  6. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    PSE7 doesn't support layer masks per se, but you can use adjustment layers to do layer masks. It adds an extra step, but gives basically the same functionality of layer masks.

    Here's a tutorial that explains the process of doing this.

    Photoshop Elements: Create a Layer Mask
     
  7. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    I don't think this is what's causing your brain to sound the "fake image" alarm. If you look very, very closely at the bird's feathers and other detail and compare it to the masked edge you'll see that the masked edge is sharper than the bird's detail. This is the error that most commonly triggers the "fake image" alarm.

    When you mask, you can't use any pixel level auto-masking tool that doesn't some method of bluring the selection or mask edge. No image is perfectly sharp down to the pixel so no masking should be. If your selection/masking tool has a feathering option it needs to be adjusted to match this particualr images level of blur along the edge you wish to mask.

    I use the full Photoshop (currently CS4) and use Layer Masks for almost all masking. I manually mask edges by painting on the Layer Masks with the Brush tool adjusted so that its blured edge matches the edge in the image I'm masking. Every image is different so this blur has to be continually adjusted.

    If you use some auto-selection tool (Magic Wand, ...) to do a selection and then use the Paint Bucket to fill on the Layer Mask you will initially have too sharp an edge on the mask. You need to then use one of the bluring filters (e.g. Gausian Blur, ...) to blur the edge. If done carefully, this can work well. Using the Smudge Tool can also work if handled very carefully.
     
  8. lvcrtrs

    lvcrtrs TPF Noob!

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    Soocom1, Gaerek and Dwig,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I think I'm gonna need one of those tutor schools like Sylvin you send the kids to for some 1 on 1. :???:
     

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