Dripping Wet Effect in Photoshop

Updated April 17, 2017

Learn how to make something appear dripping wet with Photoshop so you can communicate the idea of water in your original artwork and photos. For example, if you've taken a photo of friends at poolside, consider making them appear wet to suggest the idea of recent fun in the water. You have two tasks in making something look dripping wet in Photoshop. One is to add a sheen to a surface. Another is to add water droplets.

Add a Sheen

Your first task is to apply the sheen characteristic of the dripping wet effect. You can apply this sheen in several ways, but try either the "Plastic wrap" filter or an approach that increases contrast first, as these produce results quickly. Load a picture into Photoshop, then begin the contrast approach by using the "Layer" window's "Duplicate layer" command on the original layer. Run the "Adjustment" menu's "Black and white" command to make the duplicate black and white, then up the contrast with the "Adjustment" menu's "Contrast" command until you see strong highlights. These highlights simulate the reflective lighting of wet surfaces. Lower the lower opacity of this black and white, high contrast duplicate by dragging the "Layer" menu's "Opacity" slider to about 50 per cent. Unless you do this, the black-and-white photo will completely obscure the original photo.

Restoring Saturation

By increasing contrast to simulate a sheen of water, your image's colours may appear bled out, or desaturated. Add back the lost saturation by adding a "Saturation" adjustment layer to the original picture. Add that adjustment through the "Layer" menu. Drag the saturation slider to the right to increase saturation until the picture has the colour richness of the original. Note that, instead of placing the black and white high contrast layer on top of the original picture, you can also try placing it below. Doing so may eliminate the need for a "Saturation" adjustment layer. Whichever approach you use, the intense highlights of the black-and-white layer will appear through the original layer, simulating the effect of a reflective sheen of water.

Water Droplets

Once you've added a watery sheen to a surface in your picture, add water droplets to complete the dripping wet effect. Add a new layer by clicking the page icon on the "Layers" window, then use "Paintbrush" to dab several small black dots on the canvas. Use a hard-edged brush for this. Select that brush with the "Brush presets" drop-down control above the canvas. Change the new layer's blending mode to "Screen," which lets the original picture's images appear through the droplet layer.

Add Bevel and Drop Shadow

After you've made the basic shapes that indicate water drops, make those shapes appears three dimensional by using Photoshop's effects. Add a "Bevel" effect by clicking the "Fx" button of the "Layers" window. This effect raises the apparent surface of an image by varying its colour values, which simulates the presence of a light source. Use the "Fx" button just mentioned to add a drop shadow to the droplets and complete the dripping wet effect.

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About the Author

Darrin Koltow wrote about computer software until graphics programs reawakened his lifelong passion of becoming a master designer and draftsman. He has now committed to acquiring the training for a position designing characters, creatures and environments for video games, movies and other entertainment media.