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How to Use the Liquify Tool in Photoshop

liquify tool photoshop

As a wedding photographer, it is valuable to have knowledge behind some of the best ways to adjust your photos to match your unique photography style. In the past, we have covered how to use several features in Lightroom to edit your work. And now, we are ready to talk more about Photoshop. Do you know how to use the Liquify tool in Photoshop?

The Liquify tool is of the most commonly used filters in Photoshop. It allows you to distort the pixels in an image without losing quality, which is in an important part of the images you deliver to your wedding clients. Below, we cover the various ways to use the Liquify tool in Photoshop.

Liquify Tool

The Photoshop Liquify tool, also known as the Liquify filter, can be used for retouching and artistic effects. You can push, pull, rotate, reflect, pucker, and bloat the pixels of an image. This tool is especially effective when it comes to images of people, which is perfect for you as a photographer who shoots engagements and wedding days.

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. We also know how valuable your unique photography style is to your work, and how Photoshop can help you achieve those goals.

liquify tool dialog box photoshop

Image by Image Studio Photography

To help, we put together tips to help you learn how to liquify in Photoshop in a way that looks natural for your images. Plus, we will provide quick tips throughout the blog post that will help ensure you maximize your time in Photoshop and perfect your skills. Keep reading to learn more.

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.”

Quick Tip

There are several keyboard shortcuts you can use while you work with the Liquify tool. Take a look at a quick list below of the top ones:

  • One of the first keyboard shortcuts you can use is Command+, which will allow you to zoom in closer on the image.
  • The next keyboard shortcut you can use is Command-, which will allow you to zoom out on the image.
  • A further keyboard shortcut you can use is to hold down on the Spacebar key, which will allow you to click and drag the image around as needed.
  • Another keyboard shortcut you can use is Command + 0, which will fit the image and maintain its aspect ratio.
  • One similar keyboard shortcut you can use is Command + 1, which will set the image zoom back to 100%.

For more on Photoshop keyboard shortcuts, access Adobe’s full list here.

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

One of the first tools that can be valuable to know about starts with the “Foward 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 toolbar.

“Reconstruct” Tool

The next tool to learn about is the “Reconstruct” tool. In Photoshop, 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

Another tool you can use to adjust your photos is the “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

A further Photoshop Liquify filter dialog box to learn about is the “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

An additional tool that is in the Liquify filter dialog box, and that can be used to work on your wedding images, is the “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

One final tool to learn about in the Liquify filter dialog box is the “Push Left” tool. With the “Push Left” tool, it 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.

Tool Options

Within the dialog box, there are tool options you can set based on your needs. This is perfect for you since you have a unique photography style that requires specific adjustments for your wedding images.

Brush Size

The first option you can set in the Liquify dialog box is the brush size. With the option for brush size, you have the ability to adjust the width of the brush.

Brush Density

The next option you can set in Photoshop for the Liquify dialog box is the brush density. With the option for brush density, you can control how the brush feathers at the edge of the image.

Brush Pressure

Another option you can set is the brush pressure in the Liquify dialog box. 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

One option for you to set in the Liquify dialog box in Photoshop is the 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

A final option you can set for your wedding images is to adjust the 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, we can walk through ways to use the Liquify filter to adjust your images.

Distort the Image

One of the first ways to optimize the Liquify tool in Photoshop and adjust your work is to distort the images. When you take the steps to distort the image, you can change, twist, or exaggerate it to look different than in 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.

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”

One of the masks is known as the “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 next mask is known as the “Thaw Mask.” This 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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Additional Mask Options

We just covered the “Freeze” and “Thaw” masks in Photoshop. There are other options you can use as masks in Photoshop, including:

“Replace” Selection

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

“Add To” Selection

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

“Subtract From” Selection

Another option you have is to use the “Subtract From” selection. The “Subtract From” selection reduces pixels in “Channel” from the current frozen area of the image.

“Intersect With” Selection

A further option for you to use as a mask in Photoshop is the “Intersect With” selection. The “Intersect With” selection utilizes pixels that are only selected and currently frozen in an area of the image.

“Invert” Selection

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

Use a “Mesh”

When you are working on your images in Photoshop, there are times when you might make several adjustments to your images before you find the right look. To keep track of the distortions you make on an image, use a “Mesh” in Photoshop. A “Mesh” will help you protect your original image so there are no edits made to it. This way, if you want to go back to the original version without edits, or to start over again, you can.

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.”

“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. These are facial features that may be more difficult to edit since they are so small. 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. This will help to ensure your original image is untouched. 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 Liquify in Photoshop with 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 toolbar 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.

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.

When you learn how to use the Liquify tool in Photoshop, it 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. This will save you time in your editing workflow, which means you can use that time in other, most important, areas of your business. Photoshop is not the only post processing software you can master. Do you know how to best use Lightroom for your post-wedding workflow, or which post production software is best to use for necessary wedding edits? Find out when you watch out Online Training: Advanced Lightroom Skillsets with expert, Jared Platt! Click on the banner below to access the Online Training and discover how to maximize Lightroom in your workflow.

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