Photoshop Fun: Dolphin in a Glass

You might think it’s hard enough to swallow a whole dolphin. But the real trick is regurgitating it into a glass. Impossible? Not with Photoshop, it isn’t. And it makes a truly eye-catching and surreal composition.

Step 1: The starting image

This image of a woman looking startled while drinking a glass of water makes a great starting point. You can download it from the excellent

Step 2: Move the glass

The glass is much too close to the mouth – you need space for that dolphin to leap out. It’s easy enough to move: select the hand and glass and copy them to a new layer, then make another layer beneath it and paint out the existing glass. Don’t worry about getting it exactly right around the mouth, since this will be covered up later.

Step 3: Add your dolphin

…or your salmon, or labrador, or whatever you want. This dolphin came from the PixelSquid collection, but you can find suitable images just about anywhere.

Step 4: Add a layer mask

Use Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to make an empty mask, then paint in black over the lips so the dolphin appears to be jumping out. Paint out the rim of the glass as well, then lower the opacity of the brush to around 50% and paint out the dolphin inside the glass, to give the glass itself some presence.

Step 5: Add some shading

To make the dolphin look more like it’s coming out of the mouth, make a new layer using the dolphin as a clipping mask, and set its mode to Multiply. Then sample some color from the lips and the skin, and paint these on the dolphin to give it a little reflection.

Step 6: Find a splash

This splash came from Flickr, created by user Aqua Mechanical. You can download it here.

Step 7: Take out the white

To remove the white from the splash, double-click the layer in the Layers Panel to open the Layer Style dialog. In the Blend If section, drag the right hand triangle marker in the This Layer section to the left to remove the pure white; then hold Option or Alt and continue to drag. This splits the triangle into two, producing a smooth blend between what’s visible and what’s hidden.

Step 8: The cutout splash

Here’s the splash with the white removed. This is the easiest way to remove it, and it’s reversible – the white is just hidden, not deleted.

Step 9: Distort the splash

Use a combination of Free Transform and Image Warp to make the splash narrower and taller, bending up the edges to follow the contour of the water in the glass.

Step 10: Add a Layer Mask

Add a Layer Mask to the splash layer so you can paint it out behind the rim of the glass. This makes it sit within the glass, rather than appearing in front of it. Here, I’ve also taken out some of the extra splash that was going too high over her face.

Step 11: Desaturate the splash

The splash was bright blue, which is much too strong for our glass of water. Use the Hue & Saturation dialog to reduce the saturation so it looks more realistic.

Step 12: Finishing off

To make the image work better, duplicate the rim of the glass and flip it horizontally (and rotate slightly) to make the opposite side of the glass. I’ve also painted in a little shading on the left hand side, and tinted the water blue to make it stand out better.

No wonder she looks surprised!

Posted on: August 27, 2018

Steve Caplin

Steve is a freelance writer, artist and designer, and the author of over a dozen books, including the popular How to Cheat in Photoshop series and the Amazon #1 best-seller Dad Stuff. His training videos can be seen on, Retouch Pro and elsewhere.

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