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Whether you’re a Photoshop beginner or a well-seasoned pro, making the perfect Photoshop composite can be a challenge. How do you do it? Will the instructor (if you have one) check plagiarism? Does photo manipulation automatically count as plagiarism? Especially for a new user, it can seem like a massive project, with many pitfalls and moments of frustration. But it doesn’t have to be! By following the steps listed below, even beginner Photoshop students will be able to turn out a magnificent piece that is bound to impress! So break out the computer, pour a cup of coffee and get busy on a work of photo manipulation magnificence!

First: Layers, and How to Master Them
One of the most important parts of Photoshop are the layers. These layers, customizable to a very high degree, let you determine what is visible and what should be tucked away behind another layer. Unlike what most people think, these aren’t traditionally white. Instead, they’re actually transparent! Anything put there will be opaque, but the background itself simply isn’t visible. For a composite, you’ll need at least four layers: Background, your subject, foreground and the finishing touches. The order should be just as listed here with the background on the bottom. Not having the right order can throw off your composite.

Second: Isolate Your Subject
Here, you’ll need to take whatever your subject is and isolate it. What does that mean? Basically, you’ll be cutting them out and separating from the rest of the image. This allows you to smoothly transition it into your new image, without worrying about the original background or effects. As usual with Photoshop, there’s a nifty tool or two that you can make use of to do this. Newer editions have the ability to automatically select your subject, making it simpler than ever to isolate them. However, if that is a little too imprecise for you, or you don’t have the appropriate software, the old-fashioned lasso tool will work, as well. You just have to be a little more patient.

Third: Replace the Background
Now it’s time to make the transition! The first step is finding an appropriate background that goes with the subject and fits the overall theme of the project. An instructor won’t treat this like essay plagiarism, so don’t worry too much about “copying”; try to stay original, but look for inspiration. Besides, it isn’t as simple to find plagiarism here as it is to check essay for plagiarism in other classes. The next thing to be aware of is that the lighting needs to match the subject, as well. Lighting effects, both in the background layers and in the foreground layers, can work wonders at this stage.

Freeze Frame!
Let’s take a moment here to discuss plagiarism in more depth. Yes, it (or, more aptly, academic dishonesty) can still be found here, if you’re in a classroom setting. Stealing someone else’s work or blatantly copying it are bad ideas. While your instructor can’t exactly check your project online using sites such as https://phdessay.com/online-plagiarism-checker/, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to identify what isn’t yours. This level of academic dishonesty can lead to a lot of trouble, up to and including expulsion from your institution. In short, it’s better just to work at it rather than to steal something and hope no one notices.

Fourth: Small Adjustments, Big Difference
At this point, you should have the bulk of your work done. The image you see on the screen should look extremely close to what you were expecting it to be like at the end. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re finished; not by a long shot! In fact, now it’s time to add little details that will make a world of difference in how your composite is viewed. Add small details that would be appropriate to the environment. For example, light reflecting off of the surfaces or visible breath from an animal in the cold. These little realistic pieces make the entire image come to life.

Fifth: Saving Properly
So, everything is done. There isn’t actual photo manipulation left to do. You should just save it as your standard .psd, right? Maybe as a .jpg or a .png? Sure, if it’s just a small, unimportant project, you could do that. But, if this is an assignment or an image that you feel is important enough to warrant, you should consider using a larger document format. To do this, choose to save your image as a .psb, rather than the .psd mentioned above. It takes up more room, but it also looks better in the long run.

Making the perfect Photoshop composite is the goal for many students interested in this form of art. For beginners and even experts, it can seem more than difficult. Knowing the proper steps can, however, make it simpler than ever before. Follow the steps above, and you’ll have a stunning composite before you know it!


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