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Fluid abstract effects

1. Make a New Document with dimensions 4.5 inches square.

2. Use Gradient tool and set Yellow, Violet, Orange, Blue preset. Set to Diamond Gradient style and the Normal mode, and then drag diagonally from the lower-right corner of the image to the upper-left.

Gradient tool in Adobe Photoshop CS

3. Enable Rulers (Ctrl+R/Cmd+R). Drag a horizontal guide to the 3-inch mark. Drag a vertical guide to the 1.5-inch mark and another to the 2-inch mark. These guides will help you to place the next gradient accurately.

Gradient tool in Adobe Photoshop CS

4. Use the same gradient settings and drag from the top of the 1.5-inch vertical guide to the point where the 2-inch vertical guide intersects the horizontal guide.

Gradient tool in Adobe Photoshop CS

The second gradient completely obliterates the first one. You fix it in the next step.

5.Use Edit > Fade Gradient at 40% in Normal mode. After use the View menu to clear the guides.

Gradient tool in Adobe Photoshop CS

Now 2 gradients blend together. One more fill-and-fade sequence will give us more complexity and smoother blends.

6. Continue with the same gradient color preset, but switch to the Radial style. Begin the drag at a point 1 inch from the right edge and 1.5 inches from the top. Drag horizontally to the left edge. Use guides again, or just eyeball it. Constrain your drag to a perfect horizontal with the Shift key. Fade to 40%, using Overlay mode this time.

7. Choose a Gradient preset from the Pastels Library and drag a gradient in Color mode. The example uses the Brown, Tan, Beige preset with a diagonal drag in Linear style.

Gradient preset  in Adobe Photoshop CS

Another way to reduce color is with Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Then use Edit > Fade to bring back some subtle color.

Desaturate in Adobe Photoshop CS

8. Choose Filter > Liquify. Use the Warp tool with a 1-inch brush. Drag various curving strokes to suggest the look of draped fabric. When you are satisfied with this stage, click OK and save the image.

Liquify in Adobe Photoshop CS

9. Apply Liquify again and work with the Reflection tool. It works great for adding crisper folds and silky highlights.

Liquify in Adobe Photoshop CS

10. Return once more to the Liquify environment to touch up any problem areas with Pucker and Bloat. Use a 200-pixel brush. Switch to other tools as needed.

Liquify in Adobe Photoshop CS

11. Use the Eyedropper tool to sample a medium brown from the image. Or use these RGB values in the Color Picker: R 133, G 91, and B 36.

12. Use Edit > Fill, using foreground color in Color mode at about 40% opacity.

Fill in Adobe Photoshop CS

13. The entire image could use more highlights. Use Image > Adjust > Levels. Reduce the 255 Input Level to about 205, or drag the white triangle to the left until you like the result.

14. The area I worked on with Pucker and Bloat is still a bit too dark. If you have a similar problem, select it with the Lasso tool and apply a 20-pixel feather. Use Levels to brighten the selection.

Levels in Adobe Photoshop CS

15. There is a greenish cast to the selection now, so use Image > Adjustments > Color Balance to increase red and yellow slightly.

Adjustments to Color Balance are frequently necessary after Levels adjustments.

16. A few strokes here and there with the Blur tool, and you’ve got a lovely and sensuous background:

Color Balance in Adobe Photoshop CS