How to Try Out the Image Distortion Effects in Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS6’s Liquify window seems impossibly complex on the surface, but it’s as easy to apply as finger paint after you play with it a little. Here’s a step-by-step scenario of the things you might do to apply some distortion to your own image:

  1. Select and open an image you want to transmogrify with Liquify; select a layer.

  2. If you don’t want to distort the whole layer, you can make your desired selection.

    You can also use a layer mask, alpha channel, selection, or transparent area to define what portions you want to distort.

  3. Choose Filter→Liquify.

    The Liquify dialog box appears. Select the Advanced Mode option to get full access to all tools and settings.

  4. If applicable, load your selection, layer mask, transparent area, or alpha channel into the Mask Options area.

    Make sure you select the Show Mask option in the View Options area. If you have a saved selection (also known as an alpha channel), you have an alpha channel option to choose from. Otherwise, you don’t see that option.

  5. You can also select the Freeze Mask tool and paint over the areas that you want to mask or protect.

    After you freeze an area, you may want to get rid of the freeze highlighting for a while. Deselect the Show Mask option in View Options to turn off the display.

  6. In the View Options area, make sure that the Show Mesh and Show Image options are both selected.

    You can hide any or all of these at any time to get a different view of your image. For example, you might want to hide the frozen areas and mesh to view only your image with the distortions you’ve applied so far. Or you might want to look only at the mesh to get a look at the distortions by themselves.

    Being able to examine the liquification process in several different ways is one reason that Liquify is so controllable.

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  7. If you’re having trouble seeing the mesh (or think the mask color will blend in with a dominant color in your image), use the View options to change the size and color of the mesh and the hue of the mask.

    If you want to see your image distortions against a backdrop, you can select that option, as well.

  8. Use the painting tools to apply various effects to your image.

    Remember to adjust the brush size and pressure to get the exact coverage you want.

    At various points while you work, you may decide you want to freeze parts of the image from further changes (either temporarily or permanently).

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/NinaMalyna Image #6845747]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/NinaMalyna Image #6845747
  9. If you decide you want to work on an area again, select the Show Mask option to display the frozen areas (if necessary). Then select the Thaw Mask tool and erase all or part of the freeze.

  10. Use the Reconstruct tool or option to partially or fully reverse or modify your distortions.

    If you want to start over, click Restore All to get back to your original image. All option settings stay as is. Hold down the Alt (Option on the Mac) key and click Reset to revert back to your original image and reset all options to their default settings.

  11. When you finish, save the mesh you created by clicking Save Mesh. Give the mesh a name and store it on your hard drive.

    This step is totally optional, but saving your work is a good idea if you really like what you’ve done.

  12. Apply the distortion to your image by clicking OK and exiting the Liquify dialog box.

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