While I am sitting on the couch coughing up what is left of my lungs, I thought I would make a tutorial for you guys. This is just a simple one to show you how I make my sim photos nice and clean. It’s long but it’s easy.
Before we proceed, a word about screenshot-taking
You must take your screenshots in a very well lit room (see my photo studio guide for help if you need it). The walls need to be a flat colour, no patterns. It doesn’t matter what colour you use. I use white because I like it, it looks clean and bright. The main thing is that it’s flat, and that the lighting is good; this will make selecting bits from your screenies in photoshop a lot easier.
Cut a hole in a box…
Wait… wrong tutorial *cough* Ok so, assuming you have your screenshots all ready to go and Photoshop is open, open up your first screenshot. Make sure the layer tab is open and visible. My screenshot is below:
You can click on it to enlarge it. Those poles are just the light stands I use in my photo studio home.
Right-click on the Background layer and select “Layer from Background” (see image below)
Then click on the New Layer button. You can see in the image below that your old background layer has become Layer 0 and the new layer you just created is called Layer 1.
Then, lastly, drag the empty Layer 1 down to the bottom so it’s underneath Layer 0.
STEP 2 – Selecting Unwanted Areas
Click on Layer 0 – your screenshot layer – making sure it’s selected. Using the Magic Selection Tool (or whatever the eff it’s called) I want you to select all of the area directly surrounding your sim. You do this by holding the shift button on your keyboard as you click on areas with the wand. You don’t have to get pedantic about the outer areas of the screenshot, just make sure that the area touching your sim is selected. You can see below that I haven’t bothered with the light stands. Once your selection is nice and neat you can proceed to step 4.
Step 3 – Contracting Your Selection
Don’t deselect anything!
With the area still selected, Click on the Select menu up the top. Then click on Modify, then on Contract. A little box will pop up and ask you to enter a number. Enter the number 2. This will contract the selection by 2 pixels. By contract I mean it will move the selection away from the sims body by 2 pixels. You can play around and try 1 pixel if you want. It’s up to you.
Below you can see how it ends up looking once the selection has been contracted.
Step 4 – Feathering Your Selection and Deleting Unwanted Areas
If you screw up and accidentally deselect your area just remember you can Edit > Undo at any time. Now, with your area still selected and contracted I want you to go up the top and click on the Select menu again but this time I want you to click on Feather. Once again a box will pop up asking for a number. Type in 1. This will feather (blur) the edges of your selection by 1 pixel.
Once you have feathered your selection I want you to hit the Delete key on your keyboard. The area remains selected but you’ve deleted the coloured area around your sim! You can see your transparent Layer 1 underneath. You can also see that there is a tiny outline around your sim. That’s the 2 pixels of colour that you left, the edges of which will be blurred nicely. Hard to see with a transparent lower layer so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Step 5 – Cleanup
Ok it’s cleanup time. Click on the Select menu and hit Deselect so that the area you were working on is no longer selected. Choose the Eraser tool. Make the eraser quite large so it doesn’t take too long to erase everything and make sure it’s a hard brush. If the brush is soft you may inadvertently erase a bit of your sim.
Now erase everything else apart from your sim!
You will be left with a nice, clean transparent background. The only thing on your Layer 0 now will be your sim.
If you choose the Selector arrow tool and grab your sim , you can move it around the page. You can also resize your sim using the corner squares. Just remember to maintain the aspect ratio as you resize the sim (more on that in the image below)
Step 6 – Dragging From One Document to Another
If you only plan on using the single screenshot of your sim you can skip to step 15, otherwise continue.
If you plan on using multiple shots of your sim in the one picture then you need to repeat the above steps on all the screenshots you want to use. So, edit the layers, select, contract, feather, delete, cleanup all your screenies.
Then you will be left with multiple edited sim shots you can play with. I have an example below. I have another shot of my sim boy that I want to move to the document we are working on. So I just grab him with the selector arrow, and drag him next to the boy on the document we were playing with earlier:
Once he’s dragged over you end up with something like this:
So, as you can see, once your screenshots are cleaned up it’s as simple as grabbing and dragging your sims onto the document you are working with. Then you can arrange them however you like.
Step 7 – Bottom Layer
Now we go back to that first empty layer we created. Layer 1. It’s been sitting there having an existential crisis.
Why am I here? What is my purpose? I feel empty inside.
Poor thing. Anyway… Now I want you to select that empty layer. Once it’s selected use the bucket fill tool and fill it with white by using the tool to click anywhere on the document.
Your bottom layer is now white!
Step 8 – Placement of Your Sims
Now you can move the sims around and put them wherever you want. There are two ways of doing this. One way is to right-click using the arrow tool on the sim you want to move then select his layer when the little window pops up. Once his layer is selected you can move him about. The other way is to click on the appropriate layer in the layer window then grab and move the sim using the arrow tool.
I’m going to grab the boy on the left and move him so he looks like he’s standing in front of the original boy. So I just select his layer and move him with the arrow tool
If you want to add some text, move to the next step. Otherwise you can end here.
Step 9 – Adding And Styling Text
So I usually have some text on my pictures. Text is pretty easy, all you have to do is select the Text tool then click on the document and type. The text can be edited once it’s on the page. I’m going to type “Yeah, Bitches” and move it so it’s in front of the boys.
When you click on your text using the text tool and select it, you can edit it using the options that appear in the top menu. Things such as font/colour/size/style.
Ok now my “Yeah, Bitches” is kinda hard to read because it’s in front of my sims. There’s an easy way to fix that. Make sure your text layer is selected. Then go to the Layer menu up the top and select Layer Style. Then select Outer Glow.
A box will pop up. Now you can play around in here, I’m just going to tell you what I usually do with my white screenies. Change Blend Mode to Normal. Opacity to 100%. Make the little colour square White. Take the Spread slider to just under 50% anywhere in the 40′s will do. Check the anti-aliased box. If you have the preview box checked you will be able to see how every step changes the text in your document.
This is the end result:
- If you have multiple text layers and want them all to have the same layer style such as the Outer Glow I showed above, you can add the layer style to one of the text layers then go to the Layer menu, Layer Style, then click on Copy Layer Style. Then all you have to do is select each text layer the go back to the Layer Style menu and click Paste Layer Style.
- Your layer window is quite handy. You can double-click on the layer name and change it to whatever you want. This is very useful for big jobs that require a lot of layers.
- Layer Arrangement is important. If a layer is at the top of the layer list then it will be in front of every other layer on your picture. If it’s on the bottom of the layer list then it will be underneath every other layer on your picture. You can drag the layers around to order them in the layer window.
- This tutorial can be done in different colours. If your photo studio walls are black, then you would just replace any instance of white in the tutorial with black. The same goes for any colour walls.
- Remember to crop your images and resize them so they aren’t too massive. When you resize your images make sure the quality is still decent, try not to make them crunchy and pixellated.
- If you are uploading sims to a website or somewhere like MTS remember to be consistent with the size of your images. Posts and submissions look a hell of a lot better if the layout is neat and the images are all the same size.
- If you are making a collage, keep all the images the same size and try placing them onto a larger layer so they have a nice border. You can also play around with Outer Glow and Inner Glow, they will give your pictures a nice border or edge.
I hope this helps someone out there!