Objects in Photoshop 5
Morphing is creating
a hybrid image from two original source images. The final image
is a cross or compromise between the two originals in shape
and structure. For example, when morphing a cat with a tiger,
the end result will not look quite like either, but will mix
the traits of both.
Though there are
software packages that will create morphs, it is possible to
use the power of Photoshop to create more unique and controlled
morphs. Every situation where you will be creating a morph or
hybrid of two images is different, however, the goal of this
exercise is to show how to use a procedure in developing morphed
images. In creating any morph, there are innumerable variables.
The example shows a variety of the types of problems you may
encounter, but is not exhaustive of the variables.
As the viewer may
not have the benefit of the original images, the effect of the
morph depends on it depicting both objects with relative clarity.
For this example, a light meter (fig1) and a computer mouse
(fig2) were chosen for their relative similarity, and to create
a type of metaphor for 'computer photography'. Completing the
alteration will require morphing, detailing and compositing
of images. The goal of the exercise is to create an intermediate
stage between These images were scanned from objects at 100%
of their original size.
Keeping basic elements
of the mouse, such as the general shape and button, will make
that suggestion apparent. The light meterŐs face and dial are
the prominent features, and these will help anchor its identity.
Of course, some trade-offs will have to occur as the distortion
of the objects progresses, but keeping the major elements intact
can help define the objects. The rest of the image, including
background and other elements, should help clarify the final
intent of the morph.
The Basic Steps:
1. Select two images
2. Isolate the
3. Create a new
4. Place the image
elements in the new document.
5. Make a visual
comparison between elements using opacity
6. Make rough general
7. Fine-tune the
fit of image elements.
8. Fix, replace
or add image detail.
9. Add light and
10. Flatten the
1. Select two objects
which have desirable characteristics to be morphed. Though it
is possible to choose quite dissimilar objects, objects which
are closer in original form will be easiest to work with. In
other words, a donut can be morphed with a cathedral, but it
would be far easier to make the morphing work with the donut
and a car tire.
2. Isolate the
objects or image elements you will be working with from their
respective backgrounds. It is probably best to feather the selections
by 1 or 2 pixels depending on the resolution. The example images
were easy to select, as the scans were made with easy separation
in mind. Selections for other morphing projects may not prove
to be so simple if you are borrowing elements from existing
3. Create a new
document some 20% larger than the bigger of the two images you
will be using. In the case of the example, this would be the
light meter. This will allow you room to move and shape the
4. Use the selections
created in step 2 to copy the objects to the new document. With
the selection active, it is probably easiest to just Copy from
the original and Paste into the new. However, you may want to
use the Layer Via Copy function if you prefer (LAYER>NEW>LAYER
5. Use the opacity
to compare the images. Check comparative size, contour and detail.
The comparison may reveal image similarities that were not apparent
during selection of the images.
Note how the curve
for the mouse button conforms somewhat to the arch of the dial
and bottom of the meter window. This was not anticipated but
can be used later to create a better morph.
6. Make the rough
general adjustments to the image sizes and shapes and elements.
First, the elements
were matched for general size. The mouse was scaled larger to
about the size of the light meter For best resolution and results,
it is usually best just to size down the larger item. In this
case, the mouse was scaled larger as there was far more detail
in the light meter -- and very little that could be lost in
the mouse. Figure 4 shows a comparison between the original
mouse size, the larger compromise size, and the light meter.
The mouse was scaled using the Scale envelope (EDIT>TRANSFORM>SCALE).
The dial was selected
out from the light meter and copied to another layer, then it
was sized with the Numeric function (EDIT>TRANSFORM>NUMERIC)
to 90%. The selection was made using the Magnetic and Polygonal
Lassos. The Magnetic Lasso did a good job of hugging the dialŐs
ridges, while the Polygonal Lasso was easier to use on the broader
curve (using very short Polygonal segments). Figure 5 shows
the result of the sizing overlaid on the scaled mouse.
The meter face
was selected out of the light meter and placed in its own layer.
The top portion of the meter window was contoured to the front
button edge of the mouse using the Shear filter. Figure 7 shows
the result of applying the Shear pictured in figure 6.
7. Fine-tune the
fit of the image elements.
The dial already
fit well to the mouse, so there was no need to fine-tune it.
The meter window, however, overlapped the button, and needed
to be clipped back and reshaped. This would be done in two steps.
First the window area would be redefined to fill the area between
the bottom of the window and the button line, then a Path would
be used to trim the window and define the button line.
First, the open
area at the top of the meter window was Copied to be used to
fill the area between the bottom of the window and the button
line. Doing this would match the white face of the rest of the
meter. The pasted portion of the window was moved into place
and blended by selective erasure with a soft edged brush (0%
hardness). The bottom was left rough as it would be redefined
in the next step. The two layers were merged using Merge Down.
This ruins the number bar and needle, which can both be rebuilt.
Second, the Pen
tool was used to create a Path which defined the button crease.
This Path would be used to re-define the meter window and the
mouse button. With the Path in place, the Brush for the Airbrush
was defined as hard-edged (90%). With the layer containing the
meter window selected, the Eraser tool was set to Airbrush,
and the Eraser was used to stroke the Path. This erased the
bottom of the Meter window to match the contour of the button
line. Using a new layer, the Path was then stroked again using
the Paintbrush with a small, hard brush (80%). The layer was
stroked with black, and set to the Multiply mode, then the Opacity
was used to achieve the desired darkness for the button crease.
Figure 8 shows the result of the first and second steps.
8. Fix, replace
or add image detail.
In the example
image, the dial shadow fell with the wrong perspective by 180ˇ.
The meter numbers had to be replaced along with the number bar
and the meter needle.
As the dial was
on its own Layer, it was easy to rotate it 180ˇ, but this would
have changed the orientation of the dial to the meter (figure
9). The center of the meter was selected with a slight feathering,
then Copied and Pasted to its own Layer. Next the dial was rotated
in a lower layer, the center part of the meter retained its
orientation. A slight adjustment using the Movement tool was
all that was necessary to realign the center of the dial and
the ring (figure 10).
To replace the
number bar, a path was created to approximate the curve, and
then it was stroked using the Airbrush. Effects were added to
create a very slight Embossed Inner edge and Drop Shadow (figure
Numbers were added
to the bar using a similar type face to the original, which
was Kerned and scaled to fit. The arch was created using the
Shear tool with a similar curve as that used to reshape the
meter window in step 6 (figure 12).
The meter needle
was replaced by matching the size of the needle width with an
appropriate brush, then sampling the needle color and re-drawing
the needle in its own layer. Once the needle was in place, the
old needle was removed along with its drop shadow.
9. Add shadowing
and Effects as appropriate to the lighting of the final image.
It is best to save these for last as adjustments which you wish
to make that do not use the global angle may be difficult to
weed out and correct (such as the dial problem in step 8). If
you use the Global Angle for all Effects, the Effects can be
collectively adjusted using the Global Angle dialogue (LAYER>EFFECTS>GLOBAL
ANGLE), or they can be changed in the Effects dialogue which
appears when you have selected any effect from the Effects sub-menu.
If you change the
angle of an Effect with the Use Global Angle box checked, it
will change the angle for all other Effects currently using
the Global Angle. To use an Effect at a different angle, be
sure the Use Global Angle box is not checked. Saving before
going on to step 10 will allow you the advantage of having the
layered image. With the layers intact, you will be able to change
the lighting effects more easily should you need to use the
image for other purposes.
10. Flatten the
image to complete the morph. If opacities of your layers vary
(and often they will when creating morphing effects), you may
need to put a mat behind the morphed object to keep it opaque
if transferring it to another image.
To create a mat
for the morph, view only what you want in the final image, then
Duplicate the image. You can do this using New Document from
the Histories pallet, or Duplicate from the Image menu (IMAGE>DUPLICATE).
If using the Duplicate function, checking the Merged Layers
Only box will make a flattened document using only the visible
When the document
is duplicated, Merge Visible with the background visibility
off. Then use the Magic Wand to select the area outside the
image. You may need to Smooth the selection (SELECT>MODIFY>SMOOTH)
or use Expand (SELECT>MODIFY>EXPAND) other techniques
to make the selection fit tightly to the morphed image. It is
best if the selection is slightly tight rather than too loose.
Feather the selection one or two pixels to slightly soften and
blend the edge pixels.
Create a new Layer
just above the Background, invert the selection, and fill with
white. This will fill the selection below the image. You can
use other colors, but this may effect the image unexpectedly.
When you Merge Visible again with the background visibility
off. The image will now paste opaquely over other backgrounds.
11. Save the original
file with all the Layers and the file created in step 10 using
different names. A variation to this is to save the layer created
in step 10 back to the original file. To do this, use the Duplicate
Layer function (LAYER>DUPLICATE LAYER). The dialogue will
allow you to save the Layer to the original document. Be careful
to save the Original again after copying the Layer, or you will
lose the composite for the morph.
How it works
By following a
set of steps in examining and comparing the objects you wish
to morph, you will increase your chances of getting good morphing
results. Starting with the big changes and working toward the
smaller, as outlined, will assure you get the best 'big-picture'
results. Saving shadows and Effects for later steps helps assure
uniformity. Though some image choices will be obvious when you
morph two objects, other choices will be more creative. You
may need to try more than one avenue in your alterations to
achieve the most satisfactory end.
Though there is
morphing software which will help you define intermediate stages
between images, manual control with Photoshop may give you far
better options. As morphing software is more or less redefining
an image by mathematics, non-linear developments (such as the
extraction of the dial and meter window) are not likely to be
possible. Though the process may be painstaking at times, the
effort will yield the best results.
Richard Lynch is
author of Adobe Photoshop 5 How-To (SAMS/Macmillan,
Oct.'98). You can order it by clicking here.
Contact Richard Lynch via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org