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How to Create Cool Digital Backgrounds in Photoshop

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Choosing the right background is important if you want to make a great portrait.
But what if you don’t have access to a photo studio and a background?
Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to create a digital background in Photoshop.

How to Create a Digital background in Photoshop

Many professional portrait photographers use an expensive muslin backdrop. A less costly solution is to buy a digital file but then the quality might be a problem.
The cheapest and best solution, is to create your own digital background in Photoshop. Here we go.

Step 1: Open a New File

Go to file and select ‘New…’. A new window will open.
Name your file and set it to 3000 pixels high and 2000 pixels wide. Switch it if you want landscape orientation.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - open a new file

Step 2: Duplicate Background

Use shortcut Cmd + J (Ctrl + J for Windows) to make a copy of the background layer.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - duplicate a photoshop background

Step 3: Set the Foreground Colour

Click on the foreground colour square located in the tool bar.
The colour is usually set to black but it can appear in any colour depending on the last settings.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - Set the Foreground Colour
The Colour Picker window will open. For this example, pick a medium dark blue and click OK.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - color picker photoshop

Step 4: Set the Background Colour

Click on the background colour square (usually the white one).
Now pick a darker shade of the colour you’ve picked before.

Step 5: Add Clouds

Go to Filter > Render and select ‘Clouds’. A textured backdrop will instantly appear.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - set the background color
It looks great already but we need to add the finishing touches.

Step 6: Add light to the Background

A lot of times, portrait photographers will put a light on the background to make the subject stand out.
It creates a more intimate look and feel. Here’s an example of such a studio shot.

A portrait of a female model posing against a brown textured background - photoshop backgrounds
© Pixabay

Go to Filter > Render and select ‘Lighting Effects…’.
In the Lighting Effects window, select the type of light you want to use. Open the drop down menu and select ‘Point’.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop
Now, adjust the position and intensity of the light. Click in the white centre circle and drag to any location.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop
To make the lit area larger, click on the green ring and drag it outwards.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop
To intensify the light, click on the opaque ring and drag it clockwise.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop
Click ‘OK’ when you’re ready.

Step 7: Change the Colour of the Digital Background

If you want to change the colour of the background, you can start over but you don’t have to.
You can change the colour of the background with an adjustment layer.
Click on the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ icon.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - change the colour of the photoshop background
Select ‘Hue/Saturation’ from the dropdown menu.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - selecting hue/saturation
Drag the Hue slider to the left or right to change the colour of the digital background.
A screenshot showing how to create a Digital background in Photoshop - change the colour of the digital background
Use the other sliders to change the saturation and lightness.
This only works to change the colour of the background. If you want to change the combination of colours, you’ll have to start from the beginning.

Conclusion

You’re all set to make your own digital background and now, it’s time to use them.
First, photograph your subject against an even coloured wall or anything else you have available.
Then, learn how to cut out the subject by using layer masks and the Refine Edge tool. And finally, drop the subject onto your own digital background.

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2 comments
  1. This is a nice article, however it just barely glosses over the hardest and most important part of a digitally created background for a portrait, which is how to effectively remove the actual background of the portrait and colour correct it to match the new background.

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