Inside Photoshop

Create realistic rippled reflections with a displacement map

Inside Photoshop

by Amy Palermo

Surface treatments, such as reflections, can add great interest and visual excitement to images. Simple reflections are quick, and easy to do, but more complex ones that conform to a surface’s texture such as a ripple on the water, can pose a different challenge. How do you get the reflection to conform to the same ripple? We’ll show you how this can actually be quite simple with the help of a displacement map and some layer masking for results shown inĀ Figure A.

Figure A:
Article figure image

The physics of reflections

Simply put, a reflection is light thrown back from a surface. The quality of the reflection depends on the strength of the light source (called incident light), the smoothness of the reflective surface, and the strength of the reflected light. Essentially, strong light sources that bounce off smooth surfaces produce good reflections, while rougher surfaces produce more diffuse reflections.

The state of the reflection also depends on the quality of the surface and the angle at which you’re viewing the subject. For example, a mirror gives you a perfect specular reflection, while rippled water offers a more diffused reflection.

Gather your images

For this technique we’ll show you how to create[…]


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