Photoshop - Adding Water Reflections

Photoshop is a great tool for correcting minor problems with your images such as cloning out stray hairs from a portrait or correcting white-balance issues. However, sometimes it’s good to get away from reality and use it to create a scene that doesn’t really exist. I’ve used this landscape scene to demonstrate the possibilities.

This technique needs a suitable starting image. Experiment with a few images using steps 1 to 3 opposite as it’s not easy to determine which work best. Once you’ve selected the image, the process is fairly straightforward and quick.

I’ve used a combination of the Ripple and Motion Blur filters to produce a ripple effect on the ‘water’. Other filters such as Ocean Ripple are useful and it’s worth playing with combinations of settings and filters to get the effect you want.

To take things further, take a look at the Displace or Glass filters. Alternatively try a commercial plug-in such as Flaming Pear’s Flood.

1 Back up the image

Duplicate the background layer by dragging it onto the Create a New Layer icon. Rename the new layer Reflection. Next with the new Reflection layer active (highlighted Blue), select Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical to invert the image to use for the reflection.

2 Extend Your Canvas

To make room for the reflection, first we need to double the canvas height. Select Image>Canvas Size. To add the extra space to the bottom, click the top centre anchor box. Now tick the Relative box and copy the current Height value into the New Size Height box. Click OK.

3 Move the image

Using the Move Tool (shortcut V) drag the reflection image to the bottom of the canvas. Hold the Shift key as you drag to constrain the move to the vertical. Use the up and down keys to make fine adjustments. The reflection looks a bit artificial so next we’ll add some ripples for a more realistic effect.

4 Blur it

Copy the Reflection layer and select the Motion Blur Filter via Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Click OK to apply. With the Angle set to 0, adjust the Distance by eye; I used 75 pixels. Then select Filter>Distort>Ripple. Set the Amount to suit – I chose 300% – and Size to Medium. Click OK.

5 Fine-tune the reflection

Add a second Motion Blur Filter, this time with the Angle set to 90 and a smaller Distance. Again, judge the effect by eye; I used a value of 10. Water will reflect less as you get nearer the camera. To simulate this, with the Reflection Copy layer active add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and tone down the colour.

6 Final step

Lock the effect to the layer below by Alt-clicking on the boundary between the layers. Click on the layer mask and, using the Gradient Tool, drag a Black to White gradient from the bottom to the top of the reflection. Now slightly increase the Lightness and decrease the Saturation to suit.

Taken from the September 2011 issue of Advanced Photographer magazine