In this tutorial we’ll show you how to create a reflection in Photoshop by using transformation tools and filters to add water to landscapes.
Reflections can add a pleasing symmetry to scenic shots, but they can be tricky to produce in-camera – a strong wind may create too many ripples for a clean mirror image. Here, we’ll show you how to add computer-generated reflections and control the strength of the ripples, before tweaking the colour and tone.
How to add a reflection in Photoshop
01 FLIP THE TREE Download our start image and follow along! Use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the tree, then press Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy the selection and paste it onto a new layer. Grab the Move tool, then tick Show Transform Control. Drag the central pivot point to the bottom of the bounding box. Right-click inside the box and click Flip Vertical. Hit Enter.
02 CREATE A REFLECTION MAP
Create a new transparent layer, then go to Edit>Fill. Set Contents to Use: White and click OK. Next, go to Filter>Filter Gallery. Navigate to the Sketch folder and choose Halftone Pattern. Set Pattern Type to Line, Size to 12 and Contrast to 5. Click OK. Go to File>Save As and save the layered file as ReflectionMap.psd.
03 DISPLACE THE REFLECTION
Click the eye icon by the filtered layer (Layer 2) to hide it, then right-click on the flipped tree layer (Layer 1) and choose Convert to Smart Object. Go to Filter>Distort>Displace, then set the Horizontal Scale to 5 and the Vertical Scale to 3 before hitting OK. Browse to select ReflectionMap.psd and click Open.
04 TINT THE REFLECTION
Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer icon and select Solid Colour. Choose a dark blue from the Colour Picker and click OK. Choose Layer>Create Clipping Mask, then change the Colour Fill layer’s Blend Mode to Colour. Reduce the Opacity to 14%. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer, then go to Layer>Create Clipping Mask.
05 FLATTEN THE CONTRAST
Go to the Levels Adjustment Layer’s Properties panel and drag the Output Levels shadow slider to 29 and the Highlights slider to 200. To break up the water’s surface, create a new transparent layer and go to Filter> Render>Clouds. Choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur, set Radius to 80 and click OK.
06 TRANSFORM PERSPECTIVE
Go to Layer>Create Clipping Mask and press Cmd/Ctrl+T. Hold down the Cmd or Ctrl key and drag the cloud layer’s top two corner handles down to the water line. Drag the bottom corner handles horizontally outwards to add perspective. Hit Enter. Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light and reduce Opacity to 53%.
Watch our Photoshop reflection video tutorial
To see how our Photoshop reflection technique performed in action, watch our video tutorial below!