photoshop creative

Create a mermaid

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 9, 2015

Create and refine a composition with filters and masking tools


1. Start afresh


Create a new document via File>New>Blank File. In the New window enter the name Mermaid and set the Width to 395mm, Height to 310mm and Resolution to 300 pixels/inch. Click OK.

2. Create a background


Now grab the Gradient tool (G). Open the Gradient Editor and set the first colour to #8dbba0,the second colour to #121725, and then click OK. Select the Radial Gradient and drag from the top-right corner to bottom-left corner.

3. A water effect


Create a new layer (Cmd/ Ctrl+Shift+N) and name it Water Effect. Grab the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), hold Shift and create a selection. Grab the Paint Bucket tool (G) and fill this with white. Go to Filter>Render>Difference Clouds. Go to Filter>Filter Gallery>Artistic> Plastic Wrap, and set Highlight Strength to 15, Detail to 5 and Smoothness to 10.

4. Adjust the perspective


Click Cmd/Ctrl+T to adjust the size. Head to Edit>Transform> Perspective, drag the corners to adjust the angle, and then press Enter. Change the blend mode to Overlay and add a layer mask. Open the Gradient tool (G), choose the Black/White preset, set it to Linear and drag up to remove the hard edges.

5. Create the seabed


Place a seabed image. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels and set the inputs to 0, 0.98, 245 and clip the layers. Now go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation. Click Colorize and set the Hue to 155. Saturation to 20, Lightness to -30 and clip the layer.

6. Layer masking


Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 5 pixels, click OK. Now add a layer mask and open the Gradient tool (G). Choose the Black/White preset, set to Linear and drag down to remove the hard edges.

7. Water reflection


Create a new layer called Water Reflection. Grab the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) hold the Shift key and create a selection. Go to Filter>Render>Clouds, and again Filter>Render>Difference Clouds. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T to adjust the size and perspective over the Seabed layer.

8. Clipping the layer


Now hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the selection. Marquee tool (M) hold the Shift key and create a selection. Go to Filter>Render>Clouds, and again Filter>Render>Difference Clouds. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T to adjust the size and perspective over the Seabed layer.

9. Realistic light rays


Create a new layer, name it Light Rays. Use the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) to create a selection and fill with white. Click Filter>Difference Clouds then go to Image>Adjustments>Threshold and click OK. Press Cmd/Ctrl+D to deselect.

10. Enhance the effect


Go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur, set Amount to 100, Blur Method to Zoom, slide the Blur Center to the top-right and click OK. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+F a couple times to smooth the effect. Set blend mode to Soft Light and Opacity to 50%.

11. Place the mermaid


Place your mermaid image. Right-click and choose Rasterize Layer (Elements users choose Simplify). Grab the Pen tool and select the model. Ctrl/right- click and choose Make Selection. Head to Select>Refine Edges, adjust the settings and apply the layer mask.

12. Make realistic hair


To create the hair you can use a graphics tablet if you have one at hand (check the expert tip for an alternative method). Create a new layer and name it Dark Hair. Grab the Brush tool and select a soft tip and choose a dark tone. Draw the basic shape of the hair.

13. Draw more hair


Create two new layers and name them Midtones and Lights. Grab the Brush tool and press F5. Select a small soft round brush, check the Noise box and select the tablet pressure buttons in the Options bar. Use the Color Picker to select the tones and draw the hair.

14. Shadows and highlights


Merge the hair layers (Cmd/Ctrl+E). Hold Opt/Alt and click the Create A New Layer button. In the New Layer dialog box, select Mode: Overlay and check Fill with Overlay-Neutral. Use the Dodge and Burn tools with Exposures set to 50% and start painting the shadows and highlights. Clip the layers (Layer>Create Clipping Mask).

15. Layer masks


Hold Shift and select the hair layer and the mermaid. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+E to merge them. Now add a layer mask and grab the Pen tool (P). Select the hip and legs, Ctrl/right-click, choose Make Selection and fill with black.

16. Create the tail


Place a mermaid tail and hit Enter. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and choose Warp mode. Drag the handles to create a fish shape and press Enter. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T, rotate and adjust the size. Drag the scale layer and place under the mermaid.

17. Puppet Warp


Go to Edit>Puppet Warp (Elements users go to the Liquify filter). Set four points along the tail, drag the points to create a curve and hit Enter. Now select the mermaid’s layer mask. Grab the Brush tool (B), set Foreground colour to white, change Opacity to 40% and paint around the hip.

18. Place the fins


Place fin images onto the composition. Adjust the size, and hit Enter. Ctrl/ right-click and choose Rasterize (Elements choose Simplify). Drag the right fin layer over the Scale layer and grab the Eraser tool (E), set Opacity to 40% and rub out to blend. Merge the layers (Cmd/Ctrl+E).

19. Adjustment layers


Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation. Set the Hue to 72, Saturation to 15, Lightness to -10 and clip the layer. Hold Shift and select the mermaid, the adjustment layer and the tail, and then merge them. Create a Neutral layer (hold Opt/Alt while clicking on Add New Layer). Grab the Dodge and Burn tools and add shadows and highlights.

20. Places images


Place fish and reefs around the composition. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T to resize and rotate. Hit F5 and click the Brush Preset palette. Load brushes a bubble brush. Save a version of your image as a JPEG, reopen it, and then apply a vignette effect (Filter>Lens Correction).