The underwater world is really exciting and with this tutorial, you can move there with your imagination! This tutorial will show you how to create an underwater scene using only one stock, create a mermaid with a hand drawn tail, and add bubbles created from scratch. Read this tutorial to learn how to create this amazing underwater photo manipulation!
What you’ll be creating
In this tutorial, you will start from creating underwater scene with only one stock. Then, you will make beautiful mermaid tail. After that, you can make water bubbles. After all, you will finish by creating nice adjustments, to match all colors. You’ll need Photoshop CS5.5 or newer to follow this tutorial.
- Sparkles Brush – wingsofahero
- Mermaid and other poses 13 – cathleentarawhiti
- underwater – koko-stock
- Silky Scale Brushes – imaliea
- Fish – mossi889 (Alternative)
Start from creating new file File > New.
Add new Adjustment layer with Solid Color. It will be our background. I used #16505a, but you can pick any other color for your work :).
Add new layer (Layer > New > Layer or by shortcut) . In your color picker set black and white colors. From top menu choose Filter > Render > Clouds.
Now, from the top menu choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur. Then, change blending mode to Soft light.
In underwater surfaces, light goes from top. Bottom of image should be darker, so add Adjustment layer with gradient fill. Set linear black-transparent gradient, as is shown.
Decrease opacity of created gradient fill to 55%.
In your color picker set dark turquoise color (#16505a). From adjustments menu, choose Gradient fill. Now, set radial gradient.
After all, change blending mode of created gradient fill to Multiply, decrease opacity of this layer to 55%. It’s because more important parts of your image, should be brighter.
Place underwater stock to your file. Change blending mode of this layer to Color dodge and decrease opacity to 53% – we’ll use underwater particles from this stock.
As you can see, on the top is rough splash of light. Try to fix it. Click on mask of your layer (right side, white canvas). Pick big, soft brush and gently erase problematic fragment.
Now You’ll make light rays. Add new layer (Layer > New > Layer or by shortcut). Pick big, soft brush and set blue color – or whatever you want – try to take monochromatic to your background color (If you don’t know, what color you should use, see Kuler tool from Adobe). Draw one big dot on your image.
Transform it as is shown. Put your ray to the top of the image. Just press ctrl + T and play with arrows :).
Repeat it (step 9-10). Create more light rays. I’ve created five rays. Avoid using the same color. Then, change blending mode of created layers to screen.
Time to small sparkles. Load “Sparkles Brush” – from tool menu choose brush tool. Go to menu with choosing brush. Click on small arrow on the top. Choose Load Brushes…. Your loaded brushes should be on the bottom of your brush menu.
Add new layer. Use “Sparkles brush” and draw some on the center of the picture. I used light-green color. Don’t go overboard with the amount of sparkles. It may looks unsightly.
Because sparkles are too light, change opacity and blending mode of this layer – Linear Dodge (Add), 18%.
Add new layer. You’ll make bigger sparkles. Change size of sparkles brush to bigger. Draw some strokes from bottom to center. And from top to left side.
Change blending mode and opacity. Linear dodge (Add), 6%.
It’s time for model! 🙂 Place stock to your file and mask it. Use hard round brush for edges of stock. Use soft round brush for making linear gradient between bottom of the stock an background.
Stock photo is very light. Too light for underwater themes. Add new layer. Click on it with RMB and choose “Create clipping mask”. Then, pick soft, round brush, around 60px size. Set #65585a color. Draw on overexposed parts of stock.
Change opacity and blending mode – Multiply, 62%.
Time to fix contrast on your stock. From adjustments menu, choose Brightness/Contrast. Set it as is shown. Then, click on it with RMB. Choose “Create clipping mask”.
Now you should add more realistic colors. At first, add Color Balance adjustment layer and make it a clipping mask.
Then, in your color picker set turquoise colors. Add adjustment layer with Gradient Fill. Click on it with RMB and choose “Create clipping mask”.
Change blending mode of created layer to Multiply. Decrease opacity to 25%.
Next, add adjustment layer with Hue/Saturation. Make it a clipping mask! 🙂
Now you’ll make shadows. Add new, clipping layer. Pick soft round, dark-grey brush and draw some shadows on her belly and arms.
Change blending mode of created layer to Multiply. Decrease opacity to 50%.
There was shadows, so now you should take care of lights. Add new layer, also make it a clipping mask. Pick really light color. Use soft brush and draw lights on her hands, arms and head. Follow the light source.
For better blending, change blending mode to Screen. It looks more naturally.
Colors are still not good. try to fix that! 🙂 Add adjustment, clipping layer with Gradient fill (set similar gradient fill as in step 19). Set it as is shown, then change blending mode to “Color” and opacity to 50%.
Again, add new clipping layer. Set brush, like from step 22. Use #257775 color, or – if you using other colors, pick shadow of color, which you used in step 22. Draw lights on model – arms, hands, breast, back.
Then, change blending mode to Screen.
Wow! That was long :). Now you should start working on mermaid tail. Add new layer. With hard round brush (I recommend pressure size), draw base for your tail. Keep calm – it’s only shape.
Load “Silky scales” brushes (If you don’t know, how to load brushes, go to step 12). Add new layer with clipping mask to tail (RMB > Create clipping mask). Pick dark blue color and let scales flow! :).
Click on created layer with RMB. Go to “Blending options”. Then set “Bevel and Emboss” – Scales will be convex! :).
Add new layer. Click on it with RMB and choose “Create clipping mask”. On this layer, You will create shadows of tail. Pick big soft brush and gently draw shadows. For making shadows, I prefer brush with pressure opacity.
Now add lights – new, clipping layer and light color. Remember about light source!
This step is totally optional. Repeat step 29. Draw bigger lights on tail. Then, just decrease opacity of this layer to 50%.
Back to layer with scales. Duplicate it (drag and drop layer to “New layer” symbol) and put on top of layers. If layers are unhooked, make it a clipping mask again.
Back below layer with tail. Place “Fish” stock to your file. Transform it as is shown.
Mask tail. Erase second fish and unnecessary parts of first fish. Leave only fin. On the edges of flipper, use hard brush. Soft brush will be good for center of tail.
Colors on tail don’t match. Add adjustment layer to the fin – RMB > Create clipping mask – with Hue/Saturation.
Now you should fix yellow/orange/brown tone on the top of tail. Add adjustment layer with Color Balance and make it a clipping mask.
Go to the op of your layers. Again place “Fish” stock, as is shown.
Mask unnecessary parts of fishes. Leave only tail from top. Use soft brush for mixing created tail with fish tail.
Of course stock doesn’t match with whole mermaid. Fix it by adding adjustment layer with Color balance. Then, click on created layer with RMB and choose Create Clipping Mask.
Then, add Hue/Saturation adjustment, clipping layer. It will change whole color of tail.
In my opinion edge between tail and stock is really big. Fix it. Create new layer. Pick color from mermaid tail and draw stroke below fish tail.
Now decrease opacity of created layer to 50%.
You should draw hair. Add new layer and draw some strands. Use 2px soft brush. Remember about changing colors – I used tones of turquoise and black.
Now You will make outline. Use light turquoise. Draw some strokes on both tails!
Cool! again add new layer. You should repair mermaid’s bra. Draw some strings by 2px soft brush. At the end of every string you should draw white dots – like pearls!
I will show you, how to draw bubbles. Let’s start! Create new layer. Choose 60px hard round brush and draw dot somewhere.
Now choose erase tool. Set soft brush with the same as before size – here: 60px and erase center of dot.
It’s time to make it sparkling! By small, hard round brush draw some sparkles on bubble.
Now, pick hard round brush, with size as you used in step 44. Set opacity of brush to around 8% and draw the same dot as before. Use tones of blue or green.
At the end, draw some white shine around bubble. Use around 23% opacity, white, soft round brush, 19px. Draw strokes on top-left edge and smaller stroke on right bottom.
Now your bubble is ready. Convert it to Smart Object, for making endless transforms :). Click on this layer with RMB and choose Convert to Smart Object.
Now duplicate your bubble (drag and drop layer to “New layer” symbol) then transform duplicated layers (Ctrl + T). Repeat it a few times.
If you have too much layers, just click on some with holding ctrl. Then click on chosen layers with RMB and pick “Convert to Smart Object”. You can freely transform group of bubbles.
You can also play with smart filters. I’ve used from top menu Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur…
Now, for making colors good, add adjustment layer with Gradient fill.
Change blending mode to Overlay, decrease opacity to 20%.
I’ll show you, how to make your image deeper. Add new layer. In your color picker set green and black colors. Then, from top menu choose Filter > Render > Clouds.
Change blending mode to Soft Light, also decrease opacity to 20%.
Then, from top menu choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur…
This step is optional. Add new layer. Pick Sparkles brush and draw some sparkles around your mermaid. Use white color.
Set blending mode of this layer to Soft light. Layer will inherit colors of the rest of image.
Again add new layer. Use the same brush (Sparkles, white color) and set bigger size. Draw some strokes around tail.
Now set blending mode to Vivid light. Decrease opacity to 33%..
You should fix Brightness/Contrast. Add Adjustment layer.
Optional – add Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. It will fix all colors.
In your color picker set as primary color some green or blue (as your wish!), add adjustment layer with radial Gradient fill.
At the end, change blending mode to Multiply.
Download the PSD
Tutorial by msRiotte
Thank you for following this tutorial! You are amazing. Write if you have questions! :). Personally I am graphic designer from Poland. See my portfolio here: