photoshop creative

10 Water composition tips

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
February 2, 2016

Master the art of working with liquid


1. Caustic water

When water hits a flat surface, it creates wavy lines; this is called caustic water, and it’s a good idea to overlay these kinds of images over a comped seabed.

2. Create ripples

There are many ways to create a ripple or a reflection but the Ocean Ripple filter is perhaps the best one to use. Find it in the Filter Gallery and toggle the settings for a perfect ripple.

3. Mask and comp

Perhaps the most effective water effects are created from water pictures. To use them effectively, paste them into your picture, add a mask layer and invert. Then, with a soft white brush, paint the water back into the picture.

4. Blend it well

If you’ve a picture of water taken against white, here’s a tip to blend it. Invert the picture and change the Hue to +180. Then use Screen to remove all the black.

5. Add realistic rain

Insert a new layer over your picture. In the Styles menu next to Adjustments, choose Image Effects, and look for the Rain style. This can add realistic-looking rain to your photos; choose the Overlay blend mode for added effect.

6. Use water-shaped brushes

Custom brushes can be a saviour in Photoshop, and if you have some water-shaped brushes, it can save you so much time cutting splashes out of a picture. Search online; there are some great ones out there.

7. Ensure reflections are believable

Getting the perfect reflection can be tricky: how can you reflect an object onto a bumpy water texture? Use the Displace filter, set to 100 on both the Horizontal and Vertical scale, and watch your reflections stretch across water perfectly.

8. Make your own bubbles

If you want to add bubbles to a picture, there’s no better method than to build your own. Select a space with an Elliptical Marquee, and then use brushes and gradients to create the bubble effect. Study photos for inspiration, too.

9. Call upon Liquify

The Liquify tool is a must-have command for water compositions, if only for underwater subjects. Use it to make hair look as if it’s floating, wavily above your subject’s head, and just have fun with the rest of the distortion effects.

10. Create super smooth shapes

It’s a filter that you might not immediately associate with water, but the Plastic Wrap filter creates smooth shapes with watery highlights and shadows. Use it to turn a subject to water, or even just add some droplets to a picture.