How to Create a Water Reflection Effect in Photoshop

In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to create a water reflection effect in Photoshop. You can use these techniques on other pictures too in order to create the same effect.

water reflection effect

Resources used:

Step 1

Open the castle image and reduce its size according to the following settings:

water reflection effect castle

Step 2

Using the Crop Tool, remove the author’s trademark and the extra space on the left, right and top. (You can credit the author by linking to the image or his website).

water reflection effect castle crop

Step 3

Duplicate the background layer by selecting Layer > Duplicate Layer > OK and name the new layer “Reflection”.

 water reflection effect reflection layer

Step 4

We’ll now make space to place our reflection by increasing the canvas size. Press Ctrl+Alt+C and use the following settings:

 water reflection effect canvas size

 water reflection effect canvas size result

Make the Reflection layer active by clicking on it and press Ctr+T to transform it. We’ll now flip the image by right-clicking on the image and selecting Flip Vertical. After flipping, press Enter.

 water reflection effect transform

 water reflection effect transform result

Step 5

Select the Move Tool and drag the Reflection layer down while holding Shift. Now, the result looks like a reflection but it isn’t too realistic, so we’ll work on that in the following steps.

 water reflection effect move

Step 6

We need to create ripples for the water, but we’ll first have to make a water ripple texture that we can use on the Reflection layer. We’ll work on the texture in a new document, so press Ctrl+N to open one of 4000px height and 4000px width.

water reflection effect texture

Add a little noise by selecting Filter > Noise > Add Noise and keep the following values:

 water reflection effect noise

 water reflection effect noise result

We’ll need a rougher grain to make ripples. In order to achieve that, we’ll first blur the layer and then increase the contrast. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply a 5px blur.

 water reflection effect gaussian blur

water reflection effect gaussian blur result

Now, go to Image > Adjustments > Curves and drag both sliders towards the spike.

 water reflection effect texture curves

 water reflection effect texture curves result

Select Filter > Filter Gallery, choose Bass Relief from the Sketch folder and set Detail and Smoothness to 2.

water reflection effect bass relief

 water reflection effect bass relief result

To obtain more elongated, smoother waves, go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and apply a 35px blur.

 water reflection effect motion blur

 water reflection effect motion blur result

Step 7

We’ll have to match the Reflection layer to the texture and in order to do that, copy and paste the texture into our original document.

 water reflection effect texture paste

 water reflection effect texture paste result

To transform the texture layer, press Ctrl+T and reduce its height to fit the height of the Reflection layer. Then, right-click in the transformation boundary and choose Perspective. Now, drag the bottom handles out and the top handles in to obtain a transformation similar to the one below. Ensure that the texture’s upper bounds don’t exceed the Reflection layer’s upper bounds.

 water reflection effect texture transform

 water reflection effect texture transform result

Step 8

Make the texture layer active by clicking on it. Now, click on the Reflection layer while holding Ctrl to select its pixels. Duplicate the layer by pressing Ctrl+J, name the new layer “Texture” and delete the previous one (Layer 1).

 water reflection effect texture duplicate

 water reflection effect texture duplicate result

Step 9

In the layers palette, right-click on the Texture layer, select Duplicate Layer and choose the destination of the document as new.

To remove the transparent area above the texture, go to Image > Trim and select Transparent Pixels. Press Ctrl+S to save the texture anywhere on your computer.

 water reflection effect texture new

 water reflection effect texture new result

Step 10

Let’s go back to our original document now. Hide the Texture layer by clicking on the layer visibility icon (the eye) in the layers palette.

 water reflection effect texture hide

 water reflection effect texture hide result

Step 11

In the layers palette, right-click on the Reflection layer and select “Convert to Smart Object”.

 water reflection effect reflection layer convert

Now, go to Filter > Filter Gallery and choose Glass filter in the Distort folder. Click on the little icon beside the name of the texture, select Load Texture and choose the texture you saved in step 9.

 water reflection effect glass filter

If you want a subtle effect, select a lower Distort value, but if you want a more pronounced effect, select a higher Distort value.

 water reflection effect glass filter distort

 water reflection effect glass filter distort result

Step 12

Our reflection doesn’t have the same reflective quality as water, so we’ll now add that. Make the Texture layer visible again and change its opacity to 18% and layer blending mode to Soft Light.

 water reflection effect texture show

 water reflection effect texture show result

Step 13

Water usually has a bluish tint reflected from the sky, so let’s add that effect in our reflection. With the Brush Tool, Alt-click on the blue sky to make that color the foreground color. Now, create a new layer and name it “Color”. Fill this layer with the foreground color.

water reflection effect color layer

Move the Color layer below the Texture layer. Now, clip the Reflection layer to the Color layer by clicking between the two layers while holding the Alt key.

 water reflection effect clipping

 water reflection effect clipped layer

To go back to the default colors, press D and then switch between these colors by pressing X. Create a layer mask for the Color layer by selecting Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Now, select the Gradient Tool and choose the Foreground to Background option.

 water reflection effect gradient tool

 water reflection effect layer mask

Step 14

Select the layer mask and using the Gradient Tool, drag downwards while holding the Shift key as shown below. Doing so will make sure that the Color layer will be hidden in the above part of the Reflection layer and the Color layer will gradually become more visible in the lower parts.

water reflection effect gradient tool use

 water reflection effect gradient tool use result

Set the Color layer’s opacity to 12%.

 water reflection effect color layer opacity

 water reflection effect color layer opacity result

Step 15

Now, let’s improve the appearance of the image. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer by selecting Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and make the following changes:

water reflection effect curves rgb

 water reflection effect curves red

 water reflection effect curves green

 water reflection effect curves blue

 water reflection effect curves result

Step 16

Create a Black & White Adjustment Layer by selecting Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White. Change its opacity to 46% and layer blending mode to Soft Light.

 water reflection effect black and white adjustment

 water reflection effect black and white adjustment result

Step 17

We created some pixel artifacts in the lower part of the image when we applied the Glass filter, so let’s remove that by cropping the picture.

 water reflection effect crop

Step 18

In this final step, we’ll add the Vignette effect. Make a new layer and fill it with the color white. Select Filter > Lens Correction, go to the Custom tab and drag the Vignette Amount slider to the left. Also, change the layer blending mode to Multiply and lower the opacity of the Color layer to 7%.

 water reflection effect vignette effect

And we’re done!

water reflection effect

About the author

Tabish Shaikh

Website designer, website developer, blogger and a writer. These are the things I like, love and live for. Having years of experience in each field. Developing sites since childhood. Getting the most complicated things done is my specialty. Providing each and everything of top most quality to each and every client.

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