Master dynamic water effects in Photoshop

Jerome Moo dynamic digital art

Demonstrating how to create an interaction between a fantasy creature and dynamic-looking water effects, with Jerome Moo.


Jerome Moo
Jerome Moo
Jerome is currently working for the Digital Artist division of Industrial Light & Magic at Lucasfilm Animation Singapore. He has also worked on feature films, TV animation and games.

Water is a very interesting subject to study. Its form is infinite and lighting plays off of it in many unique ways. Its physical appearance is affected by many factors: the contents of the liquid; environment; temperature; lighting; movement; reactions to elements and so on.

Thus it is not particularly easy to paint water convincingly without doing an appropriate amount of research and study on it beforehand. My initial inspiration for this aquatic workshop is from a superb cartoon series, Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The concept of element-bending holds many creative scenarios, especially involving water. An idea popped into my head - that of a tribal fisherman out at sea, fishing for dinner with his useful water manipulation skills.

I also took this opportunity to create a fantastical sea creature that looks good enough to become a delicious and sumptuous meal.

In this workshop, I will illustrate my methods of working and share with you some tips and techniques on creating the water effects.

I have a background in traditional media, so I use custom brushes that partially mimic oils and acrylic paints. I

also advise you to collect useful references of the sea, waves, all sorts of water forms - and even sea creatures - to prepare yourself for this workshop. The main goal here is to be able to achieve beautiful and excitinglooking water successfully.

01 Assembling the drawings together
I begin with some drawings on paper. I draw each subject separately, as I like to devote the whole page to each subject, and play around with the look and design.

This is a good way to mix and match your drawings to see which ones work well with each other within the concept.

After finding ones that I like, I scan them in, and collate to form a new composition. I did not draw in the water effects earlier because I prefer to have fun painting them from scratch.

Step 1 image

02 Underpainting
After arranging the subjects and flattening them to a single layer (not the whole painting, just the drawings), I select the original background layer and proceed to block out the main colours as an underpainting.

I choose mid-toned colours as the base because they are neutral, and quite ideal for filling in the gaps naturally when painting over them with textured brushes, using either brighter or darker colours.

Step 2 image

03 Quick blockouts
I begin to build up the background. For the painterly look, you can use the custom brushes that I've provided on the DVD named Jerome Oils Smooth for the thick paint look, and Jerome Texture Brush 02 for the soft textural blending.

Then I quickly flesh out the main subjects with the simple Soft Round brush - in this case a default Photoshop brush called Airbrush Pen Opacity Flow - to get an early look on how they fit in overall.

Step 3 image

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