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One of the fun exercises I did as a child was to create my own animal species in my sketchbook. Drawing from a reference, I would combine the craziest parts of different animals together to make up a new animal and give it a name. 20 years later, I'm still doing the same thing. In this tutorial, we will use Photoshop to combine a crocodile and a frog to create a new animal species. Let's get started!
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.
1. Setting the scene
First, grab the Frog stock photo from the list of assets above and open it in Photoshop. Resize the image (Image > Image Size...) to 1024x768 and label this layer Frog.
Next you'll need the crocodile head. Open this image separately within Photoshop. Before removing the scenery ensure that you delete the background layer beneath the croc head so that you will end up with a transparent background.
When searching for a subject matter to combine your animal try to focus on certain elements that will match together. For instance with the frog I looked at other animals with similar colours and positions so that they would naturally fit together. The angle of the croc's head fits with the angle of the frog's body.
If you're not sure that the two will match up, simply place the croc layer over the frog layer, change the opacity of the croc and resize using the Transform Tool (Command/Ctrl + T) to see roughly how it fits.
Once open we'll need to get rid of the scenery behind the croc as the head will be all that we're using. There are numerous methods to cutting around the croc's head. You can try using the Magic Wand (W on your shortcuts) but seeing as the background to the croc's image is quite detailed it might be better to use the Eraser Tool (E on your shortcuts) to remove the plant-life. I use a circular brush (varied sizes) with the hardness set to 100% and no spacing. This ensures a clean crisp line around the croc's head. Make sure to zoom in for all those hard reach places, more detailed you get the better the overall image will look!
This will probably be the most time-consuming step but it's worth it in the end! Personally I use a Wacom tablet to do this as you can really get into the detail and it is much faster but a mouse will do the job (just be patient).
Once you've got the croc's head cut out, copy the croc layer and paste it above the frog layer and label this layer Croc Head. You'll need to try and resize it using the Transform tool (Command/Ctrl + T ) to where you think it fits best.
You'll notice that there's still some work to do as the croc's eye is visible and the colour doesn't match with the frog.
2.Matching the frog and crocodile
Now that we have a general idea how the two animals fit together we need to start matching them a little better. Using the Clone Stamp Tool (S on your shortcuts) we'll attempt remove the croc's eye. When cloning I tend to use a soft brush as this helps blend the cloned area more effectively.
While holding the ALT key, select a similar area of skin near the eye that can be used to cover over the eye.
Now we need to join the back of the croc's jaw-line to the frog's neck. Again, select an area that matches the croc's jaw pattern and use the clone tool to fill in a suitable connection.
Always look for elements that can be cloned together and sections that look like they might fit. You should now have something that looks similar to the image below
We're starting to get a better shape but there are still elements that don't quite match up. Part of the croc's head is still covering the frog's eyes and they need to be removed.
Using the Eraser Tool (E on your shortcuts) remove these elements to fit the croc's head more naturally. Use a soft brush to remove any jagged or overlapping areas around the frog's eyes and jaw line.
3. Coloring and shading
The Crocofrog is looking good at the moment but he needs some colour work. As I've said in previous steps, there are different ways to do this but I find this way works out for me the best.
First, you'll want to outline the Croc's Head
(Command/Ctrl and click or command and click on the Croc Head layer) and you want to select the Create the new fill/adjustment layer option in the layers tab.
Select the Colour Balance option and on Tone Balance choose the Midtones Option. Then move the sliders to match the screenshot below.
This has created a mask over the entire head but we don't want the teeth and inside the mouth afftected. To fix this simply select the eraser tool and remove the colour from the tongue and teeth. There are other areas of the croc's head that could do with removing the green colour so once again select the Eraser Tool but this time reduce the opacity to 50%. I've highlighted in red the areas that I've erased to 50% and the blue areas I've erased at 100%.
Now we want to lighten a bit of the croc's head colour to blend with the frog's body. In the below screenshot I've highlighted in red the areas I've lightened using the Dodge Tool.
It's looking pretty good but we're still missing some shading. The croc's head seems to be floating above the image as it has no direct shadow. Select the Frog layer and using the Burn Tool darken the ground beneath his head matching the shadow that the frog is casting.
In this tutorial, you have learned how to quickly combine two images in Photoshop to create something that couldn't exist in real life. One of the most important things you can do when trying this on your own is to make sure you find images that can be easily combined. This means searching out photos where the subjects are positioned in similar environments and perspective. Once you do that, it will make erasing the away the parts you don't need and incorporating the various elements that much easier. Good luck!