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The 5 Essential Photoshop Reflections

You’ve undoubtedly seen these 5 reflections in all sorts of graphic design, website design, and interface design. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to make them in Photoshop.

The Reflections

You see reflections everywhere in design, whether you realize it or not. You see them used in graphics, commercials, products, and even websites. There are lots of photoshop tutorials that teach how to create a specific reflection, but in this tutorial, I am going to outline how to create 5 of the most widely used types of reflections in design. Feel free to download the attached PSD if you’d like to work on the same document I’ll be editing.

The 5 Basic Reflection Types

The Surface Reflection

The Surface Reflection is probably the most widely known reflection type, as it has basically been made into an icon by Apple Inc. Basically, it’s simply the reflection of an object on a surface below the object. It’s very simple to create.

Begin by Duplicating the layers you wish to reflect (Right Click Layer > Duplicate Layer). In my case, it will be the Tutorial9 Logo. Next, Flip the layer Vertically (Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical).

Flip the Layer Vertically

Now, using the Move Tool, drag your new layer just below the original.

Move the duplicated layer below the original layer

Using the Eraser Tool, with a brush size of 40-200 (It will vary from case to case, just experiment), and Hardness set to 0%, erase the bottom of your upside down cloud. Hold Shift while erasing to erase in a perfect line.

Erase part of the bottom cloud

Only thing left to do is Adjust the Layer Opacity to control the intensity of the reflection. That’s it for the surface reflection!

The Environment Reflection

The Environment Reflection Might be best known as the Reflection used for windows in Microsoft Windows Vista. There are plenty of other uses for it too, such as menu bars on website, or Icon Design.

To start, you need to Select the Layer Transparency of the layer you will be adding the reflection too. To do this, Ctrl + Click said layer, or Right Click > Select Layer Transparency. You must click the actual layer icon, NOT the layer name.

Select the Layer Transparency

From here we can create two different reflection types. We could go with a curved reflection, or a simple flat reflection. I will be creating a curved one with the Elliptical Marquee Tool, but you may create a flat one with the Rectangular Marquee Tool if you wish.

Once you’ve selected your tool of choice, hold Alt + Shift and draw a selection through your layer. Holding Alt and Shift will make your layers Intersect, meaning a selection will be left ONLY where both selections overlap.

A Selection will be left where the two selections intersect

Create a new layer to draw the reflection on.

Select the Gradient Tool from the toolbar, and select White as your foreground color. Select the “Foreground to Transparent” gradient from the gradient picker in the options bar. Now, while holding shift to create a straight gradient, drag from a bit below your selection towards the top of your layer, and release to create a gradient.

Finished Environment Reflection

You may choose to adjust the layer opacity in order to get the right kind of lighting intensity. Otherwise, that’s it for the Environment Reflection.

Glossy Reflection

Glossy Reflections are very prevalent in Text and Icon effects, but are also seen in many other scenarios too, similar to the Environment Reflection.

The creation of a Glossy Reflection type is exactly the same as the Environment Reflection shown above. The only difference is when you are drawing your gradient. Instead of dragging from bottom to top with the Gradient Tool, drag from the top to the bottom. Afterwards, just adjust the layer opacity of your reflection to alter the intensity.

Glossy Reflection Example

3D Fold

This is really more of a lighting effect than a reflection, but basically that’s what a reflection is. A Lighting Effect. You have probably seen something like this on a logo, or website layout before.

To achieve the effect, select your objects layer just as you did with the previous two reflections (Ctrl + Click Layer Thumbnail).

Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, intersect that selection so that you have a straight edge (Remember, to intersect a selection, hold Alt + Shift while drawing one selection over another).

Intersect your Selection with the Rectangular Marquee Tool

Create a new layer.

Now, select a large, soft Brush (200px, 0% Hardness) from your toolbar. Using Black as your foreground color, use just the edge of the brush to fill it a bit of the selection you’ve made.

Shade in the bottom selection

Duplicate this layer, and move the duplicated duplicated layer just below the original with the Move Tool.

Create the illusion that your layer is bent

Finally, create a new selection that instead overs the top half of your layer, and this time, brush it with a white foreground instead of a black one. The end result should have a 3-Dimensional feel to it!

Your 3D Fold may look something like this

The Flare

The flare is self-explanatory. It’s basically a imitation of a collection of light that produces a bright spot on an edge or surface.

To create a flare, we will be using the Dodge Tool.

Begin by grabbing the Dodge Tool, and setting the Brush options to 50px in Size, 0% in Hardness, and 50% in exposure (exposure settings may need to be modified depending on brightness of surface). Set the Range to Highlights.

Settings for The Dodge Tool when creating a Flare

When working with lighting effects, it’s usually a good idea to try and visualize where the light will be coming from. In our example here, we’ll have the light come from the top left of the canvas.

Begin gently brushing around the edges where the light will be hitting strongest. Just use the edge of your brush, and lighting go back and forth over these edges.

This diagram shows what dodging should do to your layers edges

Reduce your brush size to something significantly smaller, perhaps around 10px. Continue to gently brush these edges until you really create a thin bright edge. Zooming In and Out (Ctrl + ‘+’, or Ctrl + ‘-’) may assist you here.

Those are some bright edges!

Finally, using your Brush Tool, and a small, soft brush, Create a new Layer, a make some soft “Flare Marks”. Adjust the Opacity of this layer as needed. That’s it!
Final Flare Example

And there you have it, 5 different flares added to your arsenal for excellent design. Good Luck, and have fun!


  1. Add point Subtract point
    Bjorn Seigers (1 Point) March 21, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Great tutorial. I tried them all and it went good!
    Nice effects!

    Thanks a lot for sharing! :)

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Anjali (-2 Points) December 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    All effects are awesome. I enjoyed doing this tutorial
    Thank you.

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    mauricio (-2 Points) December 6, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    hello, I am trying the dodge tool for the flares and it does make white the black outline of the cloud but nothing happens with the blue part of the cloud help :*(

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    Evik James (-1 Points) November 17, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks for the awesome and accurate tutorial. It was crystal clear and easy to follow. Thanks so much!

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    Nappies (-2 Points) November 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    thank you David, please keep creating nice tutorial.

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    Chris (-7 Points) October 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Very Vague on how to make it fade out….

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    Nosa (-3 Points) July 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    You are simply the best.

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    Lol At Ur Mom Zir (-1 Points) June 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Lol at ur mom Zir
    U OWN

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    Tourism Courses (-2 Points) May 3, 2010 at 3:19 am

    I am a corporate trainer, currently working on an online travel process, I visited your blog, its really nice and I got lot of knowledge from it. I want to say thanks…

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    bristol web design and online marketing (-1 Points) April 19, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Great article, thank you – I will use this technique again and again!

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  11. Add point Subtract point

    i am a beginner and its a Great one.. thanks..

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    แจกเพลง (-2 Points) February 3, 2010 at 12:33 am

    great tutorial . Thanks526

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุดเดือนนี้ (-4 Points) February 2, 2010 at 1:48 am

    great tutorial . Thanks519

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    เพลงสากลใหม่ (-1 Points) February 1, 2010 at 3:05 am

    great tutorial . Thanks514

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  15. Add point Subtract point

    What about reflections of objects that can’t be just flipped and flopped? Like a chair at an angle on a shinny floor? How can I achieve a mirror reflection of an asymmetrical shape?

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    Mikky (-1 Points) October 1, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Great post. Really pro. Improved our school site no end : )

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    herzevekil (-2 Points) August 22, 2009 at 4:19 am

    thanks David Leggett, your works are so good. I follow you:)

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    martin (-2 Points) August 10, 2009 at 9:42 am

    how do you do that dark background?

    awesome tut,


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  19. Add point Subtract point
    B.Kim (0 Points) July 26, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks you for this great tutorials!! I can do it now!!

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    RERE (-2 Points) July 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm


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  21. Add point Subtract point
    Sakis (-2 Points) June 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Thank you for this excellent article.

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (-2 Points) May 8, 2009 at 2:58 am

    this is what i have been looking for, im really looking on how to make reflection types, and how to apply it to…

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    Farzin (-2 Points) April 10, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    I really should say, you are God of graphic.

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    Stelios (-2 Points) April 5, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Thank you very much for this post!!!

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  25. Add point Subtract point
    Jesse Skeens (-2 Points) March 31, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Great stuff, especially the flare, that gives me a lot of ideas now.

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  26. Add point Subtract point

    Rellay like the additional flares on the end article, I have always just done the lower reflection and never thought about extending the idea further like you have, excellent.


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  27. Add point Subtract point

    Great tutorials, been doing them all day but just one question regarding the flare technique; how do achieve it without any visible lines of the overlapping dodge marks? I can get it looking okay but nowhere near as smooth as your examples!


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  28. Add point Subtract point
    myWORLDisUNKNOWN (-2 Points) November 24, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    that’s really cool! thanks

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  29. Add point Subtract point
    Silkė (-2 Points) November 17, 2008 at 4:57 am

    OMG, awesome, thanks thanks thanks!

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  30. Add point Subtract point


    effing thanks so much man. you’re awesome, keep up the great work.

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  31. Add point Subtract point
    JonnyMoon (-4 Points) September 26, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I found a great example for 3d fold. If you look at the windows xp media center version. The start menu button has the 3d fold effect. Well at least it looks like it.

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    Jackie (-2 Points) September 17, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Thanks for this tute. And yes it IS easier using a gradient mask :-)

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    frettbottx (-2 Points) September 12, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    thanx for the tut! nice one! :like:

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  34. Add point Subtract point
    @PeAcE (-2 Points) June 20, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Very Cool Tutorial..simple yet effective!! thanks

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    Tutorial What (-1 Points) June 8, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Great site! ‘Amazing Retro Rainbow Curves’ is excellent!

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  36. Add point Subtract point
    Danl (-2 Points) June 3, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I love “The Flare” technique! The tutorial was really helpful and I’m sure I’ll use it in the future! Keep up the good work.

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  37. Add point Subtract point
    Chad (-2 Points) June 1, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Another great tutorial here. I would like to see the surface reflection done with gradient mask though, if possible.


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  38. Add point Subtract point
    Steven (-1 Points) May 17, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    holy shiznit, i love these tuts. and i WILL subscribe, because the tutorials are incredibly helpful and i keep on asking for more! lol ty David

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  39. Add point Subtract point
    Andrew (-3 Points) May 10, 2008 at 2:48 am

    hey, nice tutorial.

    never seen flare or 3d fold,
    but im sure going to give them a try =D


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  40. Add point Subtract point
    Dan (-1 Points) May 8, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Nice touch with the glare on #5. Very effective techniques.

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  41. Add point Subtract point
    Ben (0 Points) May 7, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Nice stuff… really useful!

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  42. Add point Subtract point
    Albert (-2 Points) May 6, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Nice job! Well written tutorial.

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  43. Add point Subtract point
    Remco (-2 Points) May 5, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Thanks, learned a lof from this!

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  44. Add point Subtract point
    James (-2 Points) May 3, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Too many places concentrate on building specific templates and not giving tuts on the process of certain things. Great work!

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  45. Add point Subtract point

    You’re all very welcome, and yes Gustavo, we’re going to keep posting more and more tutorials, so be sure you’re subscribed to our tutorial feed ;)

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  46. Add point Subtract point
    Mathieu Hachey (-2 Points) May 1, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Really useful, thank you for sharing

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  47. Add point Subtract point
    Gustavo (-2 Points) April 26, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Nice tutorial:D I congratulate eh, please, keep posting more.:D

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  48. Add point Subtract point

    No problem NhatHM! Glad you found it so useful =)

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  49. Add point Subtract point
    NhatHM (-2 Points) April 25, 2008 at 5:46 am

    That was awesome man! Really thank you for this! That helps me much.

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  50. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks Jamie & Chris =) Glad you found us!

    That’s a really good suggestion Jamie, thanks for sharing mate!

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  51. Add point Subtract point
    Chris Laskey (-1 Points) April 22, 2008 at 10:41 am

    A great overview of all the reflection options. Glad I found it via design float. Keep up the good work.


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  52. Add point Subtract point
    Jamie Souef (-1 Points) April 21, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Good post,

    With the first one, i would suggest using a gradient mask rather then the eraser tool – then if you have made a mistake with the position of the refelction, you can just move the gradient rather then do the whole process over again :)

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  53. Add point Subtract point

    I’m sorry randallarthur, I’m not sure what you’re quoting there =/

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  54. Add point Subtract point
    randallarthur (-1 Points) April 19, 2008 at 12:18 am

    saying this is “web 2.0″ is like saying that Bruchart was modern art…more a TREATMENT than a movement…

    it gives novices a justified ticket to the show…please dont step on board until you’ve purchased your ticket

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  55. Add point Subtract point
    tayzar (-1 Points) March 24, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Wow, Great tutorial. Thanks

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  56. Add point Subtract point
    Steve Mathis (-1 Points) January 1, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Heh I always overuse surface reflections. I should try using some of these others more often.

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  57. Add point Subtract point
    TooCooL (-1 Points) January 1, 2008 at 9:32 am

    cool prefer this technique applied on my banner, thanks a lot!!

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  58. Add point Subtract point

    thanks, this has really helped with my projects.
    thanks muchly

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  59. Add point Subtract point
    CrossFire (-1 Points) December 29, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    some i havnt seen before, might try them

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  60. Add point Subtract point
    batTUrd (-1 Points) December 29, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Awesome! This will be very useful to me in the near future.


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  61. Add point Subtract point
    Mikeleus (-1 Points) December 10, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Hi David, I would reallu like to see the Flood examples…
    I like how Flare looks!

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  62. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks cruddpuppet and Brian. I’m glad ya’ll enjoyed it!
    I was looking hard last night for a really good example of the 3D Fold in use, but I couldn’t find it (hate it when that happens). It’s a great effect for menu bars and icons though ;)

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  63. Add point Subtract point
    cruddpuppet (-2 Points) December 9, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    I’ve never seen the “flare” or “3-d fold”, but I’ll be sure to give them a try.

    Nice post.

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