PSDFan Extra

Create an Abstract Underwater Scene

Final Image

This is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Images Used

The following images were used in making this tutorial:

Step 1

Create a new document (600X800px) and go to filter>render>clouds.

Step 2

Now go to image>adjustments>brightness/contrast and reduce your brightness to -100 and your contrast to -80.

Step 3

Now paste in a photo of some old paper or parchment. Make sure that your texture fills your entire canvas, and then go to image>adjustments>desaturate. Reduce this layer’s opacity to around 30% to let the patterns of your clouds layer show through. Finally, set your parchment layer’s blend mode to ‘hard light’ in order to bring out the details of the texture.

Step 4

Now create a new layer called ‘color spots’, and use a large paintbrush (0% hardness) and paint in huge spots of color all over your canvas. I went with greens, blues, and purples to compliment each other.

Then reduce this layer’s opacity to 50%, and set the layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’.

Step 5

Now paste in a photo of your jumping woman. I cut out the woman from her original background using the lasso tool, but you can use whatever selection method you like. Don’t worry too much about cutting out her hair perfectly for now.

Call this layer ‘jumping woman’.

Step 6

Now duplicate your jumping woman layer and hide the original. This is so that if anything goes wrong we can retain the original image. Select your duplicate layer and go to image>adjustments>desaturate to grayscale it.

Step 7

Now we want to make our woman layer more intense. To do this go to image>adjustments>levels and input the settings shown below.

Step 8

Now create a new layer called ‘hair color’. Grab a small, soft, bright green paintbrush and paint over your woman’s hair. It doesn’t matter if you overlap into your main background, but try not to overlap the woman’s arms.

Next, option click on your ‘jumping woman’ layer in your layers palette. This will select the shape of your woman. Then, return to your ‘hair color’ layer and go to layer>add layer mask>reveal selection. This will hide any parts of your green paintbrush marks that overlap into your main background, making the color fit nicely to your woman’s hair.

Next change your ‘hair color’ layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’ and reduce it’s opacity to 50%.

Step 9

Repeat this same technique, this time turning your shoe’s pink.

Step 10

Now, paste in an image of some splashing water on a black background. Change this layer’s blend mode to ‘screen’ and the black background will vanish, giving the impression of the water splashing over your woman.

Use a soft eraser brush just to tidy up the effect a little.

Step 11

Now repeat this exact same technique with several more water splashes. It may be a good idea to desaturate your water images so that they don’t distract too much from your main image.

Step 12

Create a new layer called ‘triangle’. Use your lasso tool to draw out a perfect triangle. To do this, hold shift, to draw your selection lines at either 45 or 90 degrees. One you’ve drawn out your triangle selection, fill it with light gray. Then go to select>modify>contract and contract your selection by 40px. Then hit delete.

Step 13

Open a metal texture photo in a new document, and resize it to be 600px wide. Then go to edit>define pattern and define your pattern as ‘metal texture’.

Step 14

Now return to your original document. Go to the blending options for your triangle layer and apply a pattern overlay, using your newly created ‘metal texture’ pattern.

Step 15

Now create a new layer beneath your triangle layer called ‘metal triangle’. Merge your triangle layer down with this layer. This will allow you to modify your triangle shape, as your pattern overlay effect will now be part of your object, rather than a consistent overlay effect.

Now go to edit>transform>distort and distort your triangle until it looks like the image below:

Step 16

Use your lasso tool to cut away part of the triangle so that it appears to be going behind the woman.

Step 17

Now go to image>adjustments>levels and apply the settings shown below:

Step 18

Now go to the blending options for your triangle layer and apply a dark gray drop shadow (settings below):

Step 19

Now duplicate your triangle layer and fit it over one of the woman’s shoes, and over one of her arms. You’ll need to rotate/resize these duplicate triangles to ensure that the gap (the bit going behind your woman) lines up correctly. If needed you can tidy up this part using the lasso tool.

Step 20

Now download this awesome bubbles brush set. Go to the brush settings and apply the shape dynamics and scattering settings shown below.

Then paint in bubbles over your piece. The bubbles were looking a little faint, even at 100% opacity, so I duplicated my bubbles layer and merged the two layers together. Then I reduced the opacity of this layer to 80%.

Step 21

Now create a new top layer called ‘pen lines’. Select a very small paintbrush, and then use your eye dropper tool to select the colors of various parts of your image. Then simply draw out very rough lines from these areas of your woman. You can afford to be very messy, as we’re going for a sketchy look. However, try to maintain a sense of balance in your overall composition, and don’t overdo it. I reduced this layer’s opacity to 70% to make the effect slightly more subtle.

Step 22

Now start pasting in photos of smoke, beneath your pen lines layer. Use the same technique that you used to blend your water (set your layer’s blend mode to screen). Use your eraser tool and play with layer opacity until your smoke looks right.

Step 23

Now to finish off our piece I we need to add in some fish to our underwater scene. Paste in your first photo of a fish, and then go to image>adjustments>desaturate. We grayscale the fish photo so that we can then go in and add our own color. To add color go to image>adjustments>color balance and apply the settings shown below:

Then reduce your layer opacity to 60%, and go to image>adjustments>brightness/contrast and reduce your brightness to -35.

Step 24

Now add in a couple more fish, and then use your bubbles brush to apply some smaller bubbles coming out of the fish’s mouths.

Step 25

Now download this great School of Fish brush set from PSDTUTS. Create a new layer beneath your ‘jumping woman’ layer called ‘School of Fish’. Then paint in your schools of fish using a black paintbrush. Finally, reduce this layer’s opacity to around 30% in order to make the fish seem far away in the water.

Step 26

Finally, paste a larger photo of a fish into the bottom right of your canvas. Then go to filter>blur>gaussian blur and apply a 2.5 strength gaussian blur. This should give the impression of a fish being closer to you than the rest.

Step 27

Then give your big fish some bubbles coming from his mouth, and be sure to apply a gaussian blur to the bubbles also.

And We’re Done!

I really hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and as always would really appreciate your comments.

Download Source File for this Tutorial

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. Marco says:

    Whoah – Pretty weird, but also pretty good! Yet another well explained tutoral, great job. Truely unique!

    • Tom says:

      Yeah by abstract I really meant no rhyme or reason behind it! ;) I do miss doing these more abstract bits of art though, so who knows, there may be more tuts like this to come… I’m glad you enjoyed it anyhow :)

  2. T-Law says:

    Too black for me. How Marco said unique style. :)

  3. Very nice! Little wierd, but that’s the nice thing about it :)

    Nicely done!

  4. jobam says:


    Thx a lot

  5. Adam says:

    I don’t know where you came up with the idea for this but I love the final result.

    I don;t think it looks as ‘underwater’ as you’d like – the only thing that makes it look underwater is the fish and the bubbles. In it’s own right it’s a great piece of abstract digital art, so thanks!

  6. Tom says:

    Thanks for the kind words guys!

  7. Stefanos Hadjisoteriou says:

    LOVE this one.
    …If only you provided us with the psd files for free :P

    • Tom says:

      Gotta keep up with the costs I’m afraid. Remember, you can get access to all .psds for $4.95 though, which seems reasonable to me :) .

  8. xea says:

    Very Nice! Thanks for this tutorial, I linked your blog ;)

  9. huwaw69 says:

    Wow very good tutorial…

  10. [...] Create an Abstract Underwater Scene – Create an awesome abstract underwater scene using photo manipulation techniques. Learn how to create a complex abstract composition. [...]

  11. UNique post … reeally amazing. Can you post something freezing in snow or something …

  12. katie says:

    Thanks for the awesome tutorial! I used to live in FL and did a lot of actual underwater photography and modeling and well – up in the north east – I only have about a two and a half month window for that work. Your tutorial took the depression out of that situation for me – thanks so much! I’m a fan, I’ll be back!

  13. Xero says:

    i wanna try the tut, but some are the pics arent there .

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