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Photoshop tutorial | How to put realistic stockings on a person

In this tutorial you will learn how to give a subject realistic stockings.
You will learn how to use displacement maps, layer modes & custom patterns.

This tutorial was created because we could not find any tutorials to show us
methods for clothing people. This tutorial is for those who do image retouching
work in the Middle East or for anyone else who needs to dress people who don’t
have enough clothes on :) We do a lot of retouching work for many magazines
in the Middle East and we are required to censor images all the time. Legs, el-
bows & collar bones on women are not allowed to be seen in print, particulary
in Saudi Arabia.

If you have any comments on this tutorial or any suggested changes,

please send us an email at

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Use the pen tool to create a path
around the legs. Try and keep your
path just outside the legs. This will
give you a cleaner looking stocking and
you won’t run the risk of not covering
the legs properly when we fill the leg
area with our stocking pattern.
When you have finished the path, double-click the path in the path palette to
complete the working path. At his point you should give your path a name.
In our example we have called the path legs
Our next step is to create the stocking material.
We do this by creating a custom patten in Photoshop.

Create a new file in Photoshop and call it stocking_pattern. You need to

make this file 5 pixels x 5 pixels @ 300 dpi. Press the OK button.

The new file you have created will be a very small white square. Zoom in to this
image by at least 1600%. For this tutorial you need to fill this square with black.
You can do this by going to the Edit menu and selecting Fill.

In the new window you can choose from the

pulldown menu to fill with black.

The small white square should now be filled with black.

Now make a selection of the whole square by going to the Edit menu and choosing
Select all. We are going to put a small white border around the black square.
To do this, go to the Edit menu and choosing Stroke. Make sure the colour is
white. Make the width of the stroke 1 pixel and the location as the center.

You should now have a small black square with a

small white border that is 1 pixel wide.

This small image is the basis for turning a grid pattern into a pattern which will
replicate the appearance of stockings. Go to the Edit menu and choose Define
pattern. A new window will appear. Name this pattern stocking_pattern.
Go back to your original image and create a new empty layer in your layers pal-
ette. Select the legs path in the paths palette by holding down control + alt keys
to make a selection.

Make sure you are in the layer 1. It’s a good idea now to change the name
of layer 1 to stockings.

We are now going to fill the selection with the

custom grid pattern we made earlier.

Go to the Edit menu and choose Fill. In the

new window, choost Pattern from the pull-
down menu. We want to fill the selection with
the custom pattern that we made.

Press the OK button and you will see a display

of patterns to choose from. Your custom pat-
tern will be at the bottom of this list.
Your selection should now be filled with the custom pattern we made earlier.
Don’t worry. It looks ugly at the moment, and not a bit like stockings.
We still have more work to do.

Go back to the paths palette and make a new selection by holding down the
control key and the alt key together on the legs path.

Create a new layer and call this layer black. Make sure this layer is selected and
visible under the stockings layer. With your path still selected, fill this selection
with black.

Ok, lets step back for a minute and check where we are.

You should now have a background layer, and two layers above it.
The topmost layer should be the stockings layer which we have filled with the
custom pattern we created. Under the stockings layer should be a black layer.

Make sure you have done this correctly to match the layer pallet above.
You can now turn off both layers so that only the background layer is visible.
Next we are going to make a displacement map. Using a displacement map will
layer the stockings over the legs in a realistic way. The stockings will match the
curvature of the legs and the knees.

To create a displacement map, go to the channels palette. Choose the chan-

nel that has the most contrast. You should be looking for the channel with the
greatest variation from the blackest shadows to the whitest highlights.
In this example the channel with the most contrast is the yellow channel.
Right-click on the channel with the most contrast and choose duplicate channel
from the mini menu that appears. A new window will appear like the one below.

In the As field type in legs_map

Choose New from the Document menu. In the name field type in
legs_map. Then press the OK button.

A new image will be created in Photoshop. Save this images as a .PSD file
and call it legs_map.psd Save this file to your desktop.

Go back to your original image and view your

channels palette. Click on the CMYK layer to
view your image with all the channels dis-
played as they were before.
Change the opacity levels for the ‘stockings’
layer and the ‘black layer’ to 60% opacity.

With the stockings layer selected, go to the Filter menu, choose Distort
and select Displace from the menu.
A new window will appear. Make sure your settings match those below.
Depending on your default settings, you may need to change
Wrap Around to Repeat Edge Pixels. Press the OK button.

After pressing OK, you will then be prompted to choose the displacement map
that we created earlier. Choose legs_map.psd from your desktop and press OK.

We’re almost done. Now change the stockings layer mode to Overlay.
Now we need to clean up the overlayed layer and remove any edges that have ap-
peared outside the leg area. Make sure you are still using the stockings layer.

Go back to the paths palette and make a selection from the path by holding down
the control key and the alt key. Invert the selection by pressing the shift+control
and ‘i’ key. Alternatively you can go to the Select menu and choose Inverse.
Now press the delete key. This will delete any of the detail that has appeared out-
side of the leg areas.

You might find that anything appearing outside of the leg area is small and not
noticeable. You should still delete this to complete the realism of this technique.

Press control +D to deselect your leg selection.

You can now zoom in on the leg area and view your handywork. You should notice
that the lines making up the stocking match the contours of the legs. The last step
you need to do is select the stockings layer and go to the Filter menu. Choose
Guassian blur from the Blur menu and choose a setting of .2 to .4. This will blur
the stocking a small fraction and this is the final finishing touch that you need.
You should experiment with different grid patterns to produce different colour
stockings. You can use the eye dropper to choose colours that match the clothing
currently worn by the subject. You can use the pattern maker in Photoshop to cre-
ate more complex patterns. You should also experiment with different layer opaci-
ties to get the stocking effect you want.

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