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Members Area Tutorial: Design a Summer Time Vacation Poster

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a surreal underwater photo manipulation that is perfect for a poster design. You’ll work with various manipulation techniques including blending, masking, creating underwater effects, complex extractions and much more.

This is a comprehensive tutorial that will teach you a range of applicable photo manipulation skills to use across your work.

Let’s get started!

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Create a new document and fill it with white (or any colors you want). Open sky stock. Grab Retangular Marquee Tool (M) to make a selection on sky part and use Move Tool (V) to drag it into our white canvas, place it at the top . Go to Edit-Transform-Flip Horizontal:

Step 2

I use an adjustment layer to change color of sky. Go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Color Balance:

Step 3

Open underwater stock. Drag it to the bottom of our picture then click second button at the bottom of Layer Pallete to add layer mask to it:

Use soft black brush to remove hard edges of the top and blend it with sky:

Step 4

I add two adjustment layers with Clipping Mask to change color and contrast of this underwater part:

After darkening with Curves I use soft black brush to erase the top of this underwater area as I want it brighter than the rest:

Step 5

Open sea stock. Take a part from this sea and position it at the center of our image, use Cmd/Ctrl+T to narrow it:

I call this layer “sea surface”.

Step 6

Add a Color Balance layer (Clipping Mask) to match color of this sea with the scene:

Step 7

Extract girl and situate her at the middle section of our image and set this layer under sea surface layer:

Add layer mask to sea surface one. Use black brush with hardness about 70-80% to remove a part of model to make a look of this girl sitting between the sea, also remove hard edge of the sea sides:

Step 8

Create a new layer above girl one with Clipping Mask option. Active Clone Tool (S), ensuring that ‘sample all layers’ is ticked, and remove some hair strands and a part of girl glasses:

Step 9

I use two adjustment layers (Photo Filter and Curves – Clipping Mask) to reduce saturation and change contrast of the girl:

Then I clear the girl part under the sea with soft black brush on Curves layer mask:

Step 10

I want to darken the bottom part of the girl and reduce highlights on model body, hair, fingers so I make two layers (Clipping Mask) and use soft black brush to paint on these areas. I change the mode of these layers to Soft Light 100%. On screenshots, you can see that I vary brush opacity for differents parts:

Step 11

Make a new layer and I pick color #fedcbe to paint on the fingers on the right then put the mode to Multipy 30% to darken it more:

Step 12

To give an underwater look to the girl, I make a new layer and choose Edit-Fill with color #398fa2, then lower opacity to 50%. Use layer mask to erase the higher part of model:

Step 13

I use a Photo Filter layer to reduce yellow tone on the girl:

Step 14

Open water texture and copy this part to paste into model, then change the mode to Soft Light 30%. Then use layer mask to remove unecessary parts. You can see how I masked it on layer mask and result on picture:

Step 15

I make a Hue/Saturation layer with Clipping Mask for this layer:

Step 16

You can notice that there is a distinction of skin color on model chin. To fix it, I create a new layer on the top, set to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:

Take Dodge and Burn Tool with Midtones Range and Exposure about 5-15% to correct this skin part but avoid to flatten it. You can see how I applied this tool with Normal mode and result with Overlay mode:

Step 17

Open splash 1 stock. Copy a part from it and place onto right eye after resizing it. Use layer mask and black brush with hardness about 80-90% to remove the part outside the glasses:

I do the same with the left of the glasses:

Step 18

Make two these layers selected then hit Cmd/Ctrl+G to make group for them. Change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default group mode) to Normal 100%. I use Curves and Levels layers to change color and contrast of these glasses:

Because the mode of this group changed to Normal 100% so these adjustment layers only affect the layers inside this group (glasses ones). On Levels layer mask I use soft black brush to erase the bottom parts of the glasses to create a nice contrast and depth for them:

Step 19

I make two new layers and use brush with 2 px, color #eceddf and #c1b194 to paint some tiny hair strand lost from cutting out and cloning:

Step 20

Open coral 1 stock. Drag it into our main picture, resize and position it at the left. Set this layer under model one and lower opacity to 20%. I use layer mask to remove unwanted parts and blend it with the rest:

Step 21

Open coral 2 stock. Use Lasso Tool (L) to copy a part from this image and place it at underwater part. Reduce opacity to 40% and use layer mask to remove hard edges and get a similar look below:

Step 22

Extract coral 3 and situate it at the right corner of the scene, lower opacity to 20%:

I use layer mask and blend it with the rest:

Step 23

Isolate coral 4 and position it at the right edge of foreground, arrange this layer above model ones:

I make a new layer (Clipping Mask), fill with color #398fa2 and lower opacity to 30% as done with model:

Step 24

I add a Curves layer to darken this coral. Then take soft black brush with opacity about 30-40% to erase the left part a little as it gets more light than the rest:

Step 25

Extract coral 5 and locate it at the left corner of the picture. I make a new layer, fill with color #398fa2 and lower opacity to 40%:

Step 26

I use Curves to darken this coral and remove dark effect on the top of it with black brush:

Step 27

Cut out island from its background and position it at the right edge of the sea surface. Duplicate it and apply Flip Horizontal, move to the left:

Step 28

Make group for island layers as done with glasses and name them “1,” “2″. Create a Curves layer within this group to brighten them together:

I use soft black brush to remove bright effect on unwanted parts, the right of 1 and the left of 2:

Step 29

Extract fish 1 and paste into the right of model, downsize it to be much smaller and lower opacity to 80% to make it blended with underwater color:

I use a Hue/Saturation layer for this fish:

Step 30

Add fishes 2 to the left of underwater scene and reduce opacity to 70% as I found them too sharp:

Step 31

Place fish 3 in a higher position than fish 1. I decrease opacity to 80% and apply a Hue/Saturation layer for this fish:

Step 32

Add fish 4 to the lower position than fishes 2 and reduce opacity to 90%. I use a Hue/Saturation for this fish again:

Step 33

Open fishes 6 stock. I isolate fishes from it and move some of them around model part as shown below:

Step 34

Make group for these fishes and apply a Hue/Saturation layer for them:

Step 35

Create a new layer under sea surface ones. Set foreground to white and change brush to bubble ones. Paint randomly around underwater part then add layer mask and use soft black brush with opacity about 40-45% to blur the parts around edges and corners:

Step 36

Make a new layer on the top. Active water brushes and I choose number 792 to paint on sea surface and remove unwanted parts with layer mask:

Duplicate this layer three times and position them around the sea part, hide unecessary parts as needed:

Step 37

Open fountain stock. Isolate fountain part (there are some ways to extract splash, water but I usually use Color Range or Channels for more complex ones – I applied Channels in this case). You can follow many good tutorials over the web or use brush instead. Move extracted fountain above model head and change the mode to Screen 100%. I use Warp Tool (Edit-Transform-Warp) to bend it a little then clear what I don’t want with layer mask:

Step 38

Isolate splash 2 and place it at the left of the fountain, put the mode to Screen 100% and warp it to fit the movement of water flow and hide or blur some indicated areas with layer mask:

Duplicate and move it to the right, use layer mask if needed:

Step 39

Extract splash 3 and situate at the top of the fountain, set mode to Screen 100% and apply layer mask for it:

Step 40

Repeat this technique with splash 4, duplicate three times and move them around the fountain top to get more visible effect:

Step 41

Make group for the fountain and splash ones, remember to change the mode of this group to Screen 100%. I use a Channel Mixer layer within this group to add a light cyan tone to all these ones. You can see the result before and after this step:

Step 42

Add fish 5 to the top of the fountain and arrange this layer under splash one or a lower position. Use Cmd/Ctrl+T to rotate this fish:

Step 43

Cut out the plane and position at the top left of sky. I want to blur it to add depth to our picture. Go to Filter-Blur-Gassian Blur and set radius as 2 px:

Brighten this plane with Curves as I found it a bit dark:

Step 44

Open birds stock. I choose these birds to isolate and move them to the top right of sky, apply Gassian Blur with same settings in previous step:

Make these birds brighter with Curves:

Step 45

Make a new layer on the top. Use soft brush with color #2a1a08 to paint around island parts to brighten them. Change the mode to Color Dodge 100% and erase the part on the girl as she has light enough:

Step 46

In this step I make some adjustment layers on the top . First I use Curves to add yellow tone, then apply Levels to decrease overall brightness and increase saturation with Hue/Saturation layer finally:

I lower brush opacity to 50% and erase model skin after saturating (on Hue/Saturation layer mask):

And We’re Done!

You can view the final outcome below. I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback on the techniques and outcome.

Member File Download

Download the original .psd file for this tutorial here:


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  1. Lyzbil says:

    Very helpful tutorial, lots of detail. First time I’ve worked with above and below surface of water. thanks much!

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