How to Create Water Reflection Effects with Photoshop

With any image, you can create a water reflection to add another dimension to your photo. This will take some finesse.

Step 1: Set up Your Canvas

Open your photo in Photoshop and duplicate the background layer by going to "Layer", "Duplicate Layer".  You will need to create space to add the reflection, so go to "Image", "Canvas size". Tell the window to add 100% of the "Height" of the canvas with the "Relative" option checked. By clicking the top-middle box in the little grid, it knows to add the space to the bottom.

Step 2: Add the Reflection

The reflection should be upside down, so select "Layer 1" from your layer list.  Go to "Edit", "Transform", "Flip Vertical".  Then, grab your Move tool, hold down shift (to maintain a straight line), click on the upside-down image, and drag it down to the empty space.

Step 3: Create a Ripple Effect

Create a new layer by going to "Layer", "New", "Layer". Select your paint bucket tool, set the color to white, and click on the canvas to fill the layer. Go to "Filter" and choose "Sketch". In the window that appears, select "Halftone Pattern" from the top drop-down, and "Lines" in the "Pattern" drop-down. The size bar below signifies how thick you want each line to be. Smaller lines lead to more ripples, bigger lines lead to less ripples. Set the contrast bar to maximum so you can soften it yourself momentarily. After you hit OK, go to "Filter", "Blur", "Gaussian Blur".  Adjust the radius to your liking. Now save this layer as a separate document by going to "Layer", "Duplicate layer".  In the window that pops up, select "New" in the "Document" drop down. Name the document something you will remember then close it.

Step 4: Apply the Water Effect

Delete the layer with the lines. Now, merge your two image layers by clicking on "Layer 1" and using the shortcut Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E.  A new layer will appear with both images together. Go to "Filter", "Distort", and choose "Displace". This will add the water effect, but use it delicately. Play with different "Horizontal Scale" settings. Shy away from going past 6 or the distortion will be too extreme. Make sure to check "Stretch to Fit" and "Repeat Edge Pixels". When you hit OK, Photoshop will ask what file you want to use for this effect. Choose your ripple file from step 3.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

To get the top half of the image back to normal, click on "Layer 1" (the layer with the upside down image) while holding Ctrl. This will select the bottom image.  Now click on the "Layer Mask" icon on the bottom of the window. The mask should appear in the layer window on "Layer 2".  Select the mask and go to "Filter", "Blur", "Gaussian Blur". This will soften the seam between the two images. Now click on the "New Adjustment Layer" icon on the bottom of the layer window. Select "Hue/Saturation" while holding Alt. Check "Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask" and hit OK. Now adjust the hue and saturation to your liking. Be sure that the "Colorize" box is checked. Hit OK.  Finally, with your Hue/Saturation Layer selected, play with the "Opacity" drop down at the top of the window to finish it off.

Though there are many steps to this process, the results are quite convincing.


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