Hello! Sorry to bother you but do you have any tipps for making manips? Yours look so beautiful but I always struggle to cut out the characters neatly - thank you for your time!
Thank you! I started learning to Manip after joining the fandom and is still pretty new at this. But the pursuit of Hugh/Mads perfection and a lot of free time really motivated me to get better. Ok so here is the process of getting a good cut out (warning: long technical post ahead)
Firstly i’m going to assume you use Photoshop and is proficient with the basics. If you are just starting out i would recommend this youtube channel Phlearn that is great for learning how to use layers/masks and such.
1) Choosing your source material
Getting a good high resolution picture to cut out goes a long way towards how your picture will turn out in the end. Get the highest resolution or size you can. Usually promotional photoshoots are great because the background is usually clean and the subject is in focus. If you found the picture on google, reverse search the image to get a higher resolution one. Hugh-Dancy.Net and Madsmikkelsen.net are usually pretty good sources.
If your source is a screenshot (which often is) then you might have a bit more of work to do. Especially season 2, where the lighting comes from Bryan’s I-phone and a couple of fireflies. Get a good screenshot from a HD copy of the movie/episode if you can and then hit that Shadows and Highlights button! (Image>Adjustments>Shadows and Highlights).
Don’t worry if your the image look bad at this point. You just want to see the edges clearer to extract. You can go back in with curves later and adjust it
If the background is too similar in color to your subject e.g Hugh’s dark curls on a black background, use Levels to increase the contrast. You can turn it off later.
Sometimes the source material is just not good so no matter what you do it is not going to be perfect. Just gotta accept it and use lots of filters to cover up the flaws
2) Select and Mask
Ok, so you got your source image. There are many ways to select your subject but i use Select and Mask ( Select> Select and Mask). if you use a Magic wand or a Quick Selection tool, your selection might be acceptable if the background is clean but the selection will never be perfect. If you do, try not to use the cut tool, use a layer mask so at least you can go in with smoothing and feathering later.
So using the Select and mask
- Once in the program, use the quick selection brush to pick out a quick selection of your subject
- use the brush tool to clean up the edges. Take your time
- Now you are thinking ok, i have done that but whats the difference with just using this without going into Select and Mask. The difference is when you are dealing with Hair. Specifically the floofy, glorious out of control mess that is Hugh Dancy’s curls. Cutting out Mads’ crisco sleek head is usually pretty straight forward, even the silver wind tossed locks of Michael Kolhaas. But our murder puppy needs a bit more TLC.
Take this picture for example
Take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is Hugh Dancy. No seriously, take your time. We’ll wait. Yell at him, throw some things, bang your fist who gave you the right, sir! Get it out of your system. Ok now to continue.
The relatively white background makes it easier to cut but using a magic wand means all his pretty fly away curls gets cut off.
Go in with your select tool and get all his curls selected
Now to cut out all the white bits behind his hair, use the Refine Edge Tool and run it over the Curls. Don’t use too big a brush. Take your time. After you are done, hit that decontaminate button and load unto a new layer mask. Put a solid color layer behind your work to check the details
Ok, this looks pretty ok, we got all the curls. But usually it will look good on colors that are similar to the initial background. A dark color background will show up a multitude of flaws
In this case you gotta go in with a small brush and clean it up on your layer mask. use a small soft black brush and wipe all the white bits peeking through. If the background you will be using wont show up the flaws, then don’t bother.
3) Check it on the background of your choice. The final bits are just blending and adjusting saturation and color.
Here’s a good youtube tutorial on using the Select and Mask
tl;dr: Get a good source image, use your refine edge tool, lots of time and patience!
Hope that helps!