How to Distort Images Using Photoshop CS6 Liquify Window

By Barbara Obermeier

A group of tools in Photoshop CS6’s Liquify Window is used to paint distortions on your image. Shown here with their keyboard shortcuts in parentheses, the painting tools are:

  • Forward Warp (W): This tool is faintly reminiscent of the Smudge tool, but it doesn’t blur the pixels quite as much as it pushes them forward while you drag, creating a stretched effect. Use the Warp tool to push pixels where you want them to go, using short strokes or long pushes.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536

    When compared to a tool like the Smudge tool, which tends to destroy detail, the Warp tool can preserve detail within distortions.

  • Twirl Clockwise (C): Place the cursor in one spot, press the mouse button, and watch the pixels under your brush rotate like a satellite photo of a tropical storm. Or drag the cursor to create a moving twirl effect.

    Pixels move faster in the center than along the edges of the brush. To twirl the other way, hold down the Alt (Option on the Mac) key while you drag or hold down the mouse button.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536

    Try this technique with the other tools in this list. (With some tools, the effect is more obvious than with others.) Simply hold down the mouse button. The longer you hold down the mouse button, the more prominent the effect becomes.

  • Pucker (S): This tool is the equivalent of the Pinch filter, squishing pixels toward the center of the area covered by the brush while you hold down the mouse button or drag. To reverse the pucker direction, which essentially applies a bloat, hold down the Alt (Option on the Mac) key while you hold down the mouse button or drag.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536
  • Bloat (B): Here is an analog to the Spherize filter, pushing pixels toward the edge of the brush area while you hold down the mouse button or drag the mouse. To reverse the bloat direction — doing so applies a pucker — hold down the Alt (Option on the Mac) key while you hold down the mouse button or drag.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536
  • Push Left (O):This odd 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 of the directions, hold down the Alt (Option on the Mac) key while you hold down the mouse button or drag.

    The Mirror and Turbulence tools have been axed out of the Liquify tool set.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilun_Li Image #16874536