Commercial product photographers have a lot to do in Photoshop. Retouch blemishes, fix colours, do some compositing… those are all things that we accomplish. In addition, sometimes we need to modify the shape of things like wires. That's where the Liquify tool comes in handy. It allows a user to push, stretch, contract, swirl and distort pixels. Today I want to do an overview of the tool and how I may use it in the real life. There are a lot of advanced options, but I won't get into it because I want to keep this blog post brief. Without further ado, let's start.

The Liquify Tool

Niched inside of the Filter panel, the Liquify tool gets divided into five basics adjustments that you can use on your image. There’s the Forward Warp Tool, the Reconstruct Tool, the Pucker Tool, the Bloat Tool and, finally, the Push Left Tool. Each of these are good for a certain type of work, but the one you’ll use 80% of the time is the Forward Warp Tool.

The Forward Warp Tool is accessible by pressing the very top button in the Liquify dialog box. It's also the default tool. If you only want to learn one tool, that is the one. What it does is very simple; it stretches the pixels in the direction that you are brushing in. A tip to using the Forward Warp Tool would be to use a larger brush than what you think you need. That’s because a smaller brushes make too small stretches which are way to visible and not subtle at all. I also recommend moving your density up and taking your time by correcting an area with lots of strokes.

The next tool is the one called Reconstruct Tool. Perhaps a better name for it would be the “Time Machine” tool because whenever you brush over an area that you liquified before, it reverts it back to its original state. So, instead of pressing ⌘Z a bunch of times and having to redo the parts you actually liked, just use the Reconstruct tool and brush over the zones you do not like.

The Pucker should be called the Vortex tool - that's what it does. When you press and hold on your image, it concentrates all of the pixels within the brush’s radius towards the middle. Quite frankly, this tool isn't very useful although it's a lot of fun.

The exact opposite of the previous tool, the Bloat tool expands and makes the content within the brush’s radius into a sphere.

The last tool is the Push Left Tool. How it works is simple: when you move your brush up, it drags the pixels to the left, when you move it down, it drives the pixel to the right. If you circle an object in a clockwise manner, you'll increase its size.

I made a handy–dandy GIF comparison of the four tools.

Example In My Workflow

In this example, I want to correct the curvature of the red wire. To do so, I will first create a new layer. Then, I will isolate the wire by making a selection with the Lasso tool. I’m inverting (⌘⇧I) it and deleting the background. The selection does not have to be very precise, it may just be good to exclude all elements you do not want affected.

After making sure that we have selected the layer containing only the wire, we can launch the Liquify tool (⇧⌘X). I'm going to be using the Forward Wrap Tool with a fairly big sized brush. With only a few brush strokes, I have fixed my issue. The only thing that is left to do is paint white on the background layer so that I do not see the old wire. And we are done.

This was a quick overview and introduction to the Liquify tool Photoshop. There are a lot of advanced options and I've gathered a few great resources that you should visit if you want to learn more about it. Here they are (just click on the images to get to the actual page):

I hope you like this blog post and I thank you for reading it. Do you have any comments or suggestions for a future article? If so, leave them below.