Depth & Atmospherics
An image contains many clues about the space it’s subject occupies. Things like attenuated fog and haze, depth-of-field blurring, and subtle shifts in light and shadow all contribute drama and realism to a scene. All PixelSquid PSDs include a physically accurate depth map, opening up a brand new world of creative possibilities.
What is a Depth Map?
A depth map is a monochrome image in which each pixel’s value is determined by its distance from camera. The furthest elements are drawn as white, and the nearest as black.
One of the most common uses of depth is the simulate volumetric effects. These are situations in which the the subject exists in a semi-transparent volume, such as fog, smoke, haze, or a murky fluid. All PixelSquid PSDs include a layer called Atmosphere, which lets you jump right into volumetric effects with no prep required. The Atmosphere layer is simply a Photoshop color solid with a Depth Map as a layer mask. Simulating fog is as simple as picking a color for the solid, then tuning the layer mask with Levels or Curves to get exactly the atmospheric density you need.
Here is the basic process for simulating DoF:
- Create a flattened copy of your image, either a single collapsed layer, or a Smart Object. Do any compositional work before applying Lens Blur, and other filtering after.
- Prepare a Z Depth Channel. Each PixelSquid PSD includes a channel called Z Depth. Add a little bit of Gaussian Blur to this – enough to break down any crisp lines to minimize artifacting.
- Filter > Blur > Lens Blur… In the Depth Map box make sure that Z Depth is your source, then season to taste. Don’t forget to add a bit of grain.