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How to Use the Liquify Tool in Photoshop

liquify tool photoshop

The Liquify tool is of the most commonly used filters in Photoshop. The Liquify tool allows you to distort the pixels in an image without losing quality. We cover the many ways to use the Liquify tool in Photoshop throughout this post.

Liquify Tool

The Photoshop Liquify tool, also known as Liquify filter, can be used for retouching and artistic effects. You can push, pull, rotate, reflect, pucker, and bloat the pixels of an image. As a wedding photo editing company for professional photographers, we know how important it is to have knowledge about how to best use a post-wedding workflow software, like Photoshop.

liquify tool dialog box photoshop

Image by Image Studio Photography

A few things to note…

  • The Liquify filter can be applied to any bitmap layer, though it cannot be applied to a “Smart Object.”
  • You can access the Liquify filter by clicking “Filter,” then select “Liquify.” From there, the Liquify dialog box appears.
  • For more options for the Liquify filter, simply select “Advanced Mode.”

Related: How to Add Grain in Photoshop

Liquify Filter Tools

There are several tools within the Liquify filter dialog box. See a quick list below to learn more about them.

“Forward Warp” Tool

The “Forward Warp” tool pushes the pixels of an image forward as you drag. To control the pixels you push, adjust the brush size. To adjust the brush size, access “Brush Options” on the right tool bar.

“Reconstruct” Tool

The “Reconstruct” tool reverses any distortion you add to the image. To use the “Reconstruct” tool, click the “Restore All Button” on the “Reconstruct Options” panel.

“Twirl Clockwise” Tool

The “Twirl Clockwise” tool rotates the pixels clockwise. To rotate the pixels clockwise, click and drag on the image. When you want to twirl the pixels counterclockwise, simply hold down “Option” for Mac (“Alt” for PCs) and drag on the image.

“Pucker” Tool

The “Pucker” tool moves the pixels toward the center of the brush area. To move the pixels toward the center, drag on the image.

“Bloat” Tool

The “Bloat” tool moves the pixels away from the center of the brush area. To move the pixels away from the center, drag on the image.

“Push Left” Tool

The “Push Left” tool moves the pixels to the left or right, depending on your actions. If you drag the tool up, it moves the pixels to the left. When you drag the tool down, it moves the pixels to the left. To achieve this, press “Option” for Mac (“Alt” for PCs) as you drag on the image.

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Tool Options

Within the dialog box, there are tool options you can set based on your needs.

Brush Size

The option for brush size gives you the ability to adjust the width of the brush.

Brush Density

The option for brush density controls how the brush feathers at the edge of the image.

Brush Pressure

The option for brush pressure allows you to set the speed at which the brush makes changes as you drag it on the image.

Brush Rate

The option for brush rate allows you to set the speed at which the brush makes when you keep a tool stationary in the image.

Stylus Pressure

The option for stylus pressure is only available when you work with a stylus tablet, and this tool uses the pressure readings.

Now that we have covered the tools and options in Photoshop, let’s walk through ways to use the Liquify filter to adjust your images.

Distort the Image

One of the options you can use is to distort the image. When you distort the image, you change, twist, or exaggerate it to look different than the original version. To distort the image in Photoshop, follow these steps:

  1. Select the layer to distort. If you only want to distort a part of the layer, select the specific area.
  2. Click “Filter” and select “Liquify.”
  3. Free any areas of the layer you do not want to alter.
  4. Choose any of the Liquify tools listed above to make the desired distortion.
  5. Click “OK” to close the dialog box and apply the distortion.
filter menu highlight liquify tool

Image by Image Studio Photography

Quick Tip

To reverse distortions made to the image, press “Option” for Mac (“Alt” for PCs) and click “Reset.” This will reset all options back to their defaults.

Related: Use these 5 techniques to speed up your Photoshop workflow!

Use “Freeze” and “Thaw” Masks

For areas of your image you do not want to adjust or for areas you want to make editable,  you can use a “Freeze Mask” or “Thaw Mask.” Learn more about each mask below.

Apply “Freeze Mask”

The “Freeze Mask” protects areas of the image from adjustments. To apply the “Freeze Mask,” follow these steps:

  1. Select the “Freeze Mask” tool.
  2. Drag the tool over the area you would like to protect from adjustments.
  3. Press and hold down “Shift + Click.” This will create a straight line that is between both click points.

Apply “Thaw Mask”

The “Thaw Mask” can be used for a few different options, including:

Invert Frozen Areas

  1. Click “Mask All” in the “Mask Options” area.

Show or Hide Frozen Areas

  1. Select or deselect “Show Mask” in the “View Options” area.

Changing the Color of Frozen Areas

  1. Select a color from the “Mask Color” menu in the “View Options” area.

To apply the “Thaw Mask” to frozen areas, follow these steps:

  1. Select the “Thaw Mask” tool.
  2. Drag the “Thaw Mask” tool over the frozen area.
  3. Press “Shift + Click” to thaw in a straight line that is between both click points.

Quick Tip

You can thaw all frozen areas by clicking the “None” button in “Mask Options” area.

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Related: Do you know how to reduce noise in Photoshop?

Additional Mask Options

There are other options you can use as masks in Photoshop, including:

“Replace” Selection

The “Replace” selection shows the selection, mask, or transparency that is in the original image.

“Add To” Selection

The “Add To” selection shows the mask in the original image so you can add to it using the “Freeze Mask” tool. This tool adds selected pixels in “Channel” to the current frozen area of the image.

“Subtract From” Selection

The “Subtract From” selection reduces pixels in “Channel” from the current frozen area of the image.

“Intersect With” Selection

The “Intersect With” selection utilizes pixels that are only selected and currently frozen in an area of the image.

“Invert” Selection

The “Invert” selection uses certain pixels to invert the current frozen area of the image.

Use a “Mesh”

To keep track of distortions you make on an image, use a “Mesh” in Photoshop. There are a few ways to manage and use meshes:

Choose Size and Color

  1. Select “Show Mesh” in the “View Options” part of the dialog box.
  2. Choose a size and color.

Only Show a “Mesh”

  • Select “Show Mesh” and deselect “Show Image.”

Save Distortion “Mesh”

  1. Click “Save Mesh.”
  2. Choose a name and location for the “Mesh.”
  3. Click “Save.”

Use Saved Distortion “Mesh”

  1. Select the “Mesh” file to use.
  2. Click “Open” to apply the “Mesh.”

Quick Tip

Click “Load Last Mesh” to apply the last saved distortion “Mesh.”

Related: How to Add Texture in Photoshop

“Face-Aware Liquify” Tool

Another feature of the Liquify filter is the “Face-Aware Liquify” tool, which identifies facial features. This includes eyes, noses, mouths, and more. The tool is meant to make it simple to make adjustments to facial features as needed.

face-aware liquify tool menu photoshop

Image by Image Studio Photography

Quick Tip

For non-destructive editing on your images, use the “Face-Aware Liquify” tool as a smart filter. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Select a “Smart Object” layer, which you will find in the “Layers” panel.
  2. Choose “Filter,” then select “Liquify.”

Below, we share a few tips on how to use the “Face-Aware Liquify” tool to adjust facial features.

Use On-Screen Handles

The first method you can use to adjust facial features is to use on-screen handles. Use this option with the following steps:

  1. Open an image in Photoshop with one or more faces.
  2. Click “Filter,” then select “Liquify” to open the dialog box.
  3. Select the “Face” tool in the tools panel. You can also press “A” on your keyboard. With this action, the faces in your image are identified automatically.
  4. Start with one of the faces in the image and hover your mouse over it. You will see on-screen controls appear around the face.
  5. Make adjustments as necessary to the face and repeat for the others.
  6. Click “OK” when you are done with the adjustments.

Use Sliding Controls

The second method you can use to adjust facial features is to use sliding controls. Use this option with the following steps:

  1. Open an image in Photoshop with one or more faces.
  2. Click “Filter,” then select “Liquify” to open the dialog box.
  3. Select the “Face” tool in the tools panel. You can also press “A” on your keyboard. With this action, the faces in your image are identified automatically. The faces can also be seen in the “Select Face” menu that appears in the “Face-Aware Liquify” area of the “Properties” panel. Select a different face by clicking on the image or selecting it from the menu.
  4. Make adjustments to the face using the sliding controls as seen below and repeat for the others.
  5. Adjust the sliders in the “Face-Aware Liquify” area to make changes to the facial features. Some of the sliders include eyes, noses, mouths, and face shapes.
  6. Click “OK” when you are done with the adjustments.

A few quick tips…

  1. Click the link icon on the tool bar to lock in the settings for the left and right eyes together, helping apply asymmetrical effects to the eyes.
  2. The “Face-Aware Liquify” tool works best on facial features that face the camera. If needed, rotate titled faces before you apply the settings.
  3. Reset any changes made to a face/faces, use “Reset” and “All” options that are in the “Face-Aware Liquify” area.

Related: How to Fix Hair in Photoshop

Set Up the Graphics Processor (if needed)

Before you get started using the “Face-Aware Liquify” tool, make sure to enable the graphics processor. Follow these steps to achieve that:

  1. Choose “Edit,” then hover over “Preferences,” and select “Performance.”
  2. Select “Use Graphics Processor” in the “Graphics Processor Settings” area.
  3. Click “Advanced Settings.” Ensure “Use Graphics Processor to Accelerate Computation” is selected.
  4. Click “OK” to save your settings.

Learning how to use the Liquify tool in Photoshop can help you make adjustments to your wedding photography to create unforgettable images your clients will love. Also, the more comfortable with Photoshop you are, the faster you will become. In addition to Photoshop, do you know how to best use Lightroom for your post-wedding workflow? Find out when you watch our Online Training: Advanced Lightroom Skillets with expert, Jared Platt! Click the banner below to access the Online Training and discover how to maximize Lightroom in your workflow.

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