In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a surreal underwater scene featuring a cat sitting in a shoe. You'll learn how to create an underwater scene using several stock images, as well as how to put an adorable kitty in a shoe and make her first adventure! During this tutorial you'll also learn how to work with group, create lighting, apply bubble brushes in an underwater environment, enhance the depth of field, and more.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. Add the Underwater Scene
Create a new 1500 x 1263 px document in Photoshop with the settings below:
Open the underwater image. Use the Move Tool (V) to drag it into the white canvas, and place it in the bottom half:
Use an adjustment layer and set as Clipping Mask to reduce the saturation of the underwater scene. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and decrease the Saturation value to - 79:
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings to give some vibrance to the underwater scene.
Use a color fill
layer to reduce the underwater visibility and add some depth to it. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and pick
a medium-dark cyan color (I chose
#2e595c). Lower the Opacity of this
layer to 50%.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the underwater scene. We're aiming to make the main light come from the upper left. So on this layer mask, use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush) to erase the top left to make this part brighter than the rest. Also increase the depth of the underwater part.
2. Add the Sea Surface
Open the sea image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the middle part of the sea:
Place this sea part in the middle of our main document, above the underwater part:
Add a mask to this layer, and use a soft black brush to soften the hard edges and blend the sea surface with the underwater part and the horizon, following the movement of the waves.
Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to make the color of the sea's surface match the underwater part:
Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness.
On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase some areas on the lower and right side, as it should be less bright than the left:
3. Add the Sky
Open the sky image. Select the upper sky part using the Rectangular Marquee Tool:
Drag this selected sky into our working document and place it in the upper half. Flip it horizontally by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal. Remember to set this layer under the underwater one.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the sky color with the sea:
4. Add the Shoe
Open the shoe image and extract it from the background using the Magic Wand Tool (W):
Place the shoe in the middle section of the scene and flip it horizontally:
Add a mask to this layer and use a medium-soft black brush to make the lower part of the shoe appear under the sea surface.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and bring the Saturation value down to -88:
Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick a medium-dark cyan color (
#607a85) to match the shoe color with the background:
Add a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness.
On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper part of the shoe which is above the sea surface:
Make another Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness.
On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the lower part and the shade areas.
To make the lower part of the shoe blend better with the water,
create a color fill layer and choose a dark cyan color (
the Opacity of this layer to 50%.
Use a soft black brush on the mask of this layer to remove the effect on the upper part of the shoe.
Create a new layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:
Select the Dodge Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure about 10% to bring more light to the front of the shoe which is toward the light. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:
Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color
#9ed5da to paint
the light under the lowest of the shoe to blend this part better with
the underwater part. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:
5. Add the Cat
Open the cat image. First use your familiar method to remove the background:
Make a new layer between the extracted one and the background, and fill it
with the color
#80604e. Select the mask of the extracted cat layer, and
use a hard brush with the size from 3–6 px to trim the fur and remove
the remaining dark edges:
Create a new layer and use a hard brush with the color
#eff3f6 to paint the missing fur along the cat's head and body.
Hide the background and the fill layers, and press Control-Shift-Alt-E to
merge all transparent layers into a new one. Move the merged cat into
the underwater document using the Move Tool. Place her onto the shoe and flip her horizontally:
Add a mask to this layer and remove the lower part of her hands to make her look as if she's inside the shoe:
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to desaturate the cat a bit:
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:
Add a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the top of the ears and the right side along the head and body.
Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay, and fill with 50% gray.
Use the Dodge Tool to bring more light to the upper side of the ears, head
and hands, and the Burn Tool for shading and reducing the highlight on
To make the cat shadow on the shoe, create a new layer under the cat one. Use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 20–25% to paint on the part under her hands:
6. Add the Birds
Open the birds 1 image. Isolate the birds from the background using the Magic Wand Tool.
Select some birds to add to the sky, behind the cat, remembering to vary their size to create depth of field:
Add two birds to the farther background, making them smaller than the existing ones. On each of these layers, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 2 px:
Add a bigger bird to the right corner of the scene, above the underwater surface. Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to it:
Select all the bird layers and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default group mode) to Normal 100%. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -64:
Add a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness.
Use the layer mask to reduce the lightness on some birds, especially on the right side and the lower part of them.
Open the bird 2 image, and isolate the bird using the Magic Wand Tool. Add it to the top left of the scene, making it bigger than the existing ones (as it's closest to the viewer) and making sure it fits the direction of the cat's gaze:
Apply a Gaussian Blur to this bird and increase the Radius to 8 px to enhance the depth of field:
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to add some red/yellow to the bird:
7. Add the Bubbles
Change the brush kind to the bubble ones and the color to
Select a brush you like and press F5 to change the settings of this
Paint some random bubbles along the bottom of the shoe, remembering to lower the brush opacity and size so as not to make the bubbles too visible or obvious.
8. Apply 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%.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights settings:
Make a Photo Filter adjustment layer and choose the color
Time to add light to the scene. Create a new layer, and use a soft brush with the color
#1f0b01 to paint on the left side:
Change the mode to Linear Dodge 100% and use a layer mask to reduce the light effect on the biggest bird and the cat side, on the shoe, and under the water surface where they are less illuminated.
Make a new layer and change the brush color to
#efa67e. Paint on the
left corner to make a highlight. Set this layer mode to Overlay 100%:
Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the upper left. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the lower left and the right side to maintain the shade there:
Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the whole effect:
Congratulations, You're Done!
I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and learned some new techniques. Feel free to leave your feedback and comments in the box below—I'd love to see them! Enjoy Photoshopping!