Create a scene with a dragon and a treasure hunter in Photoshop

In this tutorial we will create a beautiful underwater scene. In the first steps, I will explain several complex techniques in detail so that it is understandable for beginning masters, although middle-level users and advanced masters can also learn something useful for themselves.

I like to create underwater scenes, because there is something mysterious in them, this is the depth of the oceans, where all kinds of sea creatures live, and I also like to unite terrible creatures and people in one scene.

The final result:

Step 1

Open the original image with an underwater scene. This will be the basis for our underwater scene.

Step 2

Open the original image with the cathedral. Copy the entire image, but first select the entire image (Ctrl + A), and then copy the selected image (Ctrl + C). Go back to our scene and paste the copied image of the cathedral (Ctrl + V). Transform the layer with the cathedral into a smart object, to do this, right-click on the layer in the layers palette and in the appeared menu select the option Convert to smart object (Convert To Smart Object). Press the keys (Ctrl + T) to activate the tool. Free transformation (Free Transform). Arrange the image of the cathedral, as shown in the screenshot below. Holding the ‘Shift’ key during the transformation will help you to scale proportionally.

Converting a layer into a smart object will allow us to edit the image without losing pixels, in addition, we can apply various filters, the settings of which can be changed at any time.

Step 3

Do not forget to give the corresponding names to the layers – organized work with the layers palette is the key to successful work with multiple layers. Change the blending mode for the cathedral layer to Soft light (Soft Light), and also reduce Opacity (opacity) layer to 43%. As you can see, we perfectly combined the cathedral with our underwater scene.

Step 4

In this lesson we will often use layer masks, so it’s advisable to give a little explanation.

First, to create a layer mask, go Layer – New Mask Layer – Show All (Layer> New Layer Mask> Reveal All). Secondly, layer masks allow us to partially or completely hide part of the image without actually deleting the pixels of the image – we just “mask” the layer.

By painting with a black brush on the layer mask, we hide the area of ​​staining. If we vary the opacity of the brush (reducing the opacity below 100%), then we partially hide the image and get a translucent effect that helps when combining objects in the image. The white color of the brush restores the staining area – for example, if we filled the layer mask with black (Shift + F5), we will completely hide the layer, and the staining with a white brush with different degrees of opacity will partially or fully restore the filled areas.

Thirdly, do not forget to click on the thumbnail of the layer mask (which is located to the right of the layer thumbnail in the layers palette) before you start painting with a white or black brush. Otherwise, you paint over the layer and not the mask and do not get the desired result.

Therefore, in this step, we will add a layer mask to the layer with the cathedral (you already know how, right?). Fill the mask with black and then select the tool. Brush (Brush Tool (B)). Choose a standard soft round brush. opacity (Opacity) 50%, brush color is white. Paint over the layer mask over the image of the cathedral so that the image partially appears. The farther you paint from the center of the image, the less should the brush opacity be 20-30%, this will provide shading with the background.

Step 5

Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N) and using a standard soft round brush with an opacity of 5%, a brush size of 500 px, paint over the top of the scene to darken it.

Step 6

In this lesson we will also often use corrective layers, so let’s take a closer look at them. Adjustment layers are a safe way to apply corrections and create various effects on an image. The safe method means that you can edit the effects at any time (including removing the effect, reducing the opacity of the effect and replacing the blend mode).

All adjustment layers can be added via the command Layer – New Adjustment Layer … .. (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> …).

Let’s look at how the adjustment layer works. Create a new adjustment layer. Color Balance (Color Balance), for this we go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Color Balance (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Color Balance). Apply the settings for this adjustment layer that are shown in the screenshot below to enhance the colors. Change the blending mode to Soft light (Soft Light) and you will see that our scene has become darker and more saturated.

Step 7

So, our background is ready. Now let’s add elements of the composition to breathe life into our scene and tell our underwater story.

Open the original dragon image (fortunately, the dragon image is already cut out and saved in png format, so we don’t need to create any selection). Select the entire image (Ctrl + A). Copy the selected image (Ctrl + C), and then paste the copied image (Ctrl + V) onto our working document. Remember to convert the dragon layer into a smart object (Step 2 tells how to do this). Always convert all layers with source images into smart objects – especially when you are going to scale them. Using tool Free transformation (Free Transform), place the dragon at the bottom of the cathedral, as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 8

The dragon image is too distinct (I’m talking about the entire texture of the image, and not just about the edges) compared to our scene, so let’s blur the dragon image a little. To the dragon layer, apply a filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), for this we go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur). Install radius (Radius) Blur 0.9 px.

Step 9

Next, we add a bunch of adjustment layers and brush strokes to the dragon image, but for this we need to apply all these effects only to the dragon layer. To do this, we need to “pin” or convert the adjustment layers into clipping masks to the dragon layer. But how do we do this?

OK, in reality, it is very easy. Hold the ‘Alt’ key, then click between two layers in the layers palette, so we will attach the top layer to the bottom layer, and, therefore, the top layer will be visible only through the pixels of the bottom layer. But what if we want to fix another layer to the bottom layer (which already has a clipping layer above)? Press the ‘Alt’ key again, and then click between the layer that you want to convert to a clipping mask and the layer that is already attached to the bottom layer.

It sounds confusing, but as soon as you see how everything works in reality, then you will understand how simple it is. So let’s create an adjustment layer. Curves (Curves). Set the curves as shown in the screenshot below. Reduce the saturation of the red tones and add some blue tones. The effect of the curves is currently affecting the entire image. If you hold down the ‘Alt’ key and click between the adjustment layer Curves (curves) and a layer with a dragon, then the magic will be produced, and immediately the effect of the curves will be applied only to the image of the dragon.

Step 10

Let’s add another adjustment layer as a clipping mask to the dragon layer. Create a new adjustment layer. Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation). Move the slider Color tones (Hue) to -180. Convert this adjustment layer to a clipping mask for the dragon layer. To do this, hold down the ‘Alt’ key and click between the adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and already existing adjustment layer Curves (Curves), which has already been transformed into a clipping mask and voila – several layers are converted into clipping masks to the same lower layer – to the dragon layer.

I will not explain again how the clipping mask works, just try to apply adjustment layers and understand how they work – if you are still in doubt, read the previous steps again and then repeat the steps.

Step 11

Create a new layer, fill this layer (Shift + F5) with a dark blue color (# 0a234b). Convert this layer to a clipping mask to the dragon layer, and then reduce opacity (Opacity) layer to 49%. Next, add a layer mask and using a soft black brush with an opacity of 50%, paint over the areas with bright highlights on the dragon image (you need to paint on the layer mask).

Step 12

Create a new adjustment layer. Levels (Levels) to darken the dragon image. Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below. Convert this adjustment layer to a clipping mask to the dragon layer, and then fill the mask of this adjustment layer in black. Using a soft white brush with an opacity of 90%, paint over the layer mask over the bottom of the dragon image.

Basically, we correct light and shade on the dragon image – because the light comes from above, then we need the lower part of the dragon to be darker and the upper part to be lighter.

Step 13

Let’s continue to improve light and shadow on the image of the dragon. Create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay). Using a soft round brush opacity (Opacity) 20%, brush color is white, add light highlights to the dragon image. Once you are done, change the brush color to black, and then add shadows to the existing shadows. Convert this layer to a clipping mask to the dragon layer.

To create an effect like in the screenshot below, I used 3 layers (all with blending modes Overlap (Overlay)). I created so many layers in order to be able to remove the layer in case I would not like something.

Step 14

Create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Lightening basics (Dodge) or Overlap (Overlay). Using a soft round brush with an opacity of 80%, a brush size of 1 px, a brush color white, add light highlights to the edges of the dragon image – especially at the top of the image. I also allowed myself to add light highlights to the dragon’s fangs, since the dragon is a terrible creature, and the white fangs will only emphasize it. Convert this layer to a clipping mask to the dragon layer. You also need to add shadows. To do this, use a new layer, place a new layer below the dragon layer, use a soft brush. opacity (Opacity) 50%.

Step 15

OK, now how do we combine the dragon image with the whole scene? One way comes to mind is to reduce the opacity of the dragon image, but then, in this case, we will see an undesirable background effect through the dragon’s body. Therefore, we will act differently.

Create a new layer, only this time do not convert this layer into a clipping mask to the dragon layer. Select a blue swatch (# 092046) from the background and using a soft round brush opacity (Opacity) 20%, brush the brush over the dragon image several times – especially over the bottom of the image.

Step 16

Let’s add a diver. Open the original image with the diver, create a selection around the diver image using any selection tool you prefer to work with (you can use the tool Pen (Pen Tool) to create a contour around the diver image, and then convert the contour into an active selection (Ctrl + Enter). Copy / paste the selected diver image onto our working paper. Via Free transformation (Free Transform), position the diver as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 17

Create a couple of new layers (as soon as you are satisfied with the result, you can continue on another layer, in case you make a mistake, you can simply delete the layer). Add light effects to the diver until you get the result, as in the screenshot below. You need to convert these layers to clipping masks to the layer with the diver, take into account the direction of the light coming from above. Thus, you need to darken the lower part of the image of the diver, and lighten the upper part of the diver. To achieve this, you can either take advantage of the adjustment layer. Levels (Levels) to darken, and then use the layer mask of this adjustment layer to hide the blackout effect, or you can simply paint the diver with a black and white brush with low opacity.

Step 18

Next, we will combine the diver image with the whole scene just as we did with the dragon. Create a new layer and using a soft low opacity brush, the color of the brush is the same as in Step 15, blue, paint over the image of the diver.

Step 19

Let’s add marine life to our scene. Open the original image with fish. Add a couple of fish to our scene, as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 20

Now to the layer with one fish, add two adjustment layers Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and Levels (Levels) as clipping masks. Apply the following settings, which are shown in the screenshot below, for color correction of the fish (add more blue tones to the fish), as well as for correction of the fish brightness (make them darker). Repeat all steps for the second fish.

Step 21

Now let’s add underwater plants. Open the original image with underwater plants. Copy / paste (Copy / Paste) them on our working paper. Duplicate the layer with underwater plants (Ctrl + J). Arrange the underwater plants as shown in the screenshot below. Decrease opacity (Opacity) layers with underwater plants up to 14%.

As you see, reducing opacity perfectly combines underwater plants with the background. You can also use the technique from Step 15, but this is not so important: underwater plants in this case are small decorative elements, and reducing the opacity is enough to make them look great.

Step 22

Now group both layers with underwater plants (hold down ‘Ctrl’, click on each layer with plants to select them, and then press the keys (Ctrl + G)). Add a layer mask to the created group. Using a soft round brush, the brush color is black, paint over the hard edges at the bottom of the plants on the layer mask of the layer with the group.

Step 23

Open the original image with the chest. Copy / paste (Copy / Paste) image of the chest on our working paper. Arrange the chest as shown in the screenshot below. Create a new layer below the chest layer in the layers palette. Using a soft round black brush and 50% opacity, add shadows to the chest.

Step 24

Create a new layer, fill it with blue color (# 174451). Convert this layer to a clipping mask to a layer with a chest, and also change the blending mode to Chromaticity (Color).

Step 25

Create a new layer on top of the layer with the chest as a clipping mask. Using a soft round black brush with low opacity, darken the image of the chest. Do not paint the upper part of the chest too intensely, because light will fall from above. You can also add an adjustment layer. Levels (Level) as a clipping mask to darken the chest.

Step 26

Using the technique that is described in Step 15, draw a combination of the image of the chest with the entire surrounding scene.

Step 27

Open the original image with coins. Copy / paste (Copy / Paste) coins on our working paper. Place the coins next to the chest. Create a new layer below the coin layer to add a subtle shadow effect to the coins. Group both layers into one group, and then reduce Opacity (opacity) layer with a group of up to 18%.

Step 28

Open the original image with the cup. Copy / paste the cup image onto our working paper. Place the cup next to the coins. Decrease Opacity (opacity) layer with a cup up to 88%. Create a new layer below the goblet layer to add a shadow under the goblet, and also align the goblet with the entire scene using the technique described in Step 15.

Step 29

Open the original image with the skulls. Copy / paste the skull image onto our working paper. Place the skull near the chest. Create a new layer below the skull layer to add shadows below the skull image.

Step 30

To the skull layer, add an adjustment layer. Levels (Levels) as a clipping mask to darken the skull. Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below.

Step 31

Next, add a correction layer to the skull layer. Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) as a clipping mask to align the skull with the color of the entire scene. Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below.

Step 32

Open the original image with a seahorse. Copy / paste the seahorse image onto our working paper. Place the seahorse next to the dragon, as shown in the screenshot below. Decrease Opacity (opacity) layer with sea horse up to 15%. A seahorse can represent a dragon cub or be some other sea creature.

Step 33

Let’s add the effect of underwater bubbles. Open the “Bubbles” brush file, and then load the brush by double-clicking on the .abr file. Using these brushes (on one layer or several new layers), add a bubble effect to our underwater scene – next to the dragon, diver and chest.

Step 34

It’s time to add some finishing touches. Open the “Rays of Light” brush file to load them into your Photoshop program. Using the Rays of Light brush, add the effect of the rays coming from above. With the help of layer masks, hide the hard edges of the rays, as well as too saturated white tones. Create another new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay). Using a soft round brush with an opacity of 10%, paint over the area where we added the rays of light to enhance the lighting.

Step 35

Now let’s darken the edges of our scene to increase the focus in the center of our picture, where our main characters are. Create one or more new layers, change the blending mode for each layer to Overlap (Overlay). Using a soft round brush opacity (opacity) 10%, brush color is black, paint over the edges of the scene.

Step 36

Next, let’s add marine plankton to make our underwater scene look believable.
Create a new layer, fill it with black. Add some noise. For this we go Filter – Noise – Add noise (Filter> Noise> Add Noise).

Step 37

To the noise layer, apply a correction Curves (Curves), for this we go Image- Correction – Curves (Image> Adjustments> Curves). Set the curve as shown in the screenshot below. Thus, we will get rid of the terrible excess gray noise, retaining only the bright dots, similar to asterisks or plankton.

Step 38

Change the blending mode for the noise layer to Lightening (Screen), and also reduce the value Fillings (Fill) up to 15%, and we get – marine plankton!

Step 39

Now we need to add larger particles of marine organisms. Duplicate the previous layer with marine plankton, zoom in (at least 500% of the original size) with the tool Free transformation (Free Transform Tool). Set the value Fillings (Fill) at 100%, and also reduce Opacity (opacity) up to 11%. Using a layer mask, hide particles where there are fragments of the water surface.

Step 40

And as a final touch, as far as marine organisms are concerned, let’s add some large blurry particles. Open the original texture of the Snow. Copy / paste it onto our working paper. Change the blending mode for the Snow Texture layer to Lightening (Screen), and also reduce the layer opacity to 7%. Apply filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), for this we go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur). Set the blur radius to 9.2 px.

Step 41

So, we have placed all the elements of the scene – it’s time to play with the overall look of the picture. First create a new adjustment layer. Vibration (Vibrance). To increase the vibration of the entire composition, shift the vibration slider to the end to 100.

Step 42

Next, let’s improve the look of our main character in the painting – the dragon. Create a pair of new layers, change the blending mode for each layer to Overlap (Overlay). On the first layer, add light highlights with a white brush, and on the second layer, add shadows with a black brush.

Step 43

Add a new adjustment layer Curves (Curves) to enhance contrast and significantly improve lighting. Set the curve as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 44

Create a new layer from all visible layers (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E) and then apply the filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur) to the merged layer. Set the blur radius to 200 px. Change the blending mode for this layer to Soft light (Soft light) and then decrease the value Fillings (fill) up to 32%. This technique will soften and enhance the colors, as well as enhance the contrast.

Step 45

Once again create a new layer from all visible layers, only this time we will apply the effect of sharpness, for this we go Filter – Sharpness – Contour Sharpness (Filter> Sharpen> Unsharp mask).
This is a necessary step, which is used in most photo manipulations, because adds an elegant clarity to the overall look of the picture.

Step 46

Create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Multiplication (Multiply). Using a soft round brush opacity (Opacity) 10%, walk around the edges of the scene several times to create a vignette effect.

Step 47

You may have noticed that a discordant yellow color is present on the neck of the dragon, as well as on the cup. Create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Chromaticity (Color). Select a color tone sample from the underwater scene and using a soft round brush with an opacity of 50%, paint over the indicated areas that are highlighted in the screenshot below.

Step 48

Now we will completely change the colors of our scene by changing the blue color to the green color. Although I like the picture with the blue version, however, in my opinion, the green version is more suitable, in particular, for this scene – because it increases the danger of the entire atmosphere, giving an unusual poisonous look to the entire underwater scene. Create a new adjustment layer. Color tone / Saturation (Hue / Saturation). Apply the settings shown in the screenshot below to get this effect.

Step 49

You may have noticed that at the expense of the previous step, not very good color shades in some parts of the image were obtained. Let’s fix this, for this, create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Chromaticity (Color). Select a color tone sample from the green area of ​​the underwater scene and using a soft round brush. opacity (Opacity) 60%, paint over the areas that are highlighted in the screenshot below.

I hope you liked this lesson, and you learned a lot of useful things for yourself.

The final result:

PSD lesson

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