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Photoshop tutorial: Create a person made of water from a photo

Blending water can be difficult, but Jennifer Cirpici pulls it off using a mix of stock images and a few deft tricks

In this photo manipulation tutorial, Jennifer Cirpici explains how to create a figure that appears made from water, working from a stock photograph.  

Water is a difficult element to blend, but Jennifer’s tutorial proves it’s not as hard as it looks. She shows you how to achieve a stunning end result with many basic blending tricks, including painting lighting and shadow, and setting up a focal point with a gradient. She also shows you how to make a ‘rain brush’, handy to paint with if you don’t have stock images of water.


In order to transform the model into a figure of rain, we will need to get rid of all of her body, leaving just the clothes. Start by duplicating the layer containing the stock image provided (26251879.jpg), using Cmd/Ctrl + J or Layer > Duplicate. Make the original layer invisible. With the Pen tool (P), select her stomach and a part of her hand, zooming in to perfect your cutout. Then right click > Select Inverse (or Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I). Now the whole image, except her stomach, is selected. Add a layer mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel.


Now select a large area of the rain, then copy and paste it, creating a new layer. Move this new layer under the mask and name it ‘Rain Stomach’.

Move the rain to sit under the area you cut out. Then select the mask by clicking on it in your Layers panel. Go to Select > Load Selection and check the Invert box to select only the stomach area.

In the ‘Rain Stomach’ layer, do Select > Transform Selection and scale up the selection slightly. Copy and paste it above the mask in the layer stack. Blend it in nicely with the Eraser tool (E) and a soft brush.

Repeat step 2 on the rest of the model’s body. You can remove the rest of her skin and hair by selecting it and filling the selection with black in the layer mask. If you have trouble copying from the layer with the mask, use the original layer we started with.


Now we’ll fill that area of the model’s jeans that her left hand was concealing. Select some of the cloth of her right trouser leg and paste it above the mask layer, blending it in carefully and smoothly with the Eraser tool. Copy, paste and blend a few times to get it right.

You’ll also need to eliminate the reflections of her feet: copy a bit of the floor, paste it on the reflections and blend with the Eraser tool.


To convert the skin showing through the mesh in her top, brush it with a 70px soft brush, then set the brush’s blending mode to Saturation. This replaces skin tones with grey/black.


Now we need to rebuild the ‘skin’ using water. First, duplicate the original image (the locked first layer) and use the Brush tool (B) to draw over it with a 3px line. A graphics tablet is a great help here, as it’s hard to get the pressure right with a mouse.


To make the shadows of her body more visible, duplicate the original layer, make it greyscale, apply a Gaussian Blur and lower the opacity to 24%. Then duplicate the layer. You should now have something like the image above.


Now to add some more water to the skin; see the Download Zone for suitable stock images. If the background of the image you use isn’t black, invert the image (Image > Adjustments > Invert or Cmd/Ctrl + I) to make blending easier. Reduce the saturation to make the water grey, brighten up the water a little and change the blending mode to Screen.


Erase the background in the stock image, so that you only have the splash visible, and paste it somewhere on the figure’s skin to obtain the image above.


Get more water splash stock images and repeat steps 7 and 8 a number of times. Don’t overdo it with the water though: if you can’t distinguish some parts of the body clearly, duplicate the shadow areas as in step 6. Conversely, if the body is too distinct in places, erase them to obtain a more transparent quality. Eventually you should arrive at something like the image above.


Using Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance, add some blue and, for the highlights, a little yellow. Lower the opacity to 50%. The image needs to be brighter, so play with the Brightness/Contrast, Curves and Levels.


In a new layer, use the Gradient tool (G) with the radial option and create a circular glow in a part of your image you want to draw attention to. Set the Blending Options to Soft Light, with the opacity at 24%; this gives quite a subtle effect.


Some areas around the edges need more shadow, so paint over them with black and a soft brush, something like 60px, ideally using a tablet. Set the Blend Mode to Soft Light and lower the Opacity. Smudge the lines to make them less hard. To make the white lines on the face more visible, paint over them with a small white hard brush, with the Opacity set to around 40% and Flow to around 70%.

Finally, go to Image > Apply Image and then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and just add a tiny bit of motion blur. Lower the Opacity of the layer to around 30%. We’re done.

Thanks for reading Photoshop tutorial: Create a person made of water from a photo

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