Photoshop tutorial: Cut and paste cool background textures

Take cut-and-paste further by compositing elements onto textured, colour backgrounds. Brian Grant shows you how on a piece of his fantastic work.

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Image backgrounds in digital art can be more than simply act as incidental scenery to a piece of work. Rather, with good planning and some honed colour skills, it’s possible for backgrounds to frame an image in an incredible variety of ways.

For this tutorial, leading designer and artist Brian Grant shows us how he has created one of his latest pieces, and in the process using the background to transform a basic image of a model to create a futuristic work of art.

The key to this is to successfully manage a great image extraction of the foreground object, then use the gradient tool to transform a background.

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Step 1 The image that we start with is Rachel, a model from a recent fashion show. To start, convert the image from RGB to CMYK by choosing Image > Mode > CMYK.

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Step 2 Choose Filter > Extract, and choose 100 as your brush size. Draw around the model, and then fill it, then click OK. Everything that is not filled in will be deleted. If your hand is not that steady you can hold down Shift and click to create the outlines more easily.

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Step 3

Now to clean up the image. Add a layer mask by clicking on the rectangle with the circle inside it located at the bottom of the layers panel and, using the Pen tool, do a detailed cut out of the model. For the softer areas such as her hair, I use the Eraser Brush. I start with it on 17 pixels, but vary it for smaller and larger hairs. The hair at this stage does not have to be perfect. They will be adjusted once the background texture is added. Do not try to be perfect – just get into a rhythm and things will seem to flow.

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Step 4

Finally, this is the model cut out with coloured background. The cut out is placed on a different coloured background to show that the image is cut out properly. Test on different colours because sometimes cut outs look better on light colours than dark colours.

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Step 5 Now we will create a background for the model to stand on. For the background of the main image, create a radial gradient from the colours of C: 13 M: 9 Y: 11 K: 0 at one side and C: 45 M: 27 Y: 17 K: 0. The image will have a blue tint, so all of the future layers of colours will need to reflect this.

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