You must rasterize type or shape layers before applying the Liquify command.
Next, choose Filter I Liquify to launch the Liquify dialog box. If there are any areas of the image that you want to protect from your actions in the Liquify command, choose the Freeze tool (the tenth button down) from the side toolbox and paint over the areas you want to protect. If you need to remove a portion of the image from being protected, use the Thaw tool (the eleventh button in the toolbox) to "unfreeze" that area.
When you're ready to begin distorting the image, make sure you have a few extra hours, because, as I have found, you can easily waste a good chunk of time just playing with this filter. But seriously, to begin the distortions, use any of the first eight tools in the toolbox—Warp, Turbulence, Twirl Clockwise, Twirl Counterclockwise, Pucker, Bloat, Shift Pixels, or Reflection—with an appropriately sized brush. The best advice I can give you in relation to which tool to use is this: try them all. The results vary according to the image, so play around with each tool to see what you can accomplish. The following illustration shows my first step in creating an animation where this birthday cake got sucked into itself.
Because this tool uses an underlying "mesh," it's fairly easy to reconstruct that mesh any time you want to return an area to its original view. To do so, select the Reconstruct tool from the toolbox (ninth button) and click-hold or click and drag over the area(s) you want to reconstruct. To reconstruct all nonfrozen areas, choose Revert from the Mode menu under Reconstruction and click Reconstruct. Or, to restore the entire image back to its original view, specify Revert as the Mode under Reconstruction and click Revert.
Under View Options, select Frozen Areas to display all areas that are currently protected from being liquified. Select Mesh to display the underlying mesh for the image, which can be helpful in identifying areas you have not edited. Select Backdrop if you want to see the underlying layers in the file here in the Liquify dialog box.
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