Do you like fishing? I do but I would not want to be the fisherman in the scene we will create in this tutorial! Get ready for some quick introductions to some of the most important topics in Photoshop (Layer Masks, clipping layers, Smart Objects, etc)! I will also guide you step by step through this tutorial and hoppefully you will achieve Photoshop enlightment by the end of this tutorial!
In this tutorial we will create a fantasy underwater scene in Photoshop. You will need Photoshop CS3 or newer in order to follow this tutorial.
- Underwater1 – monika-es-stock
- Nebula1 – Pixabay
- Birds Brush – midnightstouch
- Moon – Wikipedia
- Underwater2 – EvilHateYouAllStock
- Fish1 – Free-Stock-By-Wayne
- Fish2 – FreeImages.com
- Island – nuaHs
- Shark – Roys-Art
- Squid – Roys-Art
- Blood Brushes – Falln-Brushes
- Water Splash Brushes – XResch
- Boat – JinxMim
- Fisherman – FreeImages.com
- Cloud Brushes – JavierZhX
Create a new file 1500 x 1895 pixels.
In this step we will open another image file and we will do a copy paste to our document. In order to copy you either make a selection with a selection tool (Marquee tool, Pen Tool, etc. ) or you copy all (Ctrl + A). Pasting is done by pressing Ctrl + V. Once you have pasted the selection into our document you should convert it to a Smart Object (right-click the layer you want to convert and choose “Convert To Smart Object”) so you won’t lose any pixel data when you do resizes or apply filters. Next you will probably need to resize and move the pasted layer. You can do that by pressing Ctrl + T to enter Free Transform and holding shift while resizing. You should follow these guidelines for every copy paste you will do in this tutorial (and for your own projects too because it is good practice).
Alright, now open the image “Underwater”, copy all, paste in our document and resize as shown below (and don’t forget to convert this layer and all future pasted layers to a Smart Object).
Open the image “Nebula”, select all and copy/paste into our document. Resize like shown below and change the blending mode to Overlay.
A quick word about layer masks because we will be using them extensively in this tutorial. If you paint with black in a layer mask you will hide that portion of the layer. If you paint with white you will reveal it. You can also use gradients in a layer mask. In order to add a layer mask to a layer you can either click on the Layer Mask button (a square with a circle in the middle, third one from the left)on the bottom of the Layer panel (press F7 to open the layer panel) or you can do this from the menu (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All). So from now on when I’ll say to hide something in the layer mask this means that you should first create a layer mask if it’s not there already and then with paint with black over the indicated area. If you paint with 50% Opacity you will partially hide/reveal the layer (it will show through). Give it a spin and get accustomed to the layer mask because you will need them for this tutorial and your personal projects.
Hide the lower part of the nebula in the layer mask so that only that stars are visible (you can use the Gradient Tool – G key).
You can import brushes by either double clicking on them in the Explorer or go to Edit > Preset Manager and press the Load Button.
Import the Birds brush. Create a new layer (Ctrl + Alt + N) and create some black birds. Lower the opacity of the layer to 46%.
Open the image “Moon”. Using the Elliptical Marquee Tool create a selection of the moon. Copy/paste into our document and resize as shown below. Lower the opacity to 22% and in the layer mask hide the bottom part of the moon until it looks like the moon is rising from the water.
Open the image “Underwater2” and copy all. Paste into our document place it as shown below.
In the layer mask hide the upper part (hide everything where it overlaps the sky) of the underwater layer you just pasted (with a brush or a gradient).
Create a new layer and change the blending mode to Overlay. Paint a white line between the surface water and the underwater. Lower the opacity to 33%.
Open the image “Fish1”. Select all and copy/paste in our document. Resize the fish and place him underwater. Lower the Opacity to 49%.
Now let’s create the island the squid. Open the image “Squid”. Select all and copy/paste in our document. Place the squid as indicated below.
In the layer mask partially hide the squid portions that are underwater (in the layer mask use a black brush at 40-50% Opacity).
A quick word about clipping layers because we will use them a bit in our tutorial. You can Alt-click between two layers in order to clip the upper layer to the lower. Clipping a layer to another means that the upper layer will be visible only through the pixels of the lower layer. If you want to clip multiple layers simply keep Alt-clicking between all the upper layers you want clipped and they will all show through the lower layer. Clipping layers is especially useful for adjustment layers because we can limit the adjustment to a certain layer without affecting the rest of the document.
Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer (fourth button from the right on the bottom of the layer panel or Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation – or any other adjustment layer). Change the hue and the saturation as shown below and clip the adjustment layer to the squid.
Create another Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer and drag the saturation slider to 25. Clip it to the squid layer and fill the layer mask with black (press D to set default colors, click on the layer mask and press Ctrl + Backspace) and paint with a soft white brush at 80% opacity to gradually reveal the saturation effect on the underwater part of the squid.
Group the Squid layer and the two adjustment layers clipped to it into a new group (select all the layers and press Ctrl + G). Duplicate the group (Ctrl + J) and place it as shown below.
Add a layer mask to the duplicate squid group and mask everything out but the lower left tentacles. By doing this we just easily gained some extra tentacles for our squid.
Open image “Island”. Select all and copy/paste into our document. Place the island on the top of the squid’s head. Use a layer mask to seamlessly blend the island with the squid.
Create a new layer and choose the standard chalk brush. Lower the opacity to 10% and set the size to 1-2px. Paint a white line around the squid’s head where the waves should be crashing.
Open the image “Shark”. Select all and copy/paste into our document. Place the shark as shown below. You can notice that I put the shark in an oblique position – this will give make our scene more dynamic and interesting. Partially hide away the part of the shark that is underwater by using a layer mask and a black brush at 10% Opacity.
Create a new layer and with the standard chalk brush create the waves crashing into the shark’s nose.
Import the blood brushes and create a new layer. With a dark red as foreground color create some blood around the shark’s mouth. You can use multiple brushes on different layers or use just a single layer – your choice. Just make sure to lower the opacity of the blood layers to 20-30%.
Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and use the settings shown below (we increase the red intensity). Fill the layer mask with black and paint with white to reveal the deep red inside the mouth of the shark.
Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer and drag the curve up. Fill the layer mask with black and with a soft white brush paint carefully over the shark’s teeth. We want them looking white and dangerous.
Create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and drag the Lightness Slider to -100. Fill the layer mask with black and with a white brush at 100% Opacity paint over the shark’s eye.
Create a new layer and with a white brush at 10% Opacity paint some subtle reflections in the eye.
Import the Splash brush. Create some new layers (three in my case) and create on each a white splash. Position each splash near the shark’s mouth (you can also resize them if they are too big) and use the layer mask to hide unwanted parts. Lower the opacity of the splash layers to 70-80%.
Open image “Boat”. Select all and copy/paste the boat into our document. Place the boat on the surface of the water near the island. In the layer mask hide a little of the boat bottom to give the illusion that the boat is emerged in water.
Create a new layer and change the blending mode to Overlay. Clip it to the boat layer and with a back brush at 20% Opacity paint some dark colors on the boat.
Create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and clip it to the boat layer. Drag the Saturation slider to -68.
Create Curves Adjustment Layer and use the settings shown below. Clip the Curves layer to the boat layer.
With a black brush of 1px size create a rope connecting the boat to the island on a new layer.
Now create a thin white line on a new layer representing the waves crushing into the boat.
Open the image “Fisherman”. Use the pen tool to create a selection of the fisherman and the fishing road. Copy/paste the fisherman in our document and place the fisherman in the boat.
Create Curves Adjustment layer and clip it to the fisherman layer. Drag the curve up to brighten the fisherman a little and boost up the contrast on the same time.
Create Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and clip it to the fisherman layer. Lower the saturation and change the hue to a dirty yellow.
Now let’s create the fishing line. Use a 1px black brush to draw the vertical line a new layer. In order to restrict the brush movement on a perfectly vertical line hold the Shift key while dragging. Lower the opacity of the layer to 50%.
Open the image “Fish2”. Make a selection of the fish with the Pen Tool and paste it in our scene. Place the fish on the end of the fishing line and lower the opacity to 41%.
Most of the elements of our scene are in place so now it’s time to start adding special effects and make the scene look graphically pleasant.
Create Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with the settings indicated below and fill the layer mask with black. With a white round soft brush at 50% Opacity paint over the squid to reveal the effect.
Now let’s add some volume to the squid and the shark. Create a new layer and set the blending mode to Overlay. With the standard soft brush at 20% Opacity paint with white over the shark and the tentacles of the squid. Also add a bit of volume to the moon.
Create a new layer and with a black soft brush paint some darkness on the bottom of our scene.
Let’s boost the sky color a little. Create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and increase the saturation to 35. Use the layer mask to reveal the effect only on the sky.
The water surface seems a bit dull so let’s increase its brightness. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer with the settings shown below. Fill the layer mask with black and paint with white over the water surface in the layer mask to reveal the brightness.
Now let’s do the same thing for the underwater. Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer with the settings shown below and use the layer mask to limit the effect only for the underwater portion of our scene.
The sky color is a little too common. Let’s make it look a bit more interesting. Create a new layer and fill it with a bright magenta color (#c656e3). Change the blending mode to soft light and use a gradient in the layer mask to reveal the effect only for the sky.
Let’s darken the scene to make look more mysterious. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer with the settings shown below. Paint with black in the layer mask over the island and the squid’s head.
Create a new layer with the blending mode Overlay. Paint with a soft white brush at 20% opacity over the darker waves to boost their contrast.
We need more attention for the action happening on the water so let’s darken the sky. Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer and drag the curve down to darken. Fill the layer mask with black and paint over the sky with white to reveal the curves effect.
Let’s make the shark and the squid more bright. Create a new layer and change the blending mode to Overlay. With a white soft brush at 20% Opacity paint over the squid and the shark.
Create a new layer and set the blending mode to Color Dodge. Paint with white a loose border around the shark and the squid.
Import the Cloud brush. Create a new layer (or more layers) and paint some white clouds over the moon and over the island.
On a new layer paint with white some mist over the island trees.
Open the file “Nebula2”. Select all and copy/paste in our scene. Place the nebula as shown below.
Change the blending mode of the nebula layer to Soft Light and lower the Opacity to 41%. Use the layer mask to hide the hard edges.