Photoshop Tutorial: Simple and Easy Mirror Reflection

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Many people these days are enamoured with the latest craze of photographing products on a glass surface with the product reflecting a very smooth, liquid reflection. Apple made it popular with their iPhone imagery.

In the old days, we had to go to some fairly lengthy set building in order to accomplish the look, but today you can do it in mere moments.

The object itself has a lot to do with the relative success of this technique. Best case scenario is a good, straight-on product shot. This eliminates the need for oblique reversals which take a lot of time, and need to have a perspective slant in order to look convincing.

Let’s use this shot of the latest Sony Ericsson Xperia X1. Note I’ve carefully cut it out of the background using the path tool. Using the path tool will give you a more accurate selection than pre-built selection tools. Mistakes in removing the background will be glaring once we build the illusion.

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To make the illusion, we need a much larger expanse of background. Here, using the Crop tool, we can drag the handles beyond the image area and visually estimate the size we’ll be needing. Once you commit the crop, the canvas will be expanded to fit the size indicated.

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Since any reflection into glass or a liquid is a ‘mirror’ image of the original, we have to create that copy. The easiest way is to merely float a copy (Ctrl+J or Cmd+J for Mac) to create another copy of the image in a new layer. Use the Edit Menu > transform > Flip Vertical while the reflection layer is selected to create a mirror image. Then drag the reflection down the main image using the Move tool. At this point we’ll need a background to reflect the image off of. Some people like smooth, level graduated backgrounds, and others like spotlighted. Apple uses sort of a spotlighted background (Note, if you’re using a white-out background like the original product shot of this SE Xperia X1, then no graduations are necessary.)

For the sake of this demonstration, we’ll use an Orange (#fd7904) to Black graduation to add an interesting catchy background. I accomplish this by starting the gradient exactly at the top of the phone and dragging down the scene.

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Now we can begin working with the reflected image. First set the transparency. I used about 40%. To make the reflection realistic, as it moves away from the object across the glass surface, it gets more faint. So we’ll need to simulate that “vanishing effect” by using a layer mask. Select the reflection layer, and then click on the Layer Mask button. You’ll see the white mask appear next to the layer thumbnail. Click in the Layer Mask thumbnail, and its borders will become doubled to indicate it’s selected.

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Now, using the gradient tool drag a tight, quick gradient from black to white. You’ll notice how the black masks image and the white allows it to show. The advantage of using a mask here is that you can adjust the amount of transparance until you get the right amount of transparency you like.

At this point, we are pretty much done with our reflected image. To add more realism to the image, you can throw off a slight blurring effect on the reflection. In realism, the reflection will never be perfectly clear. You can use Gaussian Blur effect and set it to 0.5. The amount of Blurring depends on resolution. More blur for higher resolution.

You’re done! Below is the final image. I hope you liked our Photoshop tutorial on mirror reflection. Please visit us again for more Photoshop and graphic design tutorials here at Graphic Design Free Resources.

Final image with mirror reflection effect from Photoshop

Final image with mirror reflection effect from Photoshop

You can also download the PSD file from the link below.

designfreebies.org mirror reflection tutorial psd

13 comments

  1. admin 17 February, 2009 at 10:21

    Thanks Ingenius. My pleasure to share these tutorials with everyone. Creating good graphic design is for everyone and Graphic Design Free Resources will be here to make it easy for you.

  2. zddelorean 12 May, 2010 at 07:05

    how did you use the gradient tool in the layer mask? I tried that and it didn’t work. I ended up just putting a gradient mask above the reflection layer.

  3. Graphire 12 May, 2010 at 09:50

    @zddelorean: Make sure the layer mask (rectangle after the chain icon in the layer), and not the main layer (rectangle before the chain), is selected when you apply the gradient. Try it again and let me know how it goes.

  4. Lara@ 12 January, 2011 at 00:17

    Wow cool post! Amazing tutorial dude. It�s ridiculous just how many exceptional tutorials you guys post. Absolutely love your site. Thank you very much!

  5. Steve 15 October, 2011 at 14:48

    How to apply the blur in the last step? I’m a beginner, so please indicate what tool to select, how to apply it, etc.

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