Fish in water looks out a window with a book floating next to it Fish in water looks out a window with a book floating next to it

How to Transform Images in a Composite in Adobe Photoshop

Vanessa Rivera tells dreamy and whimsical stories through her photo composites. See how she brings an image into Adobe Photoshop on her iPad and blends it with the scenery.

Vanessa Rivera is a photographer and artist who merges photos of her family and objects from the real world to create fantastical compositions.

Take a one-minute look at Rivera’s technique; the steps are written out below.

Before you start

Use this sample file if you’d like, or practice using your own. Save the Photoshop document to Creative Cloud Files or your preferred cloud service that you can access from your iPad. Then open Adobe Photoshop on your iPad and choose Import and open to open the PSD file.

Step 1: Add to the story

Rivera tapped the image icon and selected Files to import the fish photo.

Photoshop iPad UI shows image icon selected, transform boundaries around fish photo in the middle, and layers on the right

Step 2: Fit into the scene

Next, Rivera selected the Flip Horizontal icon and dragged the fish to the lower left corner. With the fish still selected, she used the transform options to rotate, scale, and position the fish, then pressed Done.

Photoshop transform tool options on left and top, fish photo in the middle, callout at lower right shows fish scaled down

Step 3: Direct the focus

To blend the color of the fish with the scene, Rivera made sure the fish layer was still selected and tapped the Layer Properties icon. She chose Add Clipped Adjustment, then Hue/Saturation.

Photoshop layers panel shows on right with Add Clipped Adjustment selected for fish image layer

Step 4: Blend color and tone

She then set Saturation to -65 to make the colors of the fish more subdued as if one were viewing it underwater.

Photoshop layer properties show Saturation set to -65, the color of the fish on the left is desaturated

Step 5: Add some light  

The Hue/Saturation adjustment layer created a mask over the fish layer. To bring back some of the color dulled by the desaturation, Rivera tapped and held the Brush tool to select the Soft Round brush. She adjusted the brush size, hardness, and opacity, and set the color to black before brushing along the nose, eye, and orange spots on the adjustment layer hiding those parts of the mask to reveal areas of the original fish layer below it.

Desaturated fish on the left, brush tool selected and set to black, fish on the right shows color added back to spots

Tell your story

Transform photos from the world you know to create inventive, fantastical stories.

Final composite of the surreal underwater scene placed in frame on a wall adjoining a window with light shining through

Get to know Vanessa Rivera, her husband, and her children in our video profile, "It Runs in the Family."

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.