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Composite Environment Kittens Harmonious Nature Project

Composite Environment Kittens Harmonious Nature Project



For this assignment, you will be using Adobe Photoshop to design a photo-realistic composite environment.

Photoshop can obviously be used for a huge range of image production and manipulation. This assignment specifically calls for the production of a photo-realistic environment. Photo-realistic means that the final image looks like it could have been captured in one shot by a single camera. This means the lighting, perspective qualities and other attributes of the scene should feel coherent and be consistent with how we see objects in our everyday 3D world. 

The reason for requiring photo-realism in this composite environment is to make it easier for you to assess the quality of your work and objective goals for the project. Without this goal of photo-realism, you could make any element look any way you want, and while it might be visually rich and compelling, it could just be the result of a happy accident, rather than an intentional refinement of the image to bring it closer to a sense of realism.

This photo-realistic objective does not preclude the production of imaginative environments with fantastic qualities. It might be helpful to think of this in terms of the special effects that are commonly seen in science fiction, fantasy and comic book universe films. You could have a giant, or a space ship in your environment, but it needs to look like it is really there

While there are many qualities that make the image reasonably convincing as a photo-realistic composite, there are still details that make is less that 100% convincing (besides the out of proportion apple). What stands out to you as potential areas for further refinement?



  • Sign up for your free Adobe Creative Cloud account through ASU: ASU UTO Adobe Creative Cloud access request
  • Download Adobe Photoshop using the Creative Cloud application or Adobe website.
    • You will also need Illustrator, Audition, Premiere Pro and Media Encoder for other class modules. I recommend installing these right away so you don’t have to worry about doing so later in this very compressed class timeframe.
  • For this assignment you will only be using Photoshop. (As we progress throughout the semester you will start combining tools and techniques using the optimal tools for the specific task.)
  • Create a new Photoshop file.
    • Adjust the document settings as needed for your source material and desired aspect ratio.
      • I recommend starting with a large, square image so you have room to compose without a predefined aspect ratio.
      • You will need space to arrange your source images and image attribution information outside of your composite image space.


  • Imagine a photographic scene/environment.
  • Locate or produce photographic content to construct this scene.
    • A minimum of three (3) photos must be composited to form your composition.
      • At least one (1) of these images must be a major foreground element.
      • Images with transparent backgrounds (background already removed) or with backgrounds optimized for chromakey (green/blue screen) are not allowed. You don’t need to pick images that are intentionally difficult to work with, but you need to demonstrate your ability to produce image masks without the benefit of these existing features.
    • Creative Commons Image Search (Links to an external site.)
      • This is a great place to locate images with clear copyright designations and attribution information.
        • Many, but certainly not all, images are shared with the expressed intent to allow reuse and remixing.
      • Record and include attribution information on the images you use in your work.
    • I recommend avoiding commercial stock photo websites for this work (although many have lots of free content).
      • The content from these sources tends to be high composed, polished and stylized. This artistic expression (by other artists) ends up dominating the composition, leaving little room for your own individuality and personal expression.


  • Save your file.
    • Save frequently (this is less critical if you use the Creative Cloud save option).
    • I recommend using the option to Save to Creative Cloud while you are working on the project.
    • When your composition is complete:
      • Save a copy of your Photoshop document to your computer.
      • Save a JPEG copy of your composition to your computer
  • Add layers of photographic content to your document.
    • Place a small copy of the original source images outside of your composite composition space.
      • Make sure these copies are on their own layers.
        • Lock these layers to avoid accidental editing of them.
      • See my examples above for what this might look like.
      • Add the attribution information for the source material.
        • If you took the photo yourself, credit yourself with the same information you would have for any other image
        • Artist/Producer Name
        • Title of work
        • Access location (where did you acquire the image?)
        • Date produced
        • Copyright information (if any)
        • Location information (if available)
        • Technical specs (photo settings, lighting, etc.) (if available)
        • Attribution example:
        • “Portrait of a vulture” by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit 
  • Mask layers to isolate what you want to see from background you want to remove.
  • Roughly compose your image.
    • Adjust the scale, position, angle and layer level of your source material to achieve the basic composition you are envisioning.
    • Look for opportunities for interactions between your composited elements.
      • One thing leans on another
      • One thing shines/reflects light on another
      • People in the scene look at and/or point at the composited object(s)
      • Something makes a splash
    • Pay attention to lighting directions. You may need to flip an image to better align the lighting angles.
    • Work to achieve a natural sense of perspective (shapes can sometimes be manipulated to improve the cohesiveness without producing unnatural distortions).
    • Tip: Lock any layers you are not actively working on to avoid accidentally moving, deleting, selecting or otherwise editing this content.
      • Don’t forget that you’ll need to unlock the layers if you want to work on them again!
  • Fine tune lighting qualities.
    • Use “adjustment layers” to make changes that you can keep returning to to refine the image as it develops.
    • Add shadows and reflections
      • Search for tutorials/lessons on these techniques.
  • Add camera/photo artifacts
    • lens distortion, depth of field blur, lens flare
    • “Global” image qualities
      • Simulated film grain, etc. (these should be very subtle effects if used at all). 

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