In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a funny underwater scene featuring a big fish stuck on a tree.
First we’ll create the base scene using the sky, the sea, and a color fill layer. Then we’ll add the boat, tree, and fish, and we’ll blend them together using adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. After that, we’ll import the leaves and the bird, and we’ll paint the bubbles. We’ll paint the light and add several adjustment layers to complete the final effect.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Add the Sky
Create a new 2000 x 1684 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:
Press Control-Shift-N to make a new layer. Hit G to activate the
Gradient Tool and choose the Radial Gradient with the colors
#155069. Drag a line from left to right to get a similar result to the one below.
Open the sky image. Drag this image to the blue canvas using the Move Tool (V) and place it in the upper half.
Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to
this layer. Use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush)
with the Opacity about 30-35% to reduce the clouds’ intensity on the top
right of the sky. We’re aiming to add the main light from the left and will
darken the right area, so the clouds there should not be too obvious.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and set it as
Clipping Mask. Change the Midtones settings.
Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the sky’s color. Bring the Vibrance value up to maximum.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the right corner of the sky.
On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the left so its lightness will not be changed.
2. How to Create the Underwater Sea
To make the underwater base, create a Color Fill layer and pick the color
Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to grab the upper half of the cyan
canvas. Select the layer mask and turn the foreground to white. Click
Delete to reveal the sky.
Add a Curves adjustment layer to increase the lightness for the upper
left. On its mask, use a soft black brush to paint on the rest.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the upper left a bit. Paint on the rest so it will not be affected by this adjustment layer.
Open the sea image and place it above the underwater base. Use the Free
Transform Tool (Control-T) to make it much narrower to fit the sea’s perspective.
Use a layer mask and a medium-hard black brush to remove the hard edges,
remembering to follow the movement of the waves to achieve a more believable result.
Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the sea’s color. Change the Saturation value to -66:
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the sea’s surface with the underwater base.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the right of the surface.
Paint on the left so it will not be affected by this adjustment layer.
Make a new layer and use a medium-soft white brush with a small size
(about 10-12 px) to paint the stroke along the surface to define the surface better.
Open the grass image. Select the grass part only and add it to the
lowest area of the underwater sea. Change this layer mode to Soft Light
Use a layer mask to blend the grass’s background with the sea.
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 6 px:
On this filter mask, use a soft black brush to erase the background and
leave the foreground blurred. This is to create some depth of field.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to match the color of the grass with the background.
3. How to Add the Boat
Isolate the boat and add it to the lower right of the underwater area.
Use a layer mask to blend the boat with the grassy ground. Don’t worry if it does not look good—we’ll fix it later.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the boat.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to change the contrast of the boat.
It’s under the water so should be less obvious. The selected area on
the lower right shows where to paint on the layer mask.
Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -94.
Use a Color Fill layer and pick a similar color to the underwater
#255465). Lower the Opacity of this layer to 60%. It helps
to blend the boat with the background completely.
4. How to Add the Tree
the tree from the background and place it above the boat. Set the tree
layer under the boat one, and use a layer mask to remove the middle
section above and below the surface, the part under the boat, and the
part towards the left. The idea is to make the tree look as if it’s growing from the boat.
Add a Color Fill layer and pick the color
#0e5c72 to blend the part
under the water with the background. Lower the Opacity of this layer to
50% and erase the part above the water’s surface.
Create a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Highlights
settings to increase the vibrant red/gold of the upper part of the tree. The lower
part should be erased.
The tree looks too dark, so add a Curves adjustment layer and increase
the lightness. On this layer mask, use a medium-hard black brush to
erase the right side of the trunk and branches to fit the light from the
Use a Levels adjustment layer to strengthen the highlight on the tree. Apply painting on the mask as we did in the previous step.
5. How to Add the Fish
Cut out the fish and place it above the tree. Use a layer mask with a
hard black brush to reveal the branches on the right. Now it looks as if the fish is stuck in the tree!
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -43.
Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the fish as it’s too dark now.
Paint on the right where it’s hidden from the light source.
Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50%
gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure
about 15-20% to brighten the stroke part of the fish and eye and darken the
hidden details in his mouth. You can see how I did it with Normal mode
and the result with Overlay mode.
Make a new layer under the fish layer and above the tree one. Use a soft
black brush with the Opacity about 30% to paint the shadow of the lower fin
on the tree.
To make a shadow of the branches on the fish, make a new layer above the
fish one. Hold Control and click the tree thumbnail layer to load its selection. Fill this selection with black and move it to the right a
bit (as the light comes from the left).
Lower the Opacity to 40% and use a layer mask to clear the unnecessary shadow areas outside the fish.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 5 px to soften the shadow.
6. How to Add the Leaves
Open the leaves image. Use the Move Tool to select the leaf you like and
add it to the lower left of the water. Use Control-T with Warp mode to tweak it to
make it look more dynamic and interesting.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to this leaf.
Add more leaves around the fish, under the water, above the surface, and
in the sky. You can vary the form, blurriness, distance, and movement of
them to increase the dynamism and depth of the scene.
Select all the leaves layers and press Control-G to make a group for
them. Change this group’s mode to Normal 100% and add a Hue/Saturation
adjustment layer within the group to desaturate the leaves.
Create a Channel Mixer adjustment layer to turn the color of the leaves
which are under the water into cyan. Erase the ones above the surface to
keep their yellow color.
Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the leaves on the left of the scene. Paint on the rest of the leaves as they’re in the dark area or far from the light.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to darken the leaves under the water, in the right corner of the sky.
7. How to Add the Bird
Isolate the bird and add him to the left side of the scene.
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the bird’s color:
Add a Curves adjustment layer to reduce the light on the lower body and the hidden areas. The selected parts show where to paint on the layer mask.
8. How to Paint the Bubbles
Change the foreground to a very light cyan color (
#c2cfd5) and activate
the bubble brushes. Choose the one you like (I’ve chosen 93) and
press F5 to change the brush settings:
Paint the tiny bubbles along the flow of the falling leaves. You can reduce or increase the brush’s size by holding [ or ].
Use the same brush with a lowered Opacity (about 60-70%) to paint bigger bubbles on the edges, and soften the bubbles with a Gaussian Blur
9. How to Make the Final Adjustments
Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the
#f8b884. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%.
Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color
#1f0b01 to paint on
the left horizon. Alter the mode to Linear Dodge 100%.
Use a yellow color (
#efa67e) to strengthen the light on the left. Set this layer mode to Overlay 100%:
Create a Curves adjustment layer to increase the light on the left.
Paint on the rest of the scene so it will not be affected by this
Add another Curves adjustment layer to strengthen the shadow on the right.
The last step: Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.
Congratulations, You’re Done!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my tutorial and learned something new. Feel
free to share your ideas or comments in the box below—I’d love to see
them. Enjoy Photoshopping!