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Realistic Water Droplets

With a high quality digital camera, a steady hand, and a keen eye you can capture some truly amazing photographs of nature at its most beautiful.   But what happens when you can't find a suitable scene to photograph, or it isn't quite suitable for your exact purpose?  Well, this is where Photoshop and the right techniques can help.   This tutorial details a simple method for creating realistic water droplets that can be added to any image.  All you need is Photoshop, an underlying picture, and a sense of realistic perspective.   Interested?  Read on...


Step 1: Open up a stock image in Photoshop of any size and/or format. The best results for this tutorial usually involve images where water droplets would exist in real life.  Putting a droplet on a newspaper, for example, would look downright silly.

When you are happy with your base image, make a droplet-shaped selection using the Elliptical Marquee Tool.  You can rotate your selection with Select > Transform Selection if you need a selection at an angle.

Step 2: Press CTRL+J on the keyboard to copy+paste the selected area into a layer of its own.  Name this layer droplet or something else appropriate.  Select the new layer in the layers palette, hold CTRL and click on the droplet layer again to re-select the elliptical shape.  Once you have done this, run Filter > Distort > Spherize, and play with the setting until it looks good.  Essentially, this filter recreates the underlying optical distortion of the water droplet.

With your droplet layer still selected in the layer's palette, choose Layer > Layer Style > Drop Shadow from the main menu and enter in the settings on the left.

Step 3: Without pressing the OK button, go to the Inner Shadow section and enter in these settings too.  Please note that the Angle of the effects should be changed to reflect the position of the light source in your underlying picture.  In my example the light comes from the upper right, but this may be very different in your picture!   When you are happy with the result, press OK.

NOTE: These settings and methods work best for simple droplet shapes.  If you want something more advanced, you may want to forget the Spherize filter and reduce the Fill Opacity to 0%.  This will also allow you to do multiple droplets at once, or complex letter shapes.

Step 4: If you still have a selection active, lose it.   Then select the Blur Tool with a medium-sized brush set to 50% strength, and blur the bottom left edges of the droplet.   Real water droplets, of course, do not have sharp edges, so this is a cosmetic adjustment that can improve the realism of the final result greatly, especially with the smaller size droplets. 

Step 5: Hold CTRL and click the droplet layer again to form a selection around the water droplet.  Create a new transparent layer on top of all the others, call it reflection or something else appropriate, and make it the active layer.  After you have done this, take the Gradient Tool, set it to a linear white-to-translucent gradient, and drag the cursor diagonally inside the droplet to create a simple gradient like the one on the left. 

Step 6: Choose Edit > Transform > Scale from the main menu and reduce the height and width to 80% of their original size. Set the reflection layer opacity to 80%.  Then, using the cursor keys, move the light reflection a little towards the top left of the droplet.  And that's it - you've made a realistic water droplet!

NOTE: At this stage you can, of course, use the Blur Tool to add a little more optical distortion to the droplet, or even add a highlights layer for extra internal reflections... but I'll leave that up to you!

- Tutorial written by Man1c M0g

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Last 5 User Comments

User:  thebell (#51461)
Date: Thu Jul 10, 2008. 21:21:06

Post #11 of 11

Nice- I've never thought it could be that easy - Good Job

Reply to this post

User:  angelkissed (#50465)
Date: Thu May 29, 2008. 05:55:33

Post #10 of 11

very nice, I have some pretty flowers to add this to. Thanks!

Reply to this post

User:  satria (#47036)
Date: Fri Dec 28, 2007. 20:38:35

Post #9 of 11

Quote from joona;25733:
Yeh, its very nice job but for what u need it? :pepsi:

easy to follow tutorial..excellent

Reply to this post

User:  jo_3 (#40116)
Date: Sun Apr 01, 2007. 13:42:17

Post #8 of 11

nice tutorial. i noticed it's good if you use only one water droplet. try using multiple ones and it might destroy the "realism". how? try sprinkling water on a surface and notice not all are perfectly shaped. some even reflect light at different angles.

just a thought. =)

Reply to this post

User:  Bill Krause (#31717)
Date: Thu Sep 07, 2006. 20:10:00

Post #7 of 11

Quote from pshopper;31100:
How about changing the Reflection Layer style?

Hi do not know if I am doing this right. I'm New here. Can you do this Photoshop Elements 3.0

Thank you

Reply to this post

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