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Adding CGI Backgrounds to your MOC

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This article is simply for reference. If you want to ask questions or comment, please PM me or you can visit the original thread here. If you can't see it, you will need access to the Eurobricks Reviewers' Academy, which you can get by requesting it in this thread. :classic:

OK, so you want to add a stunning background to your MOC or review? Well, I'll show you how, using the Skull's Eye Schooner as an example!

N.B. This is a relatively difficult task, and requires practice and patience. Don't expect to do it perfectly first time :tongue:

Preliminary steps -

1) You'll need a decent image editing program.

-Adobe Photoshop, Jasc Paint-Shop Pro and Corel Draw (which recently bought Jasc) are the main - and best - ones out there. Use one of these if you have it, but they're not free. is the best free alternative. It offers a wide range of functions, and you can complete this whole tutorial using it. Just click the download button and save the Zipped Folder to desktop. Right click > Extract All, and open the application (.exe) file that is inside. Follow all the steps, and bingo!

-Gimp is another free programme. However, you can't insert backgrounds, so it's only useful for giving solid-colour backrounds (like here).

-You can just about do it using Paint, although it'll be very difficult and probably sloppy.

-I've used Jasc here, but the tools feature in all the rest, although they may be under a different name. I've used bold in brackets for notes on the differences in Photoshop. I've used italics in brackets for notes on the differences in Bold and italics applies to both of them.

2) You'll need a decent photo. I take mine outside on a standard digital camera, but decent lighting inside works just as well. Make sure it isn't blurred or anything obscures your MOC. Also look out for reflections on chrome parts, heavy shadows and "light spots" on bricks. The bigger you take the photo, the better, although it'll take longer if it's bigger, but it'll be more accurate. I take mine at 1600x1200 pixels, but you should be able to work out a balance. The background you take the photos against is important. I use A4 paper stuck onto cardboard, but any purely white(ish) background should do. If your MOC is largely white/silver/light-grey/yellow e.t.c. (light colours), a blue background works well. Hinckley has got a tutorial on this here.


Actual steps -

1) Lighten and sharpen the image. You may want to adjust the levels to sort out the colour balance, but it isn't normally necessary. Choose a random colour that is totally different from the outside borders of your MOC - I chose green as there aren't any greenish bits around the edges. Using a large paintbrush (make sure that hardness, opacity and density are all at their maximum, and the step is at 1 or 2 (flow at 100%)(Disable antialiasing - the button to the right of "Solid Color")), do a roughish outline of it - don't try and be accurate, or you'll end up painting over it...


2) Zoom in. There are two main methods from now on -

a) Painting. Reduce the brush size, but keep the hardness, density and opacity at maximum still. Simply draw around the outside of your MOC. Don't be afraid to change the brush shape - the best ones to use are the circle, square, and left and right slashes (These aren't as easy to find in Photoshop - using a flattened oval or circle is best)(These don't exist in And don't be afraid to resize the brush frequently. A helpful trick is to hold down shift before clicking again. This draws a straight line between your previous brush click and your current one. This is very helpful for long straight edges and large curves (e.g. sails, hulls, masts, baseplate edges). This is the most accurate method (and the background colour/consistency doesn't matter as much)(This doesn't exist in - use the line tool instead, pressing ctrl+D after drawing each line, to prevent the curve function enabling).

b) Colour-Replacing. This is where the background comes into play. The colour-replacer tool (Color Replacement Tool, right click on the paintbrush and the select from the drop-down menu)(Recolor Tool) changes all pixels of a certain colour into another (the random one you chose earlier). Hold control and click to select one colour and control and left click to select the other (the random one you chose earlier). Next step is to change the tolerance. This means how much variation between pixel brightness/colour is allowed. If it is at 0, this means only pixels of exactly the selected colour will be colour-replaced. If it is too high, you risk colour-replacing your MOC, and if it is too low, you will get a fuzzy outline (like below). This can be remedied by trimming the edges with the paintbrush (see 2 below). I generally use a tolerance of anywhere between 20 and 60 (10% - 25%), depending. This is the fastest method for cutting out a MOC, but not necessarily the most accurate.

N.B. Do not use the fill tool. It will fill where you don't want it to, no matter what you try.



3) Patience and practice are the key. Know where you can use the colour-replacer easily, and where it is easier to use the paintbrush.


4) Set the feather on the magic wand to 1 (select all in Photoshop first, then go Select > Feather)(Feather doesn't exist in, but the magic wand does) and the tolerance to 0 (0%). This means it will select a semi-transparent 1 pixel outline around your MOC, which removes any sharp/rough edges. Remember to click on every bit of your chosen random; hold down shift to do so (click the Add to Selection button)(Selection Mode > Add; however, in, the magic wand often selects over "boundaries" (other coloured bits), even if it can't "flood" into it.). colour. Go to Selections > Invert Selection (Select > Inverse)(Edit > Invert Selection), to select your MOC instead of the background. Choose a background (Mister Phes has done some great ones here), copy it and paste it into a seperate sub-window. Copy your MOC (Select All (ctrl+A) and paste it onto the background as a floating selection: Edit > Paste > As New Selection (Edit > Paste)(Edit > Paste into new image). You may need to resize it to fit. You can now edit the brightness e.t.c. of your MOC without affecting the background (DON'T do this whilst cutting it out - it'll muck up your original chosen colour). You can also invert the selection again and edit the background seperately from the MOC. Deselect your selection: Selection > Select None (Select > Deselect)(Edit > Deselect).


5) (This step is impossible in For adding waves, use the freehand selector tool (slice select tool), with a feather of 2/3. Select a random(ish) area incorporating the bottom of the boat and some water...


...And go to Effects > Geometric Effects > Wave (Filter > Distort > Ocean Ripple) and set the horizontal wavelength (ripple size) and amplitude to 0. Adjust the vertical ones to make it look realistic (Doesn't exist in Photoshop)

6) Deselect and bingo! (Remember to resize :pir-wink: )


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