How to create a kitchen composition in Photoshop CS4

Published: 20th January 2012
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There are some skills that you may want to learn in Photoshop, and though these skills can be taught individually, you can learn so much more by working through a project and experimenting. Because of this, we're going to look at how to create a kitchen composition in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and learn how to work with different transform commands, how to select objects, defringe, and create shadows.

Open the first object (a picture of a mug) and a background texture in Photoshop. You can use the resources provided or find free stock photos and textures by doing a Google search; just try to look for an object that's on a white or black background. Look at the sizes of the documents by pressing Ctrl + Alt + I. You'll have to change the size of the bigger document to match the height or width of the smaller one. In my case, my background is smaller, so I made the height of my object document the same size as the height for the background document.

The first thing we want to do is select the texture background by pressing Ctrl + A. Copy it and then paste it in the object document. Then, double click the object background layer to create a layer from the background; this way we can edit it. Move the texture layer beneath the object layer.

Next, we need to get rid of the background. Since my background is plain white, it's relatively easy to do. Select the magic wand tool in the Tools panel on the left hand side of the workspace. Change the Tolerance (along the top bar) to 32 and select the anti-alias check box so the selection will be nice and smooth without jagged edges. Click anywhere on the white background to select it all; there may be an area (such as inside the handle) that doesn't get selected. To add this area to the current selection, hold down the Shift key while clicking on it. Then, press Delete to get rid of the white selection.

Making sure the object layer is selected, click on Layer then go down to the bottom of the list and choose Matting, then Defringe. This will get rid of any extra white halo around the mug, leaving us with a nice, crisp edge. You can leave the default value of 1 px.

In this case, the mug is too large for what we want to do, so we need to resize it. To do this, press Ctrl + T to transform it. Holding down the Shift key, drag one of the corners in to make it smaller. When you are satisfied with the size, be sure to click the checkmark along the top bar.

Now we want to add a counter to the composition. Open the picture of the counter top. We're not going to use the whole thing, so we need to make a selection. To do this, click on the polygonal lasso tool. If you don't see it, click on the little black button at the corner of the lasso tool and select it from the list.

Select the middle portion of the counter top (or any portion that has the lighting you want) by clicking points to create corners and drawing the lines out. I've drawn around the edges of the middle portion because that's where the lighting is the clearest and you can tell what angles the shadows are at. Copy the selection and paste it into the kitchen composition document.

Press Ctrl + T to transform the counter top and scale it down to size. Once you're satisfied with the size, you need to change the angle a bit to make it fit in better. To do this, click on Edit, then Transform, then Distort. Drag the corners until it comes close to the angles of the mug.

You might find that the mug isn't positioned at the right place on our table/counter top. You can always use the move tool to reposition it. Once you're satisfied with that, it's time to create the shadow for the mug. Create a new layer for some shadowing by clicking Layer, New, then Layer.

Click on the brush tool in the Tools panel and then click on the color picker at the bottom of the panel; choose a very dark gray. Next, click on the drop down next to the brush tip preview and change the size to 100 px and the hardness to 0%. Also be sure to change the opacity to 50% so the texture of the counter top will show through and make it look more like a real shadow.

Brush lightly along the bottom of the cup, tracing the contour. Be sure not to make the shadow line too thick in the front since the shadows on the counter are angled away from the mug. Then select the mug layer and duplicate it by right clicking on it in the Layers panel and clicking Duplicate Layer.

Drag the layer copy beneath the original layer. Then press Ctrl + T to scale it and make it slightly larger than the original copy. Use the move tool to align it at the right side/right corner.

Press Ctrl + T again to rotate the larger mug. Put the pointer at the bottom left corner and move it counterclockwise to rotate it backwards.

We need to make the larger mug into a shadow, so we have to make it one solid color. Click on the fx at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Blending options.

Click on color overlay and choose a very dark gray color from the color picker. Then click OK.

Now we need to fix the shadow so the angle matches the mug and the light source more closely. To do this, we need to skew it, so click on Edit, Transform, then Skew. When the bounding box appears around the object, pull the corners until it looks something like the second picture below.

Once you have your shadow's angle right, then you need to do some erasing to make it better fit the counter space. Click on the eraser tool in the Tools panel and set the size to 70 px and the hardness to 0%.

Erase the shadow where it goes over the back edge of the counter top. Since the brush hardness has been turned down to 0%, it gives us a nice, soft, feathered edge.

Now we need to make the other edges look softer and more feathered. Click on the brush tool and set the size to 40 px and the hardness to 0%. Then brush along the edges before going over the rest of the shadow. This will keep the entire shadow one opacity when we make it transparent later. Then, once you make sure both shadow layers are next to each other, right click on the top shadow layer and click Merge Down.

Click on the opacity dropdown in the Layers panel for the shadow layer and turn it down to 50%. This will let the counter top show through, making it seem more like a real shadow.

At this point, we're almost done; we just need to do some cleaning up. One of the shadows from the counter top photo is cutting through our mug's shadow. In order to get rid of it, we need to use the clone stamp to select pixels near it and cover it up. Select the zoom tool from the Tools panel, then zoom in to the area where the shadows overlap. Click the eye next to the mug shadow layer to turn it off so we can see what we're doing, then select the clone stamp tool in the tools panel. You can select adjacent areas by holding down Alt while clicking, then brush over the shadow.

Zoom out and turn the mug shadow layer back on. If you see a bit of a line where you've painted over the shadow, select the healing brush tool (it looks like a band-aid). Brush over the area to make it blend better.

At this point, we're done. Now you know how to use a variety of tools and commands in Photoshop. With practice, you'll be able to do more and more with them and create beautiful compositions.

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