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If you often find yourself bringing various images together in Photoshop (and I predict you will), you can't simply toss the images together and have the new image look realistic. As you've seen, effects such as shadows are essential to create a realistic-looking environment. Creating reflections is another technique for doing this.

Try it Yourself

Add Reflections to a Surface for Realism

Let's look at an example to see how you can add reflections to your toolkit of special effects:

Let's say I have an object (which I do) that I want to insert into an image I've created. First, I need to create a background. I'll use the Gradient tool to lay down a very simple oblong gradient from dark to light. Then I'll add some noise from the Noise filter so that it has a little texture. I want this to look like a photographer's seamless background, so I'll use Transform→Distort to drag the bottom out wide. Figure 18.8 shows this stage.

Figure 18.8. A very simple “studio” backdrop.

The sides of the top part should be vertical, so I'll select the backdrop partway up and distort again to straighten the side borders (see Figure 18.9). As a final touch, I'll select the gray area and apply the Plastic Wrap filter to make the surface look like rippled plastic.

Figure 18.9. All ready to put something on.

I have a small object that I'll set onto this background. (You can download the image from the book's website. It's called box.jpg.) I think you'll agree that the effect isn't very realistic (see Figure 18.10). It looks like the box and background came from two different sources (which they did, but I don't want it to be so obvious).

Figure 18.10. The box in its new environment.

To start working on a reflection of the box on the background, duplicate the box layer. In the Layers palette, move this new layer below the original box layer because you want the reflection to appear underneath the original object.

With the Reflection layer active, choose Edit→Transform→Flip Vertical. This flips the reflected box upside down.

Select the box's reflection and use the Move tool to move it down. Remember that only part of the box will reflect, and use the Lasso to trim away and move the parts that won't show. You will usually find that you need to use the Distort or Skew commands to move a reflection into its proper position and shape. The adjacent edges of the two boxes should meet precisely without much backdrop visible between them (see Figure 18.11). Then you can discard the spare parts.

Figure 18.11. The box flipped and moved down into place.

It looks like a reflection, right? Well, sort of. It looks like a reflection only if the surface is perfectly reflective, like a mirror, which it obviously isn't.

To make the reflection realistic, some of the background has to show through, just as you saw with drop shadows. Adjust the Opacity slider for the Reflections layer until the reflection looks more realistic and blends in with the surface.

If you're satisfied with the reflection as it is now, you're done. Unfortunately, I'm picky and seldom satisfied. The reflection still looks too perfect to me. The background isn't that smooth.

To introduce a little dirtiness into the reflection, it's time for another trip to the Plastic Wrap filter. With a little fiddling, and some help from the Smudge tool, I was able to make the reflection bumps match those on the backdrop. Then I blurred the reflection slightly. Check it out in Figure 18.12.

Figure 18.12. With its opacity reduced, the reflection looks much more realistic.

Okay, now it's looking good. The box image is now interacting with the floor image, creating a realistic effect. There's just one more thing bugging me: the wall behind the box. Shouldn't the box and wall interact? Shouldn't the box be casting just a bit of a shadow on the wall? I think so. I can use the Drop Shadow layer style to add this shadow, being sure to move the light source so that the shadow falls on the wall, not on the reflection (see Figure 18.13).

Figure 18.13. A touch of shadow on the wall adds to the illusion of space.

Finally, back to the filters. Filter→Render→Lens Flare lets you put just a little extra light reflection on the background so there's an obvious reason for the shadow. Figure 18.14 wraps it all up in one. Be sure to see it in color.

Figure 18.14. Now the box casts a shadow onto the backdrop as well as a reflection.



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