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Adobe Photoshop Tutorial: Simple Reflective Surface

posted under by FR3@K | Edit This
In this Photoshop tutorial, we're going to create a simple reflective surface effect for our type. You've probably seen this technique used everywhere, and yet it's extremely easy to do (which could possibly explain why it's used everywhere).
Step 1: Create A New Photoshop Document

As usual, let's create a new document inside Photoshop, either by going up to the File Menu at the top of screen and selecting "New...", or a much quicker way is to use the keyboard shortcut, "Ctrl+N" on a Win system or "Command+N" on a Mac. Either way brings up Photoshop's "New Document" dialog box. Choose the 640x480 size from the Preset drop-down selection box.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Create a new document in Photoshop. Use the 640x480 preset document size

As usual, there's no particular reason why I've chosen 640x480 as my document size other than for the sake of simplicity.
Step 2: Select The Type Tool From The Tools Palette

We can't add a reflective surface to our type without having some type to reflect, so we need to grab the Type tool from Photoshop's Tools palette. It's the icon about halfway down the Tools palette with a capital "T" as its icon. You can either click on it directly in the Tools palette, or use the keyboard shortcut, which is to simply press the letter "T" (as in "T" for Type Tool). Always try to use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible when you're first learning Photoshop, since the sooner they become second nature to you, the more efficient you'll be with the program.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Select the Type tool from Photoshop's Tools palette or press the letter "T" on the keyboard.
Step 3: Select A Color For The Type

As with most things in Photoshop, there's always more than one way to accomplish the exact same thing, and selecting colors is no exception. This time, to keep things simple, let's use the Swatches palette, which contains quite a few "ready to go" colors that we can just click on to select.

The Swatches palette is docked, by default, with the Color palette, another of Photoshop's ways to let us pick colors. To access the Swatches palette, look for the Color palette on your screen, and then look up at the name tab of the Color palette, where it says "Color". Immediately to the right of that tab, you'll see another tab, faded out and hiding in the background, which says "Swatches". That's the Swatches palette hiding back there. We want to bring the Swatches palette forward and send the Color palette back into the shadows, and all we have to do to accomplish this is click on the Swatches name tab. The Swatches palette will instantly move to the forefront and the Color palette will retreat into the background.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Locate the Color palette on your screen, then click on the Swatches name tab to the right of the Color palette's name tab to bring the Swatches palette forward and send the Color palette into the background.

*Note: If you don't see the Color or Swatches palette anywhere on your screen, press the F6 key on your keyboard, which is a shortcut to show and hide the Color palette. Since the Swatches palette is docked with the Color palette, the F6 key also shows and hides the Swatches palette, as well as the Styles palette which is also docked by default with Color and Swatches. Photoshop docks palettes together like this in order to save space on the screen.

To select a color from the Swatches palette, just move your mouse over it and click the color. You'll see your cursor turn into a small eyedropper, as if you're sucking the color up into the eyedropper to use it. I'm going to select the "RGB Red" color in the top left corner of the Swatches palette, but feel free to select any color you prefer.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Move your mouse over any color in the Swatches palette and click on the color to select it. Here, I'm choosing "RGB Red".
Step 4: Select A Font To Use

We have our Type tool, and we have our color. Now, we just need to select a font. You can see a list of all the fonts you currently have installed on your computer up in the Options Bar at the top of the screen, directly below the Menu Bar. The name of your currently selected font is displayed in a selection box on the left side of the Options Bar. To scroll through a list of every available font, simply click the down-pointing arrow to the right of the selection box.

You can choose any font you like for this effect, but keep in mind that this effect works best when using all capital letters. The reason will become clear at the end of the tutorial.

I'm going to select Trajan Pro for my font, but again, feel free to use whichever font you prefer. I'm also going to choose a large size for my font, 72pt. The size for your font is located two selection boxes over to the right of the main font selection box in the Options Bar. It will have a number in it, followed usually by "pt" (for "point"). You can click on the down-pointing arrow to the right of the font size selection box to choose from a list of preset font sizes (which is where I chose 72pt from) or you can type your own font size value into the selection box.
Step 5: Type Your Text

Now that we have our Type tool, our font and our color for the type, we can actually type something. Since this is a tutorial on creating a reflective surface, I'm going to type the word "REFLECTION", and I'm going to use all capital letters to maximize the effect (and to avoid any problems, as I'll explain at the end).
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Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Type a word into the document using the Type tool.
Step 5: Duplicate The Type Layer In The Layers Palette

In order to create the reflection effect, we need a copy of our text to use as the reflection. With the text layer selected in the Layers palette (it should be selected but if for some reason it isn't, simply click on it in the Layers palette to select it), press the keyboard shortcut "Ctrl+J" (Win) or "Command+J" (Mac), which will give us a copy of our text layer above the original in the Layers palette.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: With the text layer selected, press "Ctrl+J" (Win) or "Command+J" (Mac) to create a copy of the layer directly above the original in the Layers palette.
Step 6: Flip The Original Text Layer Vertically

Now that we have two copies of our text layer (the original plus the copy), we can use one of them as the reflection. Let's use the original text layer as the reflection. Since the reflection is going to be an upside down version of the text, the first thing we need to do is flip the text upside down. Make sure the original text layer is selected in the Layers palette before we go any further (click on it in the Layers palette if it isn't). We don't want to accidentally flip the wrong layer, not that it really matters in this case, but since we've agreed to use the original text layer as our reflection, let's stick to the plan.

With the original text layer selected, go up to the Edit Menu at the top of the screen. Click the word "Edit" to bring up the list of available options under the Edit Menu, and select "Transform". A sub menu will appear with additional options, and the one we want is at the very bottom of the list, "Flip Vertical". Click on it to select it, and you'll see the original text in the document flip upside down.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Select the original text layer in the Layers palette, then select Transform - Flip Vertical from the Edit Menu at the top of the screen.
Step 7: Nudge The Flipped Text Down Below The Regular Text

Next, we need to move the flipped text below the normal "unflipped" text, and it's really easy to do. With the flipped text layer selected in the Layers palette, just use the down arrow on the keyboard to nudge the text downward. You'll have to select the Move tool from the Tools palette first though, since this only works with the Move tool selected. Just press the letter "V" on the keyboard to quickly select it. Now with the Move tool selected, press the down arrow on the keyboard. Each time you press the down arrow key, you'll nudge the text down by 1 pixel. If things are moving a little too slow for you, you can hold the Shift key down while you press the arrow key, which will nudge the text in increments of 10 pixels rather that just 1.

Continue nudging the text down until the top of the flipped text is touching the bottom of the "unflipped text".
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Nudge the flipped text down until the top of it is touching the bottom of the normal "unflipped" text.
Step 8: Add A Layer Mask To The Flipped Text

We're just a couple of steps away from being finished. We've nudged our flipped text below the regular text, but it still doesn't look right. We need to make the flipped text fade out as it gets further away from the regular text. How can we do that? By adding a layer mask, that's how.

Rather than sitting through a lengthy discussion about what a Layer Mask is, let's just use one. The more you use them, the faster you'll understand them, and they're by no means rocket science. It just takes a while to wrap your mind around them, that's all. Let's go ahead and add a Layer Mask to our flipped text layer.

At the bottom of the Layers palette is a row of icons. One of them looks like a square shape with a round hole in the center of it. This is the "Add a layer mask" icon. With the flipped text layer selected, click the icon and watch what happens to the flipped text layer in the Layers palette.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Click the "Add a layer mask" icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add a layer mask to the flipped text layer.

Notice that the flipped text layer now has a white rectangle in it. This is the Layer Mask preview area. Doesn't look like much, does it? Trust me though, it's extremely useful, and the day you completely understand how layer masks work is the day your creativity with Photoshop skyrockets.

By default, layer masks are filled with white, and that's because of the way layer masks work. Any part of a layer where the layer mask is white will be completely visible (100% opaque). Any part of a layer where the layer mask is black will be completely hidden (100% transparent), and we can set any part of a layer to various levels of transparency using gray levels between white and black on the layer mask. The closer the gray is to white on the mask, the more visible that part of the layer will be. The closer the gray is to black, the less visible that part of the layer will be. Photoshop gives us a whopping 256 levels of transparency to play with when using layer masks, meaning white, black, and 254 shades of gray in between.

That sounds like exactly what we need in order to fade our flipped text gradually out of view. We just need a way to create a black-to-white gradient in the layer mask to achieve that effect. As luck would have it, Photoshop happens to come with a Gradient tool for just such a task.
Step 9: Select The Gradient Tool From The Tools Palette

Select the Gradient tool from the Tools palette. It's the one that looks like a rectangle filled with a white-to-black gradient. Or, you can press the letter "G" (for "Gradient") on the keyboard for a quick shortcut.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: Select Photoshop's Gradient tool from the Tools palette, or press "G" on the keyboard.

With the Gradient tool selected, Photoshop's context-sensitive Options Bar at the top of the screen will switch to displaying the options specific to the Gradient tool. On the left of the Options Bar, you'll see a gradient preview selection box showing the currently selected gradient. If the gradient showing in the bar is the black-to-white gradient, you're good to go. If it's showing a gradient with different colors, click on the down-pointing arrow to the right of the selection box to view all the gradients which are currently available. The black-to-white gradient is the third one from the left on the top row. Simply click on it to select it, and then click anywhere else on the screen to close the gradient selection box.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: If the black-to-white gradient isn't the one currently showing in the Options Bar when you select the Gradient tool, click the down-pointing arrow to the right of the gradient preview box and select it from the list.
Step 10: Select The Layer Mask In The Layers Palette

Before we do anything with our Gradient tool, we need to make sure that the layer mask, not the layer itself, is selected for our flipped text layer in the Layers palette, since we want to create our gradient on the mask, not the layer itself. You can tell if the layer mask is selected because if it is, it will have a white highlight box around the layer mask preview area (the white-filled rectangle). If the layer itself is selected, the highlight box will be around the layer preview area, which in this case is the rectangle with the letter "T" in it, signifying that it's a Type layer.

The easiest way to make sure the layer mask is selected is to simply click on the layer mask preview area on the flipped text layer. If it was selected, it will stay selected, and if it wasn't, it is now.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: In the Layers palette, click on the layer mask preview area for the flipped text layer to make sure it's selected before we use the Gradient tool.
Step 11: Drag The Gradient Tool Across The Text To Create The Mask And Complete The Effect

Here we are at the final step. With the layer mask selected, all we need to do now is drag out a gradient to gradually fade out our flipped text.

I'm going to start my gradient roughly halfway between the top and bottom of the flipped text below, and then drag up until I've reached roughly halfway between the top and bottom of the regular "unflipped" text above. Also, I'm going to hold down my Shift key as I'm dragging the gradient upward, which will keep my drag in a perfectly straight vertical line, preventing me from accidentally dragging a little to the left or right and messing up my gradient.
Adobe Photoshop Text Effects: With the Shift key held down to constrain my drag to a perfectly straight vertical line, I begin my gradient halfway between the top and bottom of the flipped text below and drag upward to the halfway point between the top and bottom of the regular text above.

When I release my mouse, Photoshop draws my gradient, successfully fading my flipped text out of view and completing the effect, and this Photoshop tutorial.

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