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Chapter 19. Liquify > To distort an image using the Liquify command:

To distort an image using the Liquify command:

Choose a layer or select part of an image layer. We suggest you work on a duplicate layer. You could also make a snapshot of the original image using the History palette. Liquify will not work on an editable type or shape layer.

Choose Filter > Liquify (Ctrl-Shift-X/Cmd--Shift-X). The dialog box is resizable. If you created a rectangular selection, only the selected portion will appear in the dialog box. If the selection is nonrectangular, or is feathered, and View Options: Frozen Areas is checked, the unselected part of the layer will be masked. This is akin to using the Freeze tool, as discussed in step 4.

In the Tool Options area :

The Tool Options portion of the Liquify dialog box

Enter or choose a Brush Size (1–600 pixels), and choose a Brush Pressure (1–100%) for the rate at which distortion will be applied. These settings apply to all the Liquify tools!

If you’re using a graphics tablet, check Stylus Pressure to have the brush pressure be controlled by the stylus.

Optional: To apply a mask to protect areas of the image from distortion, choose the Freeze tool (F), then paint on the image. The higher the Brush Pressure, the stronger the freeze effect. Drag again over the same spot to intensify.


You can choose a different overlay color for the frozen area from the View Options: Freeze Color pop-up menu. The default color is red.

Optional: To remove protection from the frozen areas, choose the Thaw tool (T), then paint on the preview image.

Do any of the following optional steps:

To thaw all frozen areas and freeze all unfrozen areas, click Freeze Area: Invert.

To thaw the entire image (make it all editable again), click Thaw All.

To hide the mask created by the Freeze tool, uncheck View Options: Frozen Areas.

Note: Even though frozen pixels won’t be distorted by the Liquify tools, those tools can distort non-frozen areas using distortion patterns from the frozen imagery.

Choose any of these Liquify tools (type the shortcut to switch to the desired tool) and paint on the image in the dialog box:

The Warp tool (W) pushes pixels in the direction you drag the brush .

After applying the Warp tool: The arrow shows the direction of the brush stroke.

The Turbulence tool (A) jumbles pixels, creating a crumbly effect . Adjust the Tool Options: Turbulence Jitter value to control the tightness of the effect.

After applying the Turbulence tool: The arrow shows the direction of the brush stroke.

The Twirl Clockwise (R) and Twirl Counterclockwise (L) tools rotate pixels as long as you hold down the mouse button or drag. The higher the Brush Pressure, the faster the rotation (see on the previous page).

The Pucker (P) and Bloat (B) tools push pixels toward or away from the center of the brush as long as you hold down the mouse button or drag (, previous page). The higher the Brush Pressure, the more quickly the pixels move.

After applying the Pucker tool: The brush was held stationary at the top of the tree.

The Shift Pixels tool (S) moves pixels at right angles from the direction the brush is moved. By default, the pixels move to the left of the brush. Alt-drag/Option-drag to move pixels to the right of the brush.

The Reflection tool (M) copies pixels from the area to the right of your brush and applies a mirror image of them to the area the brush passes over .

We used the Reflection tool to pick up pixels from the right side of the stroke.

Here we Alt-dragged/Option-dragged downward with the Reflection tool. The tool picked up pixels from the start of the stroke.

The tool picks up pixels on the right side of an upward stroke, or the left side of a downward stroke. Alt-drag/Option-drag to copy pixels from the opposite side of the brush.


Before using the Reflection tool, freeze the area you’re going to reflect.

To have only the currently active layer display in the preview window, uncheck Backdrop. Or to have all or only one of the currently visible layers display, check Backdrop, choose the desired layer (or All Layers) from the pop-up menu, and choose an opacity for that layer for its display in the preview window. Whether this option is on or off, the Liquify command affects only the active layer.

To change the Zoom level of the preview image in the dialog box, choose the Zoom tool (Z), then click or drag in the preview window. Alt/Option-click to zoom out. Or choose a preset zoom level from the pop-up menu at the bottom left of the dialog box.

To move the image in the preview window, choose the Hand tool (H), then drag. Or to access this tool without selecting it, spacebar-drag instead.

To partially or completely undo the Liquify changes, read about the Reconstruction controls on page 371.

Click OK.


To have the freeze mask conform to a selection, before choosing the Liquify command, create a selection, save it as an alpha channel, deselect, choose Image > Liquify, then choose that alpha channel from the Freeze Area: Channel pop-up menu. (To reverse the frozen and unfrozen areas in the image, click Invert.)

To help you gauge the extent of your Liquify command edits, you can superimpose a mesh over the image. The mesh gridlines display the same pattern of distortion as the image itself. The mesh comes in handy if portions of your image lack a clear pattern, and it’s especially useful when using the Reconstruct tool. You can adjust the size and color of the mesh.



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