Distorting Images with Elements' Liquify Filter - dummies

Distorting Images with Elements’ Liquify Filter

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

The Liquify filter in Photoshop Elements is really much more than a filter. It’s a distortion that allows you to manipulate an image as though it were warm taffy. You can interactively twist, pull, twirl, pinch, and bloat parts of your image. You can even put your image on a diet.

[Credit: ©istockphoto.com/RBFried]
Credit: ©istockphoto.com/RBFried

In fact, most ads and magazine covers feature models and celebrities whose photos have “visited” the Liquify filter once or twice. You can apply this distortion filter on the entire image, on a layer, or on a selection. This überfilter comes equipped with a mega–dialog box that has its own set of tools and options.

Follow these steps to turn your image into a melted Dalí-esque wannabe:

  1. In either Expert or Quick mode, choose Filter→Distort→Liquify.

    Your image appears in the preview area.

  2. Choose your distortion weapon of choice.

    You also have a number of tools to help zoom and navigate around your image window.

    Here’s a description of each tool to help you decide which to use. (The letter in parentheses is the keyboard shortcut.)

    • Warp (W): This tool pushes pixels forward while you drag, creating a stretched effect. Use short strokes or long pushes.

    • Twirl Clockwise (R) and Twirl Counterclockwise (L): These options rotate pixels either clockwise or counterclockwise. Place the cursor in one spot, hold down the mouse button, and watch the pixels under your brush rotate; or drag the cursor to create a moving twirl effect.

    • Pucker (P): Click and hold or drag to pinch your pixels toward the center of the area covered by the brush. To reverse the pucker direction (bloat), press the Alt (Option on the Mac) key while you hold or drag.

    • Bloat (B): Click and hold or drag to push pixels toward the edge of the brush area. To reverse the bloat direction (pucker), press the Alt (Option on the Mac) key while you hold or drag.

    • Shift Pixels (S): This tool moves pixels to the left when you drag the tool straight up. Drag down to move pixels to the right. Drag clockwise to increase the size of the object being distorted. Drag counterclockwise to decrease the size. To reverse any direction, press the Alt (Option on the Mac) key while you hold or drag.

    • Reconstruct (E): See Step 4 for an explanation of this tool’s function.

    • Zoom (Z): This tool, which works like the Zoom tool on the Elements Tools panel, zooms the focus in and out so that you can better see your distortions.

      You can zoom out by holding down the Alt (Option on the Mac) key when you press Z. You can also zoom by selecting a magnification percentage from the pop-up menu in the lower-left corner of the dialog box.

    • Hand (H): This tool works like the Hand tool on the Elements Tools panel. Drag with the Hand tool to move the image around the preview window.

  3. Specify your options in the Tool Options:

    • Brush Size: Drag the pop-up slider or enter a value from 1 to 600 pixels to specify the width of your brush.

    • Brush Pressure: Drag the pop-up slider or enter a value from 1 to 100 to change the pressure. The higher the pressure, the faster the distortion effect is applied.

    • Stylus Pressure: If you’re lucky enough to have a graphics tablet and stylus, click this option to select the pressure of your stylus.

  4. (Optional)If you get a little carried away, select the Reconstruct tool and then hold down or drag the mouse on the distorted portion of the image that you want to reverse or reconstruct.

    Reconstructing enables you to undo portions of your distorted image back to a less distorted or original state. (The reconstruction occurs faster at the center of the brush’s diameter.) To partially reconstruct your image, set a low brush pressure and watch closely while your mouse drags across the distorted areas.

  5. Click OK to apply the distortions and close the dialog box.

    If you mucked things up and want to start again, click the Revert button to get your original, unaltered image back. This action also resets the tools to their previous settings.