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I want to create a ripple effect. I have an existing smart object with a black/transparent "ripple" effect. I want to turn this into a refraction effect so that you don't see the black/transparent effect, but you instead see the image below it refracted and bulging, like you would see in a water ripple.

4

Sounds like you want a displacement map.

Photoshop can do this, but it is set up a little bit differently than what you describe. To demonstrate, I am going to use this source image paired along with this displacement map.

Steps:

  1. Save the displacement map as a separate .psd file

  2. In a new document, set the source image as a Smart Object so that the displace will be applied as a Smart Filter.

  3. Filter → Distort → Displace..., use the settings below, and click OK

  4. In the file selection window that pops up, choose the displacement map .psd file that we saved in step 1

Result:

enter image description here
Left: Source Image / Center: Displacement map / Right: Finished product


Photo credit: mkozemchak

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