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Liquify your photos with Elements

Liquify your photos with Elements - Will Smith gives us a glimpse of the Photoshop Elements Liquify tool's potential to create some odd effects.

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Portraits and People

A guide to the liquify tool in Photoshop and a glimpse of its potential.
By Will Smith

Both Adobe Photoshop Elements and the latest version, Photoshop 7 offer the liquify tool, which many people manage to overlook. Although its features are not something you'll want to apply to many of your photographs there are occasions where it can add that final touch that makes an image stand out. Or, if you just want to play a joke on a friend, you can distort their face till they look like something out of a horror film.

How to use the liquify tool
The windows shortcut for the liquify tool in Elements and Photoshop 7 is ctrl+shift+x. Or it can be selected through the Filter menu. The Photoshop 7 liquify tool has several more functions than the Elements one and as beginners are more likely to be using Elements, we're concentrating on that here.

When you've open up the Liquify tool, you'll be presented with the following layout, minus the squirrel of course!

Photoshop Elements Liquify Tool technique

The tools displayed along the top left can be a little confusing at first, so here's an explanation of each of them.

Photoshop Elements Liquify Tool technique

That should have given you a basic understanding of what each tool is capable of, but the best way to really learn is to try them for yourself. So providing you have a suitable image, try each of the tools out and see what they are capable of.

Here's a quick modification I've made to this charming little squirrel.

Photoshop Elements Liquify Tool technique

Because the shallow depth of field in the above image has helped blur the grass, the liquifying effect has helped hide the changes made. Such dramatic effects work well on people shots, perhaps for a birthday card.

The tools provided by liquify allow plenty of potential to make a photo look tacky, or ruin it completely. Consider the photo below, notice the horizontal lines by the gentleman's head, any attempts to liquify him would distort these lines and it would be obvious digital hocus pocus had been applied.

Photoshop Elements Liquify Tool technique

Photoshop Elements Liquify Tool techniqueBut, with the power of Elements, there is quite an easy way around this.

By selecting the magnetic lasso tool, shown selected to the right, create a selection around the head and upper half of the gentleman.

Now, copy the selection (ctrl+c) and create a new layer (shift+ctrl+n). Then paste the copied selection into the new layer (ctrl+v). This should leave your layers window looking like the one shown below.

Photoshop Elements Liquify Tool techniqueNow we can use the liquify tool without any fear of disturbing the background of the photo.

Being quite a fan of science-fiction I decided to give this shot a little bit of an Alien twist.

I used the warp tool to stretch the top of the head, and expanded the body with the bloat tool.

To give the image that extra bit of X-Files atmosphere, I copied the legs a few seats down. Then covered up the place they were with some copying and pasting, applying feathering to the selection so as not to create obvious horizontal and vertical lines of contrast. Anyone using Photoshop 7 could just use the patch tool here!


After all this, the finished result isn't going to win any awards, but was good fun:

Photoshop Elements Liquify Tool technique

Now go have some fun experimenting with your own photos!


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I really like this filter but until reading this I hadn't realised there was a palette of tools running along the left-hand side of the screen. Excellent. Cheers.

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