Spatial effect simulation in Adobe Photoshop

“Spatial effect simulation” … what? It sounds like a bunch of big, incoherent words. What exactly is this spatial effect?

In simple words, spatial effect (Volumetric Effect) simulates the situation when the object is in a semi-transparent environment, for example, in fog, smoke or turbid water.

Okay. What can you do with this … what did you call her there … the depth mask?

This is where all the advantages of this technique are revealed. The depth mask is a basic black and white image that makes it easy to simulate the gradual disappearance of an object with distance when it is in fog, smoke, dust or water.

True, is it possible?

Yes! I will definitely show you how amazing it looks.

Author’s Note: Although in our tutorial we will create our own depth mask, it is worth mentioning that there is a new site called PixelSquid. On it you can find many three-dimensional images that can be rotated 360 °. Each of them contains a built-in high-quality depth mask.

Step 1. Open the main photo

Open the file with the background layer, then open the submarine file. Place it on a new layer. To appreciate the effect of the lesson, select a background image containing fog, smoke, dust or water.

Note: You can add a fish image to the background layer, if desired.

In our submarine example, notice that now it looks unrealistic. If the submarine were under water, then its remote areas would be covered with a large volume of water and looked darker. Also, since blue water quickly “filters” red color values, the paint should smoothly lose intensity. The depth mask will allow us to perform these tasks and realistically “submerge” the submarine under water.

Step 2. Create a depth mask

First of all, it is useful to learn how the depth mask works. The depth mask applies a black and white value for each pixel based on its distance from the camera. The farther the element, the brighter the pixel, the closer it is – the darker the pixel. Now that you understand the basic principles of this technique, let’s practice it.

Click on the thumbnail of the submarine layer with the key pressed Ctrl, by generating its selection.

Go to menu Select> Save Selected Area (Select> Save Selection). Name the new channel “Sub”, then click OK. This will place the selection on the panel. Channels (Channels panel). If the Channels panel is not shown, go to the menu Window> Channels (Window> Channels). Deselect by clicking Ctrl + D. In the Channels panel, click on the “Sub” channel, activating it.

Click Ctrl + I, to invert the channel. To create a depth mask we use Linear gradient (Linear gradient). Choose a tool Gradient (Gradient tool). Click D, to set white as primary color (Foreground Color). On the panel options (Options panel) open Gradient editor (Gradient picker) and select From basic to transparent (Foreground to Transparent option).

Make sure the icon is selected. Linear gradient (Linear Gradient) and drag the mouse from the stern (rear) to the nose (front) of the submarine.

Step 3. Smoothly discolor the red stripe.

Now, using the depth mask, we will make the color paler closer to the stern of the submarine. On the panel Channels (Channels) click with the key pressed Ctrl on the “Sub” channel thumbnail and generate its selection.

Click on the “RGB” channel to safely exit the Channels panel. If the panel Corrections (Adjustments) is not activated, go to menu Window> Correction (Window> Adjustments). Click on the icon Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation). On the panel Properties (Properties) select Red (Reds) from the drop down menu and then drag the slider Saturation (Saturation) left to the very end. Thanks to the depth mask, you will see that the color fades closer to the distant part of the submarine, and remains bright in the nose part. Fine!

Step 4. Darken the submarine with water

Now let’s gradually darken the submarine using the same depth mask. Click on the layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) (not by its mask) and select the tool Pipette (Eyedropper tool). Now click on the dark blue section of the photo of the ocean.

Click with the key pressed Ctrl by layer mask Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) to highlight our depth mask. Go to menu Layer> New Fill Layer> Color (Layer> New Fill Layer> Solid Color). Click OK. We have already chosen a dark blue color, so immediately click OK.

To remove the extra color around the submarine and show the ocean, click Ctrl + G. So you add a layer with a fill to the group. Click on the submarine layer thumbnail with the key held down. Ctrl, to highlight it. Click the button Add layer mask (Add layer mask) at the bottom of the panel Layers (Layers). This will create a mask for the group with our fill layer. Notice that now the submarine is gradually darkening with distance.

If the blackout is too strong, reduce Opacity (Opacity) layer filled.

Here is our initial image …

… and the final result.

So much more realistic! Hooray!

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