A tutorial by Robyn Littlejohn written using Photoshop CC

Suggestions are offered for members using a program without layer masks.


I have always been fascinated with reflections on scrapbook/art pages. To me it just adds that little bit of realism.   As always, there is more than one way of creating reflections in Photoshop and this is just my journey through out the past years.

Generally speaking this is how I would create a reflection.

For the purpose of this tutorial I have made a very simple page and placed 4 elements on it. I haven’t put a shadow on these elements yet.   The page doesn’t have a lot of interest and the elements are just floating around in space!


Let’s look at the cherub element. Select the layer this element is on and Ctrl J to duplicate that layer. With the duplicated layer active, select Edit, Transform, Flip Vertical………… OR as I usually do, just click on the centre of the element and then right click and select Flip Vertical.

Using the downward arrow key (or just grab the move tool) move this layer down until it looks something like this. This layer will be your reflection layer of the cherub.


Add a layer mask to the layer.   You can now either add a black and white (or black and transparent) linear gradient to this mask, or use a soft brush. I MUCH prefer the latter and always use that method as I feel you have more control over your choices, and by changing the brush colour from black to white and vice versa you can paint in or out the parts of the reflection you wish to keep or discard, and varying the opacity and size of the brush you can control the look of the reflection.  If you do NOT have layer masks in your program, you could just use a soft eraser brush with varying opacities, but you will not have the ability to paint in and out and correct your mistakes.

The further away from the actual element, the reflection will always begin to fade to nothing. Depending on your wishes you can lower the opacity of the layer, but I rarely find that is necessary.

You need to also think about what you would realistically expect to see in the reflection. In this case, in real life, you would only see the right leg of the cherub. In the reflection, the left leg would be hidden by the right leg.

I have also rotated the reflection slightly so that both the feet and the bottom of the cherub touch these same areas on the main element. In the above (2nd) image the bottoms are touching, but the feet are overlapping. I not only sometimes rotate the reflection layer, but quite often I distort it a little by ‘squashing’ it up.  Don’t be afraid to move it around. Just play with it until you get something that pleases you and you think looks like a realistic reflection. I nearly always move this reflection layer around a little and play until I I’m satisfied with it.


I’ve gone ahead and repeated the reflections for the other elements. I’ve made quite a few adjustments in moving the reflections around and in some cases distorting them slightly. Just because this is a reflections tutorial I have given the leaves a slight reflection, but in cases like this you may need to consider how flat the leaves are sitting. If the illusion is that they are quite flat on a surface, they are not going to have a reflection. The clock and the cherub, both being tall, would obviously throw quite a good reflection. Sometimes you may need to alter the order of the reflection layers.   In this case I can see that the leaves are in front of the clock and so in the reflection layers I have made sure that the leaf reflections are seen over the top of the clock reflection.   And just a note on the leaves…………this element was two leaves, but because I couldn’t get an accurate reflection on both leaves when they were just the one element, I split the leaves and made them into two separate elements.

Below is how I finished up with this image. I have put a shadow on the four elements and you may also notice that the bottom of the page is now a deeper shade of grey. In my view, and generally speaking, reflections look better on a darker background.   It depends of course on many factors, including the colour of the elements.   I’ve also used the burn tool just a little around the curve of the cherub’s bottom. I thought it needed a bit more shadowing/ depth to make it ‘sit’ on the page in a more realistic manner.

To sum up……….in my opinion, when creating reflections, less is more. Have a delicate touch and try not to over-do it!



I was hunting around in my files and found this image that I did NINE years ago in PSE3!


There certainly were no layer masks in PSE3 and looking through my layers it appears that I created this simple reflection in the following manner.

I have duplicated the bottom half of the flower onto its own layer. i.e. with the flower layer active, make a selection of the lower half of the flower and the press Control J.   I have then flipped that layer vertically and moved it down as per the original instructions in this tutorial. I have selected that layer and got the ‘marching ants’ and then on a NEW layer have applied a black to transparent linear gradient within that selection…………black fading down to transparent at the bottom. I have lowered the opacity of this layer (32% in this case) and then clipped the duplicated and flipped flower layer to the gradient layer……….and hey presto, it works!   Just be aware though, that if you want to move and/distort the reflection layer you will need to either link the two layers or merge them. Certainly this is another way you can create a reflection, but I wouldn’t recommend it as I feel it is quite restrictive and a more than a little ‘unforgiving’!

Here are some more examples of using reflections in a scrapbooking or digital art page. Remember you don’t have to reflect everything on the page.   You can make artistic choices and pick and choose what you want to be reflected and what you don’t.




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