Photoshop Liquify: The Image Tool You Don’t Know You Needed

Photoshop is awesome. It offers a wider variety of tools to the user that can do pretty much anything you could ever imagine. One of the coolest and most used features in Photoshop is the liquify tool. If you’ve ever wanted your picture to have a Salvador Dali Time effect (clocks melting) liquify is here for you. Without any more ado, let’s get liquifying! More about Photoshop in this Photoshop 101 course.

The liquify tool has a couple of different affects you can choose from. We’ll go through them one by one. First, where is this tool? You can go to Filter–>Liquify, or use the shortcut which is Shift + CTRL + x. You’ll notice when you activate the Liquify tool your picture will be brought into a new window with the liquify tool bar like below.

Brushes

So on the right panel in your liquify edit studio you will see various options for your brushes. A brush is what you use to warp your picture with your selected liquify tool.

Brush Size

If you want big changes, you’ll keep the brush size big, if you want more calculated movements you would shrink the brush size by reducing the number.

Brush Density

When you use the liquify tool the brush tends to feather on the edges. This means that the stronger response occurs in the middle of the brush and the edges will tend to have lighter effects. If you want to increase the effect of the brush edges you can increase the brush density.

Brush Pressure

Adjusting the pressure of your brush determines how fast or slow the changes occur when distorting your image. For example, with a brush pressure of 5, your changes will happen slow which will allow for more control over what you’re doing. At 100, the brush will act just as fast as your hand and allow for big changes. All the pictures in this tutorial are done with 100 brush pressure.

Brush Rate

The brush rate controls the speed at which distortion happens while the mouse is stationary. The higher the number the faster the effect, similar to brush pressure. This is a really nice compliment to using the twirl tool. If you hold down your mouse while using the twirl function the image will twirl in relation to how fast your brush rate is.

Forward Warp

We’ll start with the forward warp tool as it’s the first icon on the liquify toolbar on the left of your screen. The forward warp tool basically pushes pixels around to create a warped look. The bigger the brush, the more warp-like the image will get. You can adjust this on the panel to the right of your image. Click on the part of the image you wish the warp, hold down your clicker and drag. It’s that easy. The shortcut for this tool is W. Let’s give it a go.

   

Original                                                                                     Forward warp

Reconstruct Tool

The next icon on the list is the reconstruct tool. Sometimes when you’re playing around and distorting your image you may want to revert back to the original piece. With the reconstruct tool you can do that, and a few other things. By default, this tool is set to reconstruct by reverting. If you go to your right panel where the brush size is located and click on advanced settings you will get more options for using your reconstruct tool plus other options like restore all which will get rid of any edits you’ve made.

Now you can click on reconstruct and slide the tool from 100 to whatever number you feel fit. At 0, your image will be restored completely.

Twirl

The twirl tool does just that. It twirls. It makes your image look like its spinning clockwise. To make it look like it’s spinning counterclockwise, hold down ALT while you drag your brush around. The shortcut for this is C.

Original                                                                                   Twirl (brush rate 80)

Pucker

Pucker will squish things together by bringing the pixels inward to a central point. It’s kind of like deflating your image. This can be a really fun tool to play around with. I’ve sucked in the bottom of the vase to make it skinny. You can do this with people’s faces and that’s really where the fun is at! The shortcut is S. Feeling creative? Let it out in this Photoshop for Artists online course.

   Original                                                                                Pucker

Bloat

That’s right, let’s blow your picture up. Well, not like explosive blow up but we can make it look like it’s expanding and growing in weird, not-so-natural ways. This tool has the opposite effect of the pucker tool in that the pixels move away from a central point and inflate your picture. Shortcut is B.

    Original                                                                                 Bloat

Push

Remember how in the forward warp tool we moved pixels around to change the appearance of the image? Well this is pretty much the same thing except we are pushing the pixels left, or right. By default the push tool says push left but you can push right by holding down ALT and dragging your brush around. I moved my brush in the opposite direction of the push function to get these results. (If pushing left I moved my cursor to the right.) Shortcut is O.

Push left                                                                                  Push right

Freeze Mask

So this essentially allows you to paint a “mask” over any part of the picture you don’t want to be touched by your liquify edits. When you use this tool you paint a semi-transparent red by holding down your clicker and dragging. The shortcut is F.

Freeze Mask                                                                            Painted Forward Warp

Thaw Mask

When you freeze something, sometimes you want to thaw it out right? Well, if you freeze a part of your picture and decide against it, you can always select the thaw tool to unfreeze it. Just paint over the area you want to unfreeze and you’re good to go. Shortcut is D.

Freeze                                                                                      Thaw

So there is is, all the fun that can be had in Photoshop with the liquify tool. Play until your heart is content! Learn how to create another kind of masterpiece in Photoshop.