Santa in Your Living Room!

This tutorial will show you how to put a person into an already existing photo (in this case Santa, into a living room).

Once again, I am using images from Stock.xchng.

Step 1: Clean up Santa

The image we’re starting with of Santa is a little dull, not a lot of contrast. There are no bright whites or dark blacks, whereas the living room picture is nicely done. So, we need to make him match. That is a big key to making photos look realistic when adding other elements that were not originally there. Also, you want to make sure light sources are similar, or easily adjustable. These two pictures work well together.

To begin, we want to cut Santa out of the picture. To do this in this picture, I used the magic wand to select the areas I didn’t want in the image, inverted my selection (CTRL+SHIFT+I), copied and pasted it into a new document.

Here, I will list the steps in which I obtained the final Santa product (see the progression of Santas below).

  • Santa is dull, we want him brighter. CTRL+U Hue/Saturation. Up the Saturation, slightly up the Lightness. This will make him look even more flat at the moment.
  • Now, we want those brighter whites and darker blacks. CTRL+L Levels. Click on the eyedropper on the left of the three eyedroppers, and click somewhere in the preview where you want the darkest black to be. For this image, I clicked on the left hand side of his belt. Then, on the little levels graph, drag the two right hand points a little, adjusting the middle tones the most. This will make him not quite so intense. This is going to make him look like he put too much self tanner on his face, and then burned it in the sun.
  • He is obviously extremely unnatural looking now, and needs to be dulled down some again, as the levels made all of the colors more vibrant. CTRL+U Hue/Saturation. Down the Saturation a little.
  • Using the Lasso selection tool, with a feather of about 10px, draw a shape around his face and any other bright/exposed skin. Be sure to only trace around the skin, excluding the beard and fur and things. Then, we are going to CTRL+U Hue/Saturation again, and down the Saturation, and may need to add some Lightness. Tip: To select more than one area at the same time, hold down SHIFT while drawing a new shape.
  • Now, his beard and his fur look all yellowy. Santa shouldn’t look dirty for this picture, so he needs to be brightened up a bit! Use the same Lasso selector tool, same feathering, and draw around the beard first (you’ll want to do the beard and the fur separately). CTRL+U Hue/Saturation. Down the Saturation and up the Lightness, so his beard looks fresh snowy white, not like it’s been sitting there for a while and a dog visited it. In addition to the Hue/Saturation adjustments, your Dodge Tool is excellent to use (located with the Burn Tool and the Sponge Tool). The Dodge lightens areas very nicely. Use the Soft Round Brush for the best results. ***Repeat these steps with the fur.

Step 2: Look! Santa Appeared in the Living Room!

The reason why it was important to cut Santa out before all of that, is it would be more difficult to do it later, and we didn’t want all of that white background in the picture when we put him in the living room. So, now, put him in the living room. Copy and paste him (he should be on his own layer – if not, he needs to be).

He needs a shadow. Notice that most of the light is coming from back behind him to the right.

Add a new layer, below Santa and above the background. Use the Paint Brush with a Soft Round brush, and a low opacity. Add a shadow in, but not too dark. Adjust the opacity on the layer itself in the Layers window, so it lightens the shadow and is transparent. After all, shadows are not opaque.

His eyes need to be adjusted. He’s looking past the children and needs to be looking at them. Get your handy Lasso tool out, feathering at about 1 or 2, trace around the colored parts of his eyes. Either copy and paste them on a new layer, and white out his eyes on the original layer, or hold down CTRL and click the left arrow once, and the down arrow once. Viola! Here’s lookin’ at you kids.

And lastly for this step, I’m sure you’ve noticed his foot overlaps the boy’s shoulder. Trace around the children using the Magnetic Lasso tool with 0px feathering. Copy and paste them on a new layer, above Santa. There ya go, he almost looks like he’s actually standing in their living room.

Step 3: Out of Focus

You’ll notice the focus of this image is on the kids, and the background blurs out. We don’t want to completely blur out Santa, otherwise we’ll lose all of his features we worked on. Instead, we are going to use the Blur Tool. You can adjust the strength if you want, but it shouldn’t matter with this one as long as you click in the right areas.

***Before you begin blurring Santa, duplicate the layer he is on. That way, you’ll have him in reserve on another layer, in case you mess up the Santa you’re working on. It’s always good to have a back-up Santa.

Start at his feet, using a larger blur brush. Click a little at a time to get it to how blurry you want it. Scale down the brush and carefully click around the very edges of Santa, so he isn’t so clearly defined. Leaving most of the focus still on his face and kind of his belly, while still blurring them out a little bit.

He still looks too bright. He’s not blending too well, his front side should be more in shadow than it is. CTRL+U Hue/Saturation and down the Lightness a little so he fits in the picture better.

Step 4: One Last Adjustment

CTRL+U Hue/Saturation on the kids’ layer. Up the Lightness just a little bit, so they are a teeny bit lighter than they were.


Hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

By Kirin Knapp

Kirin Knapp is a graphic designer for the iEntry Network, publishing company of FlashNewz. A flash animator and illustrator, she is the creator of her home site,

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