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Crystal Ball in the Sky

Working with bubble and glass effects in Adobe Photoshop By Dave Nagel
I receive requests all the time for tips on creating various sorts of bubble and crystal ball effects in Adobe Photoshop. And there's never really any one simple answer to this: Too much depends on the background image, the shape of the bubble and the lighting of the scene. But I can provide some basic tips for getting started, which you can then extrapolate to suit your particular needs.

When I say that too much depends on the lighting and background image, that's not just a cop out. The effect we'll be producing today, for example, would look terrible--absolutely awful--over a dark background, whereas a bubble effect designed for a dark image would look equally terrible over a light subject. So, in the end, you're going to have to use your imagination a bit, but I think this reference will be a good place to start.

1. We begin with a background image. If your background is on a single layer, select all, and copy it. If it's on multiple layers, select all, and type Shift-Command-C (Macintosh) or Shift-Control-C (WIndows) to copy all layers.

2. Now, create a new layer by clicking the New Layer button in the Layers palette or Shift-Command-N (Mac) or Shift-Control-N (Win). On this new, blank layer, draw the shape for your bubble or crystal ball using one of the Marquee selection tools. I'm be making mine a sphere, so I'll use the Elliptical Marquee tool, holding down the Shift key as I draw to make it perfectly round.

3. When you're done, choose Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient. Choose the options shown below. (You can vary the Scale percentage to fit your needs.)

4. Now we're going to set Layer Styles for this layer. You don't have to do it exactly this way. In fact, the way you do this will depend largely on your background and the lighting of the image. But here are some settings to get you started. We're going to select Layer > Layer Style > Bevel and Emboss. In addition to the basic bevel, we're also going to apply a contour. Here's what my settings look like.

So now my your crystal ball should look something like this:

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