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Then and Now: Solid Background Fix


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I have a client who asked me to create an image of her (and spouse) to imitate an older one they had done years ago. (I have a cell phone pic of the older image, if needed.) I asked her about the background. She said that didn't matter, that she was only concerned about the pose and which way they were looking. Upon viewing them, she told me she liked them but didn't care for the background. So I created a rough draft of a solid background to see if that might be what she wanted. She said yes, it's pretty close. But she chose a different image (from same set/pose). I know my method is crude. So my question is: what is the proper way to do this? Thank you. 



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The sensible approach is to choose a background colour which is as close as possible to the colour that's already there.  I'm talking about the light brown of the wall.  Will that be ok?

This is for two reasons:

  • The more different the colour from original, the harder it is to mask (as I'm sure you're aware);
  • The light colour you chose in your mockup makes the subjects look dark by comparison.  Kinda quasi-backlit, if you know what I mean.

So, even though you've shown her the light colour in your mockup, will she be ok with darker (wall) colour?

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When I showed her the white version, she wasn't sure if she wanted it to be white or a dark color. She asked to see it darker, but I didn't have a darker version ready to show. We talked about possibly using the color of hubby's shirt. But if that complicates things, then light brown will do just fine.   

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Download the PSD file

This is the easiest method I know, but it's NOT easy.

You'll need to have read these two:

Basically, you set up the gradient layer as accurately as possible, then duplicate it twice.  The bottom two have black masks, and are set to Screen and Multiply blend modes.

You mask the top layer (using this where you can) and go fairly close to the hair.  Then you start very patiently (with a very low opacity brush) you darken and lighten the difficult areas near the hair, using the Multiply and Screen layers respectively.  Paint on those layers until the areas match the gradient as closely as possible.

Repeat, this is NOT easy.  Allow at least an hour, maybe more.

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