Working Edges With the Liquify Filter in Adobe Photoshop


Staff member
Pro Member
I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss the Liquify filter that can be found inside of Adobe Photoshop. What I have planned for this post is to first introduce you to the filter itself and then work it a bit to show you what it can accomplish. Now, I'll only be using a fraction of the tool, so please be aware of that. The Liquify filter is expansive and it can do quite a bit. The only reason I'll only be showing you a fraction of it is to get to the real point of this post.

Oftentimes, when using the Liquify filter to correct an edge or to distort a feature of some kind, areas that we don't want affected, are affected. This is frustrating to deal with, so I'm going to show you a workaround for this little problem. Basically, this happens most when attempting to correct edges that are overlapping something below it. To demonstrate what I'm referring to, I'll use a plate of sliced oranges. Take a look at this image.


To start off, I'll open this photograph in Photoshop. Then, I'll convert it to a Smart Object. After that, I'll head up to the Filter > Liquify menu item and click.


Once that's done, the Liquify palette will appear as another window.

Now, I can continue with this demonstration using pretty much any tool in this palette, but I'm going to set the working tool to the Forward Warp Tool in the upper left corner and I'll also make sure that the Brush Tool Options panel is opened up in the upper right corner. These two things will allow me to size and use a brush to distort part of this photo. If you take a look around, you'll see that everything in this palette is fairly easy to understand, but if you don't quite get something, please be sure to ask me about that down below. I'm here to help.

Okay, I've got a nicely sized brush picked out and I'm ready to use it. What I'll do now is distort part of the very top orange's edge so it juts out a bit. This isn't for any particular reason other than to show you how my adjusting one edge can affect what's next to it or beneath it in a photo. I'll now click and drag the orange slice's edge outward. Here's the result.


It's obvious where I clicked and dragged. The result is fairly dramatic. Again, I'm only doing this to show you the affect on other parts of the image. If you look inside the red circle, you'll see where I pulled the edge of the top orange slice to the left and upward. The thing is, while I wanted to only affect that top slice, the orange slice beneath it got caught in the crossfire. That's now distorted as well. Do you see how that's pulled up as well? I don't want that. What can I do?

Well, I do have one trick to show you. If I select only that top orange slice and then use the Liquify filter on it to perform the exact same task, the bottom orange slice won't be touched because the two layers will be separated. Let me show you what I'm talking about.

I'll click the Cancel button in the Liquify palette to exit out of it and I'll also make sure to undo any changes I made. Then, I'll use the Quick Selection Tool to select the top orange slice. Take a look at the marching ants in this next screenshot.


From here, I'll do a quick Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V keyboard shortcut combo to copy and paste the selected area into it's own layer. Then, I'll convert that layer into a Smart Object as well. Here are both of my layers in the Layers panel.


At this point, I can go ahead and use the Liquify filter again, but this time, only on the top layer (the selected and separated orange slice). I'll make sure that the top layer is selected by clicking on it in the Layers panel and then I'll head back into the Liquify filter palette. From there, I'll follow the exact same steps I took earlier to distort the slice. Let's see the outcome of that.


This is good. Do you see how only the top layer (slice) has been distorted and the ones beneath that haven't been? This is exactly the outcome that I was looking for.

I know that you may not want to be distorting orange slices, but what I want you to focus on here is the principles I applied. You may have a group of people in a photo and only want to distort one of them. To do that, select that one person and copy/paste them into their own layer. Then, do what I did here. You can apply this same trick with pretty much anything and I have a strong feeling that it will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Well, that's all I have for today. If you have any questions, again, please ask down below. I'd be happy to help. Thanks!