How to Create a Reflection Effect in Photoshop that Looks Natural (Tutorial)

In Artwork Skills, Image Editing Skills

Creating a realistic reflection using Photoshop isn’t difficult at all. This simple Photoshop tutorial guide you to take into few steps on how to create a reflection effect in Photoshop. To make it more natural, you need to do an HDR processing on the pavement (an object part of the image that will reveal the reflection) so that it will look wet.

Original Image

After Adding a Reflection

How to create reflection in Photoshop

Create a Reflection in Photoshop in 6 Steps

A cut-off way to create a reflection using Photoshop is using Photoshop Elements. But to get a reflection effect or mirror effect on your image that is more realistic using a more professional technique, here we are going to discover its simple steps. This tutorial is one of some very basic HDR processing techniques which takes around 15 minutes to finish. But if you are used to working with Photoshop, this may take even less than 10 minutes to finish. Let’s get right to the steps how to create a reflection effect in Photoshop.

Step 1 – Select and Copy the Main Area of the Image

Look the Marque Tool (M) on your left-hand side of the toolbar and click on it. Then, make a box around the main object or make a selection on the area of the image that you are going to reflect. Pull your mouse from the very left edge to the right edge of the image to get a box like the following figure.

Make a selection using the Rectangular Marquee tool

Below are two ways you can copy the area that you’ve selected above. You can choose only one way from the two options below.

  • Option 1: Right-click and simply select layer via copy from the options window that appears. If you use “layer via copy” you can go directly to the step 3.

  • Option 2: Go to Edit at the top menu on your Photoshop and select Copy. If you use this way of copying an area on the image, you need to carry out to the step three.

Step 2 – Place It to a New Layer

Next, if you perform the option 2 from the previous step, now you are going to place what we’ve copied from the step 1 to a new layer. Simply go to Edit and select Paste. Alternatively, simply use a shortcut Ctrl+V on Windows or Command+V on Mac computer. Up to this step, there’s no change in the image look.

Step 3 – Flip Copied Area on the Layer

At this step, you are going to flip the object that you copied on the layer 1. To do so, go to Edit at the top menu, select Transform, and then, select Flip Vertical option. Now, the Layer 1 should look like the following figure. This flipped layer will become the reflection at the final result.

Step 4 – Set the Position

Here, use the Move tool that you can find on your left-side hand tool options or to make it simple, simply click “v” key on your keyboard. It’s the shortcut to activate the Move tool in Photoshop.

Then, set the position of the flipped image on Layer 1 precisely just below the edge line of the main object that you will reflect. Use make use all of the arrow keys on your keyboard to get the perfect position for the reflection just below the main object. This way will make the reflection effect becomes more realistically.

Now, take a look at your work and make sure you set the reflection area at the correct position. To create a reflection effect in Photoshop that looks realistic, you shouldn’t make the reflection side to side with the main object to prevent clefts on the edges of the reflection.

Step 5 – Use Layer Bland Mode

Now, go to the layers panel. Because the layer’s default blend mode is normal, you need to change it. Look at the drag and drop options next to the Opacity settings. There you will change the layer blend mode. Click on the Mode options and choose to Lighten. The following is the result of using Lighten mode.

Using Lighten Mode

The “lighten” blend mode option works only show lighter areas of the current layer than the other layer below it. And its darker areas will be dimmed until not visible. I mostly use Lighten or Screen blend mode when creating a reflection effect in Photoshop. However, it’s all depending on the type and the brightness of the image. You may also want to try every blend mode to find one that creates the reflection best for your photo. For example, I prefer to use the Multiply mode as it fits the brightness and type of my image.

Up here, the reflection effect looks more realistic. But to make it look more natural, let’s get to the next step.

Step 6 – Add a Mask to the Layer

When you get something too bright in the reflection, it would make image doesn’t look natural like the image preview on the previous step. Reflections are naturally darker than its original objects. Thus, this step will show you how to tone it down.

Next, stay your work on the Layer 1 and click the rectangular icon below your layers panel add a layer mask. Alternatively, go to the top menu, click LayersLayer mask → Reveal all.

Now, use your Gradient tool (G). Then, press the “d” key on your keyboard. It’s a shortcut to set the foreground or background colors to default. After that, press “x” key on your keyboard to switch them. Set your foreground color as black and your background color as white.

Then, move your work to the layer mask you just created by simply clicking on the white layer mask thumbnail. All things in the white are on the layer mask reveals the pixels of the layer while the black is on it dissembles the pixels of the layer behind it. So, this tutorial will hide some of the middle areas of the reflection and some of the outer edges to make the reflection fades out gradually. Take a look at the following figure.

Add Gradient to the Layer Mask

It’s almost finished. Then, make some experiments with the gradient tool on the layer mask to get something that logically looks natural. But once you think your drugging and brushing less precise, you can always press Ctrl+Z to undo the mistakes. It’s one of the most important Photoshop shortcuts and frequently used. So, use your instinct to imagine how should you drug the gradient tool to make the reflection looks natural. You can start from the middle of it near the bottom and don’t forget to hold your SHIFT key to maintain the gradient from applying at a standpoint. After applying the gradient to the layer mask, the look of the reflection should be like the following figure. The layer mask goes from black to white that takes cover the bottom area.

Next, the task still on the layer mask. Again, you may also use the Brush tool, or use Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee tool, Lasso tool to make a selection on other areas you want to reveal and filling them with black in the layer mask. But you can also reveal some areas that are covered by the reflection. For example, I’m going to reveal the fountain on the pavement. Because it seems not natural as the reflection covers the fountain.

How to create reflection in Photoshop

There are two alternatives to reveal it back. The first one, still on the layer mask, fill with black color the areas that you are going to reveal back. So, I need to brush the fountain area using the Brush tool (B) with black on the layer mask so in order the reveal back the fountain. The other alternative is to copy some certain areas you want to reveal from the original image and place the layers at the very top on the Layers Panel.

It’s easy to create a reflection in Photoshop. Isn’t it? Now, the result of the reflection realistically depends on your creativity. If you have some ideas on how to make it more stunning reflection, you may also want to suggest at the comment box below.

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