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6 Rules for Realistic Reflections in Photoshop

Rule #2 – Angled sides get their own reflections.

Photoshop Reflection Bloopers
Designers working for Disney and Adobe should know better! These reflections ignore perspective.

Wall-E's reflection is a mystery
Wall-E's reflection is a mess and a mystery

You mean Adobe didn't pay for a product shot?
You mean Adobe didn't pay for a product shot?

 

Reflection Reality
Each side of an angled, flat-sided object gets its own reflection. Perspective lines in the original must agree with perspective lines in the reflection.

Adobe box photo
Adobe box photo

Here we see a real Adobe Create Suite box reflected into a mirror. Notice on the right how all the perspective lines on one side are near parallel, and the perspective lines on the other side agree to go in another direction. Both sets of lines would meet if continued way out to the left and right (the points at which they meet are called vanishing points.)

 

Reflection Realism in Photoshop
For this tutorial, start with scans from the front and side of a box, each on its own layer.

Scans of front and side of box
Scans of front and side of box

  1. Select the layer with the box front in the Layers panel.
  2. Edit > Transform > Perspective
  3. Click and drag the top-right handle down a bit.
Transform perspective
Transform perspective
  1. Edit > Transform > Scale
  2. Click and drag the center-right handle to the left a ways.
Transform scale
Transform scale
  1. Press Enter/Return to complete the transformation.
  2. Select the layer with the box side scan and do a similar transformation on its left edge.
Transform side of box
Transform side of box
  1. Press V to select the Move tool, then use an arrow key to put the front and side up against each other.
Join the front and side of the box
Join the front and side of the box
  1. Select the front layer again.
  2. Press Ctrl+J (Mac: Cmd+J) to duplicate the layer.
  3. Press Ctrl+T (Mac: Cmd+T) to enter the Transform command.
Duplicate layer and transform
Duplicate layer and transform
  1. Click and drag down on the top-center square (handle) of the Transform box. Drag it all the way past the bottom edge of your object, so that it is flipped and not quite as tall as the original object.
Drag top center handle down to flip object
Drag top center handle down to flip object
  1. Edit > Transform > Skew
  2. Click and drag up on the middle handle on the right edge. Line up the top edge of the reflection with the bottom edge of the box.
Transform skewed
Transform skewed
  1. Press Enter/Return to complete the transformation.
  2. Select the side layer and repeat steps 10-15 (except skew the left edge, not the right). Make sure to make the side reflection as tall as the front reflection.

Reflect the side of the box
Reflect the side of the box

Here’s my final image with the layer masks demonstrated in Rule 1, thin black shadow lines, and a white-to-gray background.
Final reflected box
Final reflected box

 

Next: Rule #3 – Separate items get their own reflections.

11 replies on “6 Rules for Realistic Reflections in Photoshop”

Know what?!i don’t have formal training in PS..but because of you..i took up all your tutorials….it’s good…like to thank you ma’am…still got lot to learn though

Great article, I was having a heck of a time finding info/tutorials on photoshop reflections. I found quite a few botched reflections on bestbuy.com check out the icons on their category pages, computers for example, some of the reflections look right but a lot are botched.. It looks like they just had so many to do they just rushed their way through.

Lmfao, its sad to see that laws of reflection are not followed while making the reflections. Designers, editors need to learn some physics.

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