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A great way to make reflections in your images.

Oct 18th 2005
Creating Reflections:


Yes you too can be making reflections with the best of them and I'll show you how. When that piggy bank on the left started out, he had no reflection to keep him company. Now look how much happier he is.

I'm going to make a reflection of some text I made in another tutorial. You can see the modest "COOL" to the lower left here.

Before we get started, you should look for the right file if you want to do this. You're going to have to make a good selection of the thing you want to reflect, so a file like the pig up there (with its single color background) or my text (which already exists on its own layer) are both good choices. The second thing you need your object of reflection to have is a relatively straight edge along the bottom. If it doesn't you'll have all sorts of problems matching up the reflection with it's source. It's possible to do this- it just makes it more complicated. That farthest leg on the pig (that we just see a sliver of) had to be independently re-sized and scaled.

Once you've made a selection of the thing you want to reflect and saved it or placed it on it's own layer, you've got to make room for the selection.

I choose Image: Canvas Size... and get the box to the above left to appear. After I've made the changes I need the box looks as it does on the lower left. Let's compare them. I like to give myself a lot of room to work (I'll just crop out extra space later) so I doubled the height and added a little space on the width. The Anchor: option is important. It lets me choose how I want the original file elements positioned relative to the new canvas room I'm creating. I want word to be at the top center so I clicked that square.

After I click OK, I have lots more room beneath my word and I'm ready to begin making the reflection.

(I put the outline around this image so you could see the extra space easier.)

You're going to need a second copy of the element you want to reflect. Since my text was already on a transparent layer, all I had to do was make a copy of that layer. You can do this by choosing Layer: Duplicate Layer... or by accessing the Layer Palette Command Menu (which is done by clicking on that right-facing triangle in the upper right) and choosing Duplicate Layer...
Next, I choose Edit: Transform: Flip Vertical and moved the copy of the text into place.

Looks good, huh?


Now I'm going to use another Edit: Transform: command. This one is called Perspective. I can drag the lower left or right corner outwards and make it look like the stuff that's closer to the viewer is larger (as it should be.)

You can double click inside the transform box, or simply hit return to apply a transformation.


Next I choose Edit: Transform: Scale and squash the reflection down a little vertically.

A word about reality here: How much you use the Perspective and Scale effects will either depend on what you think looks cool or on how realistic you want the reflection to look. You should observe some reflections in reality and decide what's best. My choices are usually a blend between coolness and reality unless I'm doing a photo-realistic job.
Now I'm going to mimic reality by making the reflection less clear, the farther away it gets from its source.

With white as my foreground color, I Command-Click (windows = Control-Click) on the layer with the reflection on it in the layers palette. I create a new layer above the reflection and use the Linear Gradient Tool. Double Click the Gradient tool and look at the Linear Gradient Options Palette. Make sure the Gradient: pop-up menu is set to Foreground to Transparent.

I want you to notice how I've turned down the Opacity in the Gradient Layer. You can play around with the opacity until you get what looks "right" to you. I set mine at 89% as you can see.

For the next two steps, I need to Delete the few pixels in the gradient and the reflection that overlap the Original text. You probably can't see this in the tiny Jpeg, but take my word for it.

While I'm on the Gradient layer, I load the text selection by doing the old Command-Click (windows = Control-Click) on the layer with the text on it in the layers palette. Then I hit Delete.
Next, while I still have that selection loaded I click on the reflection's layer and hit the Delete key again.

Notice how I set the Opacity of this layer to 72%. If you leave it and the gradient at 100%, it just won't look as convincing, so experiment until you find the right combination of opacities.
Here it is.. all finished! Now tell me that doesn't look "cool."
Here's another example. I exaggerated the length of the reflection here considerably. If you're not concerned with photo-realism, it can have a more dramatic effect.

Don't forget you can use this effect on photographic images as well. Try it on a background color other than white. Try experimenting with Filters such as Distort: Ocean Ripple and Distort: Ripple to make it look like the reflection is on a non-smooth surface.

Happy Image Editing!