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Create a Humorous Photo Manipulation Using Animal Photography

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How does a hippo take a bath? In this tutorial, we show you how to create a humorous photo manipulation using a handful of stock photographs. The result will depict a hippo taking a bath in an unexpected and funny way. Let's get started!


Tutorial Assets

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


Step 1

Open the image of the bird bath.



Step 2

Use Lens Correction (Filter > Lens Correction) to reduce the chromatic aberration.




Step 3

Use the Pen Tool to a draw path around the Bird Bath. With the Pen Tool still active, Right-Click the Canvas and choose Make Selection. Copy (Command/Ctrl + C) and Paste (Command/Ctrl + V) the selection to a new layer. Name this layer "Bird Bath."




Step 4

Create a new document at 2000 px x 2000 px and add a subtle gradient.


Drag the "Bird Bath" layer into this new document.


Resize using Command/Ctrl + T and position as desired.



Step 5

Looking at the bird bath, we can see that the light source is coming from behind and to the left. Reinforce the light source by adding an Inner Shadow Layer Style.




Step 6

At the base of the bird bath, we can see some excess mulch that needs removed. Select the area right above the base of the Bird Path using the Polygonal Selection Tool and Copy (Command/Ctrl + C) and Paste (Command/Ctrl + V) to a new layer.


Make this layer a Clipping Layer and move it over the mulch. Resize the layer a bit to help cover all the mulch.


Add a Layer Mask to hide any areas that don't line up.


Add another clipping layer and, using a dark color, paint in some shadows on the base of the bird bath. Set the Blending Mode to Linear Burn and the Opacity to 58%.



Step 7

Now we are going to add some shadows on the ground plane. Use the Polygonal Marquee Tool to make a selection in the shape of the base.



Step 8

With the selection still active, create a new layer and fill the selection with a dark color. Place this layer under the bird bath layer.



Add a Motion Blur with an Angle of 0 degrees and a Distance of 15 px. Next, add a Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) with a Radius of 1.0 px. The result should appear like the image below.



Step 9

Make a copy of this layer and give it a Gaussian Blur of 75 px. It may be necessary to Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) this layer to compress the shadow. This becomes the ambient shadow.



Step 10

To create the casted shadow, make a copy of the bird bath layer and rename it "Casted Shadow" (this may disrupt the existing clipping layers—make sure to re-clip them). Use Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) to convert the layer to all black. Also, we can remove the existing effects.


Convert this into a Smart Object (Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object) and Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) this layer so that it becomes the casted shadow.


Change this layer's Blending Mode to Multiply and set the Opacity to 52%. As an optional step, you can add a subtle Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to soften the shadow a little.



Step 11

Make another copy of the "Bird Bath" layer and place it at the bottom of the layer stack. Name it "Reflection."


Change the Opacity of this layer to 8% and move it down so that the base is visible below the bird bath. Note: there is no need to rotate this layer.


Using a Layer Mask, hide the areas of the "Reflection" layer as shown. As an additional step, you can add a very subtle Motion Blur (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur) at a 90 degree angle to soften the shadow.



Step 12

Additionally, I've painted in some hotspots where the light would bounce off the base and onto the ground plane. These are meant to be very subtle.



Step 13

Now, it's time to work on the hippo. Open the image of the hippo.



Step 14

Use the Pen Tool to draw a path around the hippo.



Step 15

With the Pen Tool still selected, right click on your Canvas and select Make Selection. Make this selection a layer mask by clicking on the Add Mask icon in the Layers Panel



Step 16

Select to Mask thumbnail in the Layers Panel and use the Brush Tool to clean up the mask a little. You can also refine the Mask's edges by using the options found in the Properties Panel.



Step 17

Using the Move Tool, click and drag the hippo to our working scene. Rename this layer "Hippo." Also, group all of our bird bath layers together and rename the group "Bird Bath."



Step 18

Now that the hippo is in our working document, we will apply the layer mask permanently. This is considered a destructive operation, but it will help speed up our work flow. Select the "Hippo" layer and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Apply.



Step 19

Flip the hippo by going to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.



Step 20

Duplicate the "Hippo" layer and hide to original. Place the duplicated layer over the bird bath.



Step 21

Select both hippo layers and press Command/Ctrl + G to group them. Name this "Hippo in Bath"



Step 22

Hide the hippo group so we can see the bird bath and use the Pen Tool to create a shape as shown. The goal is to trace along the bottom edge of the bird bath to create a mask that will hide parts of the hippo we don't need.



Step 23

With the Pen Tool still selected, Right-Click on the Canvas and select Make Selection. Now, click the Add Mask icon in the Layers Panel to convert the selection into a mask for the "Hippo in Bath" group. Notice how the mask hides everything outside the selection. Since we need the mask to hide everything inside the selection, simply invert the mask. Just click on the mask's thumbnail in the Layers Panel and press Command/Ctrl + I.



Step 24

Notice the mask is hiding parts of the hippo's head—we will correct this later.

Next, we are going to warp the hippo to round out its shape, but first, we need to convert this layer into a Smart Object. Open up the "Hippo in Bath" group and select the "Hippo copy" layer. Right-Click this layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.



Step 25

Now, go to Edit > Transform > Warp and adjust the handles to round out the shape. Feel free to rotate the hippo to fill the space better.



Step 26

The next step is to add some additional fat rolls to our hippo. To do this, we are going to make a selection from an existing area of the hippo. Using the Lasso Tool, make a large selection around the hippo's neck rolls. Copy (Command/Ctrl + C) and Paste (Command/Ctrl + V) the selection to a new layer and name it "Fat Rolls."




Step 27

Convert this layer to a Smart object and move it to the rear of the hippo. Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) it to fit the space better.



Step 28

Add a Layer Mask and mask out the edges to give the rolls some dimension. Also, use the mask to soften the edges of our piece so that it blends into the body better.



Step 29

At this point, we are going to use some non-destructive techniques to touch up our hippo with the Clone Stamp. Create a new clipping layer above the "Fat Rolls" layer and name it "Rear Touchup." Select the Clone Stamp and set the Opacity around 30% and set the Sample to All Layers.



Step 30)

Now, use the Clone Stamp Tool to blend in the fat rolls. Be sure to recreate the correct lighting.



Step 31

Repeat this technique to touch up other parts of the hippo, such as the small part of the front leg that shows up.



Step 32

We will now replace the head. Select the "Hippo copy" layer and add a mask. Use this mask to hide the hippo's head as shown.



Step 33

Next, make a copy of the original "Hippo" layer and drag it above the "Hippo in Bath" group. Unhide this layer so we can see what we are working on.



Step 34

Use a layer mask to mask out the hippo's body, leaving just the head. Rename this layer "Hippo Head."



Step 35

Move the head over the body. Rotate the head using Command/Ctrl + T so the hippo appears to be looking down more. It may be necessary to edit the Layer Masks of the head and body to make the transition between the two layers seamless.



Step 36

To organize our layers, select all hippo layers and press Command/Ctrl + G to combine into a group. Call this group "Hippo Base." We will add additional effects to this group using clipping layers.



Step 37

Create a new clipping layer to the "Hippo Base" group called "Base Shadow." With the Brush Tool set to 0% Hardness, paint in a shadow at the base of the hippo. Use a dark color like #140703. Set the layer's Blending Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to around 35%.



Step 38

Let's add more contrast to the wrinkles. Create a new clipping layer called "Enhanced Wrinkles" and use a very small Brush with the same dark shadow color. Set the opacity to around 25% and start drawing over the wrinkles to darken them. It helps to use a pen tablet.



Step 39

Create a new clipping layer called "Wrinkle Lowlights." Using the same techniques (but with a larger, softer brush) start to build the shadows under the wrinkles. Set the Blending Mode to Multiply.


Do the same for the highlights. Just create a new layer called "Wrinkle Highlights" and use a light color to add highlights on the top side of the wrinkles. Set the Blending Mode to Overlay to help blend the colors.



Step 40

As an optional step, create another clipping layer called "Highlights" and paint in additional highlights over the rest of the Hippo.



Step 41

Next, add a Levels Adjustment layer to give the hippo more contrast.



Step 42

Now it's time to add some legs to our hippo. Open the other image of a hippo and use the Pen Tool to draw a path around the front leg.


Use this path to make a selection and Copy and Paste the new leg into our working scene. Label this layer "Back Leg" and place it inside a Group with the same name .



Step 43

Press Command/Ctrl + T to bring up the transformation controls on our "Back Leg." Before we do anything, Right-Click on the canvas and select Flip Horizontal. This will flip our leg in the correct direction.


Convert this layer into a Smart Object and resize and move the leg into the desired position. Use a layer mask to blend the leg into the body.



Step 44

Currently, the color of the back leg is slightly off. We can correct this with Adjustment Layers. Add the following Adjustment Layers as Clipping Layers to the "Back Leg" layer. At this point, we are not looking for an exact color match.



Step 45

The texture on the leg is too sharp. To correct this, apply the Blur More Filter (Filter > Blur > Blur More) to the "Back Leg" Smart Object and adjust the settings until the texture appears softer.



Step 46

Next, we will work on muting the texture. Create a new clipping layer to the Smart Object and name it "Muted Texture." Make sure this layer is above the Adjustment clipping layers. We do not want the Adjustment Layers to affect the "Muted texture" layer.


Using the Clone Stamp Tool set to a low Opacity, sample the texture from the body and add it to the leg. Don't overdo it, we just need a little hint of additional texture. If necessary, adjust the Opacity on the "Muted Texture" layer.



Step 47

The next step is to add shadows to the leg. Starting with a new layer directly below the "Back Leg" Smart Object, use a low-opacity, low-hardness brush to paint in some shadows.


Continue adding shadows to the leg itself using new clipping layers above the Smart Object. It works best if you place this layer above the Adjustment clipping layers. Be sure to change the Blending Mode to Multiply.


Lastly, use the same techniques to add some highlights to the leg. Make sure the Blending Mode is set to Overlay.



Step 48

Use the same technique to create the front leg. In this case, I'm using a copy of the "Back Leg" to work from. Also, add an additional layer of highlights to the edges of the front leg to mimic a strong highlight from our light source.



Step 49

The next thing we'll do is add a small bird to our scene. Open the image of the bird and make a copy of the "Background" layer. We are going to use the Quick Selection Tool to select the background, but before we do, adjust the Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) to increase the contrast between the Bird and the background. This will help the Quick Selection Tool make a better selection.


Use the Quick Selection Tool to make the selection. Use Alt and Shift modifiers to Add to or Subtract from the selection.



Step 50

With the selection still active, click on the Add Mask icon in the Layers Panel



Step 51

Make a copy of the "Background" layer and name this "Bird." Click and drag the mask to the new "Bird" layer copy. Hiding all the layers except the "Bird" layer will show us the result of the mask.


As an optional step, select the mask in the Layers Panel and use the Properties Panel to refine the mask. Clicking Refine: Mask Edge will offer even more options.




Step 52

Click and drag the "Bird" layer from the canvas to our scene.


Convert the "Bird" layer to a Smart Object and resize the bird using Command/Ctrl + T.



Step 53

Now that our bird is in position, we can use a few layer styles to add the correct lighting. Add the following layer styles




As an optional step, add a Levels Adjustment layer as a clipping layer to increase the contrast on the bird.



Step 54

Next, we need to add some shadows to the bird. Start by creating a new clipping layer called "Base Shadow" and use a low-opacity brush to paint in a black shadow underneath the bird. Change the Blending Mode to Linear Burn and the Opacity to 76%


Continue this technique to add a second layer of softer shadows.



Step 55

Next, make a copy of the "Bird" Smart Object. Make sure to repair any clipping layers if needed.



Step 56

Rename this layer "Casted Shadow" and add a Level Adjustment layer as a clipping layer to make the layer all black.


Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) the Smart Object to resemble a shadow casted by the light source.


Set this layer's Opacity to 27%. As an optional step, add a Gaussian Blur with a Radius of about 1.2 pixels to soften the shadow.



Step 57

Next, make another copy of the "Bird" Smart Object and name it "Reflection." Flip the layer to be the reflection. Move this layer below the "Base Shadow" layer.


Change the Blending Mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 30%


Go to Filter > Blur > Motion blur to soften the reflection


Set the Blending Mode to Overlay and add a Layer Mask to hide the bottom half of the reflection so the layer is only visible near the foot of the bird.



Step 58

Now that we have all of our components in our scene, there are a few additional tweaks we can make.

First, let's go back to the hippo and give him an additional fat roll around his neck. For this effect, go back to the "Hippo Head" layer (found in the "Hippo Base" group inside the "Hippo" group).


Make a copy of the "Hippo Head" layer. Rename this "Neck wrinkles." Place this layer underneath the "Hippo Head" layer and move it so the wrinkles are visible. Use Command/Ctrl + T to rotate as needed.


Use the existing Layer Mask to hide the parts of the head that stick out.



Step 59

The neck area still needs a little work. Use the existing masks on both the "Hippo Head" and the "Hippo Head copy" layers to clean up the neck rolls.



Step 60

In order to make the hippo appear as if it is really sitting in the bird bath, we need to create some believable shadows on the bird bath itself. To start, create a new clipping layer to the "Bird Bath" group and paint in the shape of how the hippo's shadow might be casted on the side of the bird bath.


Change this layer's Blending Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 60%



Step 61

Create a new clipping layer and use the same technique to add a similar shadow along the stand of the bird bath.



Step 62

Add another clipping layer and paint in shadows around each leg. The goal is to make the shadow heavier where the leg is closer to the bird bath (and softer/lighter where the leg is hangs away from the stone). I've indicated the shadows in green for illustration purposes only. Change layer's Blending Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 55%.



Step 63

Since the front leg hangs down, we want to create an extra ambient shadow to add more separation between the leg and bird bath. Just like before, create a new clipping layer and paint in a very soft shadow.



Step 64

The last shadow we'll add is the one around the base of the hippo where it touches the bird bath. Start by painting in a tight shadow as shown below.


Next, use a larger, softer brush to paint in a more diffuse shadow around the same areas.



Step 65

Next, let's add more comical eyes. Start by creating a basic oval shape filled with a dark brown color. Rotate the shape toward the bird to make it appear as if the hippo is looking at the bird.


The rest of the eye is created using digital painting techniques on new clipping layers. Use the images below for reference.


To finish the eye, paint in some shadows behind the eye using a new layer.



Step 66

In the next few steps, we will make small adjustments to our image that will help blend everything together. Add a Vibrance Adjustment Layer to the top of the stack with the setting shown below. This will help destaturate everything evenly.



Step 67

Next, create a new layer called "Atmosphere." Using a very soft brush and a very low Opacity (around 5%), sample the background color and start adding dots of color around the edges of the hippo. This techniques helps to blend the object into the fictitious space we've created.


Continue this technique with the bird and bird bath.



Step 68

Lastly, press Command/Ctrl + A to select the entire scene, then press Command/Ctrl + Shift + C to copy a flattened version of our scene. Paste this to a new layer at the top of our stack.


Go to Edit > Adjustment > Desaturate to convert the layer to grayscale.


Set the Blending mode to Darker Color and the Opacity to 40%. This will subtly blend everything together.



Final Image

You're Done! Your final scene should resemble the image below:


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