Make a Realistic Background in Photoshop in 5 Steps

Photo of background in Photoshop

An effective background can be key to an effective portrait. Sometimes, however, the background where you shoot your portrait will look dull or even distracting.

One solution to this dilemma is to swap in a non-photo background – such as a gradient, an abstract pattern, or a graphic – behind your subject in Photoshop. However, that can produce a background that looks, at best, flat and unrealistic and, at worst, amateurish.

There are things you can do in Photoshop, however, to give any flat background some dimension to make it more realistic while blending it smoothly behind your subject. In the below video tutorial from Photoshop expert Unmesh Dinda of PiXimperfect, he shows you how.

“In this lesson, we will learn several techniques like creating shadows, matching the lighting, adding texture, among many others to create a perfect composite,” Dinda says.

Step #1: Create the Shadows

“To create the shadows, drop shadows not the only way,” Dinda says. “You can also fill in a shape and just create a shadow effect. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Step #2 Add Texture

“Now this pattern we have here already has some texture, but in case it doesn’t, it really does help when we add some texture on top of it. And the texture should match the lighting conditions.”

Step #3: Match the Background

“Now it’s time for us to match the new background with that of the subject. And, of course, as usual, we’re going to go ahead and start with Curves.”

Step #4: Match the Subject

“And since the background is so colorful, don’t you think that the light would bounce off of the background and hit the subject as well? So, we could see a little bit more color on the subject that is coming from the background.”

Step #5: Add Global Effects

“Moving on to the next and the final step and that is adding global effects. These are the effects that you add both to the background and the subject. They are the effects that bring everything together.”

If you want to follow along in the below video and try Dinda’s technique yourself, you can download his lesson materials for free here. And here’s another great editing tutorial from Dinda on how to sharpen images in Photoshop by blurring them.

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