How To Make Pavement Look Wet Without Water

December 27th, 2015

Wet-DryPavementEric in Southern California asks:

I live in southern CA where we are in a water drought and trying to conserve water as much as possible. With that in mind, I come across a lot of properties where the agent wants to water-down the driveway, walkways, etc. and on a sunny day when it’s hot and dry it’s already starting to dry before they even finish or turn off the water. Have you seen a tutorial or something for a way to get the “wet look” in Photoshop that would take a lot of work or time?

I was not able to find a good video tutorial on how to make pavement look wet but the following is a Photoshop technique that works pretty well. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to save California some water. The example above shows a dry driveway on top and the same driveway “hosed down” with the technique I describe below:

  1. Open the image with dry pavement in Photoshop. All this will work in most older versions of Photoshop.
  2. Right-click on the layer and duplicate the layer.
  3. Select the pavement area you want to look wet in the top layer.
  4. Use Image>Adjustments>Curves… to bring up the Curves dialog box.
  5. Click on the lower left section of the curves line and drag it to the right until the pavement area selected darkens so it looks wet. Don’t go too far or the pavement will look more like asphalt. In many situations, you may be satisfied by stopping here because this darker look is usually better than the dry light look. The second characteristic of wet pavement is  it has reflections. You can add your own reflections manually, but this can be tricky. Here is a video tutorial  that shows adding reflections in a nighttime situation.
  6. A quick and dirty way to add some reflections on the dark driveway is to use the Plastic Wrap artistic filter in Photoshop (it’s been there a number of years I think). While the layer that you’ve darkened with the Curves adjustment is selected, select Filter>Artistic>Plastic Wrap. Then play with the Highlight Strength, Detail and Smoothness sliders until you get a look you like. On the example above I used a Highlight strength of 8 and Detail and Smoothness of 1. Note: To get the Artistic Filters to show up you have to go to Preferences>Plugins… and check the Show all Filter Gallery groups and names checkbox.)
  7. Finally, you can adjust the Opacity of the wet cement layer to get just the look you want.

There you have it. Much faster and effective than hosing the driveway down and you’ll get very close to the same look and save a bunch of water.

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5 Responses to “How To Make Pavement Look Wet Without Water”

  • I think the wet pavement looks pretty tacky myself. I would probably do something like add a charge for this as a sort of staging. Like twenty-five for wet pavement on exteriors. The desired result wood not be to make extra money but to dissuade people from wanting it. If I had to do it though I would do it onsite and not in post, just make sure you get paid for the trouble.

  • My preparing your house for photography information list actually states – do not hose down decks paths or other surfaces, the reason being it looks wet, it starts to dry unevenly and nothing worse than getting to area to take photos and its all patchy and waiting for somebody to hose it down just to make it looked like it rained. I get them running around with mobs and brooms trying to even up the “wet look”.

  • I’m also not a fan of wet pavement. The worst is when the yard and driveway are obviously drenched and somebody replaces the sky to look like it’s ninety degrees out. But I’ve never heard of anyone spraying the driveway on purpose.

    @Andrew – I checked out your website and saw your massive tripod for elevated photos — impressive, to say the least! Where did you find that and what sort of system do you use to capture the photos from below?

  • There is an agent in my area that always waters the driveway before taking snapshots with his cell phone and it always looks tacky. I know what look he is going for, but it works only for certain properties and then usually only for twilight photos where the water will be reflecting the lights. Watered asphalt at twilight will give the best effect. Concrete looks the worst during the day from uneven drying, pools and coloration.

    There is a PS filter (action?) from Flaming Pear called “Flood” that might do the job better than getting out the hose. It’s more work in post production so there should be an extra charge for the editing.

    See if you can talk the agent out of the look as a general thing and “clip” some images that you find where it comes out well to show examples of the type of situation where it could be worth the effort and charges.

  • Thanks Jake.

    I trigger it from up there with a camranger. I have gotten pretty good at judging the amount of down-tilt I will need, then I raise it up there watching on my ipad, and am able to turn it until I get what I want. This will usually take at least one lowering and raising back up. It really isn’t much trouble at all though. It is right on b and h listed as a manfrotto super high aluminum stand. They went on sale last Christmas for three-hundred and I jumped on it. That was with shipping included, which is hard to believe the thing weighs a good twenty pounds. The main reason for buying it was the ability to do elevated twilights, but I never seem to get hired for those but I am hoping to get more soon. Great thing is I use it as my lightstand outdoors when I do group portraits and put a huge softbox and monolight up there, not high, and the thing is totally unshakable in the wind. That’s been the added benefit.

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