Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Adobe Photoshop > Technique

Liquid Painting in Photoshop

  • Print
  • + Share This
Liquefy your assets for luscious backgrounds and fluid abstract effects.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

"Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative."


Beginning with some gradient fills, you can use Photoshop's improved Liquify tools to engage in controlled chaos. If you can handle the oxymoron suggested by that phrase, come on in—the liquid's fine!

Project 6

Liquid Painting

By Rhoda Grossman


Most of Photoshop's commands and effects are precise and predictable. You can adjust sliders, enable check boxes, enter settings, and click OK to see the inevitable, and repeatable, results. Liquify offers the opportunity for some unpredictability.

On the other hand, the more you understand how the various Liquify tools behave, the more control you can develop. A black-and-white checkerboard fill can serve as the basis for some practice.

  1. Open the Checkers.tif file from the CD-ROM and apply Filter > Liquify.

  2. Figure 6.1. Drag the Warp tool through the top row.

  3. Use the Warp tool with a Brush Size of about 65 pixels at 50% Brush Pressure. Drag from left to right through the top row of squares.

  4. TIP

    You can make a straight drag by clicking the leftmost square, holding down the Shift key, and clicking the extreme right square.

  5. Use the Turbulence tool with the same settings on the next row of checkers.

  6. Clearly, the Warp tool created more serious distortion than the Turbulence tool did. Next you'll try the Twirl tools.

  7. Move down to the next row. Choose the Twirl Clockwise tool and hold your mouse button down or press your stylus in place where the first and second square meet. No movement or stroking is required, or desired.

  8. Figure 6.2. Drag the Turbulence tool through the second row and use Twirl effects on the third row.

    The longer you press the pen or hold the mouse button, the stronger the effect. The sample shows four distortions for each Twirl tool, with each held from one to four seconds.

    Skip the Pucker and Bloat tools for now. They work best on images with more tonal variation.

  9. This time use the Shift Pixels tool. Drag horizontally along the edge where the next two rows meet.

  10. Sure enough, the edge has shifted. If you dragged from left to right, the pixels shift up; from right to left, they shift down.

  11. Finally, try the Reflection tool. This tool seems to operate along the same lines as a funhouse mirror. Place your cursor at the intersection of four squares and make a clockwise circle with a 64-pixel brush. Move to the next clean intersection, increase Brush Size to 120 pixels, and use the same motion. Repeat with a 200-pixel brush.

    Figure 6.3. Use the Shift Pixels tool and the Reflection tool to distort the bottom rows.

    You can achieve the illusion of 3D depth with the Reflection tool. The sample shows the effect of two shallow, downward curves dragged horizontally with a 100-pixel brush. The next sample was done with a 150-pixel brush, using three steeper, upward curves.

    Figure 6.4. Create depth effects with a series of curved strokes.

    Close the checkerboard file. There's no need to save your Liquify practice image, unless you want to keep it for reference.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account