Get ready to create an epic battle between a sea creature and a courageous pirate girl. I will share you various tips and techniques that will hopefully improve your current workflow. In this tutorial I will make extensive use of layers, masks, smart objects and other basic Photoshop tools so if you’re not familiar with them I recommend you read my article.
In order to follow this tutorial you will need Photoshop CS3 or newer.
- Bubble Brush – frostbo
- Splash Brush – frostbo
- Blood Brush – Project-GimpBC
- Palms Brush – Rawox
- Light Brush – redheadstock
- Lightning Brush – redheadstock
- Sky – Rin-Shiba
- Underwater – frostbo
- Mill – freeimages
- Sea – eddyhaze
- Small Fish – AngelMoon17
- Scary Fish – Free-Stock-By-Wayne
- Creature – joannastar-stock
- Hand – ISOStock
- Paint Splash – Mediamilitia
- Boat – JinxMim
- Dolphin – wolverine041269
- Girl – mjranum-stock
- Underwater2 – evilhateyouall
- Nebula1 – fluteJazz
- Nebula2 – pixabay
First of all go ahead and download and import the brushes used in this tutorial so you won’t have to do it later. You can also download the rest of the images used as resources to have them ready when needed.
Create a new document (Ctrl + N) with 2000 x 1500px size and click ok.
Open the image “Sky”. Select all by pressing Ctrl + A and copy by pressing Ctrl + C. Go back to our newly created document and press Ctrl + V to paste. Convert this layer as well as all the future pasted images from other documents into a smart object (right click the layer and from the drop down menu choose Convert To Smart Object).
Use Free Transform (Ctrl + T) to position the sky as shown below.
Open the image “Underwater”. Select all and copy/paste in our document. Place this layer as shown below with Free Transform. This will serve as a basis for the underwater portion of our scene.
Hopefully you are already familiar with layer masks so I won’t go into much detail about how to create one. Create a layer mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All) and use the Gradient Tool (G) to fill the upper portion of the underwater layer with black. Using the Gradient Tool instead of the Rectangular Marquee will grant us a smooth and seamless masking effect.
Open the image mill. Use the Pen Tool (P) to make a selection of the mill and copy/paste in our document. Place the mill as indicated below.
As you can see we are starting to place various objects in our scene to make this work visually.
Create a Curves Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves) and drag the curve down to darken. As you can see it darkens the whole scene but we want the darkening effect to restrict only to the mill. In order to do that simply Alt-click between the curves layer and the mill layer. This operation is called clipping a layer to another – it will restrict all the effects of a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to the clipped layer (the layer below). You can have an unlimited number of upper clipped layers that will be visible/restricted through a single layer below.
Open the image “Sea”. Make a selection of the sea surface with the Rectangular Marquee Tool and copy/paste into our scene. Add a layer mask and use the standard soft round brush to paint with black in the layer mask the horizon and the lower hard edge of the sea surface. Don’t forget about converting it to a smart object too.
Create a Curves Adjustment Layer like shown below and clip it to the water surface layer. Drag the blue curve up and red curve down to color the water surface blue.
Often when importing objects they will look out of place because they have a different hue than the rest of the scene. When this happens you should color correct the imported object to fit with the rest of the scene by using a Curves Adjustment Layer or a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. There are no fixed recipes for this – the knowledge comes from lots of experience.
In our case the water surface has a warm hue (yellow/red) while our scene has a more cold one (blue/cyan). By dragging the red curve down in the Curves Adjustment Layer I lowered the amount of red. Dragging the blue and green curve up increased the amount of blue/magenta thus making the surface blend nicely with the rest of the scene.
Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N) and use one of the imported splash brushes to create some waves where the water surface meets the underwater. Use the Eraser Tool (E) to erase unwanted splash. Apply a subtle Color Overlay effect to blend it better with the water.
You can apply Shadows, Color Overlay and lots of other effects by double clicking a layer and opening the Blending Options screen. When working with smart objects double clicking will open the smart object in another window so don’t that – instead right click the smart object and from the drop down menu choose Blending Options.
Create a new layer and with the standard chalk brush at 40% opacity paint a piece of distand land as shown below and place this layer below the water surface layer. Here’s how your layer palette should look like.
Create a new layer and change the blending mode to Multiply. Choose the round soft brush at 20% Opacity and paint with black on the water surface as indicated below. This will be the shadow of the sea creature. The reason I’m doing this now instead of doing it after I place the creature is because you’ll probably have a hard way finding your way through countless layer and putting this layer where it should be.
Create a new layer and fill it with a deep blue color sampled from the sky(#060733). Change the blending mode to Linear Dodge.
Photoshop has a foreground and a background color. If you press Alt + Backspace you will fill the selected layer with the foreground and pressing Ctrl + Backspace will fill the layer with the background color. Also pressing D will set the foreground color to black and background to white. So if you wanted to quickly fill a layer with black or white you would select the layer, press D and then press Alt + Backspace or Ctrl + Backspace.
Create a new layer. Select a bubble brush and lower the Opacity to 10-20%. Paint some bubbles on the underwater portion of our scene. Use a layer mask to hide unwanted bubbles.
Create a couple of new layers and choose a light ray brush from the light brushes set. Change the blend of the layers to Overlay and create some rays coming from above (use 50% Opacity). Create layer masks for each layer and hide the upper portion of the light rays leaving them visible only underwater.
As you can see the Overlay blending mode is great for light effects. Color dodge is also great for achieving glow effects.
Open the file “Small Fish”. Select the fish and copy/paste into our document. Place three fish (simply duplicate the pasted fish layer by pressing Ctrl + J a couple of times) near the water surface in a tight pack and one loose fish near the bottom. Lower the opacity of the fish layers to 31%.
One good practice is to group layers in order to keep the document nice and tidy. Select multiple layers (hold Ctrl while selecting) and press Ctrl + G to group.