PHOTOSHOP - Greenscreening Backgrounds


Greenscreening allows you to impose thematic backgrounds, or to create composite pictures that combine people from different photoshoots.

Caution - the objective is to make it appear that there was never any greenscreening in the first place. It's time consuming, and difficult to pull off well.
You're BEST strategy is to avoid it altogether by organizing GOOD pictures in actual, natural settings!


1. Take the Ideal Greenscreen Picture.
  • Consult the LIGHTING tutorials to choose ideal camera settings
  • The green wall should be FLAT and SHADOWLESS to provide an easy-to-remove background for your image.
  • Use a TRIPOD to keep the camera steady.
  • Try taking the picture WITH and then WITHOUT the FLASH to see what provides the best results.
  • Try to keep your subject as far away from the green walls as possible to minimize green reflections on them.
Greenscreen01.jpg
2. Select the GREEN
  • In PHOTOSHOP, Choose the MAGIC WAND tool
  • Set the TOLERANCE to about 30, Turn ANTIALIASING ON and CONTIGUOUS OFF.
  • Click on an area of green.
  • Hold the SHIFT key and add more to the green selection. Keep clicking to eliminate as many of the "Sparkles" as you can. If you go too far, you can always UNDO with CTRL-Z.
  • You can also switch to the LASSO tool to catch elusive background areas.
Greenscreen02.jpg
3. Put your subject on a NEW LAYER
  • Use SELECT - INVERSE from the dropdown menu to flip the selection from the background to the subject.
  • Use CTRL-J to pop a copy of the subject to a NEW LAYER.
Greenscreen03.jpg
4. CROP and SIZE (Note - this is the ADVANCED method - review the CROPPING tutorial)
  • Choose the CROPPING tool and set the width and height to ".1" larger than the size of the frame you need in your layout. ie. 12.1 PICA and 10.1 PICA. (Be sure to type the units as "pica" or you'll be sorry)
  • Set the DPI to 300DPI (for colour). Drag the Crop Tool to select your image, and hit the ENTER Key.
Greenscreen031.jpg
5. Insert a BACKGROUND image
  • (ie. Use GOOGLE IMAGES - be sure to view only LARGE images). Open the new image in Photoshop along with your greenscreened photo
  • Use the MOVE tool to drag it into the greenscreen window.
  • In the LAYERS palette, drag the background so it's sandwiched UNDER the subject layer, and ABOVE the background layer.
  • You can move it around, or TRANSFORM it (CTRL-T) to adjust it's "fit".
    HINT: Backgrounds that match the camera angle of your subject will create a more convincing illusion
Greenscreen04.jpg
6. Soften the Edges.
  • Make sure you are on your SUBJECT's layer
  • CTRL-Click the subject layer thumbnail - that will create a selection around it.
  • Use SELECT | INVERSE to choose the transparent area.
  • Use SELECT | FEATHER and enter a value of 1 pixel.
  • Hide the selection using CTRL-H. Zoom in to 100% to see the details of what you're about to do.
  • Now hit the delete key ONCE. The "fringe" around the subject should fade slightly. You can hit delete again and it softens even more, but use your best judgement to blend the subject with the background.
  • CTRL-D to DESELECT when you're done. You can eliminate remaining GREEN in the next step.
Greenscreen05.jpg
7. Kill the Green Fringe
  • Still on the SUBJECT layer, use IMAGE | ADJUSTMENTS | HUE/SATURATION (CTRL-U) and select GREENS in the "Edit" option.
  • Click on a specific colour of pixel that you want to eliminate
  • Drag the SATURATION slider to the left, and greens will turn GRAY - this can effectively hide the residual greenscreen fringe without "eating" into the subject image.
Greenscreen06.jpg
8. Save the Image
  • If the image is intended for a black and white page, use IMAGE | MODE | GRAYSCALE to convert it.
  • Use SAVE AS and choose FORMAT: "TIF" - Turn off the LAYERS Option - Type in a logical filename that starts with the appropriate page number, and save the file where you want it. You're DONE!
Greenscreen07.jpg
9. Better Greenscreening: .
  • AVOID GREEN CLOTHING on your subjects.
  • MATCH THE LIGHTING to the background when taking the initial photo.
  • MATCH the CAMERA ANGLE - watch the horizon line of the background for a clue.
  • ZOOM to 100% when selecting pixels close to the subject.
  • Grayscale is much more forgiving than colour, but do MOST of your work in colour, and save the colour version as a PSD in case you want to go back and retry parts of it.
  • Practice will help you do a better job - don't be afraid to try multiple versions!