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Create a Flat Earth Waterfall in Photoshop

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

From time-to-time, we like to feature the work of artists that we think are doing a fantastic job in their field. Recently, we introduced you to the work of Garrigosa Studio. One work in particular from their portfolio attracted quite a bit of attention from readers wanting to know if we could show them how to produce something similar. Your feedback is important to us, so we decided to give it a shot. In this reader-inspired tutorial we will explain how to create a flat Earth waterfall in Photoshop using a handful of stock images. Let's get started!


Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.


Step 1 - Waterfall images setup

We will go to a process of setting up our materials to make sure all images work well, so we will roughly mask and position the layers to make sure of this. OK first of all let's start by setting up our document size. Create a new document and set the size as follows.



Now open up these images here, and copy and paste them on the main document in a new layer for each.



We should have our images as shown here in layers, so let's treat each one separately.


Select this layer shown here first.


We will first flip this one horizontally, since we need the waterfall looking the other way.


And then let's use the move tool to reposition as shown here.


OK now let's go to our other image layer shown here.


And first off let's use the scale command to reduce its size as shown below.



OK easy enough, now go back to the other image and be sure to drag it on top of the stack.


Now we will need yet another waterfall image so go ahead and open this one.


Copy and paste it on to a new layer, plus also scale it down as shown here.


Then we need to position it as shown here, where we want to build up the continuity of the waterfall.


Perfect, so now we have these three layers of waterfalls to work with, let's go to the bottom one and make a layer mask for it. Also to see things better you can hide or disable the other layers on top.


Let's now choose the paintbrush tool, while our new mask is selected and be sure you have black as your foreground color.


And then select a nice soft brush such as this one and set its size as shown.


Easy enough now just brush around as shown here to mask off all the image information we don't need right now.


Let's now go to the top layer and also make a mask for it.


And with the same brush, mask off softly what we don't need of this image.


Now we will use even another image, so go ahead and open up this other waterfall stock image.


Copy and paste the image on to a new layer.


We need to flip it horizontally, so access that command on the edit menu.


We will now drag this new image all the way to the bottom.


And also let's flip this one horizontally.


Now drag the image into position as shown here.


Easy enough, now let's go back to this layer here.


With the same soft brush we where using let's mask off as shown here.


Perfect, now let's go to the bottom image layer, and create a mask for it too.


And continue using the soft brush to mask off as indicated here.


Then move that layer into position as shown here. And that is it for this step we have finalized the step with a solid base of waterfall layers to work with.



Step 2 - City

Now we will go through the same process to establish the base for our city with some images, so first off let's open up this image here.



Copy and paste it on to a new layer on top.


Great, now we need to scale it down into position as shown below.



Then go to your tools and select the magic wand to make a quick rough selection of the sky as shown below.



Once you have the selection, inverse it as shown here in the select menu.


Now click on the layer mask icon as shown here, to get an instant mask.



Now to mask of the rest just go to your bush again with black selected.


And mask off the bottom as shown here.


Now let's use the scale command again to setup the city as shown below.



OK great, we will need one more image for our city so open up the one shown here.


And of course copy and paste it on to a new layer.


OK now we need to scale and position this part of the city as shown below.



Yet we also need to flip it so the light comes from the right.


Once again use the magic wand to make a quick selection of the sky.



And repeat the process, invert and make a layer mask.



Next up select the lasso tool.


Make a selection ever what might have been left behind by the magic wand tool, to be sure we mask out the whole sky.


Then we go back to our soft brush and mask of the bottom as shown below.



Then go to the scale command and re size the image as shown.



Next we will make a levels layer for this part of the city and make a clipping mask for it.



And adjust the levels as shown here, so we bring down the shading in the image just a bit.


Now introduce a color balance layer and adjust as shown here, We are doing this for this layer first because we need to see if the image has the color depth needed to make it fit with the rest of the images. And that is it for this step we have our city layers setup and looking good enough to work with.




Step 3 - Foreground Waterfall

Easy enough, now let's introduce one more image to our document, so open up this image here.



We don't need all of the image so grab the lasso tool and make a selection as shown below.



Copy and paste that selection on to a new layer in our document, and also make a duplicate of that layer and hide it.


Now select the layer that is visible and access the distort command in the edit menu.


Distort it as shown here.


Perfect, now make a mask for that layer.


Go back to the brush tool with the same soft brush, and mask off as shown below.



OK simple enough now drag the layer into position as shown here.


Once you know that section looks good, right click on the mask and select apply layer mask.


Now let's jump to the clone tool.


Now select the source from top and start cloning to complete the falls all the way to the bottom.


Let's now go to the brush tool.


Make a new layer mask for this layer, and mask off as shown here. Easy enough we have roughly setup the foreground for our waterfall, and that is the end of this step.




Step 4 - Detailing the water

OK so we have all our layers, setup roughly, so now if we like what we have, we can go ahead and spend a good amount of time detailing the masks and adjusting the blending. Let's start with the bottom layer, so hide the others so we can see what we are doing.




Grab the brush tool, and using white as your color mask in as shown below to see the edge of the image and know what we have to work with to make it fit.



Polish the edges as shown until you have something that merges well with the other parts, you can enable and disable the other layers as needed to see what you are doing.


Once we have the mask adjusted we will make a new color balance layer for this section of the waterfall since its colors are a bit off. So go ahead and adjust as shown below.



OK great now it seems to fit very nice.


Let's go to this other section of the water and make a color balance layer for it, don't forget to clip it to the layer.



Adjust the levels as shown here.


OK looking good!


Let's now add a levels layer and adjust as shown here.



Perfect that lifts the blacks enough for this section.


Let's go to this levels layer shown here and fine tune just a bit as indicated. This is why we work with adjustment layers, we can go back to them all the time and adjust whatever we need on the different sections.



Check your results so far, we have a very nice water extending all the way to the horizon.



Step 5 - Detailing the horizon

OK its time to make our rough masks detailed enough, so go back to the brush tool and select a brush as shown below.




Go to the layer that has the trees and start masking of as shown here, a detailed tree line.


Continue all the way to the right side as shown.


Increase the size of the brush as shown here.


And with it make that mask bigger as shown here.


Increase the brush even further.


And mask off more as shown here.


OK good enough now grab the lasso tool and make a selection of the rest of the sky as shown below.



Make sure your background color is set to black and hit delete.


Perfect we have finished up this step and we have a clean horizon.



Step 6 - Detailing the city mask

Great, now we will go into our city layers to detail then also, so let's start with this one here.




First off let's be sure there are no borders left form our rough masking, so keep the brush we used in the last step and mask off those traces a shown below.



Now reduce the size of the brush as indicated here, of course we will go all over the buildings edge so if you need to increase or decrease the brush size, by all means do so.


OK so really zoom into the image and start masking off as shown here, all the details.


Continue with each building to remove all the traces of the old sky.


Be sure to go all the way, in between buildings.


OK there we go we have this section of the city with a perfectly detailed mask on top.


Now set the brush at about 45px


And now paint in with white to bring back the bottom of the image.


Once you have a clean view of the base, apply the layer mask.


And then apply a defringe to the layer as shown below.



Now place the image as shown here.


Now be sure you have the layer selected.


And make a levels layer plus create a clipping mask for it



Adjust the levels as indicated here.


And we adjust the levels to match the depth of the city position.


And add a color balance layer adjusting it as shown below.



Perfect we are one step closer to matching our images together.


OK moving on let's add now a hue/saturation layer and adjust the saturation as shown below.



This matches the saturation of far away objects in a scene like this one.


And this is my result so far, I am sure you guys are right there with me.


Let's now go to the other city image layer.


And let's pick up the brush tool again with the tip and size as shown below.



We will repeat the same steps as the other image, let's first make sure the mask its clean.


Now let's grab this layer and all of its adjustment layers so we can drag them below the other city layer.


Select the move tool and place the layer into position.



Now let's scale it as shown below.



Let's grab the paintbrush again


We have this area that had clouds in it that we have to fix up.


Let's make the brush small enough to work with.


Zoom in quite close and detail the layer as shown below.



Make the brush even smaller.


And detail down to the pixel each building.


Once you have all the buildings detailed, increase the brush size as shown here.


Be sure your color is set to white.


And bring back all the bottom of the image as shown.


First off let's go to the levels layer that we already have and adjust as shown here.



That matches the haze level a bit better.


Also let's adjust the color balance we also already have.



Great, a bit closer to our scene.


Now let's make a new hue/saturation layer and diminish the saturation.



Well I think it is very close, match your results here.


I think there is a need for a bit more adjustment on the color balance, so go to that layer and adjust as shown below. And that is the final touch to blend these into our image, some color adjustments go a long way in terms of blending.





Step 7 - One more water layer and New sky

First off let's duplicate our main waterfall layer (layer 4).



Then the duplicated layer let's scale it down as shown here.



Let's grab our brush back and before we edit the mask let's place the layer as shown here, and drag it on top the other so we can see it.



Now let's mask off as shown here so it fits seamlessly with the rest.



OK now we need a levels layer so create one and clip it.



And then adjust the levels settings as follows.


Now let's go back to the original layer 4 shown here.


Let's edit the mask as shown below.



Easy enough, we can now open our new sky.


Let's copy that image and paste it to a new layer all that way to the bottom of our layer stack.


That is a big image let's scale it down.



Try to match the scale I show here.


Now our sky its pointing the wrong way so let's flip the image.


And then place it roughly in this position.


Of course our sky needs a layer mask


And we will need our soft brush again to work on the mask.



Swiftly mask off at the bottom as shown here.


Nice, now we need to start adjusting the sky , so create a levels layer for it, and clip it. Then adjust the levels as shown below.



Let's now go back to the mask.


Grab the soft brush again at about this size.


Mask off where indicated. And that is it! we have our new sky all setup in our scene.



Step 8 - Mist Clouds and final adjustments.

OK the final push to get our image ready. Let's goo all the way down to our background layer.



Select the gradient tool.


Click on the top left gradient to open up the gradient editor, and then click on the bottom left color indicator.



You will get the familiar color picker dialog box where you will choose an almost white color as shown below.


Or to help you must pick a color from the section where white merges with the sky as shown here.


Now pick the opposite color indicator as shown and on the color picker dialog box select a deep blue color as shown below.



Easy enough, now just click OK.


Drag the gradient tool as shown here.


And you will get a gradient that covers all the back as shown here.


Perfect!, now create a new layer on top.


Find my cloud brush, and make it quite big.


Sample color from the clear whites of the water.


Slowly paint in some clouds as shown here, it might take a couple of tries to get the clouds you like, so just undo/redo until you get some nice mist/cloud cover.


Now sample some dark blue as shown here.


And paint in a couple of strokes as shown here.


Great, now let's go back to this city layer.


Adjust the levels for it as shown here.


Let's proceed with the other city section and adjust the levels as indicated below.



Great! that was easy and that is why we work with adjustment layers, to fine-tune all what we need at any time. Now let's create a new layer.


Select the brush tool again with the cloud brush.



Now sample color directly from the image as shown here.


Now paint in a cloud/mist stroke as shown here.


Then sample an almost white from the mist section.


And add in the same place another stroke.


Perfect, now let's fine-tune the levels in the city layer that sits further back.



And also the levels on the other city layer also need some adjustment.



Now go back to the back city layer and adjust the color balance as shown here.



This is the result we get from all these adjustment, of course your taste of your rye might tell you different so go ahead and try, play, adjust.


Another tiny bit of adjustment is needed on the back city layer.



Easy enough, now let's create a new layer on top of the sky.


Select the brush tool once again with the big soft brush as indicated below.



Sample color from this level of the sky and paint in a bit of back haze.


Reduce the opacity of the layer at about 68%


Almost there now adjust the city levels once again


And there we have it! Balanced and blended everything together.



Final Image



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