The Liquify filter lets you push, pull, rotate, reflect, pucker, and bloat any area of an image. The distortions you create can be subtle or drastic, which makes the Liquify command a powerful tool for retouching images as well as creating artistic effects. The Liquify filter can be applied to 8‑bits-per-channel or 16‑bits per-channel images.
Liquify filter overview
Tools, options, and an image preview for the Liquify filter are available in the Liquify dialog box. To display the dialog box, choose Filter > Liquify. In Photoshop CC and CS6, select Advanced Mode to access more options.
Using the Liquify filter to fix imperfections
- Select the Zoom tool in the Liquify dialog box, and click or drag in the preview image to zoom in; hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and click or drag in the preview image to zoom out. Alternatively, you can specify a magnification level in the Zoom text box at the bottom of the dialog box.
Liquify filter enhancements | Creative Cloud only
In the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, the Liquify filter is significantly faster than previous versions.The Liquify filter now supports Smart Objects, including Smart Object video layers, and is applied as a smart filter.
Another enhancement to the Liquify filter is an added behavior for the Reconstruct tool. If you hold down the alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key while dragging the tool across a warp, the Reconstruct tool smooths a warp rather than scaling back or removing it.
Applying Liquify as a smart filter | Creative Cloud only
The Liquify filter supports Smart Objects, including Smart Object video layers, and is applied as a smart filter. When applying the Liquify filter to a Smart Object, meshes are now automatically saved into your document. Meshes applied to Smart Objects are compressed and re-editable when reapplying the Liquify filter. Keep in mind that the embedded meshes, even compressed ones, increase the file size.
To apply the Liquify filter as a smart filter:
Several tools in the Liquify dialog box distort the brush area when you hold down the mouse button or drag. The distortion is concentrated at the center of the brush area, and the effect intensifies as you hold down the mouse button or repeatedly drag over an area.
Shift-click with the Warp tool, the Push Left tool, or the Mirror tool to create the effect of dragging in a straight line from the previous point you clicked.
Reverses the distortion you’ve already added, as you hold down the mouse button and drag.
Twirl Clockwise tool
Rotates pixels clockwise as you hold down the mouse button or drag. To twirl pixels counterclockwise, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you hold down the mouse button or drag.
Moves pixels toward the center of the brush area as you hold down the mouse button or drag.
Moves pixels away from the center of the brush area as you hold down the mouse button or drag.
Push Left tool
Moves pixels to the left when you drag the tool straight up (pixels move to the right if you drag down). You can also drag clockwise around an object to increase its size, or drag counterclockwise to decrease its size. To push pixels right when you drag straight up (or to move pixels left when you drag down), hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you drag.
(CS5) Mirror tool
Copies pixels to the brush area. Drag to mirror the area perpendicular to the direction of the stroke (to the left of the stroke). Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) to mirror the area in the direction opposite to that of the stroke (for example, the area above a downward stroke). Usually, Alt‑dragging or Option-dragging gives better results when you have frozen the area you want to reflect. Use overlapping strokes to create an effect similar to a reflection in water.
(CS5) Turbulence tool
Smoothly scrambles pixels. It is useful for creating fire, clouds, waves, and similar effects.
Controls how a brush feathers at the edge. An effect is strongest in the center of the brush and lighter at the edge.
Sets the speed at which distortions are made when you drag a tool in the preview image. Using a low brush pressure makes changes occur more slowly, so it’s easier to stop them at exactly the right moment.
Sets the speed at which distortions are applied when you keep a tool (such as the Twirl tool) stationary in the preview image. The higher the setting, the greater the speed at which distortions are applied.
(CS5) Reconstruct Mode
Used for the Reconstruct tool, the mode you choose determines how the tool reconstructs an area of the preview image.
Uses pressure readings from a stylus tablet. (This option is available only when you are working with a stylus tablet.) When selected, the brush pressure for the tools is the stylus pressure multiplied by the Brush Pressure value.
Distort an image
If a type layer or a shape layer is selected, you must rasterize the layer before proceeding, making the type or shape editable by the Liquify filter. To distort type without rasterizing the type layer, use the Warp options for the Type tool.
Click OK to close the Liquify dialog box and apply the changes to the active layer.
Click Cancel to close the Liquify dialog box without applying changes to the layer.
Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and click Reset to revert all distortions to the preview image and reset all options to their defaults.
You can use the Edit > Fade command to create additional effects.
Freeze and thaw areas
You can freeze areas that you don’t want to modify or thaw frozen areas to make them editable again. You can also invert both frozen and thawed areas.
By freezing areas of the preview image, you protect those areas from changes. Frozen areas are covered by a mask that you paint using the Freeze Mask tool . You can also use an existing mask, selection, or transparency to freeze areas. You can view the mask in the preview image to help you apply distortions.
Using the Freeze Mask tool
Select the Freeze Mask tool and drag over the area you want to protect. Shift-click to freeze in a straight line between the current point and the previously clicked point.
Using an existing selection, mask, or transparency channel
If you’re applying the Liquify filter to a layer with a selection, layer mask, transparency, or alpha channel, choose Selection, Layer Mask, Transparency, or Quick Mask from any of the five icons’ pop‑up menu in the Mask Options area of the dialog box. This determines how areas of the preview image are frozen or masked.
Showing or hiding frozen areas
Select or deselect Show Mask in the View Options area of the dialog box.
Changing the color of frozen areas
Choose a color from the Mask Color pop‑up menu in the View Options area of the dialog box.
When you have an existing selection, transparency, or mask in an image, that information is retained when the Liquify dialog box opens. You can choose one of the following mask options:
Add To Selection
Shows the mask in the original image, so that you can add to the selection using the Freeze Mask tool. Adds selected pixels in channel to the current frozen area.
If a selection exists, the filter limits the preview and processing to the rectangular area containing that selection. (For rectangular marquee selections, the selected area and preview are identical, so choosing Selection from the mask option menus above has no effect.)
Select the Thaw Mask tool , and drag over the area. Shift-click to thaw in a straight line between the current point and the previously clicked point.
To thaw all frozen areas, click the None button in the Mask Options area of the dialog box.
To invert frozen and thawed areas, click Invert All in the Mask Options area of the dialog box.
Work with meshes
Using a mesh helps you see and keep track of distortions. You can choose the size and color of a mesh, and save the mesh from one image and apply it to other images.
To show a mesh, select Show Mesh in the View Options area of the dialog box, and choose a mesh size and mesh color.
To only show a mesh, select Show Mesh and then deselect Show Image.
To save a distortion mesh, after distorting the preview image, click Save Mesh. Specify a name and location for the mesh file, and click Save.
To apply a saved distortion mesh, click Load Mesh, select the mesh file you want to apply, and click Open. If the image and distortion mesh aren’t the same size, the mesh is scaled to fit the image.
(CC, CS6) To apply the last saved distortion mesh, click Load Last Mesh.
(Creative Cloud) Meshes are automatically saved in your document. Meshes applied to Smart Objects are compressed and re-editable.
(Creative Cloud) Embedded meshes, even compressed ones, increase file size.
Work with backdrops
You can choose to show only the active layer in the preview image, or you can show additional layers in the preview image as a backdrop. Using the Mode options, you can position the backdrop in front of or behind the active layer to keep track of your changes, or to line up a distortion with another distortion made in a different layer.
Only the active layer is distorted, even if other layers are displayed.
Showing the backdrop
Select Show Backdrop, and then choose Background from the Use menu and an option from the Mode menu.
Showing changes to the target layer without showing the backdrop
Select All Layers from the Use menu. Setting the Opacity to 0 shows only the target layer with the full effects of the Liquify filter. Setting the Opacity to a higher value shows less of the Liquify filter’s effect on the target layer.
Determining how the target layer and the backdrop are combined in the image preview
Choose an option from the Mode menu.
After you distort the preview image, you can use a variety of controls and reconstruction modes to reverse changes or redo the changes in new ways. Reconstructions can be applied two ways. You can apply a reconstruction to the entire image, smoothing out the distortion in unfrozen areas, or you can use the reconstruction tool to reconstruct specific areas. If you want to prevent reconstruction of distorted areas, you can use the Freeze Mask tool.
A. Original image B. Distorted with frozen areas C. Reconstructed in Rigid mode (using button) D. Thawed, edges reconstructed in Smooth mode (using tool)
(CC, CS6) Click Reconstruct in the Reconstruct Options area of the dialog box. Then, in the Revert Reconstruction dialog box, specify an amount and click OK.
(CS5) Select a reconstruction mode from the Reconstruct Options area of the dialog box. Then, click Reconstruct in the Reconstruction Options area to apply the effect once. You can apply the reconstruction more than once to create a less distorted appearance.
This creates a copy of the distortion sampled at the starting point, much as the Clone tool does when you use it to paint a copy of an area. If there is no distortion, the effect is the same as using Revert mode. You can set new starting points and use the Reconstruct tool repeatedly to create a variety of effects.
Maintains right angles in the pixel grid (as shown by the mesh) at the edges between frozen and unfrozen areas, sometimes producing near-discontinuities at the edges. This restores the unfrozen areas so that they approximate their original appearance. (To restore their original appearance, use Revert reconstruction mode.)
Acts like a weak magnetic field. At the edges between frozen and unfrozen areas, the unfrozen areas take on the distortions of the frozen areas. As the distance from frozen areas increases, the distortions lessen.
Propagates the distortions in frozen areas throughout unfrozen areas, with smoothly continuous distortions.
Produces effects similar to Smooth, with even greater continuity between distortions in frozen and unfrozen areas.
To adjust the intensity of a reconstruction mode, select it from the unlabeled pop-up menu above the Mode menu. As you adjust intensity, the image previews your changes.
The Reconstruct tool has three additional modes that use the distortion at the point where you first clicked the tool (start point) to reconstruct the area over which you use the tool. Every time you click, you set a new start point; so, if you want to extend an effect from one start point, don’t release the mouse button until you finish using the Reconstruct tool.
Reconstructs unfrozen areas to match the displacement at the start point for the reconstruction. You can use Displace to move all or part of the preview image to a different location. If you click and gradually spiral out from the start point, you displace or move a portion of the image to the area you brush over.
Reconstructs unfrozen areas to match the displacement, rotation, and overall scaling that exist at the start point.