Anything Photoshop or Photography

The Flood Look

The flood effect is a look I have been fascinated with for a long time. There is not a lot of information on this and most of it is from several years ago. I plan on sharing a few of the best resources I could find to achieve this effect. The image below is a pretty basic flood effect – the Banyan Tree is from Oahu, Hawaii and provided a perfect starting point.

The Flood Filter from Flaming Pear was used to create the above effect, although creating a simple reflection using just Photoshop could probably have achieved a similar result. This effect is created very quickly with the filter that contains three sections: View, Waves and Ripples. All the sliders are self-explanatory by just trying them out. The filter bought by itself is $29.00, but bundles with some of Flaming Pear’s other filters are available. After applying the filter, the image was processed in Photoshop’s HDR Toning adjustment (Image -> Adjustments -> HDR Toning), a Nik Color Efex Pro BiColor Filter to darken the reflection, Nik Color Efex Pro Glamour Glow to brighten up the tree leaves, and OnOne PhotoFrame to finish up.

The following image also uses the Flaming Pear Flood Filter, along with Nik’s Glamour Glow filter and OnOne’s PhotoFrame.

For more information on how to use this filter, I found two really good resources. A book called “Digital Photographer’s New Guide to Photoshop Plug-Ins” by Jim Zuckerman and Scott Stulberg that has some great tips on using the Flood Filter (and many others); and Flaming Pear’s Flood Filter on-line guide that tells you what all the sliders represent – be sure to check out their Hints section at the end. Here are a couple links to some creative ways this filter has been used – most of the tutorials seem to be in German and are quite old, but the images are interesting:  Bubbles English, and Top Zane Janeth. At this point I will mention another plug-in that can make a flood effect called Aurora 2.1 by digi-element which creates both clouds and atmospheric effects and flood and water scenes. This plug-in had a hefty price of $179 and is created by the people who made WorldBuilder – I cannot find any current information on either program but I did request authorization to download a demo. I will update if I get some new information on this plug-in as it looks like it could be really nice. Both of the above plug-ins seem to have similar water sliders as some of the 3D programs – I blogged about creating space scenes where I used the free Terragen Classic program which uses similar water options. Only one resource on creating a flood-like effect in just Photoshop could be found called “How to Create a Reflective Water Flood Effect” by Robert Mizerek.

Below are some important comments to know when creating the flood effect:

  • Do all the clean up on your image before you do the reflection for flooding.
  • Will probably need to add canvas to the bottom to make room for the effect. To do this, go to Image -> Canvas -> and change the width and height to percent in drop down box and uncheck the Relative box.  You may have to experiment to see exactly how much room you will need to make room for the reflection. I had to apply the Flood Filter several times for the image above in order not to cut off the bird’s reflection (ended up with 150% for Height added to bottom).
  • After applying the flood effect, I found it helpful to use a Blender Mixer Brush on a New Layer and by gently mixing the edges smooth so you do not create a real sharp line. This layer can then be lowered in opacity, and if it looks too obvious just erase in areas that are  overdone.
  • Most resources say that reflections are usually a bit darker than the original image, so keep this in mind when completing your image. If you have already applied the filter, use the Marquee Tool to select the reflection and place it on its own layer (CTRL+J). Then adjust the blend mode to Screen or add a clipped Curves Adjustment Layer to darken this layer a bit.
  • Note that not all water needs to have waves – some images look better when the water is calmer (like in the above images).

Specifically for the Flaming Pear Flood Filter:

  • The size of the effect is related to the size of the image so a smaller image may require a smaller amount of an effect with the various sliders than a large sized image. I found it difficult to see the Ripple effect at the larger sizes.
  • A short quote on this filter from Steve Caplin in his “How to Cheat in Photoshop (2002 edition)” book states:  “Flood works best with images shot head-on, since the horizon line is always horizontal. This makes it difficult to work with scenes photographed at a angle, although it is possible to build up multiple reflective effects from each object in a montage and then blend them together.” I have not tried this, but it makes sense.
  • Try applying the filter a couple times and stack different water effects using layer masks and lowering layer opacity.
  • If you are not sure what look you want, click the dice  – this gives random settings that can sometimes help you get started.
  • To create a pond ripple on the water, make sure you have set a size set in the Ripple generator, and click in your image on the preview where you want it to appear in your image. Often I have to actually apply the filter to see if this occurred.

The two images above used a straight on horizon line to add in the reflection. Below is my favorite image of the London Eye.  I have added waves to this image to create more waves to match the weather of the sky. Here is a link to the original image on Flickr.  In this case, the effect was created by applying the Flooding Filter in the area where the waves belong but with some overlap on the parts that should not be covered with water. Then a layer mask was added to mask out the incorrect areas. An alternate way to do this would be to first create a selection of the areas where the filter should be applied and then actually apply it to just the selection which will create a similar result. If you create a selection, add a bit of feathering to the selection to make the transition lines smooth.

My final image is more of an artistic look and I really liked the results of the water reflection.


After spending quite a bit of time adjusting to get this effect, here are the basic steps:

  1. First, it took me quite a while to find a suitable image – this sometimes seems to be the hardest part of using the filter.
  2. The image was made smaller since I was having trouble seeing the ripple effect at the higher resolutions. This image was turned into a 5″ X 7″ size at 240 resolution in the Image -> Image Size dialog box.
  3. Go to Image ->Canvas Size to add room at the bottom for the reflection in this case, 200% was added – be sure relative is unchecked. I tried various other sizes before settling on this one – it really is a trial and error application.
  4. Apply the Flood Filter using these settings to get the painterly look and the Ripple at the water’s edge:  Horizon 34, Offset 21, Perspective 69, Altitude 65, Waviness 5, Complexity 83, Brilliance 69, Blur 10, Size 41, Height 19, Undulation 92, and Normal. Click in the Preview where you want the Ripple to appear – in this case under the main cactus. If you are not sure how the settings will look since the Preview box is so small, just click on one of the dots to save your settings and apply the filter. CTRL+Z to remove the effect in Photoshop and go back into the filter where your settings are saved to readjust.
  5. To get the width and height back to 5″ X 7″, again go to Image -> Canvas Size and increase the Width to 140%. Then I used Edit -> Content Aware Scaling to stretch the image. Finally the image was cropped to 5″ X 7″.
  6. Now add the blender mixer brush layer to smooth the edge between the image and the water effect. (See my Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes Blog to create a blender mixer brush.)
  7. Add any final effects you want. In this image, a cross processing effect was added using Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 and a PhotoFrame from OnOne software. I tend to use these two sets of plug-ins the most although I do like Topaz’s effects too.

I personally feel that the Flood Filter from Flaming Pear is a nice plug-in even though it has not been updated since December 2009 when 64-bit for Windows was added. For the $29, I think it would be worth adding to your plug-in library. The trial is good for 30 days meaning you get 30 different days to use the plug-in even if it takes 6 months. Therefore there is no real good reason not to download it and see what you think. Flaming Pear has several other plug-ins I plan on downloading in the next few months. Hope you try this one out!…..Digital Lady Syd

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Making An Ordinary Image Your Own « Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

  2. Pingback: How to Create an Image From Nothing! | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

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