“If I can’t paint with real brushes, why should I paint with Photoshop brushes?”
The idea of painting in Photoshop can be daunting, especially if you gave up on watercolors in elementary school. But here’s a secret that your 5th grade art teacher never told you: Photoshop will help you fake it ‘til you make it. While this is probably not a great lesson to teach 5th graders, as adults sometimes we need to figure out how to work within our limitations.
Watercolors are popular graphic design trend, but in real life they’re messy and difficult to master. Budding graphic designers shouldn’t be discouraged; with stock images, you can create custom Photoshop brushes that will make it look like you know how to paint.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to quickly make several watercolor brushes in Photoshop using stock images and vectors. You can even use these same steps to make any custom brush.
Step 1. Pick Your Watercolors
You should have your watercolors ready before you begin the tutorial, so here are some stock watercolor images from the GraphicStock library to get you started.
Step 2. Convert Your Images to Black & White
Open your images in Photoshop, then add a black and white adjustment layer. You can also add a brightness/contrast adjustment layer to vary the depth of color. You should also make sure that the background is as white as possible.
We recommend adjusting the image size so that your bush doesn’t start out too large (but you can always play around with the brush size later). To adjust the image size, go to Image > Image Size.
Step 3. Create the Brush
With the brush tool selected, go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Name your brush, then click OK. Repeat this step for all of your watercolor images.
Step 4. Test Your New Brushes!
Open a new Photoshop document and select the paint tool. Open the Brush Presets browser (go to Window > Brush Presets) and select any of your watercolor brushes. Adjust the brush size using the slider or using the bracket keys on your keyboard.
Finally, click once on the canvas. You do not want to click and drag because that will just create a large blob.
Now start experimenting! Switch among your new watercolor brushes while adjusting the color and size. In the next step, we’ll show you how to adjust the angle of the brushes to prevent the image from looking too patterned.
Step 5. Adjust the Brush Angle
To simply flip your watercolor horizontally or vertically, go to the Brush Presets tab and check the Flip X and Flip Y boxes, respectively. You can also adjust the brush angle in this tab.
If you want to add some more variation to the size and position of your brush, click on the Shape Dynamics tab on the left. Experiment with the sliders and start clicking on your canvas. If you adjust the Size Jitter, for example, the size of your brush will change every time you click on the canvas.
When you’re done, you’ll have a custom watercolor painting! Pat yourself on the back and relish not having to clean up any paint.
Using these same steps, you can easily create any custom Photoshop brush. Or check out our hand-picked gallery of stock watercolor images to find more inspiration for your next Photoshop brush.
Sometimes it’s hip to be “stock-y.” Music videos used to cost thousands of dollars and required high-tech hardware and editing programs. But now in the age of low-budget DIY creativity, YouTubers like Joe Penna—known as MysteryGuitarMan on his channel—can make engaging videos with just a few stock images and a talented hand in Adobe Photoshop, all without ever having to leave their homemade studio. Joe’s specialty is bringing the absurd to life with animation, special effects, and music.
Take a look at “Stock Photo-shop” and see for yourself:
Joe’s music video for “Believer” by the band Paper Lions features stock photos from GraphicStock, with Joe lip-syncing the lyrics. He even made sure the lighting on his face matched the lighting in the photo. The well-paced video over the infectious tune was uploaded on December 15th and has garnered over 300,000 views so far. The video was well-received by subscribers, who have been anticipating a new video from Joe since his previous upload two months prior.
We love seeing projects that our creative community makes—from fun music videos by YouTubers like Penna to exciting designs like last year’s Creative Rewards winner. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to provide high-quality stock content that fits any creator’s budget. The possibility are endless!
These days, Photoshop is everywhere—in your newsfeed, on your Pinterest board, and maybe even amongst your New Year’s Resolutions. The ability to transform and customize stock photos and create graphics is one of today’s most sought-after skills.
Whether you’re a Photoshop novice or expert, efficiency is key—and that’s where this printable guide comes in. Sure, there’s going to be some memorization involved, and maybe even a bit of a learning curve—but once you master these handy shortcuts, you’ll be flying through your projects faster than a cheetah on a coffee break. You can download a PDF version here and tape it to your desk for easy reference.
Keep it for yourself, or spread the wealth—Photoshop mastery is at your fingertips. You can share the guide on your own blog or website using the embed code below:
2016 has been on point in the world of Photoshop tutorials. With dozens of new and unique tips and tricks for Adobe’s most popular design program, Photoshop has only gotten better with age. From trendy effects like double exposure and text portraits to evergreen favorites like added grunge textures, there’s always more to learn. Even better, it’s never too late to start since there are always new and updated tutorials to help you along the way.
We’ve curated our 50 favorite Photoshop tutorials from 2016 for designers of all skill levels. Stock photos and graphics are also a great resource for testing these tutorials—check out our library to help you get started.
It’s never too late to learn Photoshop, especially since every year brings a wealth of new tutorials. Whether you’re learning for the first time or looking for a refresher, these are some of the best beginner-level Photoshop tutorials from 2016. 1.How to Add Textures in Photoshop
Illustrations can be one of the most important and versatile assets for a design project. Luckily, 2016 provided us with plenty of Photoshop tutorials to keep our illustration skills sharp (regardless of drawing ability). 19.How to Color Illustrations in Photoshop
No matter how close we are to a robot-controlled world, we hope that vintage design will always have its appeal. At the very least, vintage Photoshop tutorials were still hugely popular in 2016, so we’ve collected a few of our favorites. 26.Add a Vintage Grunge Effect in 5 Easy Steps with Photoshop
These tutorials give us a glimpse at Photoshop’s incredible power, supernatural or otherwise. From fireworks and surreal photo composites to mesmerizing smoke and shattered glass effects, these tutorials will take your projects to an unreal level.
With all of these awesome tutorials, it’s hard not to feel inspired. Get your creativity flowing and take these how-tos for a test drive using royalty-free stock photos from our library—all with unlimited downloads for our members.
Grunge textures are one of the most popular search terms in our GraphicStock library–and for good reason! Textures are an invaluable resource to graphic designers and photographers alike. Grunge textures, in particular, can send a picture back in time, creating a dramatic, vintage effect. That’s why we’ve created this simple tutorial to show you how to quickly add grunge-styled textures using stock vectors and photos.
Whether it’s for home decor or website illustrations, the grunge effect is one of the most versatile graphic design techniques. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to add a grunge texture to an image in five easy steps. And if you’re anxious to learn more, you can also check out our tutorial on adding background textures in Photoshop.
Step 1. Choose an Image
You’ll want to pick an image that looks convincingly vintage when you add the grunge effect. To get you started, we put together a gallery of stock photos that would work well with this tutorial. You can also download the image we used here.
Once you’ve selected your image, go ahead and open it in Photoshop.
Step 2. Add the Grunge Texture
Select a grunge texture. To make things easy, we curated a gallery stock grunge textures from the GraphicStock library.
Drag the grunge texture file onto your Photoshop workspace. Adjust the size of the texture as needed by dragging the corners of the image.
Step 3. Choose a Blending Mode
Select a blending mode from the drop-down menu under the “Layers” panel on the right. You can experiment with blending modes until you find one that fits your project. We selected “Hard Light” for this tutorial.
Step 4. Add a Black & White Adjustment Layer
Under the “Adjustments” panel, click the “Black and White” icon. You can also go to the menu bar and select Image > Adjustments > Black & White.
Step 5. Adjust the Opacity on the Grunge Texture Layer
Select your grunge texture layer, click “Opacity,” and adjust the slider until you achieve the desired effect.
Pro-tip: Remove Unwanted Marks from the Image
If you find that the texture is just a little too grungy, you can always make more adjustments to the image. For our picture, we wanted to get rid of a few of the marks that were obscuring the girl’s face.
Select the texture layer, then go the menu bar and select Layer > Rasterize > Smart Object.
Once you have rasterized the texture layer, click on the “Healing Brush” icon on the left (it looks like a Band-Aid).
Before you can fix the image, you need to select a “source point.” The source point is a location on the image that you want to use to repair a damaged area. To select a source point, just Option+Click on a clean area near the damaged area. We selected a part of the girl’s cheek without any grunge marks as our source point.
Once you have selected your source point, just click and drag your mouse over the area that you want to repair. You can experiment with the length of your strokes to see what technique works best for your image.
Voila, your image is complete!
Now go forth and create faux-vintage photos!
Check out our galleries of royalty-free stock photos and stock grunge textures to find some inspiration. You can download all of these photos, textures, and more as part of your GraphicStock subscription. Once your project is complete, share it with us in the comments, or upload it to Instagram and tag @graphicstock_.
Creating a logo is a major undertaking—if you ask the brand agencies that charge thousands and thousands of dollars to make them. We all know how essential logos are to build a strong brand identity, but it doesn’t have to be rocket science—stock vectors can be easily adapted to create a unique and powerful logo for your company or organization. The beauty of using GraphicStock is that our license allows you to adapt existing graphic elements into logos without any copyright worries.
Take a look at these formulas, which show the simplicity behind the logos of major, international corporations. Hopefully, these will get your design neurons firing.
A common combination is an icon plus your company’s name:
Although this is an older version of Starbucks’ logo, the badge is a well-known composition in logo design, especially for traditional or nostalgic industries:
And yet another classic example of icon plus business is from our very own sister site, AudioBlocks:
The key to successfully incorporating stock vectors into your logo design is to look for parts of each vector you want to download and blend it into your overall aesthetic. That means avoiding a copy and paste technique, and instead picking and choosing which elements inspire you the most and can help streamline your process. Here are our 30 favorite vectors for logo design.
It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping, and pretty soon Christmas music will start streaming in through your radio. Every holiday season, we decorate our refrigerators and mantles with cards from family and friends wishing us health and happiness through the cold winter months. This year, stand out from the crowd with a beautiful, one-of-a-kind holiday card that you can personalize to exactly your taste.
We’ve created this quick tutorial for designing a custom photo card that will dazzle everyone on your mailing list. All you need are a few easy-to-edit graphics and you best family pics, and you’re ready to get started. Here’s what we used:
First, we need to create our canvas. Start by opening a new document, and set the dimensions to 5”x7”, with 300 px/inch.
Step Two: Build your Border
Now that you have your canvas, select the shape tool and set it to the rectangle shape. Draw a rectangular fill shape ½ inch in from all sides.
Once you have your shape, select the “Paint Bucket” tool to fill the square with an ivory color.
A popup will ask you to rasterize the shape, click “okay” and then click inside the shape with your paint bucket.
Step Three: Add Some Sparkle
The holidays are a festive time of year, and how often do you have free reign to add some gold glitter to your life? We decided to use a gold glitter background for the border, and that’s just what you’re going to do next.
We used this gold glitter background. Simply go to File>Open, then select your image. Once it is open in a new Photoshop screen, select the “Move Tool” and drag it into the canvas. From there you can resize the image as you see fit.
You will notice that it is currently in front of that pretty ivory rectangle we made. To fix this, go to your layers panel, and pull the layer labeled “Rectangle” above “Layer 1.”
Step Four: Add the Banner
For our banner, we started with this red satin image. Open and drag it into your canvas the same way you did for the gold background.
Next you will need to crop out a long rectangle. To do this, you first need to set your primary color to black. Then, Using your marquee tool, draw a rectangle over the area you want to save. With this selected, go to the layers panel and select the “add vector mask” button at the bottom of the panel.
Now you should have a long, thin red banner. Move the banner to the center of the canvas.
We added an additional satin effect by going to the “fx” button at the bottom of the layers panel and selecting “satin.” Make sure the color is set to a burgundy red and adjust the settings as you see fit. You can see here the settings we used to give the banner a rich, velvety texture.
Insert your photo into your canvas as you did the other images, and crop as necessary using the vector mask and marquee tool like you did with the red satin banner. Move your image into place.
We didn’t want to crop off the top of the frame any further, so we let the image stay a slightly larger than the frame and moved the banner in front of the image to cover the extra. We did this by dragging the layer above the photo in the layers panel.
Step Six: Edit Your Photo
Go ahead and apply any edits you would like to your photo. We chose to desaturate this image so that it wouldn’t compete with the bright gold and red in the design. You can do this by selecting Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation.
Step Seven: Start Adding Text
Let’s start by adding text to the lower portion of the canvas, just to get the words in there and figure out what and how much we want to say.
To make the card look really beautiful, we need to lay out our text in an interesting way and add exciting fonts. Play around with this and let your creativity really shine.
Don’t be afraid to rotate the text and use a couple of sizes and fonts. We also chose to move the “sentiment” up into the ribbon banner for better balance.
Finally, to help the text really pop, we added drop shadows to some of the text layers. With the text layer you want to edit selected in the layers panel, click the “fx” button at the bottom of layers panel, and select “Drop Shadow.”
Here you can see the settings we used for the banner text.
Step Eight: Send it to the printer
We recommend using a professional printer with a high quality cardstock to really make your card stand out. Or if email is more your pace than snail mail, save your cards as high quality PNGs or PDFs to share virtually with all of your loved ones.
That’s it! This beautiful card is simple, elegant, and entirely yours. Customize this design however you like–or if you are feeling inspired, you can start your own from scratch. With thousands of photos, vectors, and graphics, your options are endless.
What will you design? Share your finished project with us on Instagram, (simply tag @graphicstock_), and let us know how it goes in the comments section below.
We love Halloween. As soon as the calendar hits October 1st, we start thinking of ways to utilize our royalty-free stock vectors for all sorts of inventive Halloween designs. Last year we created awesome printable Halloween masks, but this year we’re taking it to another level with festive posters, invitations, and pumpkin carving templates.
Our library is full of unique Halloween vectors, and the beauty of working with them is how easy they are to customize or incorporate into your larger design—even in Photoshop. Here are three fun and spooky ways you can bring your Halloween creations back from the dead this year.
1. An Eye-Catching Event Poster
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, starts the day after Halloween and brings colorful inspiration beyond orange and black. With one of the intricate sugar skull vectors in our library, we created a vibrant event poster highlighting this traditional illustration.
To recreate this poster:
1. Open a new Photoshop file with poster dimensions of 24 x 36 inches and color the background black.
2. Drop in this sugar skull vector, then select and delete the white background—you may need to rasterize the layer first.
3. Enter your desired text with your chosen typeface.
4. Warp the top text by clicking menu item Type>Warp Text>Style: Arc. Be sure Horizontal is checked and adjust to your desired bend.
To add a little more depth to the poster, we also added a few texture layers. Place this grunge texture image as the top layer. Resize it to the full width of the poster, change the blend mode to Multiply, and lower the opacity to 25%. Add another geometric texture above the background layer and adjust the opacity to 25%. These textures add visual interest and keep the poster from appearing too flat.
2. Spirited Party Invitations
Sometimes you’ve got to get punny, and there’s no better time than Halloween. Our library has plenty of festive and easily customized illustrations and vectors, like this owl artwork.
To recreate this invitation:
1. Open a new Photoshop file sized at 4 x 6 inches.
2. Place the owl image into the file as a smart object, resize it to 4 inches wide, and center it horizontally and vertically.
3. Rasterize the layer and fill in the remaining background by selecting the surrounding area and clicking menu item Edit>Fill>Contents: Content Aware.
4. Create new text and add in “Owl See You Oct. 31” or your own customized text. For this poster, we continued to use the Google Font, Creepster.
5. Add any additional party information below the owl.
Not much of a planner and afraid of using snail mail? Don’t worry, these graphics are also great for social media use. You can make the dimension of your artwork either square or horizontal and still achieve the same effect by posting to a Facebook event or even by sharing through email.
3. Spooky Pumpkin Carving Templates
Halloween is incomplete without an old fashioned carved pumpkin or two. While carving pumpkins maybe be a timeless tradition, you can apply some tech-savvy techniques to your artistry. We’ve gathered a few simple and spooky graphics that would make excellent templates for your pumpkins.
To create your own carving template:
1. Open the vector file in Photoshop and convert the images to a highly contrasted black and white graphic. (Image>Mode>Grayscale; Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast—and increase contrast to desired level.)
2. Print them out and stencil in the black areas after cutting them from the paper.
3. Carve the appropriate portions of each design into your pumpkin. We used these freaky teeth and added some basic eyes before printing. Or check out more vectors and illustrations we’ve used for pumpkin carving.
Halloween is about having fun and letting loose. Don’t feel like you have to play by the rules when creating your designs. You can take them to a scary, horror-inspired level or get silly and playful like we did. But start prepping soon—Halloween is just around the corner.
As many Adobe users know, sometimes the fastest way to learn the ins and outs of Photoshop is to teach yourself. That’s why we’ve put together this tutorial to show you an easy way to create a visually striking portrait using our royalty-free library of stock photos.
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but when you combine a picture with text, the impact can be exponential. This technique is fun and useful—whether you’re a budding graphic designer looking for inspiration for your blog or business, or are just trying to master as many tools as possible in Photoshop.
Customizing stock photos is a great way to enhance your online presence. Follow along this tutorial to see how we create this high-impact graphic using an image from our library.
Step 1. Choose A Portrait That Inspires Greatness
You can either complete this tutorial with the fitness photo we’ve chosen or browse through our stock photo library until you find a portrait that fits your needs. The subject of this photo is well-lit and her body easily contrasts with the background. Try to look for these features in your chosen photo and open it in Photoshop.
Step 2. Edit the Composition of the Image
Although the image is already visually well-balanced, we need a closer crop to achieve our desired effect.
Choose the Rectangular Marquee tool (M).
Change the style to Fixed Ratio and adjust the width ratio to 1 and height to 2. This is a good ratio for Pinterest graphics since that platform favors height, but you can choose the ratio that works best for your purposes.
Drag and drop the marquee around the area you wish to keep.
Go to the Image dropdown in the Menu Bar and choose Crop.
Step 3. Select the Background of Your Image
Next we will use selection to chose the background of the image. We recommend starting with the Quick Selection tool to begin selecting.
Adjust the size of your Quick Selection brush and click and drag on the background of your image.
To add to your selection, hold down shift while selecting.
If you added too much, hold down alt while selecting in order to deselect.
If the Quick Selection tool isn’t precise enough, try making the size of the brush smaller.
Pro Tip: To quickly zoom in, out, and around your image, it’s easier to learn keyboard shortcuts. You will need to zoom in close at times to be sure your selection is precise.
Remember to use the ctrl key instead of the command key when using a PC. Here are some to get you started:
Zoom In: Command + =
Zoom Out: Command + –
Fit To Window: Command + 0
Hand Tool (to grab and drag): Spacebar, click and drag
Step 4. Isolate the Subject of Your Image
Now that you have the background selected, we actually want our selection to wrap around the subject and really refine the edges.
Invert the selection by typing shift + command + i or by right clicking the selection (with the Marquee tool activated) and choosing Select Inverse.
Choose the Select and Mask option.
Change the view to Overlay. The parts that aren’t selected are now shaded in red. This helps clarify the area that is selected.
Now you should be able to play around with each of the sliders. The best way to understand what each one alters is to experiment with them until you get the settings you desire.
An easy fix is to check the Smart Radius option and edit from there. We also chose to feather the radius a couple pixels.
Be sure to specify the Output Settings to New Layer with Layer Mask before clicking OK. Need more help? We cover it in greater detail in our selection tool tutorial.
Step 5. Create a Black Background
So now you have your original layer with the image, and a new mask layer that isolates your subject.
Create a new layer and drag it below the masked layer.
We renamed the new layer to “Black Background.”
Fill it with black by first hitting the D key (this makes your primary color black and the secondary color white).
Then hit the G key to select the Paint Bucket tool. If the Gradient tool shows up instead, then click and hold the Gradient Tool and drag the mouse over the Paint Bucket Tool.
With the Paint Bucket tool selected, be sure you have the Black Background layer activated and click on the canvas to fill it.
Step 6. Convert To Black and White
Select Your layer with the layer mask, and type Shift + Command + U to desaturate the image or you can go to the Image dropdown in the Menu Bar, click Adjustments, and then Black and White.
You can play with those sliders and presets to configure your desired look and click OK. There is no need to be too precise because we will play with this a little later.
Step 7. Add a Black Layer On Top
Similar to how you added a black background, we also want to add a topmost layer filled with black, but we also want to hide it for now.
Create your new layer, make sure it is dragged to the top, and fill it with black. Hide the layer by clicking the eyeball to the left of that layer.
We renamed the layer “Black Cover.” We will come back to that layer later.
Step 8. Create Dramatic Shadows With Levels
The final look we are trying to achieve is dramatic, blending our subject into the black background. Right now, she sticks out like a sore thumb, so we are going to edit the levels of this photo to achieve the striking-yet-blended look we want.
Make sure your layer with the mask is selected (but not the mask itself) and type Command + L.
The settings you choose will be a matter of personal preference, however in the screenshot below are the numbers we chose. From the left to right we entered 100, .85, and 245. Click OK.
Now the image as a more dramatic look to it and blends nicely into the background.
Step 9. Position and Add Text
Previously we added a black cover layer and hid it. Now we will unhide the layer so we can start adding text.
Drop the opacity of the layer down to 50% so you can see what is underneath.
The text we will be adding is “I’m going to make you so proud -Note to self” and we chose the typeface called League Gothic, which can be downloaded with your Creative Cloud Account through Adobe Typekit.
Hit the X key to switch your primary color to white.
Then hit the T key to open the Type tool.
Type in your message and align it with the subject’s body.
Notice how we typed in each line of text on different individual type layers.
The goal is to align the majority of the text with the shape of the subjects body and/or face. In this instance, we left the face mostly free of text for readability.
When you type in one line of text such as “You So” you can then use the shortcut Command + T—which is the shortcut for the Transform tool—to drag and drop the corners of the text box to be the size you wish.
This is where it is fun to have creative freedom!
Be sure to hold shift while dragging the corners of the text box so your proportions remain true. Press enter after you resize it.
Step 10. Subtract from the Black Cover Layer
As you can see, we avoided covering the subject’s face with the text. Let’s adjust the Black Cover layer so it doesn’t cover the entire canvas.
Activate that layer, type Command + T, and drag the left edge of the rectangle so that it almost aligns with the text.
We chose to have the left side of the text “hang over” the edge of the box, if you will—meaning it is not perfectly aligned.
Now comes the exciting part!
With your Black Cover layer activated, hold down the Command key and the Shift key simultaneously, while clicking on the “T” on each text layer in the layer window. This will select the area of each text layer.
Keep those keys held down until each text layer has been selected. You will notice the dotted lines around your letters.
Be sure that the Black Cover layer is activated and all your text area has been selected and hit Delete on your keyboard.
Hide all of the type layers by clicking each eyeball.
Bring the opacity of the Black Cover layer back up to 100% and type Command + D to deselect the area of the text.
It will resemble something very similar to the image above. See how close we are getting?
Step 11. Emphasize the Text
So, we’ve basically deleted the text we arranged from the Black Cover layer to reveal our chosen image underneath, however, we run into the issue that not all of the text is legible.
That’s OK! You’ve made it this far and your Photoshop skills have just increased exponentially. Isn’t it neat how tutorials can open up your mind to the possibilities of Adobe Photoshop? You just have to know its capabilities.
Let’s edit parts of the image underneath the Black Cover layer with the Dodge and Burn tools.
Activate the layer with the mask and select the Dodge tool (O).
Adjust the Size of the tool to about 400px to start and adjust as needed. Change the Hardness to 0%, the Range to Shadows, the Exposure to 100% and make sure Protect Tones is checked.
You can easily adjust the size of your tool by typing either the [ key to make it smaller or ] to make it bigger.
Now with your image layer activated, start brushing over the areas you want to lighten. If you go too far, you can easily undo with Command + Z and redo with Shift + Command + Z.
Next, change the range to Midtones and repeat until you achieve your desired lightness.
While much better, it is not quite perfect. So now I’m going to create another layer above the image itself and below the Black Cover and start playing with the Brush tool (B) with a lowered opacity white.
After some tweaking, I should get the look I am going for:
And there you have it!
You can create a whole series of graphics for pinterest or posters with this dynamic and engaging style. There are endless possibilities to customize the royalty-free stock photos from our library and to make them your own.
Are you ready to give it a shot? Get the image we used here or check out other inspiring portraits for inspiration.
Sometimes we all need a break from reality, and Photoshop is great for creating visual fantasies that tell a story. By combining breathtaking ocean vistas and landscapes with a few photo editing tricks and a big dose of imagination, you’ll be sailing to the edge of the world in no time.
This stock photo composite tutorial is a wonderful place to start if you are looking to master a wide variety of Photoshop basics. Best of all, each of these elements can be downloaded from our library of royalty-free photos.
With the image selected and using your Move Tool, grab the corner of the photograph and resize it to fit. Then, grab the center of the image and pull the whole picture to the bottom edge of the canvas.
Step Two: Duplicate and flip the layer.
We also want to use this image as the “sky” surface to create a surreal, space-bending effect. To do this, we are going to duplicate the existing layer by selecting Layer > Duplicate Layer.
With this new copy layer selected, go to Edit > Transform> Flip Vertical. Move this new, upside-down image to the top edge, mirroring the photograph on the bottom.
Once again, we need to open our image, drag it into the main document, and resize it to fit using the Move Tool.
Step Two: Isolate the ocean surface.
There are many methods to isolate part of an image, but in this case I used a vector mask. To do this, you need to first make sure your color boxes show black in front of white. Then simply select the rectangular marquee tool and draw a rectangle encompassing the area you want to save.
With the marquee box active, click the “Add Vector Mask” button in the Layers Panel, and the rest of the image will disappear.
Now, using your move tool, stretch the remaining image to fit the entire width of the canvas.
The benefit of a vector mask is that no pixel data is actually destroyed, unlike the eraser tool or crop tool. If you want to make some of these pixels visible again, you can do so by selecting the vector mask in the Layers Panel, and using your brush tool with the white color selected to paint the hidden portions of the image back in.
Step Three: Adjust the color and lighting.
For each of the Adjustment Layer settings in the tutorial, feel free to play with the settings until you are happy with your image, or use our settings in the images as a guide.
First, we will add a Color Balance Adjustment Layer by selecting Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance. When we do this, there are three options that appear in the drop down within the dialogue box, and you will currently see “Midtones” selected. Adjust the midtones until you achieve your desired effect.
Next, select “Highlights” from that drop down menu. Adjust the highlights.
Finally, add a Curves Adjustment Layer (Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Curves) to adjust the lights and darks within the image.
Blend the Ocean Layers
Step One: Adjust the hue and saturation of the bottom underwater layer.
Select the bottom underwater layer and apply a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer (Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation). Adjust the hue and saturation until you are happy with the results. We chose to make the color greener and lower the saturation to give it a murky feel.
Step Two: Soften the bottom edges of the ocean surface with a Layer Mask.
For this vector mask, you will not use a marquee tool to isolate the pixels. Instead, with the ocean surface layer selected, go ahead and click “Add Vector Mask” in the Layers Panel.
Next, select your brush tool and lower the opacity to 17%. Begin removing areas of the ocean surface image, following the patterns of the waves, until the two layers appear seamless.
Experiment with different levels of opacity, and remember, you can always click command (mac) or control (windows) + Z to take a step back, or reverse the black and white in the color box to stop hiding pixels and start revealing them.
Step Three: Apply a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to the top underwater layer.
Now we need to adjust the colors on the top underwater/sky layer. After selecting this layer in the layer panel, apply a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. I chose to keep this layer looking slightly different than the bottom, so I did not use the same adjustment layer settings.
Next, add a Curves Adjustment Layer and adjust as necessary.
Step Four: Soften the top edges of the ocean surface within the Layer Mask.
Returning to the ocean surface layer, select the layer mask. Make sure black is your foreground color, and select your brush tool. On a low opacity, blend the horizon line softly with the top ocean layer by painting in an undulating S-shape.
It’s worth noting that if you select the layer, but not the layer mask itself, you will only be painting on the image, not hiding pixels in the layer mask.
Add the Cityscape
Step One: Isolate the city and wall.
Once your cityscape image is open and resized, you need to isolate the city and the wall from the background using your preferred method. We again used a vector mask and paint brush to carefully “erase” all the extra information from the image.
Step Two: Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.
Apply a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to make the cityscape fit better with our ocean scene.
Next, we need to flip the image vertically to make it appear to be “upside down.” Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.
Step Two: Isolate the mountain.
Use a Vector Mask or other method to isolate the mountain and hide the background.
Step Three: Stretch the image to fit under the city.
Using the Move Tool, “stretch” the Mountain to fit under the cityscape.
Step Four: Bring water in front of the mountain.
This is where the magic happens. Add a vector mask to the mountain layer if you have not already done so, and using a black brush on 25% opacity, hide the mountain under the ocean. I used multiple strokes, concentrating close to the ocean “surface.”
Step Five: Adjust the color and lighting.
Apply Curves and Color Balance Adjustment Layers.
On the Color Balance Adjustment Layer, adjust both the midtones and the shadows until the image colors blend with the rest of the waterscape.
Step Two: Flip the image horizontally and place to the left of the image.
Go to Edit > Transform > Flip horizontal.
Step Three: Apply Curves and Color Balance Adjustment Layers.
Step Four: Lower the opacity of the image.
There are a few ways to lower the opacity of a layer, including lowering the opacity directly in the Layers Panel. Because I wanted more control over individual elements, I applied a Vector Mask, and used my black paint brush on a low opacity to hide some of the pixel data.
Time for a Whimsical Underwater Friend
Step One: Bring in your Stingray image and resize it to fit the screen.
Isolate the image using your preferred method.
Step Two: Adjust the color and lighting.
Apply Curves and Color Balance Adjustment Layers.
Step Three: Adjust the size and position as desired.
Use your move tool to change the size, dimensions, and location of the stingray on the canvas.
Step Four: Apply a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.
This guy didn’t look quite right to me, so at this stage I added a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to help him blend into the scene.
Tying It All Together
Step One: Add shadows.
Without shadows, everything is just floating on a 2-dimensional canvas. Luckily, adding realistic shadows is super easy, (and no, I don’t mean the “Drop Shadow” tool).
Just select your brush tool and set the mode to “Color Burn.” Then, going through each layer one by one, color in shadows where they would naturally appear. Remember to keep your light source consistent, and play with the opacity level on your brush (I used a level ranging from 5%-20%). I added shadows to the water surface, the ocean floor, and each element within the scene.
If you aren’t a fan of the water being used as the sky, it’s super easy to make it look like a normal sky scene. Simply grab that layer, and adjust the scale so that the sand is hidden outside the frame.
And voila! You now have the know-how and skills to create whatever underwater fantasy your heart desires.