Photoshop Tutorial: Create a Spectacular Fantasy Sea Monster

This tutorial is a step by step guide in the making of “are you a friend”, an entry I created for sea monster contest on

In this tutorial I am going to show you how to create the figure of a sea monster from a sketch and then combine the figure with a dark, manipulated seascape. We will be using dodge and burn tool to create light and shadow on our figure combined with basic drawing techniques. Also in this tutorial, we’ll use pen tool, layer masking and color adjustments to complete our sea monster. I created this work in CS5 but earlier versions will work as well.

Also check out the High Resolution of the result.

Let’s get started…

Sources used:
1: water 1
2: splash
3: water 2 (thanks lady-symphonia)
4: fisherman
5: water drop - (thanks lizard-queen)

End result:
Create a Spectacular Fantasy Sea Monster Final Image

avatar dekwid

Views: 55846
Score: 9.75 / 10
Author earned: $50
Practice tutorial

Step 1

Let me show you first the rough sketch which is the visualization of my concept of what the monster will look like…I had this idea after watching many alien movies.

Step 2

Next we need to make the rough sketch into well defined shape. To begin select pen tool from the tool bar menu or use the keyboard shortcut and hit P . once you’ve selected pen tool you have two options in menu at top, create new work path and create new shape layer. Choose the option create new work path and click the point for the first anchor, continue to trace the sketch by clicking new anchor points as you go, these show as small squares (1) on your screen. Proceed with following the sketch (2) and work your way to meet the first anchor and close the path. Now select the brush tool with a small size (5-7 pixels) and 100% opacity, then go back to pen tool and right click on the path . When the pop up window for the path execution comes up choose stroke path , you now have the outline of the monster.

Step 3

When you’ve finished the outline it’s time to give it some color, I decided to work on four different layers for four different parts of the monster’s body and used the different colors shown below to fill the outline.

Step 4

After giving color to the outline, I found that I needed to change the position of the monster’s head (figure 1). I moved the head down a bit to chest area and then to upper left a bit more to find the result (figure 2) on which we will work later on…

Step 5

From this point we’ll use both dodge and burn tool , I decided to work on the body first with the dodge tool.

Step 6

Select the dodge tool from the tool menu then in the dodge tool option bar set range to highlight and 10% exposure . Now begin adding highlight to the figure.

Step 7

To give more dimension to the body we need to add shading. We will use burn tool to achieve this.

Step 8

Now we will switch to the burn tool . Burn, dodge and sponge tools are in the same group in the tool menu . To access the tool selections right click on the small triangle in the lower right corner of the tool icon . After selecting the burn tool start shading the body. Remember to use a soft brush with a low exposure and set the range to midtones .

Step 9

Now you should switch back and forth between dodge and burn. Change the brush size and exposure as needed.

Step 10

Continue to dodge and burn the body till you’re pretty much done.

Step 11

Giving the arm more details.

Step 12

Finishing the arm. In this step we continue to combine dodge and burn to create more details like scales and lines.

Step 13

Working on the legs with the techniques mentioned in previous steps

Step 14

Finishing the other arm….

Step 15

Now, the last part, the head…..

Step 16

Here is the result.

Step 17

After finishing the body, I want the monster have a tail,….so in this step we will create it by using brush tool . Select the Brush Tool on the Tools palette or press B the default shortcut for brush and then go to Window > Brushes, or press the F5 key to show the brush panel . In the brush panel,do setting for the brush used to create the tail, start by determining the shape dynamics, scattering and then dual brush . See picture for the details of the setting.
After drawing the tail, it seems that it looks so flat. we need to give it texture to make it more suitable to the very muscled body of the monster.Go to filter on menu bar. When the options of filter displayed, choose render and then click lightning effect to show the lightning effect pop up window. Follow the setting of it as shown in the picture

Step 18

After finishing the tail we are almost done with the monster. Merge the monster and tail layer . Follow the instruction below to create a new layer and set layer properties as shown .
Next set the foreground to #fdb303, using soft round brush at low opacity begin stroking areas of the monster body until you achieve the results shown in the image below.

Step 19

Create a new canvas of 1500pxl wide and 1760pxl high. Open the picture of water 1 on the canvas and then the water 2 . With the water 2 selected, go to layer >layer mask > reveal all . This will give the water 2 picture a layer mask indicated by a thumbnail to the left side of it. The layer mask is very useful technique in photoshop. By giving a picture layer mask, we can control the picture easily .
Continue with this step, set the foreground color to black and the background white. With very soft round brush, stroke the upper part of the water2 to hide the part. After stroking, we will see that half of the thumbnail is covered with black meaning that it was masked . The most important thing about layer mask is when we stroke with black colored brush on any layer masked picture, we will hide the stroked area ( not delete or erase as the way eraser tool do) and we can reveal the area by stroking it white colored brush . Now we have the background scene.

Step 20

In this step, we will give some color adjustment to the background. First we use channel mixer . Go to layer > new adjustment layer > selective color .
Set the setting of it as shown in the picture.

Step 21

After we have the background it’s time to add the monster . Give it a layer mask as explained in step 19 and stroke the lower part to make it appear to be in the water . Add some splashes and water drops as indicated below.

Step 22

Adding a fisherman to the canvas and doing more color adjustments. The fisherman was cropped using pen tool almost the same way as described in step 2, but when the path is closed, right click it and choose make selection option and then copy-paste the selected picture to the scene. See picture for the details of this step…

Step 23

In this step we will add a distant island . To achieve this, crop out the stone from the water 2 image and then place it to the image. Set it to soft light image at 70% opacity. Next, make two more adjustment layers and use photo filter set to normal blending at 73% opacity and curves set to normal blending at 100% opacity.

Step 24

Add more splashes by copying the splash image as often as needed and place where desired. Set the blending of all the copied splash layers to screen varying the opacity between 20-50% . Position the splashes to fit the movement of the monster. Use the transform tool to re-size, rotate and wrap the shape of the splashes as required .

Step 25

In this step we are going to give texture to the image. This texture is cropped from the water 2 picture. Place the texture above all the other layers and size it to cover the screen, set to 100% multiply blending . Create a new adjustment layer (gradient map) as we did in step 22. Set the gradient to soft light blending at 20% opacity .

Step 26

that's the tutorial, I hope you find it helpful. Those who want to see another work of mine as an example of themethod shown here can go to :
If I have time I am going to write a tutorial for it. Thanks for your visit. Happy photoshopping……

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avatar kushpatel
kushpatel says:

wow very detailed and i must say "BRILLIANT tutorial"
best of luck for your 5star tutorial

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar minnie
minnie says:

A great image and a great tutorial! It's very well explained and for people that are starting with digital drawing (like me) I think it's useful.
Good work!!

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar niks1351
niks1351 says: is very nicely explained....loved it

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar CorneliaMladenova

Very well written tut, Dek! For sure it will be very useful for all digital artists

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar hereisanoop

great tutorial... really very nice walkthrough.. till the end.. good luck

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar dreamboy
dreamboy says:

Definitely it's a brilliant. I'm looking to learn a digital painting from long time. I'm sure it will help me to start DP in a good way.

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar nasirkhan
nasirkhan says:

Very detail tutorial and wonderful result. Well done friend. 5/5

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar nanaris
nanaris says:

Congrats Dek for this tutorial, is very good and for sure has very useful information for us!!

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar genuine2009

you have my vote!

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar nilknarfsoive

This is genius...! True work of a passionate artist....

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar cabldawg71

Very good tutorial, useful and easy to follow. Good luck.

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar Glockman
Glockman says:

nice work ,impressive tut. very well explained

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar bcabilan
bcabilan says:

Impressive tutorial and everyone can follow it. So good luck and job well done.

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar chakra1985

Very good tutorial, Good luck!

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar MossyB
MossyB says:

Very well written and illustrated! Some excellent tips and techniques VERY well explained. Thank you for writing this and sharing your secrets!

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar erikuri
erikuri says:

Awesome! Very well explained and done; I think that even I can do something alike, following your tut!...

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar George55
George55 says:

I think you did a good job in your first tutorial. The details are well explained and easy to follow. Good luck. You open the door for those who like to do this kind of monsters. Thanks you for sharing it with us.

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar Christy
Christy says:

WOW this was your first? Fantastic job...I learned a few things so thanks for sharing and taking the time to put it together

(5 years and 1921 days ago)
avatar lchappell
lchappell says:

Very detailed tutorial, great job explaining your work techniques.

(5 years and 1920 days ago)
avatar nishagandhi

wow very nice

(5 years and 1920 days ago)
avatar Nysoe
Nysoe says:

Great tut

(5 years and 1920 days ago)
no avatar
olga says:

Great tutorial! Explanation is perfect, easy to follow!

(5 years and 1919 days ago)
avatar samanway
samanway says:


(5 years and 1918 days ago)
avatar Rod13
Rod13 says:

That is outstanding work. Could you see the guys jaw drop when that surfaced.

(5 years and 1915 days ago)
avatar langstrum
langstrum says:

Very detail and well explained Dek, keep it up, you can produce many good tut

(5 years and 1909 days ago)
avatar arca
arca says:

Great tut ... I think I will try this one ... when I get the time but still lots of learning tools! Wonderful for reference as well.

(5 years and 1902 days ago)
avatar Mrjajup
Mrjajup says:

ery good and for sure has very useful information

(5 years and 1790 days ago)

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