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How to use Photoshop to create sea and hair waves in Images and Illustrations?

In this tutorial, we shall understand How to use Photoshop to create sea and hair waves? It can be added as effects to your images or in your illustrations. We shall use the Waves Distort Filter with Different Settings

  • Set a test canvas
  • Understand the settings of Waves Distort Filter
  • Try basic combinations and Test the vertical wave
  • Apply it to a sea Image
  • Use to change hair style
  • Add sea waves to an illustration
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Before the detailed steps, if you like, You can watch a step by step video below. For any clarification or comment fill the form to the side and we shall come back to you as soon as possible

Step 1, Set a test canvas

  • We shall start by Distorting one line to see the effect of settings change. Than we shall apply it to real life images and illustrations
  • Start by an empty project, as usual I use a 100X1000px 72 px/inch work space and I fill it with a bucket paint Paint Bucket tool of white color of white . IF white is not the foreground color use the small 90 degrees arrow above the colors setting Foreground color
  • Add guide lines from menu>view>New Guide Layout and set it to 4X4
  • Draw a horizontal straight line and a vertical straight line in the middle of the canvas using the line tool. You can set colors and width from the top tools settings bar. Shape tool location

Step 2, Understand the settings of Waves Distort Filter

  • To easily explore with the filters, click on each of the straight lines in the layers side panel then, menu>Filters>Convert for Smart Filters
  • This will allow the applied filters to be reconfigurable and not destructive ones
  • While on the Horizontal line, menu>Filters>Distort>Waves
  1. For testing we shall number of generators to 1. This means that one wave generated for the object transformation
  2. That is the width of wave crest. Setting min and max to the same value will give a definite width for the wave. In case we selected 2 waves generator, the 2 waves will be coincident and the wave will double in width and height. If min is changed to 0 for example the second wave and first wave will be randomly selected between 0 and 100
  3. That is the height of wave crest. Setting min and max to the same value will give a definite width for the wave. In case we selected 2 waves generator, the 2 waves will be coincident if wave length is the same. If min is changed to 0 for example the second wave and first wave heights will be randomly selected between 0 and 100
  4. Scaling for the wave width
  5. Scaling for the wave height
  6. Shape of the wave
Post 28 - Single wave

Step 3, Try basic combinations and Test the vertical wave

  1. Now select the vertical line from the layers side panel and apply the previous setting . You can see that the wave is applied along the vertical line. This means that Photoshop detects the direction of flow of the selected object and applies the wave in the correct direction. Result as in Figure 1
  2. Change the setting of the wave distort filter by clicking on the click on Wave filter in smart filter under layer wave filter inside the smart filter container created by menu>filter>Convert for Smart Filters. Result as in Figure 2
  3. Now change the min of the wave length to 1 and the min of the amplitude to 1. This will result in 2 random waves added together to generate the wave in Figure 3
  4. Let we try some higher settings. Now click on the horizontal line layer. To Change the setting of the wave distort filter by clicking on the click on Wave filter in smart filter under layer wave filter inside the smart filter
  5. Change the setting of the wave length to 1 to 10 and Amplitude to 100 to 1000 result in figure 5
Vertical Single wave
Figure 1
Figure 2
Post 28 vertical 2 Generator
Figure 3
Horiz wave 5 Generators 20 to 40 wave length 100 to 200 amplitude
Figure 5

Step 4, Apply it to a sea Image

  1. Select the sea part in the image below using the Object Selection Toolobject-selection-tool
  2. Hit ctrl+j to create a new layer from the selection Twice
  3. Click on one of the new layers of the sea part. Then, menu>Filter>Convert for Smart Filters
  4. Then Filter>Distort<waves,
    • select 5 Generators,
    • wave length 100 to 400 ( =10 % to 40 % of your image width. You can know it from the rulers or the men>Image>Image size ),
    • Amplitude between 20 to 50 ( =2 % to 5 % of your image height. You can know it from the rulers or the men>Image>Image size )
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 on the 2nd new layer with different settings as 10 Generators and 300 to 500 Wave length and 20 to 30 Amplitude
  6. Click v and move the layer to close the gaps and make the image look real for you and Change opacity of top layer to 75%
Post 28 - original sea
Original sea
Sea with sea waves added
Sea Waves Added
Step 5, Use Wave Use to change hair style
  1. Select the part of the hair you want to apply waving to
  2. ctrl+j to move to a new layer
  3. menu>Filter>Convert for Smart Filters
  4. menu>Filter>Distort>Waves, set Generator to 5, wave length 400 to 600, Amplitude 10 to 30 As in sea example above this is proportional to the image size
  5. Hit V to move the wavy part of the hair to match the rest of the hair
Selected part of the hair
original hair
original hair
wavy air result
Result wavy hair

Step 6, Add sea waves to an illustration

  • Create a new file as usual 1000X1000px 72 px/in resolution
  • Use Rectangle Selection Tool rectangle marquee tool to select the lower third of the image
  • Select a suitable blue color (#00bcb5 as example), use paint bucket tool to fill the selection
  • Use the brush tool with a foreground color white to paint horizontal line in the selection..
  • Select one of the special brush shapes that is not opaque and extend the spacing from the brush settings till separation between the strokes appear -> See Figure 1
  • You can find details about how to set or invent brushes in this link Easily Create an innovative Brush Tip
  • Expand this square through scale transformation. menu>Edit>Transform>Scale, change width (w) to 150% from Top Tools bar
  • Then as we had seen before, menu>Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. Then, menu>Filters>Distort>Waves
  • As in Figure 2, Set Generators to 10, Wavelength between 40 and 260, Amplitude between 10 and 100 (These settings for Image size 1000X1000Px.. Type to Triangle.
  • TO remove the extra part of the waves outside the image canvass
    • Rasterize the layer first, menu>Layer>Rasterize>layer
    • Then, menu>Image>Trim, and select based on top left colors and left and right sides
  • Details of the story telling will be in the coming post
A blue square with white brushes
Figure 1
Triangle wave settings
Figure 2
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