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Create Underwater Themed Abstract Piece In Photoshop and Cinema 4D

This Photoshop tutorial is written exclusively for PSD Vault by Australian Graphic Designer Stuart Ballinger.

In this tutorial, I will teach you to create a Underwater Themed Abstract Piece similar to my own piece “Marianas Trench”, which includes photo manipulation, 3D modeling and Photoshop postwork.

This is an intermediate tutorial, and a certain degree of program knowledge will be necessary. I have included the original 3D render for those who lack access to Cinema 4D.

Final Result Preview

This is the final result for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)

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Stocks

Let’s get started!

Step 1

Open a document in Photoshop, 2200px wide & 3500px tall. This is simply for the poster-like ratio, if your computer can’t handle a document this size, simply scale it down.

Fill the document with a simple gradient, I used light blue/ light purple, but any cooling colours will do the trick:

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Step 2

If you don’t have an installation of Cinema 4D, skip this part of the tutorial.

Open a bubble stock from the pack, and place it so it covers your entire background. Set the Opacity of the bubble layer to 80%. This allows the gradient to show through and add some variety to the stock.
The fun part. Let’s dive into some 3D. Open Cinema 4D.

Once Cinema 4D is open, add a simple Tube object. Highlight the tube object and press “C” to make it editable.

Use the left sidebar to view it in polygon mode: (Fig 1)

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Fill the document with a simple gradient, I used light blue/ light purple, but any cooling colours will do the trick.

Use the live selection tool to highlight every polygon: (Fig 2)

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Extrude your object, click and drag your cursor around until it looks like this:

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This is a great starting point, and from here, the shape of the render is up to you.

Start adding deformers and really mess with the parameters.

When you’re happy with the shape of your render, group your Tube and Deformers into a Null Object, and add that Null into a HyperNURBS object, like so:

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Here’s an idea of what your shape could look like:

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This is when your shape will really start to take form.

Start duplicating you HyperNURBS group and moving, resizing and rotating them. Start to build out your render and make it interesting:

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The form of your render doesn’t matter, just make it exciting.

Now let’s get started on the material. Here’s mine:

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For your render settings:

  • Make sure Global Illumination is checked on and GI mode is set to IR + QMC (Still Image)
  • Turn on Anti Aliasing and set Geometry to BEST, and set both minimum and maximum to 4×4
  • In the Save tab, check on Alpha Channel and Straight Alpha

When all of this is done, render the scene in the size of your PSD as a PNG file at 16bit.

Remember, the shape of your render does not matter at all, and if you can’t get the 3d segment right, DON’T WORRY, I have included my render in the downloads.

For more experienced Cinema 4D users, feel free to go crazy with more complicated lighting materials and shapes.

Step 3

Now back to Photoshop!

Place your render in the center and make it large:

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We’re going to add some detail to the render.

  • On a new layer above the render, start picking out some interesting points in your render and paint over them with a soft white brush and set the blending mode to Overlay. This will help the coolest parts of the render pop.
  • Grab some nice grungy textures from http://sirius-sdz.deviantart.com/  (textures are free use, props to Sirius for being awesome like that)
  • Start adding some textures to the render with File > Place on layers above the render and set them to Blending Modes such as Soft Light, Overlay and Multiply and play with opacity values.

It is important that you play around until you find a balance you like:

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Step 4

Open bubble2_0009.jpg from the Bubbles stock pack in Photoshop. Chop out this nice little bubble with the Lasso Tool, with Feather set to 50px.

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Paste your selection above a point in your image that you would like to be a focal point. Use an eraser or a layer mask to refine the edges.

Duplicate the bubble and apply a light Gaussian Blur and place it underneath the first bubble to help blend:

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Step 5

Congratulations, you now have the structure of the piece! All that’s left now is to unify the colours of the piece. We do this with a series of filters and adjustment layers.

Firstly, fill a layer with a dark green colour and set it to the Colour blending mode at 20% Opacity. Then mask the colour away from the areas you don’t want it to be, like so:

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Second, add a Gradient Map adjustment layer. Make it just a basic Black to White setup:

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Set this layer to the Luminosity blending mode and leave it at 100% Opacity.

Next, go right down the Bubble stock you used for your main background and duplicate it. Then place it above the Gradient Map you just made. Apply a Gaussian Blur of 250px to this layer.

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Set this layer to the Colour blending mode at 50% Opacity.

Add a Brightness & Contrast layer and add +12 to contrast.

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Then finally, add a Curves layer, and make a curve similar to this.

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There you have it! Your colours have been corrected.

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Congratulations! You now have your underwater piece! From here, the rest is up to you. Good luck!

This is the final result I have for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)

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Thanks for reading this Photoshop tutorial and have a wonderful day!