Introduction to the Plastic Filter

Plastic Filter (Liquify) This is one of the most commonly used filters in Photoshop. This filter allows you to distort image pixels without losing its quality. Some users are a little intimidated by the Plastic filter, while others use it not quite correctly. Now you will find out the possibilities of this powerful filter in detail and can apply it in your works.

What is a plastic filter
Starting from photo retouching to creating complex professional effects, the Plastic filter is a powerful tool for every Photoshop user. This filter allows you to move, move, rotate, reflect, swell and wrinkle the pixels of any image. Today you will learn the basics of this filter. Stock up on images for training, try doing the described actions as you read this lesson. Let’s get started!
Plastic filter can be applied to any raster layer, but unfortunately can not be applied to smart objects. You can open the Plastic filter by choosing from the menu Filter >Liquify (Plastic Filter) or pressing Shift + Ctrl + X on your keyboard.

When you open the Plastic filter, you will see a window containing the following areas:
1) Toolbar located on the left side of the screen. There are the following tools: ForwardWarp (Deformation), Reconstruct (Reconstruct) Twirl (Twisting) Pucker (Wrinkling), Bloat (Bloating) Push (Pixel Offset), Mirror (Reflection), Turbulence (Turbulence), Freeze / ThawMask (Freeze / Thaw the mask), Hand(Hand) and Zoom (Scale).
2) The image you are editing.
3) Settings panel, where you can edit the parameters of the brush, reconstruction, mask and view. Each group of options controls the behavior of the active tool; you will learn how to work with these options later.


Warp Tool (W)
The most commonly used tool in the Plastic filter is the Warp tool, which moves the pixels of the image in the direction you are moving the brush. You can control the number of drag and drop image pixels by changing Brush size (BrushSize) in the brush settings in the panel on the right. The larger the brush size, the more pixels of the image will be moved. After you reach the desired result, click the OK button in the right pane to confirm the changes.

Brush Density
The density of the brush controls how smoothing effects from the center to the edges when applying the tool. By default, the deformation effect is stronger in the center, and weaker at the edges, you can change the brush density value from 0 to 100. The larger this value is, the stronger the brush effect on the edges.

Brush Pressure
Pressing the brush controls the speed with which the deformation occurs as the brush moves across the image. You can set the value from 0 to 100, the value 0 corresponds to the weakest pressure, 100 – the maximum. When using a small value of the pressure of the brush changes occur more slowly, and then it will be easier to stop the impact at the right moment.

Twisting Tool (C)
This filter tool rotates image pixels clockwise when you click a brush on an image or move a brush. To twist the pixels counterclockwise, hold the Alt key while using the tool. You can customize the value Brush speed (BrushRate), it controls the speed at which twisting occurs when the mouse is stationary. The greater the value, the faster the effect.

Pucker Tool (S) and Bloat Tool (B)
The Wrinkle tool moves pixels to the center of the area where the brush is pointing, and the Swell tool moves from the center. They act by pressing the brush on the image or moving the brush. These tools are useful if you want to reduce or increase anything.

Vertical Offset Pixel Tool (Push Tool (O))
This tool moves pixels to the left when you brush up and to the right when you drag down. You can also brush around the desired object in a clockwise direction to increase its size, or counterclockwise in order to reduce it. To change the direction of the offset (left or right), hold the Alt key while using the tool.

Pixel Offset (Push Tool (O)) horizontal
Moves the pixels up when moving the brush from left to right, and down when moving the brush from right to left.

Mirror Tool (M)
This tool works like a mirror. Pixels located perpendicular to the direction of movement of the brush in the image will be duplicated and reflected. Depending on the direction of movement of the brush, the pixels will be reflected down (when the brush moves from left to right) or up (from right to left). The result will be much better if you brush parallel lines horizontally or vertically. Holding down the Alt key while using the tool will change the source for reflection to the opposite one (that is, the one on the other side of the brush).

Turbulence Instrument (Turbulence (T))
Smoothly mixes pixels when applied. You can adjust the parameter TurbulentJitter (Fluctuations) in the brush settings. The greater this value, the stronger the turbulence, i.e. degree of mixing.

Tools Freeze (Freeze Mask) and Defrost (Thaw Mask)
You can protect certain areas of the image from being modified by applying a filter using the tool. To freeze (FreezeMask). Select this tool in the toolbar and paint over the areas of the image that you want to leave unchanged.

Tool Thaw (Thawmask) works like an eraser, erasing “frozen” areas. With these tools, as with others, you can customize the size of the brush, its density and pressure. After masking the desired areas of the image (they will turn red), the “frozen” area will remain unchanged when exposed to other tools.

Mask Options
Panel Mask Parameters (MaskOptions) on the right side of the Plastic filter window, you can select the Selection, Transparency, Layer Mask options to create masks on the image.
You can also edit masks that have already been created by selecting options that take into account their interaction with each other — Replace, Add (Add to the Selected Area), Subtract, Intersect (Intersect with the Selected Area) and Invert ( Invert the selected area). Look at the screenshots to see how they work.

Restore the entire image
After distorting the image, you may need to restore some areas or the entire image. There are several ways to do this in the Plastic filter. The easiest way is to press a button. Restore all (RestoreAll), located on the panel Reconstruction parameters (ReconstructOptions).

Reconstruct Tool and Reconstruct Options
Tool Reconstruct (ReconstructTool) Allows you to use a brush to restore certain areas of a distorted image. To the right of the Plastic filter window there is a panel Reconstruction parameters (ReconstructOptions). There you can select the Reconstruct Mode to restore the image, the default is the Revert mode, which means that the image will be returned to its original state. There are other recovery modes with different behavior depending on the relative position of the distorted area and the “frozen” area. These modes are very interesting, but rather complex, we will leave their study for another more detailed lesson.

Automatic reconstruction
On the panel Reconstruction parameters (ReconstructOptions) there is a button Reconstruct (Reconstruct). By clicking on it, you can automatically restore the image using one of the possible recovery modes from the list.

View options – mesh and masks
On the panel Viewing options (ViewOptions) there is an option Grid (ShowMesh), which can show or hide a two-dimensional grid. You can increase or decrease the size of the grid and change its color. Also there is an option Show mask (ShowMask), accordingly, you can enable or disable the visibility of the mask and change its color.
Any image distortion obtained by applying the tools described above can be saved as a grid. To do this, click Save Grid (SaveMesh) at the top of the settings panel. The saved grid can be opened and reapplied to any other image, click to do this. Download mesh (LoadMesh).

Background visibility
In addition to the visibility of the layer to which you apply the Plastic filter, you can turn on the background visibility, i.e. other layers of your document. In a document with multiple layers, select the layer to which you want to apply distortion, open the Plastic filter window. On the panel Viewing options (ViewOptions) Activate the Show Backdrop Options option to turn on the visibility of other document layers. You can enable or disable the visibility of layers in your document or change their opacity.

Advanced viewing options
You can select any layer or several layers of your document that you want to see as the background, or you can select all layers (choose the names of the desired layers in the Use line). You can also control the arrangement of background layers, placing them in the foreground, or leaving behind an editable layer. To do this, select the desired option in the Mode line.
The tools of the Plastic filter can be applied only to the active layer, the other background layers are used only as auxiliary for viewing.

Alternative to plastic surgery
Tool Deformation (ForwardWarpTool) can be used to eliminate defects of any photo. In the following example, two brush sizes were used to correct the girl’s nose and chin, as well as to reshape her lips to make the girl smile.
But remember, it is very important that all the changes you make to the photo look natural.

Plastic Filter is one of the most powerful and useful tools in Photoshop, it is very important to study it and use it correctly. I hope this article has been useful for you and will help you in your further work.

Translator’s note. If you are Russian Photoshop, then the translation of some commands and options may vary depending on your version of the program. In order not to get confused, focus on the screenshots.

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