Combining Custom Distortions with Image Warp in Photoshop

Photoshop’s Image Warp tool is great for bending layers into any shape. Often, the best way to start is to use a preset transformation and then modify it, rather than trying to move all the handles individually from the outset. We’ll see how well this approach works when we transform this image of a truck to make it appear to be leaping over a dry stone wall.

The starting image

In this image, as you can see from the Layers Panel, the truck, wall, and background are all on separate layers. This will help a lot later, when you come to masking the truck and adding the shadow.

Enter Image Warp mode

Start by moving the truck to the middle of the image. You can go into Image Warp mode by first entering Free Transform (Ctrl+T/Command+T), and then pressing the Warp button on the Options bar. Alternatively, you can access it directly from the menu, by choosing Edit > Transform > Warp. Either way, you’ll see these handles appear around the layer.

Choose your transformation

The default Warp mode is Custom, which allows you to move all the handles individually. But in this case, it makes more sense to start with a transformation that gives you most of what you want: so choose Arc from the Warp pop-up menu on the Options bar.

Turn down the volume

The initial Arc distortion is much too strong, so you’ll need to dial it down. There’s only one control, that little handle at the center of the top edge: so grab that and drag it down until you get a less extreme shape to the arc.

Switch to Custom

With the basic shape right, you can now switch from Arc back to Custom from the pop-up Warp menu on the Options bar. This gives you access to all the handles, which means you can now fine-tune the distortion. Bring the front of the truck in a little so it retains a more realistic shape, and drag the back handles down to get more of a leaping action.

Mask the truck

Press the Enter key to apply the transformation, then make an empty Layer Mask for the truck layer (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All). Load the wall as a selection by holding Ctrl (Win) or Command (Mac) and clicking on the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers Panel, then paint the selected area in black on the truck’s Layer Mask to hide it.

Add a shadow

For extra realism, add a shadow beneath the truck. Make a new layer above the wall, and use Ctrl+G / Command+G to make the wall layer into a Clipping Mask. Now, when you paint in black with a soft edged brush, at a low opacity, the shadow you paint will only be visible on the wall and on the ground in front of it, and not on the hills behind.

Leaping Truck Video Tutorial and Artwork

Check out the video version of this tutorial below, and get a link to download the original artwork at

Posted on: August 7, 2017

Steve Caplin

Steve is a freelance writer, artist and designer, and the author of over a dozen books, including the popular How to Cheat in Photoshop series and the Amazon #1 best-seller Dad Stuff. His training videos can be seen on, Retouch Pro and elsewhere.

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