How to Create a Mental Health Themed Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Although mental health is just as important as physical health, it’s often misunderstood and treated too lightly. After all, a person suffering from depression or anxiety looks completely fine on the outside, and nobody can tell what they’re really feeling. That’s where art can help—it allows the artist to show their inner state, to share it with other people to help them understand.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a special photo manipulation about a very common feeling occurring in many mental disorders. It’s when leaving the bed seems identical to going right into a heavy storm, and it requires a tremendous effort that doesn’t really seem worth it. If you know this feeling, I hope following this tutorial will help you express it. If you don’t, it may help you get an insight into the struggle that so many people deal with every day.

You may also be interested in our series of tutorials created especially for relaxation. No skills required!

What You Will Need

You can find all the photos you need on Envato Elements:

1. How to Prepare the Assets for Photo Manipulation

Step 1

Open the image of the woman in a blanket in Photoshop. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to outline the parts you want to select. You don’t have to be very careful about the hair—we’re going to adjust it in a minute.

black woman in blanket

Step 2

After you finish the selection, click Refine Edge.

photoshop selection refine edge

Step 3

Adjust the View Mode to clearly see the separation between the selected and unselected areas. Check Smart Radius and play with the Radius to soften the edge.

how to refine edge of selection

Step 4

Paint over the hair with the Refine Radius Tool (E) to include it in the selection in a soft way. This tool is perfect for it!

how to select hair in photoshop

Step 5

When you’re finished, change the Output to New Layer and click OK.

how to send selection to new layer

If you hide the other layer now, you’ll see the background has been removed. Save the file.

remove background from photo

Step 6

Open the image with the bed now. Remove its background just like before, making sure to refine the edge around the soft parts.

select bed in photoshop
remove background from bed

Step 7

This bed has a perfect perspective for our purpose, but it’s not completely clean. We need to remove some elements with the magic of Photoshop! Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select what you want to remove.

remove objects from photo

Step 8

Go to Edit > Fill and select Content-Aware.

use content aware fill
clean unwanted objects

Step 9

Remove all the other unwanted elements in this way.

remove objects from the bed

Step 10

Because the Content-Aware fill is not perfect, we need to do some manual fixes. Use the Patch Tool (J) to select the area you want to replace with something else.

use patch tool

Step 11

Drag the area to a part that would fit the selected part better.

drag patch to replace
hpw to use patch tool

If that looked confusing to you, let me show you another example. You select the part that doesn’t look good…

select with patch tool

… and replace it with something that would look better.

drawg selection
change selection

Step 12

It can take a while to clean everything up this way, but there’s no automatic tool that will do it for you, so be patient and take your time. After you’re done, save the file.

how to remove objects from photo

Step 13

Open the image with the ocean now. Use the Crop Tool (C) to create a format that will fit our idea better.

how to crop photo

Step 14

If you need to add an area to the image, use the Content-Aware fill again.

how to fill empty area in photo

2. How to Merge the Assets

Step 1

Copy and paste the bed into the file with the ocean. Resize (Control-T) and place it where you want it to be. Try to see the perspective lines defined by the horizon, so that the position of the bed fits them.

paste bed into scene

Step 2

Go to the Adjustments panel (Window > Adjustments). Select Hue/Saturation.

find hue saturation adjustment

Step 3

Clip the adjustment to the bed layer (Control-Alt-G) and lower the Lightness to better fit the low lighting in the scene.

hue saturation adjustment
add shadow to bed

Step 4

Add another Hue/Saturation adjustment, and place it under the previous one. Use it to color the whole bed as if it’s in shadow, similar to everything else that is in the shadow in this scene—bluish and dark.

add colorizing hue saturation adjustment
colorize the shadows with blue

Step 5

But the whole bed isn’t in shadow. Let’s remove this effect from the illuminated parts. Right-click the adjustment and select Blending Options. Go to the Blend If section and drag the upper white slider to the left.

add blend if

You’ll see how the effect of the adjustment layer gets reduced to the shadow area.

remove shadows from bright areas

Step 6

Hold Alt to split the marker in two, creating a subtler transition.

gradual blend if
create soft shadows

Step 7

Add another Hue/Saturation adjustment under the first one. This time, use it to color the illuminated parts as the scene suggests (the water foam looks yellowish, not white).

add warm adjustment
colorize the bed

Step 8

Use Blend If here too, this time using the black marker.

add blend if to warm colorizing
soft light and shadow

Step 9

Once you’re done with the bed, copy and paste the woman into the scene. Resize her and place her in the right area.

add woman to bed

Step 10

Add a Layer Mask to the layer. Click the mask that appears on the layer to paint on it.

You can learn about layer masks here:

add layer mask

Step 11

Paint on the mask with a soft brush. Use black to hide the parts of the layer, and white to reveal them.

clean up the layer

Use this method to merge the woman with the bed.

merge objects in photoshop

Step 12

Select the adjustments of the bed and drag them while holding Alt to copy them to the woman. Make sure that they’re all clipped.

copy the adjustments
adjustments copied

Step 13

Because the adjustments treat the dark skin of the woman as a shadow area, you need to use a Layer Mask to remove the effect from this area. Also, adjust the adjustments to fit this image, which may have a different white balance to the bed. Your goal is to make them look equal.

clean up the adjustments

3. How to Put the Bed on the Water

Step 1

Duplicate the background layer (Control-J). Drag it to the top, and then add a Layer Mask. Paint on it with black to reveal the bed and the woman, creating a nice edge of the water on the bottom of the bed. It can look even more convincing if you use an irregular brush (I used a cloud brush). You can press while in the mask mode to see the mask, as shown in the image below.

paint on layer mask
merge bed with water

Step 2

We need more waves still, so that the ocean will look as if it’s crashing over the sides of the bed. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select some waves you like, and then paste them on top and place them where you want.

add more waves

Step 3

Use a Layer Mask to remove the parts you don’t need. A soft or textured brush will help you merge the waves seamlessly with the water around.

clean up the waves

Step 4

Use the same trick to add waves around the bed, everywhere that’s necessary.

add more waves and cut them

Step 5

To make the waves more convincing, add a new Hue/Saturation layer on the bed and darken the area right behind the waves. It should be dark, but not a very noticeable shadow.

add shadows to waves

Step 6

Because the sheets are in the water and being hit by the waves, they should look wet. Add a Levels adjustment to the bed and drag the markers to make it look dark.

add levels adjustment

Step 7

Add a Layer Mask and fill it with black to make it transparent. Then use some splash-like brushes to reveal the adjustment where you want to. If you don’t have any, you can surely find some nice brushes on Envato Elements.

make sheets look wet

Step 8

Add another adjustment, this time Hue/Saturation. Use it to darken the bed.

darken the bed

Step 9

Fill it with black again, and then reveal it where you want to. Use both hard and soft brushes to create a nice, natural edge.

how to make wet material photoshop

Step 10

The bed should cast a shadow, too. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment on the top, darken it, and lower the saturation. Then add a Layer Mask and fill it with black to cancel the effect.

add another adjustment

Paint on the Layer Mask to reveal the shadow right under the bed. You can add it to the bed as well, to merge it all better.

add shadow udner the bed

Step 11

This shadow may require more than one adjustment to look convincing. You can add Brightness/Contrast, for example, to nullify the difference between the bright and dark parts of the waves. Blend If can be also helpful here, to make the bright parts darker while leaving the dark parts as they are.

You can learn more about Blend If here:

blend if for shadows
shade the waves
how to create convincing waves

Step 12

Because the waves are hitting the bed, they might create splashes, too. Add a New Layer on top, use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick the bright color on the waves, and then use a scatter brush to draw the droplets. You can also use a soft brush to simulate some mist made by the smallest droplets, which would have a unifying effect, too.

add sprinkling water
sprinkling water around the bed

4. How to Finish a Photo Manipulation

Step 1

There’s a slight blur between the native elements of the scene, which is absent in the ones that have been cut and pasted. Let’s add it to them too. Select the layer with the woman, and then go into Quick Mask Mode (Q).

use quick mask

Step 2

In this mode, you can paint the selection. Paint with black to select the sharp border.

select the silhouette

Step 3

Go out of the mode (Q) and invert the selection (Control-Shift-I). Then hide the selection (Control-H).

create the selection

Step 4

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Adjust the Radius for the effect you want.

add gaussian blur

Step 5

Do the same with the bed.

select the edge of bed
add blur to bed

Step 6

The depth of field in the scene is a little too wide at the moment—it distracts us from what’s happening in the center. Duplicate the background again (Control-J) and bring it to the top. Add a strong Gaussian Blur to it.

add blur to background

Step 7

Select the woman and the bed layers with all their adjustments. Merge them (Control-E). Hold Control and click this merged layer to get a selection out of it.

cut the bed from selection
Make sure you don’t want to change anything in the adjustments—there’s no going back after you merge them!

Step 8

Invert the selection (Control-Shift-I) and add a Layer Mask to the blurred background on top. This will automatically add a black mask to the selected area.

add selection to layer mask

Step 9

Deselect and paint on the mask with white to remove the blur from most of it. Keep it in the far background only, around the horizon.

selective blur of background

Step 10

After you’re all done with the manipulation, merge all the layers. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Adjust the Amount to add some subtle noise—it will unify the scene even more.

add noise
add noise to photo manipulation

Step 11

Use the Crop Tool (C) to break the balance of the image and to add some dynamism to it.

crop the scene in dynamix way

You can learn more about composition here:

Step 12

Finally, change the size of the image (Control-Alt-I) to make it more appropriate for showing on the Internet.

change image size

Good Job!

Do you want to keep learning about creating photo manipulations in Photoshop? Try one of these tutorials:

how to place bed in water in photoshop

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.