Flooding the ruins in Photoshop

(click on image to enlarge)

I’m going to restore the steps of my experiment with “flooding”. I first tried to do it, so the result is far from perfect. But I want to show you my method in the hope that you will find some steps useful not only for flooding the ruins, but, perhaps, for conducting your own “experiments.”

When you strive for realism in collages, you must first think about what will allow you to achieve this very realism. In this case, we want to cover the space with water where it is not on the original image. Therefore, our first question is: “What would happen if there was water there?”

Materials for the lesson:


Use the tool Polygonal / Polygonal Lasso (Polygonal Lasso) to highlight the part where the water should be.
Remember that pool water is never a curved surface! It is always horizontal according to the law of the World. Since our buildings have clear straight lines, Polygonal / Polygonal Lasso (Polygonal Lasso) suits us perfectly.

At the moment, do not dwell heavily on small parts. Just try to build the right perspective, following right along the lines of the buildings.

A little trick: you need to imagine that you are in the middle of an imaginary pool and look around, imagining where the water line should go.

Without removing the selection, create a new folder (Group (Group) – or whatever you like to call it) and click on the small icon Add layer mask (Add layer mask) at the bottom of the layers palette (white circle against a dark rectangle). It will automatically create a mask that will allow you to see some of the water for everything that you add to this folder. Now you should not be bothered by the mask until we turn to the details.

The next question we need to ask ourselves is what makes water look like water? The first thing that comes to mind is color: it should be greenish-blue and the stones should be darker under water than on the surface. Moreover, there should be some elements of moving water, but not too much, because for this work we do not need big waves. Just a slight relief from a light breeze, barely noticeable.
This is the part where you need to start experimenting. Now I will show you my layers palette, and what my image looks like after this colorization step, this is not at all the case where the settings could be “applied to everything”. These adjustments work well only for this image, but for another image … it is doubtful.

So let’s start in order: if you look at the layers palette, you can see the duplicated blue layer (in other words, the layer filled with blue color) with different blending modes and values Opacity (Opacity). Overlap (Overlay) dims everything a bit, mode Chromaticity (Color) makes all colors uniform, and the mode Soft light (Soft Light) adds a bit of saturation (this is my feature – use the mode for all cases Soft light (Soft Light)).

I used the image of a calm sea with tiny waves, setting it to low Opacity (Opacity) to add the “water feel”. This basically works because the layer below darkens everything very much, and the wave layer is bright enough (I returned the blue with Image – Corrections – Hue / Saturation (Image – Adjustments – Hue / Saturation) with the option enabled Toning (Colorize)).

If you have different combinations of light and dark in layers, you need to use different values. Opacity (Opacity) or blending modes or different shades of blue to compensate for this. So, you see, it’s not at all what you can take and copy into your next collage and enjoy the result.

In conclusion, I used Correction layer (Adjustment layer) Curves (Curves) to make everything a bit darker and, besides, I played separately with the channels to adjust the color and give it more variety. For color correction is also suitable Color balance (Color balance). It is important that you do not have one indefinite shade of blue throughout the pool.
Do not worry, if the water still looks very artificial, we will fix it.

What else can we do to make the water look realistic? Water has a habit of always playing with light. Absorbing the rays of the sun, the water reflects on its surface buildings, people and everything that is outside. Even in the water, the light is refracted. This means that the rays of the sun do not pass strictly in a straight line, they are bent at an angle, reflecting everything that is under water. Therefore, the light is refracted twice before reaching your eyes, which is why you see these strange distortions when you look at something through the water.

Note: This is even more pronounced when the water surface is disturbed, because instead of one refraction and reflection on the surface, you get a whole bunch of reflections and refractions: one beam of light can pass through a dozen of these waves before you get to your eye. This is also why you can easily look at everything through calm water, but are not able to see anything, for example, through a waterfall.

Let’s start the reflection: duplicate your background image, discolor it (Image – Corrections – Discolor (Image – Adjustments – Desaturate) and flip it vertically (Editing – Transformation – Flip Vertically (Edit – Transform – Flip Vertically). Place it in your water folder (above everything you’ve already done) and, while holding the Shift key, place the image directly to the base of the buildings. Holding down the Shift key will allow you to move the image strictly in a straight line.

Set the blending mode to Soft light (Soft Light). Now the problem is that the reflection goes all the way down. This is what should not be. Reflection has the peculiarity of fading as far from the object from which it is formed. In this case, use the layer mask to “dissolve” the reflection: add a mask and apply to it Gradient (Gradient) From transparent to black (From transparent to black) to mask the bottom.

For distortion, duplicate the background layer and also place it in a folder. But to the top. Then apply to it Wave filter (Filter – Distortion – Wave (Filter – Distort – Wave)).

My settings shown above are far from ideal, but I think they worked quite well. The Scale parameter is responsible for the direction of the waves (here we need more horizontal distortion).
The number of generators (The number of generators) tells Photoshop how many waves need to be created, for calm water, a value of 1 is enough.
Wavelength and Amplitude are obvious (if not, consult Wikipedia). You need to play with the settings to achieve the best result for your image. It depends not only on the effect you want, but also on the size of your image.

Now the water looks more or less decent, it’s time to fix the edges. Select the folder mask, zoom in on the image and use a soft-edged brush to correct the edges.

The top image shows my straight lines that I created Rectilinear / Polygonal Lasso (Polygonal lasso) in the first step. Below you can see the corrected line of water, and even lower the mask of the group.
Now it is very important to carefully preserve the perspective than you did in the first step. Now you see that it has become easier for us to find a suitable color of water. I made the edges near the doorways softer than near the columns. The shallower the depth, the brighter the water tone will be, and the stones will appear clearer. Walk around the entire pool in this way. Create sharper lines where water is quickly gaining depth, and softer where it is shallow.
The further, the better – the image below shows what we have at the moment.

The question arises: “Why does the water still look horrible?”
First, reflections are color, they are not just light and shadow. Therefore, I thought of giving a certain tonality to the reflection in the water. For this, I used the following trick:

1) Fill the new layer (inside the folder with water, place it above all other layers in the folder) with the gradient the same as we used for the mask of the black and white layer with the reflection: color above and transparent below. As a color, I took a color sample from a stone, it is unusually rich and bright enough, but you can later change it. If you think that it is not very suitable for composition, use Correction layer (Adjustment layer) Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation).

2) Duplicate the reflection layer, set its blending mode to Usual (Normal) and remove the mask. Put this layer to the top, above the group! Open the palette Channels (Channels) (usually located next to the layers palette). Now, holding down the Ctrl key, click on any channel in the palette (but not on the topmost one – since we are working with a black and white image, all channels will be the same). Ctrl + click highlights the bright parts based on the gray values.

3) With the active selection, add to the layer the mask with the gradient that we did in step 1. Now remove the duplicate of the layer with the reflection and set the layer with the gradient to Chromaticity (Color) reduce Opacity (Opacity) (I used about 40%). Duplicate the layer and set it to Overlap (Overlay), play with Opacity (Opacity) until you are satisfied with the result (I used 48%).

These changes may seem subtle, but they have already helped us a lot with realism.

The last thing we haven’t corrected yet: it is known that the shallower the depth, the less blue water, which allows you to see the true colors of what is under water. Plus, in an area where the shadows fall heavily, there should not be a lot of detail.
Therefore, take a soft brush with round edges (here it is better to use a low value Opacity (Opacity)), take a color swatch from the ruins, create a new layer, set it to Chromaticity (Color) and start painting the parts more oranged where they should not be too blue. Do not be afraid to change the size / color / blending mode for the brush to achieve the best effect.

At first, I walked in a not too saturated brownish-orange color in the foreground and changed shades and saturation for the areas located further to where the light falls from the doorways. Soft brush low Opacity (Opacity) blending mode: Chromaticity (Color).

A little more saturated orange shades, especially in areas similar to the structure of the caves in the foreground, here the light bounces off the walls and again falls on the surface of the water. Soft brush low Opacity (Opacity) blending mode: Overlap (Overlay).

Finally, I took a color sample from the columns in the background and painted over the more prominent reflections of the columns. Soft brush low Opacity (Opacity) blending mode: Usual (Normal).
After recent adjustments (adjustment layer Levels (Levels) on top of all layers and a slight increase. saturation (saturation)) and sky adding, I finished work on my flooded ruins.
I know they are not perfect, but for me the experiment was successful.

(click on image to enlarge)

I hope you learned something from this lesson. I wanted to show that you should not dwell on one thing, but if you think through each element that will make your work more realistic, you can gradually come to your goal step by step.

Author: Jasmin Junger

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