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Creating Coverflow Style Reflections in Photoshop

You've all seen the Apple iTunes Coverflow effect, in which the album cover images in your library appear to be reflected in a black mirror. In this tutorial, we're going to show you a simple way to create that effect using Adobe Photoshop.

Let's get started.

Step 1 - Create a New Empty Image

First, before you do anything else, make sure your Background Color is set to black - if your Foreground and Background colors are set to their defaults black and white, respectively, click the Switch Foreground and Background Colors button (the curly arrow) at the bottom of the Tool palette to switch them so that white is the foreground and black the background.

You'll see why in a moment.

Next, choose File > New... (Command-N) to open the New Image dialog:

You can make the new image whatever size you like, of course, but the important thing here is that we want the background color to be black. However, the New Image dialog only allows you to set the Background Contents to White, Transparent, or Background Color, which is why we made our background color black. Choose Background Color, and click OK.

Step 2 - Place an Image to Reflect

Next add the image you want to reflect - I'm using a cover image from one of my CDs. To do this, choose File > Place..., navigate to your desired image, and choose it. It will appear against the background in a bounding box:

The advantage of using Place instead of a copy and paste or another method is that if the image is larger than the destination image (as mine is here), the placed image will be automatically resized to fit in the destination image. If you're satisfied with the placement, hit Return to place the image.

Step 3 - Shift the Image Layer

Select the image layer and Shift-drag it up towards the top of the frame with the mouse, or nudge it with the arrow keys:

Step 4 - Duplicate the Image Layer

Control-click on the placed image layer name, and choose Duplicate Layer from the pop-up menu, accepting the default name and settings.

Step 5 - Reposition the Duplicated Layer

With the duplicated layer selected, shift-drag or nudge the layer down so that it snaps to the bottom of the original image layer:

Step 6 - Flip the Duplicated Layer

With the duplicated layer still selected, choose Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical:

Step 7 - Apply a Gradient Layer Mask to the Duplicated Layer

Keeping the duplicated layer selected, click on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers palette:

A layer mask is an additional invisible layer that controls the transparency of the layer to which it's attached. We're going to paint a simple grayscale map into the layer mask which we won't see directly, but which will let us fade out the reflected layer to simulate a mirrored surface. Where the mask is darker, the layer will be more transparent; where it's lighter, the layer will be more opaque.

Now select the Gradient tool, chose the basic Foreground to Background linear gradient:

Now drag upwards with it from about the bottom of the reflected layer to about the middle of the original layer:

And there you have it - the Coverflow Effect!

Got the urge to go deeper into Photoshop

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.

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