Fix It In Photoshop | How To Add Realistic Reflections To An Image

David Coultham

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This article is an extract from the Fix It In Photoshop book, which is available as an eBook, paperback and in hardback. Please check out my store for more details. Here is how to add realistic reflections to an image using Adobe Photoshop.

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Video | Fix It In Photoshop | How To Add Realistic Reflections To An Image

If the water was too choppy to get those classic glassy reflections when you took your shot, then you can replicate it once you get back onto your computer. There are a few steps involved in this one, but they are all pretty straightforward.

STEP 1: Create a copy of the image you want reflections in by dragging the Background Layer onto the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers tab. It’s the little plus symbol next to the trash can! Rename the new Layer “Upper Layer”.

STEP 2: Select the “Upper Section” and grab the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Make a selection around the area where you want the reflections to appear. Then delete the pixels in the selection using Delete (on a Mac) or Backspace (on a PC).

Note: It is useful at this stage to hide the Background Layer from this point forward.

STEP 3: Make a new copy of the “Upper Layer” and rename it to “Lower Layer”. Place this underneath the Layer labelled  “Upper Layer.

STEP 4: With the “Lower Layer” selected, you now want to invert it vertically. To do this, head up to the Application Bar and “Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical”. Next, you will need to reposition the “Lower Layer” so that the Upper and Lower sections join together. 

Whilst doing this it is worth temporarily hiding the Upper Layer so that you can see what you are doing.

Please also remember to deselect your selection!

We could stop there, but to make this more realistic it is good to add some motion to the reflections. We will also darken the reflections so that it looks more like water would do.

STEP 5: Still working on the “Lower Layer” head up to the Application Bar again, and “Filter > Blur > Motion Blur”. You will see the pop-up window illustrated here. Set the Angle to 90 degrees, and adjust the Distance of reflection to your liking. Then press OK to commit the change.

NOTE: You may also need to adjust the position of the Layer again once you see how the motion effect is applied.

STEP 6: Now for some magic with Curves. With the “Lower Layer” still selected, head to the bottom of the Layers Tab, and select the Create New Fill Or Adjustment Layer icon. Then select the Curves option.

With the Levels option selected, a pop-up Properties window displays the Levels Adjustments

STEP 7: Grab a point in the center of the diagonal line, and then drag this down. As you do this, you will notice that the “Lower Layer” darkens in color. You will only need a very slight adjustment, otherwise, things will start to look unnatural. We essentially want the reflections to be just slightly darker than the image to give the impression that you are reflecting off of a darker surface of the water.

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