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Photo-editing your automation car tutorial. (Update: detail)

So, after getting questions and asking for suggestions, I figured a tutorial should be done, so people see how easy it is to photoshop your car into a real life environment.

And we’re done!

Well… no… we are not. Best start from scratch then. I’ll do this in steps

Step 1
Figure out which real life car’s body your car is based off. In our case, we’re using a Znopersk Zeta, which is based on a “non S2000” body. Meaning we got to find a “non s2000” on the interwebs. Make sure to search filter for high quality big pictures. Now remember, photographers use their lens to change the “Field of view” or “FOV”, this is usually used in the cameras to zoom in or out. It also changes the perspective of the car. Automation can not change FOV much, so zooming in or our is our only hope (Help me automation-zooming-kenobi! You’re my only hope!) Just remember, it can’t do extremes, and extremely zoomed out picture will produce a smaller picture of your car, reducing quality. So we’re best off looking for pictures taken at a distance of couple of meters, under 10-15 would do good. SO, here’s the initial picture I have found

Yay, it’s a real life “Not S2000”! Easy!

Step 2
This is the hard part. YES, we’re at step 2 and we’re in the “hard part” territory already.

Go to automation, load up the car, select the Trim tab and go to gearbox section.
Now hide all the graphs. Go to the console using “`” key and type “HideBuildings ()” . This will make background black. Position your car in exact way it’s positioned on the picture, and press the camera picture.
Go to my documents/my games/automation/photos and open the picture in your editing software (Im using photoshop… no… paint will likely not do). Select all and then using magic wand de-select the black background (it’s faster that way).
Copy-paste the automation car on-to your chosen picture. It will take a few tries to get the angle, and zoom level just right, so give it a moment… or a few hours, depending on how good you are.

SUCCESS! Only took me 8 hours and 24 gigs of pictures to get this right!

Step 3

Now, we’re taking the lasso tool and removing the wheels off our car. You can use any lasso you like, I use the polygonal for most things. Select the wheel with the arch and delete it all.

There we go.

Step 4

First - make a backup of your real photo as a new layer, just so you can go back to original if you make a mess of things. Then - using same technique as above - select the s2k wheels in the picture and copy-paste them. Their layer should be over the background, but under the layer your car is in.

Using free transform tool you need to resize the wheels so they fill the arches properly. Move them around, maybe tilt them. Also for the times that you can’t select a nice bit of an arch - not to worry, select as much wheel as you can. And after re-sizing it - take a paint brush (I use 60% opacity) and black paint and just cover everything behind the wheel, so the resulting wheel arch is nice and black.

After this is done - you will probably have some of your original bodywork covering some parts of the wheel that it shouldn’t. Select it and delete, so it looks like the wheel is covering it.

Wheels done!

Step 5

Now that this is done - we have to remove the excess of original s2k from the picture. Luckily here - the s2k is not showing much, but there’s some work to be done.
Select your background s2k layer and get that paintbrush out. Use gradiently flowing one, and set opacity for about 60-70%. It will take you a few go’s, but it will provide for a better gradient. Just start painting over the s2k’s sideskirt. There should be shadow there, so going black… you will never go back… unless you mess it up, but you got the layer backed up, right? And when you do you can go black again!

Here i’ve only covered half the sideskirt, so you can see the before and after.

Now for the bits that aren’t supposed to be shadowed. Our car has a mirror sticking out behind it! So let’s fix that. Take the clone tool, and using Alt+click select the donor part of the background. Then point at the mirror and start working it away. It’s not always an option, but I found that selecting the donor as far as possible without too much colour difference is the key to an easy masking of the car. Here’s another before and after picture

Yes, I just selected a brick as a donor and prolonged it further down. Nothing difficult there.

Step 6

Shadows! The wheels we copy-pasted don’t have shadows, and are sticking out like a sore thumb. Pick our favourite (it is our favourite, isn’t it?) brush tool, select background layer, and start painting right on the edge of your wheel. This way the wheel will remain untouched, but the ground behind it will become darker. A few good passes will result in something like this

Again, before and after.

Step 7

Free time is important! But presenting your automation car properly is importantest than that! So we’re doing some details. First off, pesky Honda! They put badges on their wheels. We can fix that. Just take a round emblem (this one I stole off NormanVauxhall’s company thread) and resize it so it fits the centercap of the wheel. Then it will look flat and awful. To deal with it we go to the Layer > Layer style > bevel and emboss and select inner bevel. It will make the logo look more 3d. Play with the settings till you’re happy.

Step 8

Select the layer of your car. Look at the surroundings, and start playing with the brightness, contrast, saturation and lightness settings. It’s harder to make some ridiculous colours look natural, but it’s possible. Work at it for a bit. Once done, you can do the “bevel and emboss” procedure again to make the top lighter and the bottom darker. Its fast and effcient, and hides some imprefections, just don’t give it too much size to play with. A few pixels will do.

And There you have it. Your car is now in real world.

i.imgur.com/EjozZ4E.jpg << Big pic, watchout.

This is a basic tutorial, covering basic editing, but it should get you started. There’s more advanced things, like having to draw the wheels when there’s bits missing from the picture, or making flames etc etc etc, but it’s all not really necessary for us right now. I hope I shed some light on how it’s done, and I hope you now see that it’s not that hard, anybody can do it.

[quote=“Razyx”]Step 6. Shadows…, you also can do them through <Drop Shadow> -Layer Styles- with a duplicated layer of the car (that you’ll put under the main car layer).
After setting up the angle, distance, etc, of the shadow, merge the layer <Merge Linked> with a 2nd (an empty) one, you’ll get a new one without effects but with the shadow and the car.
Now you can work on the shadows and delete leftover areas, etc. You can add <Feather> to the selection while deleting a given area to get a shadow gradient.
In this way getting a basic shadow is quicker than drawing it from scratch. [/quote]

[size=200]Advanced techniques[/size]

[size=150]Easier allignment[/size]

Ok, Asdren has given us a technique on how to easier allign your car with your picture

[quote]If you want to place your car on a road or match the wheels, add transparency to the Automation Window via a Autohotkey script: poojanblog.com/blog/2008/08/auto … cy-script/

This way you can align your the car much easier:[/quote]

You can see full post here - Click

[size=150]Fish Eye simulation[/size]

If a picture was taken using a fish eye lens - then you’re in trouble, you will not be able to allign your car to the base picture perfectly, and you’ll have to warp your car.
Cut-and paste your base car on to the picture, allign it as best you can, and make the opacity of the automation car to somewhat opaque, I use 70%. Then hit the transform button (Ctrl+t). Right click the selection and chose “warp” it will give you the grid. You can move the grid around to get the perfect distortion. Save your tranformation, and set the opacity back to 100% - you’re done.


A.K.A. making the car look actually realistic.

Ok! Now that you got a try at basics above, you want to do something even cooler, make your car into a wallpaper quality masterpiece that you will do… dirty things with… and… ANYWAY… I’m going to show you how to do this. The first part, not the dirty things part! Lets’ go.

We are going to make this Gryphon Gear Kelpie sexy! Well… sexier than it is.

First of all, make sure you know how to work with multiple layers, create a lot of backup layers, make copies of things for safe keeping, don’t forget to save often etc etc etc. It’s a pain to spend an hour working on a layer and screwing it badly up without the option to ctrl-z yourself out of it. AND THEN figuring out you don’t have a backup layer of it to revert the screwed patch. Anyways, here goes

Step 1

Start by cutting everything that’s not he body out. Yes, EVERYTHING, all the vents, grilles, windows too, ALL of it. It’s a tedious process, I know, you’ll get tired of it, but WAIT… THERE’S MORE (c)

This is how it will look after yo

Step 2

First we’re going to give it some HD honeycomb mesh. So I went on the internet and FOUND THIS - Click for texture of mesh
Paste it behind our kelpie layer and start adjusting it to size. Ctrl+t to transform the layer, and then resize it. Right click on layer mid transformation allows to choose preferred method. First I usually use “skew” to get a rough estimate

This is skewed, which already looks pretty nice, but we go one step further! Still during the transformation (this is a one-step operation, do not apply your changes yet), right click the layer again and select “warp”. Now you can “3d” your mesh texture to approximate front end of the car, that way it won’t look flat. Once done - apply the changes, and cut off the excess of mesh in places where it won’t be needed. Keplie’s front end pretty much consists of 95% mesh, so we leave most of it in.

Use the same technique to apply blinkers and headlights. Now, I did not find a good blinker texture, so I used a brake lights texture (also, just google for it, it’s all there), and went “Image > adjustments > Hue/saturation” and adjusted the hue till it was orange-ish amber, which fit me just fine. Once again, skew, warp, apply, cut off excess.

AND the headlights, same procedure applies!

Step 3

Now we’re doing some local “3d” for good measure. Duplicate our kelpie layer (remember, we are NOT merging any layers just yet, especially not on Kelpie itself!). Now right click the top Kelpie layer and select “Blending options”, in a new window that pops up select “Bevel and emboss”. Play with the settings, but you’ll likely to use either “pillow emboss” or just “emboss”. Sometimes outer bevel works best, but it all depends on teh situation. Once this is done - create a new EMPTY layer, and merge it with our embossed kelpie layer, this will flatten and finalize our modificaitons to that layer. What we have now is 2 kelpie layers, the “3d” one which we embossed or beveled, and the plain one.

This is the “3d” look at edges of vents or lights for examples.

Now you might notice that not only the vents and headlights went “bevel and emboss” but the whole layer and it looks out of place. So we take the “lasso” tool, and select only the areas we wish to remain in “bevel and emboss”, once done press “CTRL+Shift+i”. It will invert your selection, and then hit delete. You may now merge these 2 kelpie layers together if you wish

Step 4

Now it’s time for some carbon fiber. Go to the internet and find a nice carbon fiber texture you like. Now paste it over the part of the car you wish to be made of CF, making CF the layer on top of the part you want to be made of CF. resizing is important at this bit, but warping or skewing - not so much. Once done so - hide the CF layer. Here on Kelpie, we’re doing EVERYTHING that’s black into CF. Why? Well because Strop actually said so. :smiley: So get your lasso tool and select a bit that is going to be carbon fiber. Like so

Now go back to our CF layer, make it visible, select inverse, so we delete only the excess of the texture (with CTRL+SHIFT + i) and hit delete again. The result will look horrible, trust me, but we’re not done

We’re going into CF layer blending options and selecting “soft light” as a blending mode, I also went 70% opacity on this occasion, cause it gave a better look

This is what it should look like. Now you can do it to all of the bits of your car. YES, ALL OF THEM, you might think that it’s a lengthy process, but actually, it’s not! It’s a FREAKING WAY TOO MUCH OF A LENGTHY PROCESS I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SQUID A DULL BOY ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SQU…

Step 5
Now that Im done with my psychotic breakdown, lets’ finish this bad boy off with some cool interior. Sadly I got this car planned to go over a 911 porsche, so you’re guessing right. It’s shape is NOTHING like a Kelpie, which is more McLaren. And honestly, I didn’t know if this were to work, I just made it up as I went along. So here goes!

I’ve cut the Porsche windshield out and pasted it behind the kelpie layer. Using the techniques we used for the grilles and headlights and so on, you’ll have to stretch and warp the poor guy in the porsche to fit in a kelpie now.

Looks close enough. Remove all excess, and this time not roughly. You want the shape of the windshield to be EXACTLY the same as the window hole in the kelpie. Once done so, make a copy of the porsche window layer. The bottom layer selected go into Image > adjustments > brightness / contrast, and make it darker

Like so. Now select the top layer of the porsche windshield. And go into “Blending options”. Select stroke, use a neutral colour, black works, select “inner” stroke, and chose the amount of pixels to stroke. I mean “select the pixel width of the stroke”… that sounds even worse, but it is what it is. Now play with opacity. The less opacity you use - the more see through the stroked area becomes. Now we got a cool dark outline for the window, like it should have.

Same goes for the side window, but without the stroking.

It may be a challenge to make it fit , and in my case it didn’t fit completely without being too distorted.

I used clone tool, just like we do when we hide the car in the first tutorial. It worked and all is well now.

Step 6

This is the final one I got for today

See these lines of light, shadows and so on? Well logically they’re all wrong, completely, so lets fix them.
Chose the smudge tool and start working on it, merging the two into a good one line of light. Try to follow the lines of the cars design

It should look something like this. But here we now have a problem or two. First - the hood line is now completely gone! And second - well look at the lines of light where the fixture meets the body, it should not even be there. So we’re getting the paint brush tool and drawing. Yes, as in “we are actually drawing a car in photoshop… sort of” It will take a few tries, but you’ll manage to get the hood line back, as well as removing those pesky lines that shouldn’t be there. For ease of use I go with about 50% opacity and some serious flow to my brushes. The end result should be looking like this

Zoom out to see if the lines you drew actually make sense. They did not in my case, so by simple use of smudge tool and brushes I re-did it in a few minutes to be more angular, like the Kelpie’s front

Now that this patch of the hood is done, you are well equipped with skills to do the whole car. Yes, the idea is to correct most of the lighting on the whole damn car, and it also is a lengthy process, so good luck mate! :smiley:

[quote=“Razyx”]Detailing - Step 6. Brightness lines. I think <Smudge> is fine while there’s a minimal gradient deviation, i.e. almost a plain color around the bright area, if not…
Anyway, if you have to re-draw a straight line (from a little area that you can clone) the <Clone Stamp> is your best and quicker friend.[/quote]


wow… thanks for that, though i’d probably fail at step one lol, also, is the car in the 1st photo a modified alpenstrasse commutasia by any chance? look very similar


It is, yes :smiley: The v8 test mule car. I didnt bother to release it

Well… Great tip, I would definitely use it. By the way, how do you rate some of my work to current state that I made for my purposes?

My pretty first advert. By the way, Phobos corrupted due to update of this muscle car body that made previous cars useless made on this bodyshell.


Ad of my entry for Nineties Econobox Challenge. Looks the best of these three to me.

I can see clear signs of progress, but you need to start removing automation wheels. Wheels make the car! Also it’s a lot easier to get the perspective right if you’re overlaying the car over an existing picture of a car, then you get some reference.

Thats it. I need photoshop. Is there a possibility you have GIMP and could make a tutorial on that? :slight_smile:

Sorry mate, I have never used Gimp before.

I really don’t want to pay for photoshop and I don’t want a trial version that will run out in like 30 days. Now I don’t really know what to do.

I just superimpose a car onto another picture and then adjust the car to the lighting and background.

#R8mypic? :stuck_out_tongue:

Great tutorial. A lot more detailed than I usually go, but I also don’t use car photos under mine. I see how that would help with perspective! GIMP is totally capable of doing all of these things. I’m no expert in using it but all of my photos are done with GIMP 2.8.

I can give you a pictoral runaround of GIMP, that’s my weapon of choice here. But I can only do it after the 22nd due to upcoming exams.

If people are interested, I can also tell you how to use the different brush designations and different layer modes for more advanced editing.

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Can we vote for sticky?

[quote=“strop”]I can give you a pictoral runaround of GIMP, that’s my weapon of choice here. But I can only do it after the 22nd due to upcoming exams.

If people are interested, I can also tell you how to use the different brush designations and different layer modes for more advanced editing.[/quote]

Please make a tutorial of GIMP. I really need one!

sings who can say where the road goes


Great tutorial, thanks!
For those who do not have PS, there are many online very PS-like programs that are capable enough for these things and some for basics like this even simpler. Google is our friend :wink:

[quote=“AirJordan”]Great tutorial, thanks!
For those who do not have PS, there are many online very PS-like programs that are capable enough for these things and some for basics like this even simpler. Google is our friend :wink:[/quote]


Do you mind reading the thread before you post? We just went over that two days ago!

people are voting for gimp. but im using paint .NET

somewhat functions similiarly to gimp, although i’ve never compared them. the wheel part is the pain in the ass part isn’t it?

The wheel part is the pain in the ass part… if you’re not editing the car or the background any further than that.

If you are, however, than the wheel part is probably the easiest part of the entire process. (Shameless plug because sheer amount of effort required to apply CF skin plus lacquer reflection effect). Aside from the difficulty of not always wanting to look directly at the car in your graphics which skews the perspective in off-center shots, the Automation models are very handy for providing a 3d reference with which you can do actually quite a lot of things, including painting new things entirely if you so wished.