A simple way to create “radiating waves” in Photoshop

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

There’s a technique I found about recently that I wanted to share with my readers. There is a simple way to create an impression of “radiating waves” in Photoshop using the Curves adjustment tool. The first step is to create a circular black-to white gradient using the Gradient Tool (I recommend to work in the 16-bit mode at this stage for better results):

waves gradient

The next step is to use the Curves tool (or an adjustment layer) and draw the following shape:

curves dialog

If you check the preview checkbox, you can see live what it is doing to the gradient while you are adjusting the curves. The result should look as follows:

waves made with curves

Of course, this is not such an interesting image per se, but the point is that you can use it as a building block for other creations, such as the following one:

waves displacement map It was created in about 30 seconds by applying the black-and-white waves above as a displacement map (Filters → Distort → Displace) to a free grid pattern (cropped to the same size) with the following settings (you will have to save the wave image as a PSD file first to apply it as a displacement map):


and then adding the very same picture as another layer with the blending mode set to multiply (this darkens the “low” areas, creating the impression of shadows and thus a 3D picture):


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