Make a flowing liquid effect in Photoshop

Guest Blogger

Hi my designer friends — it’s 99designer Alive™, a proud member of 99designs since 2010. I firmly believe that practicing design, whether you’re reading or following a tutorial, is a great way to train yourself.

I’d like to show a short step-by-step on how to create a liquid effect in Photoshop. The first time I created a liquid effect, I ran into some issues and thought it would be a great skill to share with the community. Now, whenever you’re faced with this task, you can do it at the speed of light. 🙂

We’re going to start with an image of an overturned glass, and make it look like its contents are spilling onto the surface underneath.

Liquid Effect 1

Image from stock.xchnge

1. Create a shape with the Brush tool

Create a new layer (Layer > New > Layer, or simply Ctrl+Shift+N). We’ll use this layer to create the basic shape of the liquid. This can be a little tricky so take your time with it.

Try to imagine how the liquid would pour through the opening of the glass and flow onto the table. Use a Hard Edged brush to create the shape and give it a gray color — the color I am using is#848484.

Liquid Effect 2

2. Using the Dodge tool

The Dodge tool can be used to lighten any area of your image. Let’s use it to add some highlights to the Shape:

Dodge Tool

Dodge tool settings:

  • Soft Edged brush: Size 45
  • Range: Shadows
  • Exposure: 20%.
Dodge tool bar

Here’s the result:

Liquid Effect 3

3. Using the Burn tool

The Burn tool is used to darken any areas of your image. We’re going to use it to add some shadows to the Shape. Burn tool settings:

  • Soft Edged brush: Size 35
  • Range: Shadows
  • Exposure: 15%
Burn tool bar

The result:

Liquid Effect 4

4. Using the Plastic Wrap filter

Now comes the fun part: creating the liquid effect. Go to Filter > Artistic > Plastic Wrap. Use the following settings for the Plastic Wrap:

  • Highlight Strength: 13
  • Detail: 15
  • Smoothness: 14

Feel free to use your own settings — just slide the values until you think it looks good and real.

Plastic wrap

The result:

Plastic wrap result

5. Using the Hard Light mode

At this stage, take a step back and look to see if everything looks okay. If you need to make adjustments, you can change any shadows (Burn Tool) and highlights (Dodge Tool) again.

With your Liquid layer selected, change the mode of the layer from Normal to Hard Light:

Hard light

This removes all the shades of gray, leaving only the shadows and highlights:

Hard light result

6. Using Bevel and Emboss

Now right click on your Liquid layer, and select Blending Options > Bevel and Emboss. You can add an Inner Bevel effect for a bit of extra realism. I am using the following values:


Play around with these values until you think it looks right. You need to take into consideration the lighting of the original glass object, and modify the Shading Angle so that the shading follows the same direction of the glass lighting.

If you need to change the color of the liquid, then go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance. Play around with the sliders until you are satisfied with the color.

Here is the final result:


Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did making it. Cheers!

Have any questions or tips about the flowing liquid effect?

The author

Guest Blogger
Guest Blogger

99designs loves to share design how-to's directly from design professionals themselves. Reach out to share your thoughts, ask questions, or thank these experts for their awe-inspiring tips!

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