Inserting People Tutorial

DURATION - 12 minutes


The Written Tutorial

1. References:

When inserting people into an image it is important to look at photographs and other paintings to see how they are integrated. The painting used for reference in this image was by ‘Diego Velazquez’ - Las Meninas. This was due to him creating the people to be the main composition of the image and them creating a story. This painting was good to reflect on as it is what I intended to create within my image. People will bring composition and depth to an image so look at others work and photographs to see patterns in the layout of people that is used.

Las Meninas - Diego Velazquez

2. Cutting out:

In order to find good people that will fit within the image you are creating it is important to research and not rush straight into it. Have a look on the internet and find people that have the correct lighting and are at the right angle. Once you have found a person you need to cut them out. I use the pen tool to do this as it is one of the quicker methods. Trace around the outside of the image until you have connected the pen line, now right click and press ‘ make selection’ this will make a selection around where you have made the pen line, the mask button should then be used to create a mask of this area. Now hit the 'B' key on the keyboard, this will bring up the brush, use the brush to paint around the image and to neaten it. Make sure that you are painting on the mask and not the actual image! The colours used in this technique are black and white but they don’t technically work as colours. What the black colour does is paint into the image removing areas whereas the white colour acts as an eraser and paints the image back from where it has been cut out. In order to switch the colours easily use the 'X' button on the keyboard. Once the image is cut out right click on the mask and select ‘apply layer mask’ this will get rid of the actual image and just provide a neat cut out version.

Right Click and Select 'Make Selection'

Neaten the image using the Brush

Make sure the cutout is to size

3. Adjusting the Levels:

The cut out should now be placed onto the image, find a suitable position and ensure that it is the correct size. To start off with the image won’t fit very well as it will be much too bright and the whites and blacks will appear much to contrasty.

Create a black and white filter on the whole image by using the 'create new fill or adjustment' button and selecting black and white. Now create a levels layer by using the 'create new fill or adjustment' button again and selecting levels; in order to attach this to the layer where the cut out is use the ‘alt’ key and click on the layer.

Drag out the white points in the picture by dragging the main slider to the left and pull up the black slider to the right to adjust the black points. This will ensure that the picture will fit in the image much more easily.

Create a Black and White Filter

Adjust the Levels to make it fit

4. Adjusting the Colour Balance:

The next step is to adjust the colouring of the image, again go to the 'create new fill or adjustment' button and select ‘colour balance’; attach this to the levels layer by using the ‘alt’ button and clicking on the level. Adjust the sliders of colour to create the effect needed.

Adjust the Colouring

5. Creating People Shadows:

The next steps are to create all the different shadows, this includes contact shadows and the main diffuse shadow. In order to create the main diffuse shadow you should duplicate the original cut out layer, to do this you should hold the 'alt' button and drag the layer below the original this will then create a copy. By pressing ‘ctrl T’ this will transform the image and allow you to adjust it, in this case we are creating a shadow so the image should be distorted, to get this option right click and select ‘distort’. Now drag the image in the direction that it should be on the floor. Press ‘enter’ once the shadow is in the right place.

By pressing ‘ctrl U’ this will bring up the ‘hue/saturation’ pop up, in order to make the image appear as a shadow both the ‘saturation’ and ‘lightness’ should both be dragged down to -100 once this has been done select ‘ok’. The shadow will appear jet black to start off with until you adjust the ‘fill’ option, this will make it more opaque as a shadow will never appear 100% jet black.

Distort the Cutout

Drag the Shadow to the correct Position

Drag the lightness & saturation sliders down

Change the Opacity of the Shadow

6. Contacts Shadows and Rim Light

In order to create the contact shadows create a new layer by using the new layer button. On this layer use a soft brush under the ‘soft light’ option use the colour black, be careful because the opacity of the colour should be adjusted as no contact shadow will appear pure black. Paint the contact shadow on where part of the image touches the ground.


Rim light is another great effect that that will create a more 3D feel to the object. Create a new layer above the colour balance of the cut out layer now connect the two layers by using the ‘alt’ key and clicking again. Once this is connected select a soft brush under the ‘soft light’ option and use the colour white. Paint around the cut out in the places that the light would hit it (use reference photos to see how this effect works in real life) but be careful not to go over board.

Use the Soft Light Option

Once the rim light has been created invert the colour to black by using the X button on the key board, use the same brush or different but ensure that the setting is still in ‘soft light’ mode, also make sure that the opacity of the colour isn’t 100% it should be around 40% to create the best effect. Use the brush to paint onto the cutout where the darker areas would appear, for example, the parts that are nearer to the ground would appear darker.

Paint on the Contact Shadows

And voila! That should be all you need to do to insert people into an image!

The Final Image