photoshop creative

Create a liquified zebra composition

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
February 17, 2016

Learn new tricks and tips to create a cool photomontage using the Liquify filter and adjustment layers


1. Prepare the background


Open your background image. Adjust the layers by going to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/ Saturation. Set the Saturation: -30 and Lightness: -20. Now go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Brightness/Contrast. Set Brightness to -10 and Contrast to 30.

2. Place the zebra


Place your zebra. Go to Layer>Rasterize>Smart Object (Elements users: choose Simplify). Grab the Pen tool (P) (Elements users: use the Polygonal Lasso tool) and create a path around the zebra. On the options bar, choose Make Selection and click OK.

3. Edit with Refine Edge


Go to Select>Refine Edge. Check Smart Radius, and set Radius: 2 pixels, Smooth: 5, Feather: 0.5 pixels, Contrast: 0, and Shift Edge: -20, then click OK. Duplicate the Zebra Copy layer and name it Zebra Filter. Click on the layer mask thumbnail, go to Layer>Layer Mask>Apply.

4. Liquify some drips


Hold Cmd/Ctrl and click over the Zebra Droplets layer’s thumbnail to select it. Go to Filter>Liquify. Grab the Forward Warp tool (W). Vary the brush size, and set Density: 100 and Pressure: 100. Patiently start creating small drips by pushing down the stripes.

5. Add texture


Place an image of a white horse into your project. Resize and use Warp Mode to adjust the image, then hit Return/Enter. Clip the layers by pressing Opt/Alt+Cmd/Ctrl+G. Create a layer mask, go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. Grab the Brush tool (B) and mask the bottom area to reveal the stripes.

6. Apply a filter


Hold Shift and select the Texture and Zebra Droplets layers. Duplicate the layers (Cmd/Ctrl+J) then merge (Cmd/ Ctrl+E). Open the Filter Gallery. Go to Filter>Filter Gallery> Artistic>Plastic Warp. Set Highlight Strength: 20, Detail: 1, and Smoothness: 7 then hit OK. Change the blending mode to Lighten and Opacity to 50%.

7. Create the puddle


Insert an image of a puddle, then create a layer mask. Drag the layer and place it under the zebra. Go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. Grab a soft tip brush (B). Set the brush Opacity to 50% and paint around the edges to blend the image with the background.

8. Add adjustment layer


Let’s add an adjustment layer over the puddle. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. Check ‘Use previous layer to create clipping mask’ and hit OK. Set the Input levels to 30, 0.75 and 215. Now add the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set the Hue to +20 and Saturation to -60.

9. Create a reflection


Duplicate the Zebra Droplets layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J), name it Reflection. Go to Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical. Place and adjust it under the Zebra Droplets layer. Set the layer’s Opacity to 80%. Go to Filter> Distort>Wave. Choose Type: Sine, set Number of Generators to 5, then hit OK.

10. Apply more filters



Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the Radius to 3 pixels and click OK. Now add a layer mask (Layer>Layer Mask> Reveal All). Grab a large soft tip brush (B), set the brush’s Opacity to 50% and gently paint over the mask to create a gradual transition with the puddle.

11. Make the stripes


Click on the Zebra Droplets layer. Grab the Magic Wand tool (W). Set Tolerance: 50, uncheck the Contiguous box and select the black stripes. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+J and name it Stripes. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T and adjust perspective. Push the stripes away using the Liquify filter. Change the blending mode to Overlay.

12. Add the rain


Create a new layer on top of the layer stack and name it Rain. Fill with black. Go to Filter>Pixelate>Mezzotint. Choose Type: Medium Strokes and hit OK. Now go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Set Angle: 0 and Distance: 40 pixels, then hit OK. Rotate the image and change the blending mode to Screen.

13. Make final touches


Let’s make some colour corrections to finish things off. Create a snapshot by hitting Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+E. First apply a Photo Filter adjustment layer. Choose Filter: Deep Blue. Now apply a Levels adjustment layer. Set the Input Levels to 10, 0.90 and 252.

  • and create a path around the zebra. On the options bar, choose Make Selection and click OK.