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How to Make a Still Water Reflection Scene in Photoshop

by | Jul 22, 2010 | Articles, Photoshop, Tutorials | 1 comment

Sometimes it is difficult to find that perfect shot that you need for a project. Sometimes you find the right image, but it has other things going on within it that are undesirable for your purposes. In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to take an image with rippling water, and replace it with a still water reflection.

First, find your ideal image and bring it into Photoshop. Hit command + J (CTRL + J on the PC) to duplicate the background layer, so you can always have the original to go back and work from in case you really mess things up. (Yes it really happens sometimes. You get so far into it, the only way is to go back and start from scratch). Use the Quick Selection tool to quickly select the areas of the image that you want to remove. If you have areas that aren’t perfect, you can hold shift to add to your selection or alt to subtract from it. Then, hit Command + Shift +I (Ctrl + Shift +I on the PC) to inverse the selection, which selects everything that you want to keep for your image. Then, hit command + J (CTRL + J on the PC) to place that on its own layer. Do this once more to make another copy and hit command +T (Ctrl + T on the PC) to go into free transform, right click on the selected object and click on Flip Vertically, which makes your copy an upside down version of your image.

Place the flipped version to where it looks like an exact reflection of the top. Make sure that this layer is below the top version in the layer stacking order. It will be easier to make the reflection more convincing later.  It is okay if there is a gap in space at the bottom, as long as the reflections touch or slightly overlap, but not by much, because we are about to fix that.

Below the reflected layers, make a new layer and grab your Gradient Tool. Make your foreground a light blue and the background color a darker blue color. In the gradient toolbar, select foreground to background option and drag from the bottom area of the top reflection image to the bottom of the canvas. Then, go to the upside down image, and hit the mask button at the bottom of the layers panel and grab the gradient tool. It will automatically set to a black to white gradient. Click at the bottom of the upside down layer and drag upwards to create a fading mask that will blend the upside down sky into the blue gradient layer that you created.

Finally, click the blue gradient layer, and hold shift and click on the upside down reflected image and go to Layer>New> Group From Layers. With the new group selected, go to Filter and choose convert to smart filters and click ok. Then go back into the Filter menu and choose Blur> Motion Blur and set the angle to vertical and the distance to around 20 pixels. This will created a realistic aquatic distortion effect. You may have to adjust the positioning of the layer to make everything blend just right but it should come out well.

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