In this tutorial we will create a colorful photo manipulation of the planet earth. You will learn how to composite different images in order to achieve a pleasant final effect. We will be using layer masks, smart objects and adjustment layers but I will provide a short explanation before using them so you should be alright. Let’s begin.
What you’ll be creating
Planet Earth is beautiful and we should live in harmony with our surrounding nature. This is how I see us living in peace and serenity in complete harmony with the life around us. You will need Photoshop CS3 or newer in order to follow this tutorial.
Create a new document 2000×1406 pixels (Ctrl + N). Open the image “Sky” and select all by pressing Ctrl + A. Press Ctrl + C to copy and go back to our document. Press Ctrl + V to paste. Transform the pasted layer into a smart object (right-click the layer and from the drop down menu choose “Convert To Smart Object”) and press Ctrl +T to enter Free Transform and position this layer as shown below.
Smart objects allow us to resize and apply filters to layers without permanent lose of pixel data. From now on convert all pasted layers to smart objects.
Open the image “Sea”. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the surface of the sea. Copy paste this into our scene and place the water surface as shown below.
Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer ( Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves) and clip it to the “surface” layer. Drag the curve up to lighten.
If you Alt-click between two layers in the layers palette the upper layer will be clipped to the lower layer – this means that the upper layer will only be visible through the lower layer pixels. In our case the Curves Adjustment Layer will only affect the surface layer.
Open the image “Underwater1”. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the underwater portion and copy paste in our scene. Place this layer as shown below.
Add a layer mask to the “underwater” layer (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All). Select the Gradient Tool (G) and press D to set the colors to black and white. Click on the layer mask to select it and use the gradient tool to fill the upper portion with black (hold Shift to keep the gradient vertical).
In a layer mask black hides and white reveals the corresponding layer. By using the gradient tool in the layer mask we create a nice seamless transition for our underwater layer.
Group all the layers that we created until now and name the group “Water Template” (select the layers by holding shift and clicking on each layer – press Ctrl + G to group them). Press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E to create a new layer from all the visible layers. Enter Free Transform by pressing Ctrl + T and right click on the image. From the drop down menu choose “Warp” and curve the water as shown below.
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