Creating Reflections in Photoshop

by Harlan Yee on November 4th, 2009

Reflection Tutorial FINAL

There are many ways to create reflections in Photoshop. In this tutorial, I’ll go through the method I used when working on graphics for an automotive related TV commercial.

 Reflection Tutorial 1

Open your image in Photoshop. This happens to be a picture of a friend’s Ducati Desmosedici RR shot in his garage. Image size is 1024×683.

Reflection Tutorial 2

Double click on the Background layer in the Layers palate. A window called New Layer will open. Rename the layer or just click OK. The layer is now unlocked.


Next we cut the bike out from the background. Use your favorite selection tool. I used the Quick Selection Tool first to get about 90% of the image selected.

Reflection Tutorial 4

Hit the Delete button and most of your background is gone. At this point, the edges are fairly rough. Hit Ctrl-D to remove the marching ants.

Next use the Eraser Tool to further refine the edges and take away unwanted pixels. If you make a mistake and erase too much, hold down ALT while you use the Eraser Tool and you can gradually restore parts that were accidently removed.

Reflection Tutorial 5

I’m satisfied with the removal of the background. Now I go to Image>Canvas Size and change the canvas size to 1024×1000 and move the bike image up to give me room for the reflection.

Reflection Tutorial 6

Hit Ctrl-J to duplicate the layer. In the Layers palate, move Layer 1 Copy underneath Layer 1. You don’t have to but I like to visually see how my layers stack up. With Layer 1 Copy selected, hit Ctrl-T to Free Transform that layer. Drag the top center transformation point straight down to invert the image. I had to move my inverted image up so the tires touch each other.

Reflection Tutorial 7

With Layer 1 Copy selected, hit the Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers palate. Make sure you have Black as a foreground color and White as a background color in the color selector on your Tool palate. Click on the Layer Mask on Layer 1 Copy which is linked by a chain icon.

Reflection Tutorial 8

Using the Gradient Tool, click and hold at the bottom of one of the tires and drag down to about the bottom of the canvas. Let go of your mouse button and you’ve got a faded reflection under your main object. You can continue to click and drag with the Gradient Tool until you get the reflection the way you like.

Save your file and it’s ready for import into After Effects or other applications. In the video example, I repeated this process many times with different vehicles to create fly-over of a virtual parking lot.

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