How to Use Liquify in Photoshop

Learn to use one of the most common Photoshop filters

A man holding a landscape photograph in front of a computer monitor.

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Using Adobe Photoshop’s Liquify tool, you can fix common flaws or even create artistic images with a few simple adjustments. You can use some of the basic options to make those ordinary pictures into extraordinary photographs without being a Photoshop guru. Keep reading to find out what the Photoshop Liquify tool is, what it can do, and how you can use it.

Instructions in this tutorial apply to Adobe Photoshop CC 2019.

What is the Liquify Tool in Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop has hundreds of options, filters, and other tools to manipulate an image. The Liquify tool is a filter in Photoshop that manipulates an area of a photo by using such settings as Forward Warp, Twirl, Pucker, and Bloat, to name a few.

A picture of 2 apples, one is normal, the other is warped out of shape.

These settings distort an image in different ways depending on what setting you use to Liquify. While most adjustments won’t be so overdone, the Liquify tool can make minor tweaks to refine your photographs more subtly.

What Does Liquify Do and Why Do I Care?

Using Liquify can be a fun filter for making wild and abstract images, but it can also be great for correcting smaller items in your photos. We know that Liquify distorts an area of a photo, but there's more than to this powerful, yet easy to use tool than mere warping. The Liquify filter has several tools within this handy filter.

Forward Warp Tool

The Forward Warp Tool pushed pixels forward as you move your mouse. As with most of the tools, the size of the brush can affect how much gets pushed forward. When selecting this or any of the tools, you’ll see a Properties panel on the right side where you can make adjustments to the brush, mask, and other options.

Screenshot of the Forward Warp Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

The Forward Warp Tool is typically the most used tool in the Liquify arsenal as you can tweak and adjust just about anything in your photos.

Reconstruct Tool

The Reconstruct Tool reverses any distortion you’ve added to your picture. To use, it simply select and drag.

Screenshot of the Reconstruct Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Smooth Tool

The Smooth Tool does just as it states; it smooths any wobbles in your image by making curves less angular and more natural. This is handy for any warped edges that occur while manipulating the image.

Screenshot of the SmoothTool in Photoshop CC 2019.

This tool is perfect for removing wrinkles or creases in clothing. So, if you didn’t iron that shirt before the photo, it's no problem for the Smooth Tool.

Twirl Clockwise Tool

The Twirl Clockwise Tool distorts your photos in a clockwise fashion, or counterclockwise, if you hold down the Alt key. This tool can be used to add some movement to water or clouds.

Screenshot of the SmoothTool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Pucker Tool

The Pucker Tool moves pixels towards the center of the brush area. This can be helpful to make some features smaller, such as eyes, dimples, or other facial features.

Screenshot of the Pucker Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Bloat Tool

The Bloat Tool does the opposite of the Pucker Tool by moving pixels away from the center of the brush area. This can be handy to help fluff up a flat hairstyle, add some extra curves to a figure, or even make clouds billowier.

Screenshot of the Bloat Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Push Left Tool

The Push Left Tool moves pixels to the left, or right if you hold down the Alt key. While not a tool used very often, it can help make minor adjustments to straighten a slightly tilted image. If you didn’t align your subject very well, this tool can help you nudge it straight.

Screenshot of the Push Left Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Freeze Mask Tool

The Freeze Mask Tool is used for selecting an area you don’t want to alter, thus keeping it unaffected as you make other refinements in the Liquify filter. This is a handy feature to keep your edits controlled and precise.

Screenshot of the Freeze Mask Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Thaw Mask Tool

The Thaw Mask Tool removes the mask you’ve placed in your photo. Using a combination of Freeze and Thaw, you can control your edits precisely.

Screenshot of the Thaw Mask Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Face Tool

The Face Tool is specifically used to manipulate features in faces. When you first select this tool, Photoshop will attempt to detect a face. If it doesn’t see a face, the program will notify you.

Screenshot of the Face Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Here's how you become a virtual plastic surgeon. Need to straighten some teeth, remove that double chin, or give yourself a pouty smile? This is the tool to make any face look flawless.

Hand Tool

The Hand Tool is exactly like the Hand Tool in the rest of Photoshop. It's used to move or manipulate your image.

Screenshot of the Hand Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

Zoom Tool

The Zoom Tool is used for zooming in and out of your image. This is used for making small adjustments that require you to zoom in first, then zoom out to see the finished results. Hold down the Alt key to zoom out.

Screenshot of the Zoom Tool in Photoshop CC 2019.

How to Liquify in Photoshop

Now that you are familiar with what each tool in the Liquify filter does, it’s time to learn how to get there and how to use it. Getting to this feature is a snap.

  1. In Photoshop, open an image you want to edit.

  2. Select Filter > Liquify, or press Shift+Ctrl+X.

    Activating Liquify filter in Photoshop.
  3. A new window opens up as the Liquify tool. From here, you can choose from any of the tools explained above.

    The Face Tool in the Liquify filter for Photoshop.

Liquify Tool Properties

Once you’re in the Liquify interface, the right side contains all the properties of each tool. From changing the Brush Density to tweaking your Mask area settings, there are tons of settings you can adjust for just the right look. Below explains the settings available.

For Brush Tool Options, you can change the Size of the brush, the Density, the Pressure, and the Rate. Here’s what each setting does.

  • Size: Changes the brush size just as it does in the main Photoshop page. The bigger the brush, the more subtle the changes.
  • Density: Controls how the edges are feathered out as you use it.
  • Pressure: The harder (higher) the pressure, the more drastic the changes. Typically, use lighter pressure for subtle changes.
  • Rate: Sets the speed of the brush changes as you move or hold the brush stationary.
  • Stylus Pressure: Available only if you have a stylus. If you have one and check the box, settings for the Brush Tool will apply to the stylus instead.
  • Pin Edges: Keeps you from pulling too much of the edge when distorting an image with any of the tools. This is handy for reducing the amount of background distortion, which appears as a transparent grey and white checkered pattern.

You also have a few additional options when you're using the Liquify tool that allow you to further control how you use the tool and when.

  • Face-Aware Liquify: Has individual settings for each feature on the face, allowing you to make smaller modifications to a smaller area. There are settings for eyes, nose, mouth, and face shape. Each of these has adjustments to width, height, tilt, among others.
  • Load Mesh Options: Provides a way to save your Liquify distortions and apply them to another picture.
  • Mask Options: Gives you settings to mask portions of your photo.
  • View Options: Gives you additional viewing settings like showing the Mesh and enabling the guide so you can see the mesh as you make adjustments.
  • Brush Reconstruct Options: Allows you to adjust how much of the changes you want to undo in your image.