Digital and Photo Art Technique Tutorial: Flaming Pear Flood (v1.04)

by Gary Briney | January 1, 2010

Adding believable reflections to an image can be a challenge—the Flood plug-in from Flaming Pear software makes it easy. Because the number of choices in the control panel interface can seem overwhelming at first, I’ll try to make the selections a little less daunting, and give a few tips on how to make the end result a little more believable. Be forewarned though Flood can be addictive, and you may find yourself putting a lake in front of most everything for a while. Come to think of it, I guess I’ve never really stopped. 🙂

Getting Flood

Flood is available as a full-featured 14-day demo download, in both Windows and Mac format. If you decide to buy, it costs $29 USD, available through Kagi. The download comes as a zip file, with clear instructions for installation and there’s a Quick Start pdf—be sure to take a quick look at it. Installation is similar to most plug-ins; there’s a good FAQ page. Here’s a screenshot of the Flood interface, it’s described in the pdf Quick Start that accompanies the plug-in, and I’ll touch on the bells and whistles as we go along.

Flood interface screenshot

Image Choice & Prep

Now that you have Flood installed, open an image that needs to be flooded—colorful high contrast images work well. I have included Before and After images below, so feel free to use the Before clouds image to follow along if you like.

I chose the cloud image below as a starting point, and made a few changes to adapt it for a flooded image. I selected the dark foreground and copied it to a separate layer, then used Selection/Inverse to select the clouds, and copied that to a separate layer. Then to make room for the flooded area, I used Image/Resize/Canvas Size to increase the height a bit. I find that usually an increase of about 50% works well. I selected the empty bottom area and used a foreground to background gradient (see details in note at the end) with colors picked from the main image, and set the angle to 45 degrees or so, to avoid a horizontal break. Alternatively, you can copy the top portion of the image, paste it as a new layer then flip it vertically to make a reflection that will be buried under the Flood layer. Of course if your original has plenty of space in the foreground already, there’s no need to add empty space.

I selected the clouds layer and moved it to the top of the frame. Since there is more sky and clouds than needed, I cropped the clouds a bit and then selected the dark foreground and moved it up to make room for the flood. Then I did some painting with a spatter brush at about 70 pixels and 70% opacity to put in some fall color over the silhouetted trees and added a dark base makes for better reflections. I inserted a new layer, used Merge Visible, duplicated that layer, and then ran Flood on the duplicate, in order to have an unchanged version of the merged layer if needed. If you flood your only layer, all is not lost—just hit <Ctl><Z> to step back, then <Alt><L><D> to duplicate the layer, and finally to run Flood with your last settings.

Flood Settings

After you open the image in Photoshop, click Filters/Flaming Pear/Flood which will get you to the Flood interface. The first order of business is setting the horizon. Be sure to have the Offset slider at zero, and adjust the Horizon slider to put the row of bright dots on the true horizon if you’re using a landscape shot where it’s visible. If the far shore of Flood will be below the horizon, as it will be for most lake or puddle images, increase the Offset slider to put the lower row of bright dots where you think the far shore should be. If you have trouble seeing the rows of bright dots, check to be sure that the Glue is set to Normal, which usually helps. If you feel lucky, and just want some quick generic reflections you can click the Dice icon until you get something you like. I don’t usually do it that way myself, but it is faster than twiddling all the knobs. 🙂

Sky © Gary Briney

 Digital photo art © Gary Briney

Tips ‘n Tricks

A few little modifications for a more natural appearance were applied in making the image on the right. I used the Liquify technique on the far shore to make the edge a bit irregular and blend the background with the flooded edge. I also used a gradient in the foreground to cover the blank area added to the bottom of the image, then adjusted the Glue setting to use a semi-transparent Flood layer that picks up the color underneath. You’ll notice which Glue choices pick the color underneath Flood as you scroll through them—wax is one example.

You can apply the same approach using Liquify on the foreground by adding a layer with a bit of another image, such as foliage or some stones, or as I did in the image left below, fake some grass to break up the straight edge. Now if you’ve been wondering about the Flood controls Size, Height, and Undulation and why they don’t seem to do anything, here’s the secret. These sliders put a circular pattern on the water, but you must click the image first to set the location of the ripple center (right below). If the image has not been clicked, the sliders are ineffective. Similarly, if the slider for Size is on 0, the position of the sliders for Height and Undulation has no effect.

Liquify filter © Gary Briney

 Filter effect © Gary Briney

Tweaking Flooded Images

Occasionally you can generate interesting creatures using the ripple, as in this ‘dragon’ image, where settings for Altitude, Perspective, Waviness, and Complexity were at values below 10 — typically around 2 to 8, and Size, Height and Undulation were tweaked to create the desired effect. Of course, I could be honest and tell you luck was involved too! 🙂

Special considerations need to be made for images where there are near foreground objects, as an animal drinking at a pool. The Quick Start pdf has a good example—read it over! The issue here is that because of varied distances of near objects, a single flood image can’t have the correct perspective (and reflections) for the multiple near objects. In such cases, you can clip bits the reflected image and relocate them to give a realistic overall image. This is illustrated in the heron images below, where the first pass Flood image with the straight line water edge is the upper image. In the lower image, I have re-positioned the easel along with snippets of the easel legs with reflection so that the reflections are more realistic. I also used Liquify to move the ripples back at the edge of the heron, which stretched the heron into a more rounded appearance and stacked the ripples a bit.

Image 1 © Gary Briney

Image 2 © Gary Briney

Alternatively, you can use make a composite of two Flood images, each with a slightly different horizon/offset, which works well for the animal drinking at the edge of a poolexample. Again, the Flood Quick Start pdf file has a very good example of making a composite image to deal with these issues.

Another slightly unnatural aspect of waves generated by Flood is that they are always parallel to straight line shores, but then why would they be anything else since Flaming Pear doesn’t provide a slider for angle. One way to overcome that to an extent is through the use of the Size/Height/Undulation controls, but circular deformation may not be what you need. If you want the waves to run at an angle to the shoreline, you can create a separate layer for the water, and then use Transform/Distort to put the waves at an angle – Perspective distortion is handy for this. Here’s an example where I used this trick when I needed Flood to put in the reflection of the lighthouse. You can also make a separate shadow layer and vary the opacity to overlay the waves, and make any final adjustments on the merged image by using the Smudge tool along the edges of the reflection.

Quick Reference

Horizon / Offset

Set Horizon to locate the bright dots on the true horizon – 0 is top, 100 is bottom. Use Offset if necessary to locate the edge Flood water lower in the image. Remember that the horizon is always at eye level.

Perspective / Altitude

Perspective controls the width of the reflected area, and Altitude controls the height. A setting of 20 or so usually provides a good start.

Waviness / Complexity

Waviness controls the number of waves. Complexity controls the number of breaks in the waves.


Controls the brightness of the reflection; a setting of 45 to 60 is a good starting point. In some situations, using brilliance to match the brightness of the background is a good way to avoid the distracting sharp back edge of Flood. See Carol Clarke’s Arctic Dawn for a great example.


Usually 0 to 20 is a good starting point; not often needed.


Click the image to place the center of the ripple pattern, adjust Size to get the desired ripple dimension.


Controls how noticeable the ripples are; not active if Size is on zero or if the image has not been clicked.


Controls the number of ripples; not active if Size is on zero or if the image has not been clicked.


Normal is a good starting point; other glue types are similar to the PS layer blend mode in combining the Normal image with the starting image.

Dots Around the Small Image

Click a grey dot to store setting for particular Glue and settings.

*To create a Gradient: Set foreground and background to desired colors, then click the half-moon icon at the bottom of the Layers palette, click on Gradient to bring up the the Gradient dialog box. Click the down arrow by Gradient selection box, click Foreground to Background, leave the Style set to Linear, click on the the circle to get the desired angle, and finally click OK to close the dialog and insert the Gradient layer on the layer stack. If you want to make changes later, just click on the Gradient layer in the Layers palette to re-open the Gradient dialog box.

About the Author

Gary grew up in the rural Midwest, where he acquired a love of nature and photography. After completing a doctorate in chemistry, he began in the Research department of a company making photographic films and papers, and has developed several non-silver imaging products for use in electronics and color management. His lifelong passion for macro photography and darkroom techniques such as solarization, translated to digital manipulation when he moved to full-frame digital a few years ago. Gary has been active in NatureScapes' macro and digital art forums, and also has an interest in art and painting.

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