photoshop creative

Make a realistic reflection

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
September 30, 2015

Learn the skills needed to create water reflections in your images using Photoshop filters


1. Resize the canvas


Go to File>Open and choose your file. Double-click the Background layer to unlock it and rename it Sunset. Go to Image>Canvas Size and enter 200% for the Height, selecting the top-middle anchor point.

2. Duplicate the sunset layer


Duplicate the layer by going to Layer>Duplicate Layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J) and rename the layer Reflection. Go to Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical and reposition the layer to the bottom of the image using the Move tool (V).

3. Add some noise


Create a new layer and name it Displacement. Go to Edit>Fill and fill the layer with black. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise and set an Amount of 75%. Use Gaussian for Distribution and tick the Monochromatic option.

4. Inject some blur


Next we need to add a little blur to the Displacement layer. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Add a Blur Amount of 5px. You can use a larger blur if you want larger ripples.

5. Up the contrast


Now we need to add a touch more contrast to the displacement. Go to Image>Adjustments>Levels. Enter 56 for the Shadows input level and 85 for the Highlight input level. Leave the midtones as they are.

6. Add a Bas Relief


Go to Filter>Filter Gallery. Select the folder Sketch, then select the Bas Relief filter. In the Settings menu, set the Detail to 2, the Smoothness to 2 and set the Light option to Bottom. Click OK when you have finished.

7. Add motion


We need to add a little motion to our displacement, which will be the start of our water effect. Do this by going to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Set the Angle to 0 and the Distance to 35px.

8. Get some perspective


Go to Edit>Free Transform, click on the top control handle and drag it down to the middle of the image. Ctrl/right-click inside of the selection and choose Perspective. Click on the lower-right control handle and drag it out to the right.

9. Save out the displacement


Making sure you have Displacement layer selected, go to Layer>Duplicate Layer. Select New in the Destination area and click OK. Next, go to Image>Trim. Select Transparent pixels and click OK. Save this document as ‘displacement.psd’. You can now close this document and go back to the image.

10. Load up the displacement


Turn off the Displacement layer. Select the Reflection layer and go to Filter>Filter Gallery. Pick the Distort folder and select the Glass filter. Set the Distortion to 8, Smoothness to 5 and Scaling to 100%. Click on the drop-down menu next to texture and load the ‘displacement.psd’ file.