photoshop creative

Photoshop Tutorial: Fish tank in a light bulb, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 8, 2013

How to turn a light bulb into a fish tank with careful adjustments and selections in this Photoshop tutorial

Download all you need for this tutorial here

Creating a composite is the art of combining two or more images to create an entirely new image. As transparent substances, the glass and water would naturally show signs of each other, while you’d expect contrast to drop slightly for the gold fish because of the presence of glass, and even more so for the blue fish and foliage with the added presence of water. Follow these steps and come back tomorrow for the concluding steps for the effect shown above.


Open up the two light bulb images. Our first task is to cut out the bulb in the version of the image where the bulb is held by its base. Press P to select the Pen tool, zoom in close and plot your first point at the start of the glass.


Carefully work around the glass, dragging each point to match the curve trajectory of the bulb and adding more points as you go, especially when the trajectory changes. When you reach your original point, hover over it and a circle will appear. Click to complete the path.


Now use Cmd/Ctrl+Enter to turn the path into a selection. Next go to Select>Modify>Feather and choose 1 pixel. Double-click the background layer and rename it so we can add a layer mask, then add a mask using the button at the base of the Layers palette. Everything but the glass should now disappear.


Next, go to the other bulb image with the bulb base clear of the hand. Press Cmd/Ctrl+A to Select All and Cmd/Ctrl+C to Copy. Now go back to the first light bulb image and use Cmd/Ctrl+V to Paste. The second bulb image will appear on top as a separate layer.


Press [P] to select the Pen Tool again and zoom in close and mark out the area of the base below the glass area selected previous. Complete the path, turn to a selection with [Ctrl] + [Enter] and feather by 1 pixel as previous. With the selection active, add a layer mask.


Press V for the Move tool and click the drag the base to meet the light bulb glass. Shift-click the original bulb layer mask to turn it off temporarily so you can compare the two for size. The new base is a touch too small in comparison so hit Cmd/Ctrl+T for Free Transform.


Hold down Shift to constrain proportions and drag one of the corner handles outwards to increase the size of the new base to match the previous one. Rotate by dragging outside one of the corner handles to match the angle of the original if necessary.


We used 104% increase for height and width (you can enter in the Tool Options Bar above) and a 1.05 angle change to match. You can reposition with the cursor keys before completing the Transform by hitting Enter twice. Shift-click the first layer mask to turn it back on.


Lighten the bulb base by adding a Curves adjustment layer on top, holding Opt/Alt and hovering between the Curves layer and the bulb’s base layer. When the two circles appear, click to create a clipping mask. Now push the Curve up with a single point, and only the base will be affected.


Now open the image with the bowl and water line. Select around the bowl with the Rectangular Marquee tool and use Cmd/Ctrl+C to Copy. Go to our main image and use Cmd/Ctrl+V to Paste. Drop the layer opacity to 50% so we can see what’s going on behind


We need to reduce the size of the bowl and water line to start. Use Cmd/Ctrl+T for Free Transform and adjust the width handles until the water just about covers the sides of the bowl, and the height so that the water line is in the desired place. Press Enter twice when done.


To get rid of everything outside the bulb edges, add a layer mask to the bowl layer using the button at the base of the Layers palette. Cmd/Ctrl-click on the bulb head’s layer mask to load it as a selection. Invert the selection with Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+I and paint around the edges of the bulb with black and the new layer mask still active.


Deselect with Cmd/Ctrl+D and use a black brush to paint everything out manually above the water line, being careful not to touch the waterline itself. If you make a mistake, switch to white and brush the water line back in.

Continue to part 2…