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Tips & Tricks

How To Use The Liquify Tool In Photoshop

By Kishore Sawh on August 2nd 2014

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For all Photoshop’s abilities, I think it’s fair to say it’s what the liquify tool does that ends up getting most of the press. Want a smaller nose? The liquify tool is there. How about fuller lips? Smaller hips? A thigh gap? Or maybe breasts so large they have their own gravitational field? While there are other ways of achieving the aforementioned, it’s the liquify tool that tends to be the go-to.

For those who aren’t familiar with photography or photo editing, or those who just don’t have a deftness with Photoshop, these are the manipulations they often associate with the editing software. While it’s not entirely wrong, there’s much more to be done with the tool.

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What the liquify tool really allows is the ‘bending of pixels.’ It gives the ability to push and pull pixels as you see fit, and that capability has far more uses that just altering someone’s physical attributes. Aaron Nace takes a user submitted portrait and breaks down the settings of the liquify tool, and then goes to work showing what they do and how to use them.

Key Take-Aways

    • Change brush size often
    • Keep an eye on the brush pressure to allow for more nuanced adjustments
    • Brush density can be kept on the high end, allowing for larger areas per stroke, and thus more natural changes
    • Beware of editing images that fill to the border of the frame, as you may encounter some transparency. Using the masking option will help with this.

Thoughts

As usual, Aaron is spilling all sorts of valuable information regarding workflow, and other precesses, as well as and possibly most importantly, how to think about what you’re doing. Like Aaron suggests, I actually find myself using the liquify tool to alter wardrobe, and fix hair. To a much lesser extent do I use it to physically change a person’s structure.

In regards to that, however, I will say that when I am using the tool to reshape some part of someone, the most common thing for me to do, especially for women, is to drop their shoulders. It’s one of my biggest suggestions to women having their photo taken, that keeping shoulders down make a tremendous difference in how they appear. If they don’t do it at the moment of capture, I’ll often do it for them in post.

As always, if you are a fan of Aaron’s teachings (and who isn’t?), be sure to check back here for updates, and follow along with Aaron on YouTube and Phlearn. You should also consider becoming quickly adept at Photoshop with the Phlearn Photoshop 101 & 201 sets as they are extremely comprehensive, and will have you quickly doing things with Photoshop you may have otherwise thought too complex, or didn’t even know you could do.

Source: Phlearn

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    Great tutorial.

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  2. Basit Zargar

    Thanks for this tutorial

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  3. Michael Moe

    another great tutorial from phlearn! i love the liquify tool! ;) amazing result!

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  4. Chuck Eggen

    Gotta love the Nacer!

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  5. Santiago Elliott

    Plearn makes amazing videos! Very helpful!

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  6. Asad Qayyum

    Phlearn’s tutorials are always excellent. I use the liquify tool quite a lot; mostly to tuck in double chins but this gave me a few more ideas.

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  7. Rafael Steffen

    It´s alway a good way to learn photoshop in steps to not get overwhelmed by the numerous things you can achieve with the software.

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  8. Andy O’Dowd

    Phlearn’s a great resource and Aaron’s teaching style and camera manner are very entertaining.

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  9. Stan Rogers

    About the only use I ever have for Liquify is to put poofy hair back where it belongs (it is a Fundamental Law of Nature that the perfect expression on a person with shoulder-length hair, when standing or sitting in front of a camera, can only happen when the hair gets caught up on a collar) or fixing the drapery of clothing (another Fundamental Law states that the most interesting poses will cause a crease somewhere in fabric with enough body to cause a big lump of empty cloth to stick out somewhere). But this brings us back into the previously-covered “digital slimming” territory, and it doesn’t matter how expertly, judiciously and benevolently you use Liquify, someone’s going to bring up the spectre of “unrealistic expectations”. Well, I used to deal with the same problems with film, and the only answer was to reshoot until you got close to good again (provided, of course, that you had processing in-house — chimping could take as little as fifteen minutes to a half-hour, but if you relied on a lab, it took at least a day) and no, you are never going to get that exact expression or that exact pose ever again. It may be better, it’s usually not as good, but it will never, ever be the same.

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    • David De Fotograaf

      For those final few sentences, I cannot agree more.
      Yesterday I made a fundamental error (post haste excitement perhaps) of not putting a models whole foot on the picture. So yeah, let’s redo that expression and pose!
      Guess again… not going to happen. Close… but no cigar.

      As for the use of the liquify tool, nice tip. I never thought about it using it that way.
      Mostly it’s: “oh, my upper arm looks so fat on that picture…” “oh don’t worry about it, I’ll correct it in Photoshop.” (mostly because you can change the pose a bit to correct this, but you can – like mentioned above – never get that same feel again.)

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  10. fotosiamo

    I recommend to change the layer that you’re going to apply the Liquify tool into a Smart Object. This makes the Liquify tool nondestructive and allows you to go back into it and adjust or even reset the liquify.

    Also, you can save the liquify mesh to use at another time. This can be useful if you need to use later on

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    • Stan Rogers

      There’s a little less reason to do that in the latest versions of Photoshop, since Liquify lets you load/use the previous mesh. That also lets you use the same warp across layers — a bit of an esoteric use. But it means that you can warp previously-created soft light or overlay dodging and burning, or masks saved as channels, to match a warped subject without having to create a stamp layer, so you can make changes to your previous adjustments for even more indestructability. (At that point, it’s probably safe to say that you’ve strayed off into non-destructive for its own sake rather than for practical purposes.)

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    • Michael Stagg

      Nice! Thanks for the extra advice!

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    • Michael Stagg

      Not a bad tutorial…OK, it was a GREAT tutorial. Aaron does tend to speed through a few steps but that’s what pulling the slider back is for, right? :)

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  11. Bokeh Monk

    Sorry I guess links aren’t allowed, head over to Creative Live and looking for: Photoshop Compositing: Essential Techniques with AARON NACE

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  12. Bokeh Monk

    Looking forward to learning more from Arron on Creative Live this August 18-20, see the upcoming course outline here:

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