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Play Around With This Water Surface Effect!

In this tutorial I will be showing you how to create a playful fantasy scene with a split water surface effect. I will also be showing how using complementary contrasting colors can bring depth to an image. Let’s begin!

Step One

First we are going to create the base of out sky and sea. We will do this by using three different images and blending them together. Place an image of a sunset (image #43345693) about half way on your canvas.

Next fine an image of a water line (image #31415646) and place it on the other half of your canvas.

Now using a water surface image (image #41329804) place it in between the sky and the water line.

Add a clipping mask to your water surface. Using a semi-hard round brush paint black along the top and bottom edges of the surface of your water. Use the water line image as a guide.

Step Two

Next we are going to focus on the water surface. Start with adding some lighting and slight color by creating a new layer and clipping it to your water surface layer. Set the layer to “Soft Light”. Now, with a soft round brush paint black where you want the water to be darker and white where you want it to be lighter. Keep the position of the waves and sun in mind. Also paint some orange and red near the horizon line. Layer set to “normal”:

Layer set to “Soft Light”:

Now create a new layer and clip it into your water surface layer, above the layer you just worked on. Set it to “Screen”. With a soft round brush paint more yellow and red on the horizon line.

To perfectly match the colors from the sky onto the water we are going to duplicate the sky layer and clip it into our water surface layer. Using the transform tool pull it down from the top so you basically have a mirror image of your sky.

Set the layer to “color”

Add a layer mask and with a large, soft, round brush mask out the bottom half of your mirrored sky.

Create yet another new layer and clip it into your water surface layer, above the duplicated sky layer. Keeping it set to “Normal”, paint white on the bottom/middle edge of the water surface to create a water line.

Finally, create a new layer and set it to overlay. Do not clip this into your water surface layer. With a small white brush paint a soft line across the edge of your water to further create a water rim.

Step Three

Now, we are going to move onto the water bottom, which is created using the water edge image. We will be using 3 layers and all of them will be clipped into the original water edge layer. First we will do some color correction using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Clip on into your water edge layer and set it to these settings: Colorize: Checked, Hue 253, Saturation 33 and Lightness -62. This will turn it a purple color.

Clip a new layer above that and set it to “Overlay”. With a large, soft, round brush paint black on the corners and white in the middle.

Clip on more layer above that and keep it set to “Normal”. With a soft, round brush paint white squiggles in the water. If you are having trouble making your squiggles smooth you can simply smooth them out using Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

To keep things tidy, group all the water layers together and name the group “water”. Step Four Next we will be working on adding a “boat”, or in this case a giant umbrella. Extract your umbrella and place it accordingly

Mask out the bottom of your umbrella.

Duplicate your umbrella, delete and reapply a new layer mask. This time mask out the top of the umbrella. Use the water line as a guide. Now apply a Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Below your umbrella, create a new layer and set it to “Overlay”. Using a very large, soft brush paint white behind your umbrella.

Create and clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the upper umbrella. Set the settings to Colorize: checked, Hue 197 and Saturation 65. Now file the layer mask with black, and paint white along the bottom edge of the umbrella

Step Five

Now we are going to add children to our umbrella boat. Extract your children and place them accordingly.

Using a layer mask, mask out the bottom of your children using the edge of the umbrella as a guide. This will make it look like they are seated inside the umbrella.

Create a new layer and clip it into the kinds layer. Using black paint a shadow on the bottom and right side of the children.

Next create and clip a Curves layer adjustment and bring down the middle of the curve to darken the children. Make out the left side of the curve so that only the bottom and right side of the children are dark.

Below the child layer, create a new layer and paint white behind both children’s heads.

Create a new layer below that layer and paint black inside the umbrella, using it’s edge as a guide.

Go back to your umbrella layer and create and clip a new layer. Paint more black in the middle of the umbrella, behind the kids, and a small amount where the umbrella is hitting the water.

Step Six

To bring everything together we will be using a slew of adjustment layers to add color and atmosphere. I want to show how well adjustment layers can be mixed and matched to completely change and image. These layers should be above all other current layers and are listed from bottom up. Curves adjustment layer set to:

Color Lookup Layer: (device link) Red Blue Yellow, 62% opacity Color Lookup Layer: Edgy Amber, 43% opacity

Color Lookup Layer: Fall Colors, 61% Opacity Color Balance Layer: Red 20, Blue -15 Brightness Contrast Layer: Brightness -30, Contrast 19 Color Fill Layer: Color #970000, Screen, 38% Opacity

Group all these layers together and name it “Color Correction”

Step Seven

Finally, we are going to add some final touches to make the image feel more complete. Using your favorite orange/red lens flare image, place it over the son i the sky.

Using either the Gradient Tool, or a very large soft brush, paint blue (#136186) on the bottom half of the image. Set the layer to “Color”. Duplicate it to make it more saturated. Set to normal:

Set to Color:


And finally to add more contrast, above all previous layers, add one layer Color Lookup. Set to Filmstock at 36%.


We hope you liked this tutorial! Go on and create your own water surface effects with these techniques! Share with us any questions or comments you may have below!

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