Making the Background on the Christmas CD

By Mark

We left our CD creation process where I had managed to create a nicely separated image of Amy Godeaux from the background. We had discussed her goal of a nice “Christmasy” background for the front cover.  I quickly filtered out my Lightroom collection for the right keywords and built a quick collection of pictures I thought would work.  

She said “how about some simple Xmas lights?”  Well, I had a couple variations of those and she responded-“Perfect, now I just want them to be on a light background. 

I realized that I would just have to create the background from scratch.  No problem.  I started by going back to my LR search and finding two images that I thought would work—a close up of the tree lights, and a picture of the really neat snow and crystal display that Sarah puts on a side table.  It is messy, but very pretty.   

Tree Lights

Tree Lights

Crystals

Crystals

I wanted to build a composite image of the lights shining through those crystals.  Combining images is one of those tasks where you have to move from LR to Photoshop.

One of the most useful, but under used features in Photoshop is the blend-if tool.  Hidden in the layer styles palette, this gives you the ability to erase the black or white pixels for either the top or bottom image.  The sliders are dragged in from either end, but can leave a very harsh looking effect.  PS has built in the ability to soften those transitions.  Simply hold down the alt-key and grab the triangle.  It will split and both ends can then be adjusted to make a more natural looking effect.  

Once I had achieved the shine through effect I was looking for, I first created a group combining both images and then doubled it to soften the effect even further.  Then I added a slight blur to both groups.  I still thought it was still a bit dark, so I just added a levels adjustment layer and brightened the whole image up.  

Once I had saved that image, I simply placed the whole image into the picture with Amy.  I scaled the lights using Free Transform (Ctrl-T) to make it fit and we were both happy.