Learn how to create a see-through water horse in Photoshop! The techniques we will use are fairly simple but I do my best to explain them in detail so you can use them on your future projects.
Preview of Final Results
- Water Splash 1
- Water Splash 2
- Water Splash 3
- Water Splash 4
- Water Splash 5
- Water Splash 6
- Water Splash 7
So, how do we transform a normal horse into a water horse? Well, first let’s open the image “Horse”. It is a very nice photo, full of dynamism and movement, almost begging for a cool photo manipulation. If you followed my previous tutorials on photoshoptutorials.ws you probably know how to make a fire horse and an ice horse so this should give yet another horse transformation solution.
The first thing we should do it is to get rid of the horse and replace him with the background. Use the Lasso Tool (L) or the Quick Selection Tool to make a rough selection of the horse.
Now that we have a selection let’s select the Clone Stamp tool and start cloning from outside the selection and painting inside. Try to keep the sampling and cloning on the same line (don’t sample from the sky and clone way down where the sea should be). You can see in the image below that I replaced the head of the horse with the sea and the sky. To sample with the Clone Stamp tool Alt-click on the desired location.
In the image below notice how I finished cloning and sampling the horse. The results are not perfect but I decided not to invest too much time because this area will be partially visible anyway. Now it is a good time to save the selection of the horse because we will make good use of it in a next step. To save a selection choose Select > Save Selection and write a name.
Press Ctrl + D to deselect. Notice that we have a dark, ugly line contouring the horse. Get rid of it by selecting the Clone Stamp tool again and carefully sample and clone. Take it slow, don’t hurry and if you made a mistake it is better to go a step back (Ctrl + Z or Ctrl + Alt + Z for multiple steps) then try and work over it.
Remember that I told you to save the selection of the horse in step 4? Now it’s time to use it. Load the selection by choosing Select > Load Selection and from the drop down menu select the name you used to save it in step 4.
Create a new layer by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N and press Alt + Backspace to fill the selection with the foreground color. It doesn’t really matter what color it is.
Name the layer you created on the previous step “Horse Glue” (sounds strange but this will be the layer that will glue together all the splashes of water and make it feel like a real horse and not just some random drops of water) or any other name and double click on it to enter the Advanced Blending Options screen. Here I want you to drop the Fill to 0% and the Opacity to 75%. In case you didn’t know Fill controls the opacity of the layer itself while Opacity controls the opacity of the layer and of the layer effects together. So if you lower the Fill to 0% the color that you used to fill the horse selection with and that represents the pixels of the layer will be rendered invisible but the future layer effects will be fully visible. Cool, huh?
Now check the Inner Glow box and use the settings you see below. Noticed that I chose a light cyan-blue color that will best suit our water horse. Once you are done press Ok.
You can see below that now we have a foundation on which we will build our water structure. In the next step I will explain you haw to select drops of water and we will start building the water horse.
Open file “Splash2” and choose Select > Color Range. Click once in the area pointed below until the preview in your little screen on the Color Range window looks like mine below. Basically we are trying to select as much as possible of the white water splash without selecting other stuff. The preview in the little screen shows us what selection we have made by using the same principle as a layer mask: white reveals and black conceals. So everything white will be selected and black will not be selected. Gray means that the selection will be partial. The Color Range works by selecting pixels based on the place you click. So if you clicked in the area shown below it will try to select only the white splash without the green water surface or the plants. Don’t be afraid to click multiple times until you obtain the desired effect. Once you’re done click Ok and you will have a selection.
Press Ctrl + C to copy the selection and Ctrl + V to paste it into our document. You can see that it looks yellow and a bit dark. We will correct this in the next step.
Press Ctrl + Shift + U to desaturate the splash. This will get rid of the ugly yellow color. Still, the image look pretty gray. To increase the luminosity and contrast let’s use a Curves Adjustment. We won’t use adjustments layers for this because we will have a lot of water splashes and the multitude of clipped adjustments layer will clutter the document without offering a real advantage. I am all for non-destructive editing and I usually use adjustment layers as much as possible but sometimes a good old simple Curve will do just fine. So choose Image > Adjustments > Curves and drag the curve upwards to increase the lightness. Also drag the right slider a little towards the left to increase contrast. You can see that the splash it is already looking better.
Now it’s time to position the water splash. Press Ctrl + T and rotate the splash to match the picture below and press Enter.
If you will take a closer look at the splash you will notice some unwanted pixels from our Color Range selection. To get rid of them we will use a layer mask.
Choose Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask. I strongly advise you to assign a keyboard shortcut to this very useful command so you can have at you fingertips all the time. Choose a round black soft brush tool and paint in the layer mask the highlighted areas from above and any other unwanted residual pixels. Also if you have any straight lines try to paint over them so the image doesn’t look fake. Now the splash look nice and tidy.
I will not repeat all the steps above for each water splash – this will take a lot of useless writing. Instead I will only show you the placement of each water splash. If you will follow the recipe from the above steps you should be fine. To recap:
- Use Color Range to select the water splash.
- Paste the water splash into our document.
- Desaturate and apply a Curves adjustment to lighten it up.
- Position the splash using Free Transform (Ctrl + T).
- Use a layer mask to get rid of unwanted pixels or obvious lines.
Let’s make the back of the horse. Place “Water Splash 3” like shown below
Duplicate “Water Splash 3” layer by pressing Ctrl + J and move rotate it slightly to the left.
Place “Water Splash 4” on the back of the horse.
Duplicate “Water Splash 4” by pressing Ctrl + J and make it smaller. Place it on the back foot.
Duplicate the layer you just placed on the foot one more time and position it on the other foot.
Duplicate on the foot layers and place it on the front foot.
For the elongated foot duplicate one of the water layers you used on the feet but use Warp to stretch it a bit. Also make it a little bigger. To use Warp with the Free Transform press Ctrl + T inside the box that encompasses the layer and choose Warp.
Place “Water Splash 5” on the chest of the horse with some water coming out from his mouth.
“Water Splash 6” goes on the belly. Notice that this has a gray color and it is not very bright. That’s because we need something to fill in that big area and a very bright splash would be in conflict with all the other splashes.
“Water Splash 7” goes on the rear foot. It adds some nice random water drops
“Water Splash 1” goes on the back and on the head
Make a duplicate of “Water Splash 1” and use Warp to fit it on the head
Duplicate the original “Water Splash 1” again and place it somewhere on the chest to fill in the gaps. It looks too bright so use a Curves Adjustments to lower it’s brightness (drag the curve downwards).
Now that the water horse it is done let’s put the original harness over. To do this turn off all the layers except the original background layer and using the pen tool select all the bigger parts of the gear
After you’ve finished with paths press Ctrl + Enter to make selection from path. Now press Ctrl + J to make a new layer from selection and now you should have the harness on a new layer.
Move the harness layer above all layers then turn back on the visibility of all the layers. You should have something like the image below. It looks pretty nice but it not quit complete yet. Because we can see objects through water some of the harness on the other side of the horse should be partially visible too. The problem is that we don’t know how the back of the harness looks and we don’t have any photo reference of the same harness. In these situations it is good to remember that the elements in a photoshoped should look real but they don’t necessarily have to be from a real reference. When you’re doing a scene like that you’re selling an illusion so any tricks to make the illusion look real will do.
In this case the solution is to copy parts of the original harness on new layers, resize them and lower the opacity (remember that we’re viewing them through water). Make a selection of the desired part of the harness ( like the red metallic bar) with the lasso tool and press Ctrl + J to make a new layer (just make sure that when you press Ctrl + J you are on the original harness layer). Take a look at my results below.
Repeat the step above with the long leather strip.
Do the same for the leather belt that goes below the belly and the one that goes across the chest.
And repeat for the leather strips placed over the head. Of course you can take your time and duplicate each and every crane and leather strip but I think it looks pretty real already.
Take a look at the shadow. Considering that this is a splashy water horse it looks very linear and tight to me.
Make a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N) and using the standard chalk brush tool and a splash brush (you can google splash brush – you’ll find tons of them) with a color sampled from the original shadow try to give it a more chaotic look.
Because this is a water related scene I thought that a Color Balance Adjustment layer to shift the colors toward blue would be appropriate.
A little vignette effect to focus the attention on the horse would be great too so let’s add a Curves Adjustment Layer and drag the curve downwards to darken the image. Select the Gradient tool and from the upper menu choose the Radial Gradient. Press D to set default colors and in the Curves layer mask drag from the center towards the edges and release. Here is how your layer mask should look.
Notice how the blue outline of the horse – the Horse Glue layer we created at step 9 – it is too visible. Go to the layer Horse Glue and add a layer mask by choosing Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal all. With a chalky brush erase the obvious straight lines – like the one around the tail.