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Creating Glassy Objects Using Layer Styles

posted by Matt Ward on Mar 25, 2010.

Have you ever wanted a really quick and simple way to apply a glassy effect to objects in Photoshop? In this tutorial, we will take a look at how to exactly that using a combination of different layer styles. It’s fast, easy and widely replicable, so be sure to have a read of this one!

Layer styles are a hugely powerful feature in Photoshop, especially when you combine several different effects into a single design. In this brief tutorial, we will look at one example of how to use layer styles to apply a glassy effect to an object. For the sake of this tutorial, we’ll be working with part of the Echo Enduring Media logo, but you can really use any kind of object that you want for this (though something with rounded edges tends to work a bit better). Here is a preview of our final design:

The Final Image

The Final Image

Achieving this effect is actually relatively simple, and we’ll cover everything in just a few steps! So let’s get started.

Step 1

First, begin by creating a new 500px by 500px document. Then, add a simple texture into the background. I will be using one of the grunge textures from my Mega Textures Pack.

Start with a blank texture

Start with a blank texture

Next, we are going to want to adjust the Global Light settings for the document, since these will have a strong effect on the our styles are rendered. Select Layer » Layer Styles &rqauo; Global Light. This will bring up a dialog box, which you should fill out as follows:

Adjust the document's Global Light

Adjust the document's Global Light

Step 2

Next, we need to create an object on which to apply our glassy style. I simply opened up my logo in Illustrator, selected the shape, copied it to the clipboard and then pasted it into my Photoshop document (as a Smart Object, of course).

Add a shape to the document

Add a shape to the document

After pasting your object into the document, reduce it’s fill property all the way down to 0. This, of course, will make the object itself disappear, so I won’t bother show you a screenshot of that!

Step 3

Okay, now we start applying styles. Making sure that you have your object layer selected, add a new Drop Shadow style. You can do this by either clicking on the layer styles button that to bottom of the layer palette, or by selecting Layer » Layer Styles &rqauo; Drop Shadow from the menu. Use the following settings.

The settings for the Drop Shadow

The settings for the Drop Shadow

The image should now look like this:

The image after step 3

The image after step 3

Step 4

Next, we want to add an Inner Shadow to create a bit of depth to the object. Set the properties for this style as follows:

The settings for the Inner Shadow

The settings for the Inner Shadow

Now our image looks like:

The image after step 4

The image after step 4

Step 5

To balance the Inner Shadow, we’ll also add an Inner Glow, using properties as shown here:

The settings for the Inner Glow

The settings for the Inner Glow

This brings the full shape back into relief:

The image after step 3

The image after step 3

Step 6

A Gradient Overlay will help really bring out the shape of our object. We’ll use a simple black and white gradient, with the opacity reduced, as in the following options:

The settings for the Gradient Overlay

The settings for the Gradient Overlay

Now the image looks like this:

The image after step 6

The image after step 6

Step 7

Next, we’re going to add a Satin effect to create still a bit more depth on our object. Again, use the following properties.

The settings for the Satin effect

The settings for the Satin effect

The effect is pretty subtle, but the image should now look like this:

The image after step 7

The image after step 7

Step 8

The final step is to create some glossy reflections using the Bevel and Emboss style. This is where the Global Light settings will prove to be the most important. First, create the style with the following options:

The settings for the Bevel and Emboss

The settings for the Bevel and Emboss

Next, we’re also going to slightly adjust the contour, which is an optional sub-property of the Bevel and Emboss style.

The settings for the Contour

The settings for the Contour

Final Image

After adding the Bevel and Emboss effect, our glossy and glassy effect is now complete, and looks something like this:

The Final Image

The Final Image

There are two things that I really like about this technique. First, once you figure it out, it’s relatively simple and easy to create. Second, you can actually save it to your Styles palette for future use, and then easily apply it to all kinds of different shapes. For instance, here are a bunch of icons from Monochrome Symbols Icon Set – Part 2, available from MediaLoot:

Four plain, monochromatic icons

Four plain, monochromatic icons

Now, here are the same images with our textured background, the fill reduced to 0 the same style that we created applied to them:

Same four icons with our style applied

Same four icons with our style applied

Of course, you can play around with the settings to and get slightly different effects. If you save each one, you can end up with a really nice set of styles to add to your Photoshop arsenal. One thing to note, though, is that these kinds of styles are really dependent on the Global Light source. If you want to force the style to remain completely independent of this document-level property, just go into the style settings and uncheck the Global Light options. Then, whenever you apply the style, it will be applied with the same angle of lighting.

Also, remember that, because many of the options work in terms of a given number of pixels, almost all styles are size sensitive. If an object is too large or small, you can really lose the effect. Of course, you can also usually compensate for this by adjusting the settings within the styles accordingly!

So there you have it – a relatively simple Photoshop tutorial to help create some really cool glossy glass effects using layer styles on your objects. What do you guys think? Will this technique be useful to you? Do you have any other suggestions or ideas that you would like to add? Please do share!

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

An Unfolding Tale

About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Comments

Mar 25, 2010

David says:

Sweet, man. Very sweet. You blog is a breath of fresh air in the mix of so many generic “design” blogs. Thanks.

Mar 26, 2010

Carlin Scuderi says:

Nice and quick way to create a believable effect. Nice job on this!

Mar 27, 2010

Jeremy says:

Great tutorial..very professional and easy to follow. Looking forward to your next one.

Mar 27, 2010

sickdesigner says:

Hey, Matt, nice tut, as always. I juuuuust have one thing. To me it looks less like glass and more like….liquid really. Don’t get me wrong, I think you nailed it as a liquid, which is really cool. I just don’t think it looks like glass.
On the other hand, that’s just semantics because glass is (a very viscous) liquid.
Anyway, great post, keep’em coming!

Mar 27, 2010

Shurandy Thode says:

Hey Matt this is a great quick tutorial thanks for sharing. :)

Mar 30, 2010

Roxanne Ready says:

Wonderful! I’ve been playing with how to create this exact effect but I couldn’t get it right. Thank you much for this tutorial!

Apr 8, 2010

Color Experts says:

Such a quality tutorial rarely seen on webs……

Thanks….

Apr 26, 2010

Web Design says:

Amazing qualtiy tutorial rare nowadays!!! thanks so much !

Jun 16, 2010

clippingimages says:

o boy…thats a real piece of work…thanks for sharing …

Dec 19, 2010

Preston Racette says:

Thanks for sharing. Nice post, keep it up!

Dec 30, 2010

Brett Widmann says:

This is a really helpful tutorial! Thanks for sharing.

Jul 3, 2011

budi sartaman says:

it’s good tutorial . I like it, Thanks!

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