What tips do you have on quickly paint­ing re­flec­tions?

Wade Gal­lagher, US

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Copy Merged is my num­ber one Pho­to­shop tool for paint­ing re­flec­tions. When pro­duc­ing con­cept art it’s great for sev­eral rea­sons, the main one be­ing it’s quick and ac­cu­rate. The idea be­hind Copy Merged is that you copy a part of your paint­ing, mir­ror it ver­ti­cally and then erase parts of it.

So know­ing that, it’s im­por­tant that you first fo­cus on the part of your im­age that doesn’t con­tain any re­flec­tions. A scene with bright lights works best for this, be­cause the re­flec­tion will give an ex­tra boost to it. In this case I paint a bright, neon-lit street with lots of or­ange, red and pink lights. To make the re­flec­tion a bit more log­i­cal and con­vinc­ing I also paint in a hint of rain. Once I feel the scene is done, I se­lect the left part of the im­age first, hit Ctrl+ Shift+ C to Copy Merge, then press Ctrl+V and mir­ror the new layer ver­ti­cally to put it right be­low the line of build­ings.

Keep in mind that even re­flec­tions fol­low the rules of per­spec­tive, so use the Dis­tort tool to push the layer to­wards the van­ish­ing point. The rea­son for se­lect­ing the left side first is that the right side will have to be dis­torted in the op­po­site way. So re­peat the same process for the right side. Fi­nally, erase lit­tle parts of it to make the re­flec­tion more ran­dom.

Con­cept artists reg­u­larly use the Copy Merge func­tion to quickly paint re­flec­tions when they want to im­ply wet sur­faces.

It’s best to leave the re­flec­tive sur­faces un­til the end – you’ll need the val­ues and colours from the rest of the scene to copy into them.

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