Return to the Digital Art page

The making of Paperback Writer

Component Images

Paperback Writer has more components than I typically use. Before assembling the final image, here are the original images:

The paperback and desk.

Hand and pen. I used my left hand for the picture because the light was coming from the right, but in the final image the light needs to come from the left. The image was flipped horizontally while making the composite.

Just a piece of corrugated cardboard painted flat black.

Paper texture used for the right page in the book

Paper texture used for the left page of the book

The opening lines of the story overlaid on the paper-texture.

Window frame with the panes already cut out.


Rain drops on a window pane

Picture frame - the reflections were so bad the image will have to be replaced

Photo of the milky way over a barn. This will replace the original framed image.

Steam - used for the coffee mug

The lamp and mug. The books will be placed behind the paperback so they will be hidden. It will also be flipped horizontally.

Fog - used for final edits


Assembly Process

All the composite work is done in Photoshop.The background will be the photo of the paperback book and desk.

Note that all the composite work is done in Photoshop. All the directions refer to that program.

Paperback book

Reduce the overall exposure. Burn around the front of the book to create a shadow cast by the lamp. Burn the yellow page edges. Darken the desktop.

Prepare the background

Extend the canvas upwards to allow room for the window and picture. Place the black cardboard in position. This will become the wall.

Extend the canvas

Darken the background.

Darken cardboard

Place the lamp in position and roughly mask out the unneeded areas. The mask edges will be hidden by the book pages (next step).

Place lamp and mug

Slide the mug to the right - just to provide a bit more space between the lamp and the mug.

Move mug to right

Place the two textured pages in position. Then using a combination of Perspective and Warp transformations wrap the new pages on top of the original ones. Be prepared to spend some time on this step. Once they are in place make them appear to be lit by the warm glow of the lamp. This can be done several ways, but in this case I used a Solid Color adjustment layer with a yellowish-orange color. This layer is clipped to the paper layers and it's bloend mode changed to Soft Light at 50% opacity.

Place pages in book

Place the window frame into position. Mask the corner of the frame so it will appear to be behind the lamp shade.

Position window frame

Darken the frame and color it in a warm yellowish color. Both steps are done on separate layers. The exposure change was done using an Exposure adjustment layer. The coloring was done as above - a Solid Color adjustment layer only this time with the blend mode set to Overlay for a stronger effect than Soft Light.

Darken and colorize frame

Place the raindrops and resize to fit the window opening. Move the raindrop layer so it is under the picture frame. Doing so makes it unnecessary to mask around the frame.

Place raindrops

Place and resize the lightning image on top of the raindrops, but under the frame. Change the blend mode to lighten and reduce opacity to 50%.

Place lightning layers

Place the hand in position. Since the hand was shot using the left hand so that the light would fall on the palm side it will have to be flipped horizontally. Place it so the pen appears to be writing the story.

Position hand and pen

Add shadows under the hand and pen. Place the shadow layers under the hand so no masking will be required. The shadow for the hand is simply painted with a dark color using a soft brush. Lower the opacity. To make the pen shadow first copy the pen layer (just the lower area), then use a Threshold change (Image -> Adjustment -> Threshold) and adjust the slider until the pen is completely black. Since we want a solid black it is not necessary to use an adjustment layer. Move the shadow so the point of the shadow touches the point of the pen and the shadow appears to be cast by the lamp. Then using a Gaussian blur soften the edges. Apply a mask to this layer and use a gradient for the mask. This will allow some of the original unblurred layer to be visible close to the pen point making for a more realistic looking shadow.

Paint in shadows for the pen and hand

Next adjust the coloring of the hand to appear warmer. As before us a Solid Color adjustment layer with a yellowish-orange color. Clip it to the hand layer, change the blend mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to taste. In this case a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer was also used to both desaturate and darken the hand.

Colorize the hand

Burn the back of the hand to make it appear as if the light is coming from the lamp.

Paint in shadows for the pen and hand

Place the picture frame in the desired position and mask out the top of the lamp shade.

Place picture frame

Place and resize the image to fit the opening. Once again move the image layer under the frame so no masking will be needed.

Place the image under the frame layer

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to reduce the saturation and brightness of the image.

Reduce saturation and brightness

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on top of the picture frame layer and clip it to the frame. Then reduce both saturation and brightness of the frame.

Reduce the saturation of the frame

Add a blank layer and use the Clone tool to remove the reflection over the mat. Obviously, it would have been better to simply photograph a different picture frame that doesn't have any reflections.

Remove reflections

As before use a Solid Color adjustment layer to provide a warm tone to the frame. Change the blend mode to Soft Light.

Colorize the frame and mat

Add steam for coffee mug. To do this, open the steam image, then using Select -> Color Range -> Highlights. Adjust the slider to select only the steam. Then using the move tool drag the steam into position. This method allows the steam to overlap the window sill and appear as though it is in front of the window. You'll still have to mask away any overlap of the front rim of the mug (but not the back rim!).

Add steam from coffee mug

A general rule of thumb for composites is to perform a few final adjustments to the overall image. These global edits serve to unify the image. In this case were going to use a fog layer and then a final adjustment in Color Efex Pro. Place the fog in a new layer on top and change it's blend mode to Soft Light. Often you'll need to lower the opacity, although in this case it wasn't necessary.

Add some fog for mood

The final edit is done using Color Efex PRO by DXO (formerly known as NIK). Combine all layers into one (PC: Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E, MAC: CMD-Option-Shift-E)then open this layer in Color Efex Pro. The Midnight filter was selected. Click Save. Once back in Photoshop, the image will be very dark, so reduce the opacity to taste - 24% in this case. The Midnight filter both darkens and blurs, which adds to the overall mysterious mood of the final image. The temporary layer that was made before going to Color Efex PRO can be deleted as it is no longer needed.

This is the final result.

Final adjustment in Color Efex Pro