I'm a stock photographer with a passion for writing. I have extensive experience using GIMP to edit photos and create new designs.
This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to add water reflection to a photograph using GIMP, which will add extra interestingness to your images. It’s not a tutorial for beginners, but rather for those who are already familiar with GIMP. It might look complicated at first, but after doing it a few times, you will see that this process is straightforward.
What you'll need:
In order to be able to do it, you need to have installed:
- FX-Foundry script pack, find it here and install in GIMP.
- Water reflection map script, find it here and install in GIMP.
Open GIMP, drag and drop your image, or add it going to GIMP / File / Open (Find image in the folder and select it) / Open.
Rename your image into Background (double click the image name and type ‘background’)
Now we need to prepare image to create a reflection. Decide where in your image you want water to start and cut off the unneeded. Do it using Crop Tool select the area you want to keep and press Enter. Now time to create the first step of reflection. (see Fig.1)
Go to FX-Foundry / Layer Effects / Apply Mirrors. Select these settings: Vertical direction, Iterations (Image doubles each time): 1, uncheck Work on copy (see Fig.2).
Now we have nicely mirrored image, but it’s not everything if you wonder. Now we are going to add some water to the image. (see Fig.3)
Using Crop Tool, select the part of the image where you want to have the water. Keeping the selection, go to Tool options where you can see the exact size of your selection in the Size section (see Fig.4), write down those numbers. Mine are 1000x620; yours will be different, depending on the size of your image. Now undo your selection by clicking somewhere on the empty canvas in GIMP (don’t click anywhere in the image, it will crop it and it’s not what we need).
Go to Script-Fu / Map / Water reflection map. Now time to use those numbers you wrote down. In the X row put the larger number, in the Y row put the smaller number. In my case I would put 1000 in X row and 620 in Y row. Leave the rest of the settings as they are (see Fig 5). You will get two layers; select the bottom one with letter Y (darker one). Go to Edit / Copy (or just use Ctrl+C to copy the layer).
Go back to your image, activate it by selecting Background layer and go to Edit / Past (or Ctrl + V to past the copied layer).
Double click the name of the pasted layer and rename it into Water. Now you need to move water layer to the bottom of the image. Select Alignment Tool, click on the water image, then on the arrow pointing down, your water layer will be moved to the bottom (see Fig.6).
Next step is optional, but I like to do it. We are going to change perspective of the Water layer. Make sure Water layer is selected then choose Perspective Tool and click on the image to activate it. Change perspective like and click transform (see Fig.7).
With Water layer still being selected go to Layer / Layer to image size. It’s important to do this step, otherwise the next step won’t work.
Now select Background layer and go to Filter / Map / Displace. I like to have Y displacement amount being double as X displacement, so I choose for this image X – 30, Y – 60, you can try different settings and do some experimentation if you want. I noted that the larger the size of the image, the bigger the X and Y numbers should be. Also leave Cartesian as it is, but select Smear instead of default Wrap.
We are almost finished now. Select Water layer, put it to Hard Light and reduce opacity to about 50%.
You can stop here, or you can do a few more steps.
I decided to add another transparent layer and called it Tint. First I selected my water area and keeping selection went to Background layer, using Colour Picker tool, I chose orange colour on the Iguana’s skin, then selected Tint layer. Next I selected Blend Tool. In gradient options I chose FG to Transparent, and pulled the gradient from the middle of the image (where my water starts) to the bottom. Then I put Tint layer to Hard Light and reduced opacity to about 15% (see Fig.8).
After that I flattened my image (Image / Flatten Image).
In this particular image, there are some sharp parts that don’t look too pleasing in the reflection. So I selected water once more, then copied the selected and pasted it as a new layer. I called it Softening. Then I blurred Softening layer using Gaussian Blur with 1.0. And after that I used Unsharp Mask with settings: Radius 1.3 and Amount 0.30.
At the end I felt that my final image would benefit from some cropping.
Save your image by going to File / Export.
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Note that I’m using GIMP 2.8 version (the newest one) and there where changes to how an image to be saved. Before you could use Save as, now you have to use Export.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 15, 2020:
Cool tutorial, thanks for sharing it.
Jan on October 04, 2014:
Thank you for the nice tutorial. In Gimp you can also to use "Perspective Reflection" script for automatic work.
Unfortunately all the tutorials and scripts works only for very simple line- mirroring.
The really nice effect is to do real mirroring of the object. As if you place an object on a mirror. Then you do not have reflection at the end of the mirror (bottom line of the picture) but around the object - object is placed directly on the miror (similar to mask).
My question therefore is: is someone able to do with Gimp this efect of real mirroring (to mirror masked object)?
I'd like to add a picture as example, but do not how...
Thank you for help.
Deb Bryan from Chico California on August 15, 2014:
This is a great technique! Thank you for the tutorial. I love GIMP and I create tutorials as well. Your tutorial is remarkably illustrated and easy to follow. I'm looking forward to trying this on my images. Thank You!
Dina Blaszczak (author) from Poland on August 25, 2012:
@ SotD and Zera I'm so pleased to meet a fellow GIMP user! :))) Thanks for commenting :)
P.S. I'm adding new tutorials on regular basis, so please come back to see if you like any other tutorials of mine ;)
SotD and Zera on August 25, 2012:
Wow, that's a really neat effect. I'm still learning GIMP's ins and outs, so this was the perfect thing to find. Thanks!
Dina Blaszczak (author) from Poland on August 04, 2012:
@Sherry Hewins Thanks a lot for reading and commenting on my hub and especially for sharing it, much appreciated! :)
@mary615 I'm glad you liked my hub, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts :)
@greatstuff I started from Picasa, loved that program, but when I felt I want more, I came across GIMP and now I can't imagine myself without it. Thanks for voting :)
@moonlake Glad you enjoyed my tutorial, thank you very much for commenting and voting up :)
moonlake from America on August 03, 2012:
Looks like what we use to do in the old days but the water was moving. I think it was an applet. Use to make them for our websites I don't see those anymore. Very interesting hub voted Up.
Mazlan from Malaysia on August 03, 2012:
Interesting idea. I have not use GIMP yet and currently using only the simpler programs such as Picasa, BeFunky and Pixlr-o-matic. Voted useful.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on August 03, 2012:
I have been meaning to look into Gimp. Someone wrote a Hub about them and I bookmarked it, then forgot all about it. I can't afford PhotoShop. I'll bookmark this Hub, too.
Thanks for all the good into
I voted this Hub UP.
Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on August 03, 2012:
That's a very cool technique. Thanks for the great tutorial. I love Gimp, because it's free and it does almost everything PhotoShop does. Voted up and shared!