This was a tutorial that I followed but it was also a test of my improvising skills. The tutorial probably had 20+ items that it was linked to for the tutorial, however, without exception, every single one of them were blocked. And so, I had to find images and textures on my own and just kind of use the tutorial as a guide rather than a follow-along. It all worked out in the end though, and I am very proud. Basically I started with a blank background and made what you see as the background out of four or five different textures/colors. Next, I traced a picture of a hummingbird and from there it was just a series of adding effects (mainly bevel & emboss, inner glow, and drop shadow.) This was all done in photoshop and I mainly I learned about effects and what they do (I love bevel and emboss so much.) I also learned that sometimes you don't have to rely on the tutorial; I like how my finished product looks similar but also at the same completely different than the tutorial's final design.
The Ocean Horse Edit:
I used Photoshop to mask out the background of the original horse and rider picture and then placed the picture of the ocean as the background. Initially, I had the picture so that the hooves were in the foreground and so I didn't have to deal with where the hooves landed. However, after thinking about it further I decided that I wanted to have (at least part of the) hooves in the picture. So from there I copied part of the ocean in the back, brought it forward, flipped it, and then played with the masking to make it look natural. That part along with the selection of the horse were probably the hardest things about this. Selecting the horse was tricky especially with the mane and tail because this latest version of Photoshop didn't really have the refine edge tool... I had to figure out how to use that.
Here is my "Underwater Dragon" photo composite that I did in Photoshop. Basically I started with a simple ocean picture and added everything you see, from the light rays to the bubbles to the fish. I spent quite a while on this one and I learned a ton; first off, organization is KING, in the end there were about 40 layers and probably with adjustments it added up to over 100. For each different item I made a new group with the item and all its adjustments which really helped with keeping everything organized. Additionally, my selection skills have improved (a kind of a given with photo manipulation but you know.) I also learned so much about blending a item into a scene and making it look natural. Every single one of these items had at least five adjustments just so it would fit into the lighting. Speaking of lighting, lighting is so important, this was an ocean scene so items had to be adjusted accordingly. There are light rays coming from the top so a lot of my time was spent simply on the dragon and making it look like light was hitting its back and shadows were falling from it. I spent a good day just researching how water affects light. Blending modes are extremely useful and I used them a lot here, especially: color, overlay, soft light, and screen. My knowledge of when to use each of them has increased dramatically.