Create a Deep Ocean Scene with Dolphins in Photoshop

April 5, 2010 • By

In this tutorial we’ll be creating a dramatic deep ocean scene with two dolphins in the mix. The outcome of the Gaussian Blur effect and
varying the opacities of light employed, would eventually set the tone for an atmospheric scene for the dolphins deep at sea.There’s also the importance of adjusting color balance when dealing with the shades of blue; this would eventually make or break the end result.

Step 1

Download this picture of dolphins or any other picture you prefer from www.sxu.hu

Step 2

Select the Magnetic Lasso Tool (L) which offers a smoother and quicker process of selecting the dolphins. If some anchor points doesn’t fasten to the target image, then make a deliberate click on your desired point and if you’ve strayed off, hit the Delete key to erase unwanted anchor points. When through with the selection, right-click the selection and choose Layer Via Copy to make an extract of the dolphins into a new layer. Name the layer “dolphins.”

Step 3

For the background, create a new layer and name it “ocean” and with the Gradient Tool (G) selected, click to edit the Gradient from its options bar located on the menu bar.

Step 4

That done, click on the second icon from the left for a Radial Gradient.

Step 5

Now hold and drag the Gradient Tool from the top of the image, right pass the bottom. You may have to zoom out from the image to
make the workspace expansive.

Step 6

With the dolphins against the background, I felt the edges of the dolphins were too sharp and thus, making the dolphins stand out too prominently. To fix this, select the Blur Tool (R) with its strength set at 95%, blur the edges of our underwater friends. This step would not necessary if we had from Step 2, set Magnetic Lasso Tool’s Feather to about 4 px from its options bar. Use this only if you’re sure your selection is perfect

Step 7

For a new layer, “ray,” underneath the “dolphins” layer, select the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and draw a rectangle right below the left dolphin. *Note: as an alternative, you could use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) straight away to make a selection in the shape of the light ray.

Step 8

Select the Gradient Tool (G) and edit the gradient from the Gradient options bar. Change the transparencies of the Opacity Stops and the colors or the Color Stops as depicted below:

Step 9

Drag the gradient Tool horizontally across the selection. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Blur Radius to about 14.5%. Press Ctrl+T to enter the Free Transform mode and then right-click to select the Distort Tool to shape our supposed ray of light. The shape here would be something in the form a trapezium. When done, hit Enter.

Step 10

Still in the Free Transform mode, right-click for the second time around the selection for the Warp Tool. Drag the base of the Warp downwards for a curve. Again, try and maximize the workspace when extending the Warp from it’s axis.

Step 11

Reduce the opacity of the “ray” layer to between 5% to10% for the result shown below:

Step 12

Create another layer, “ray 2” and with the Rectangular Marquee Tool make a selection on the upper right corner of the picture.

Step 13

Select the Gradient Tool and on the options bar, click the Edit Gradient bar and change both Opacity and Color Stops as shown below:

Step 14

Drag the Gradient Tool within the selection, downwards.

Step 15

Press Ctrl+T for the Free Transform Tool and use the mouse to rotate the selection from its corners.

Step 16

For a more cone-shaped bust of light, use the Distort Tool (by right-clicking the selection in Free Transform mode) and shape the selection as shown below.A Gaussian blur of Radius 15.5% was applied and the “ray 2” layer’s opacity was reduced to 25%.

Step 17

Create a “ray 3” layer and with the Rectangular Marquee Tool, make a flat rectangular selection.

Step 18

Pick the Gradient Tool and edit it’s transparencies and colors.

Step 19

Drag the Gradient Tool within the selection

Step 20

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Blur Radius to about 15.5% and reduce the layer’s opacity down to 25%.

Step 21

For the “ray 4” layer, I decided to use the Polygonal Lasso Tool in place of the Rectangular Marquee Tool because it was much quicker to use.

Step 22

Edit the Gradient Tool’s colors and transparency.

Step 23

Drag the Gradient Tool from top to bottom within the selection and apply a Gaussian Blur with a Radius of 15.5 % and an opacity of 30%. Deselect the selection. Now we have the ambience of a ‘near-cinematic’ scene of dolphins swimming in space.

Step 24

Now I intend to clip off the edges of the light rays with the Polygonal Lasso Tool. The edges of the light were too blurry and not well defined. A Polygonal Lasso Tool feathered at 3 px would do the job.

The result is more defined edges.

Step 25

<pBlur the edges highlighted below for where the background light is strongest.

Step 26

We’ll now make more light reflect on the backs of the dolphins with the use of the Dodge Tool. On its options bar set the range to Highlights and reduce the Exposure to 30% and with the Dodge brush, brighten the backs (and fins too) of the dolphins. On first application, you’ll notice a bluish hue and concentrating the Dodge brush some more in an area eventually turns it to white. Leave some of that light blue hue on some parts of the dolphins.

Step 27

Sparingly darken the bottom areas of both dolphins with the Burn Tool.

Step 28

Create a new layer and name it “bubbles.” With the Water brush, we’ll make a trail of bubbles emanating from the mouth and fins of the dolphin on the right. You can download the set of Water brushes from Redheadstock at redheadstock.deviantart.com. The brush color here should be white and the bubbles/splash must be sharpen once (Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen).

Step 30

For the second dolphin, we’ll create bubbles for it in a new layer. Given the straightness of the Splash brush, we’ll have to use the Warp Tool to bend the bubble trail.

Step 31

The color of the ocean scene looks a little ultramarine blue – it’s got a hint of purple to it. This is not perfect for our deep-sea experience thus, the ambiance of the ocean not captured. This can be adjusted by creating an Color Balance Adjustment Layer just over the “dolphins” layer. Below the Layers Palette, click on the fourth icon from the left for the Color Balance Adjustment Layer.

Step 32

On the Color Balance dialog box, adjust the Color Levels’ Cyan/Red properties. The Tone Balance should also be set to Midtones.

The result of the color adjustment produces a color that’s cobalt ultramarine by this, there’s a shade grey-green to the blue color. The means that, the ocean color is now essentially turquoise – the ideal color for water. What more can I say? We might have found Nemo.

By David Ella Ella

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