Some of the iconic portrait photographers, like Annie Leibovitz have a very common look for their studio portraits, they are shot against a hand painted textured backdrop. You know what I am talking about. Those gorgeous backdrops with random soft patters. Those backdrops are hand painted on canvas (just like works of art), and show great details and spectacular color.

Sadly, they are also very expensive. This is why you may want to look at creating those digitally with a pre-shot backdrop.

The trick is to start with a good photo and to use the right blending mode. If you opt for the image manipulation backgrounds, there are curently 5 options to choose from: Feathery BrownDark Brown, Deep Blue, Rusty GreyDecayed White. Here is how you pull that off:

Start with a photo shot against a white or a grey (or other neutral backdrop)


Place a background over a photo with a white or gray background

this will hide your photo, fret not...
this will hide your photo, fret not…

Set the layer blending mode to soft light

oh, here it is, but it looks awful!
oh, here it is, but it looks awful!

Apply a layer mask and mask out the general figure using a brush (even a hard one). You don’t need to be very precise, and don’t worry about the edges, just don’t bleed out of the main body.

oh, there it is, but what about the edges?
oh, there it is, but what about the edges?

Now set your brush to about 20% flow and even out the transitions created by the hard brush. Here is the nice thing. If you contrast is right, you don’t actually need to mask the edges. They are dark so they stand out anyways.


Here is a quick before and after for you:

If you want to try this yourself, head over to Image Manipulation Store and grab a backdrop.

Recommendations from the Pros


Alice’s Garden


Tim Burton style background at 10,000px x 5,625px
12 lighting moods, mix and match freely
Depth and sky channels


300 files in over 11GB
Perfect for smaller photo studio
Backgrounds, Textures, Ambient Effects & Stocks
Everything for creepy, gloomy & morbid composing


Retouching Toolkit

Rated 5.00 out of 5

Retouching Tools for Professionals
Photoshop CC+
For both Mac and PC


Elements Bundle

Rated 5.00 out of 5

Over 900 files and textures
Up to 36 MP resolution jpg files
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Average rating of all bundled packages:
Rated 4.8 out of 5

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