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Create an Advanced Reflective Clear Layer Style in Photoshop

Create an Advanced Reflective Clear Layer Style in Photoshop

Learn a fast and professional technique to create an Advanced Reflective Clear Style in Photoshop from scratch. Layer Effects and Styles are very versatile in nature because of their flexibility and editable nature. Another advantage is they are reusable. After creating a complex style you can save it and use it later on other projects. Moreover if we combine multiple Layer Styles then it is possible to create some really complex looking layer effects, but still maintaining each components editable nature. So if you are new to Photoshop or maybe using it for some times but still wondering about Layer Styles and how to control them effectively then this is for you.

Final Image

This is the final image that we’ll be creating in this tutorial:

Step 1

Open a new file in Photoshop with the following settings. Save the file as Adv Reflective Clear Style.psd. During work remember to frequently press Ctrl + S to save and update the file, which will help you in the long run.

Step 2

Double click on the Background layer to open the New Layer dialogue box. Change the name field to ‘Gradient bg’ and click ok. Now the layer is ready for Layer Style as it is not possible to apply Layer Style on a locked background layer. Double click on the ‘Gradient bg’ layer to open the Layer Style dialogue box and then click on the Gradient Overlay at the left side, below the Styles pane. In the Gradient Overlay area (Right pane) create a Radial Gradient with the following settings.

Step 3

Click on the Pattern Overlay at the left side and click on pattern pop-up panel (right side) to open the Pattern pop-up list. Then click the pop-up panel option at the right side and load Artist Surfaces. Use the ‘Stone’ pattern from Artist Surfaces Group. Now reduce the opacity to 10% because we need a faint trace of it. Again click on the Gradient Overlay category and change the Blend Mode to Multiply. This will create a blend with the 10% Pattern Overlay below. Next we’ll add an Inner Glow to make it look more interesting.

Step 4

Inner Glow add glows that radiate from the inside edges. We’ll use this to make the edges of the gradient more dark. Now click on the Inner Glow category at the left side and match the settings from the screenshot below.

Step 5

To create that distorted dot pattern in the background, first we have to create a custom shape and save it as a pattern. Then we’ll use that shape to generate the dot pattern. First create a new file with following settings:

Step 6

Create a new blank layer (Ctrl + Shift + N). Select the Elliptical Marquee Tool and in the Option Bar click the Style drop down menu and select Fixed Size. Then in Width and Height field type 45px. Click on the upper left corner of the layer to create a circular marquee selection. Press D key to change the foreground and background colors as black and white. Then fill the selection (Alt + Backspace) with black and deselect by pressing Ctrl + D. Shift click on the background layer to select both the layers. Then in the Option bar click on the Vertical Centers and Horizontal Centers buttons to center align the circle layer. Now delete the background layer as we don’t need it anymore. Then Edit > Define Pattern to define this circle as a pattern with the name “circle_45px”. This pattern will be saved as a new pattern in the pattern drop down list. You can close the file now without saving as there is no relation between the newly created pattern and this file.

Step 7

Now create a new blank layer in the ‘Reflective Clear Style’ file and fill with white. Double click on the layer to open the Layer Style option box. From the styles at the left click on the Pattern Overlay Style and match the settings from the below screenshot. Click on the Pattern Pop-Up Panel to open the Pattern List. The “circle_45px”pattern will be at the end of the Pattern Pop-Up List. Click and drag on the layer directly with the Move Tool to position it the way you want. The difference between Edit > Fill and Pattern Overlay of Layer Style is you can change pattern position in case of Pattern Overlay as it is ‘live’ or editable in nature. But the problem is Layer Styles will never work on blank layer. A filled layer is essential for layer styles. Our goal is to blend this pattern layer with the layer below (Gradient bg). As we applied the pattern as a layer style it is not going to blend properly with the layer below. So to blend it we must ‘fix’ the layer style.

Step 8

Create a new blank layer below the pattern layer and from the layer panel option choose Merge Down. This will ‘fix’ the layer style into normal layer. So the layer style is not ‘live’ or editable anymore. Rename the merge layer into “Circle pattern distort”. Now we’ll apply a distort filter on this layer. We want to create a 3d looking bulge in the middle of this layer which will gradually diminish or blend towards the edge. It’s a simple process. All we need is a circular marquee selection and then apply the Spherize filter. But there is no falloff setting in the Spherize filter dialogue box. You can only adjust the Mode and the Amount. The solution is to apply Feather on the Elliptical Marquee selection. Feathering blurs the edges of the selection to create a softer transition, which we’ll use as a fall-off here. So first create a large perfectly circular selection with Elliptical Marquee Tool. Press Shift + Alt for a perfect circle originating from the center of dragging. You can also press the Spacebar simultaneously to reposition the circle while you are still dragging. Use the screenshot below as a guide.

Step 9

Selection still active choose Select > Modify > Feather with amount 50 pixels. Then Filter > Distort > Spherize with amount 100% and mode normal. Now you can see a bulge in the middle which is smoothly blends towards the edges. Change the “Circle pattern distort” layer blend mode to Overlay and reduce the layer opacity to 20%. For a more interesting effect invert the layer from Edit > Adjustments > Invert. The background is now complete.

Step 10

Select Custom Shape Tool (U) and in the Option Bar click on Open Custom Shape Picker and it’ll open the Custom Shape pop-up panel. Click the arrow (panel option) at the right side of the pop-up panel and load Ornaments. Then from the Custom Shape List at the left side select Hedera 2. Click and drag to create a new shape layer with the hedera shape. Change the tool into Move Tool (V). Then in the Layer palette left click on “Hedera 2” layer to target that layer. Now press shift key and left click on the “Circle pattern distort” shape layer. Alignment buttons will be active in the Option bar when more than one layer is selected. Then click on the Vertical Centers and Horizontal Centers buttons to center align the “Hedera 2” layer.

Step 11

Ctrl click on the “Hedera 2” layer to load the shape as a selection. Turn off the visibility of the layer by clicking on the eye icon (Visibility toggle button) at the left side of the layer. Now create a new layer on top of it by clicking on the Create a new layer button (second from right) below the Layers panel (Or press Ctrl + Shift + N) and fill it with 50% gray color. Rename this layer into “Plastic style”. Double click on it to open the Layer Style dialogue box. Let’s start building the main Plastic Layer Style. First in the Blending Option section, reduce the Fill Opacity to 0%. This will make the Plastic Style transparent or clear like glass.

Step 12

Let’s use the Bevel and Emboss to add various combinations of highlights and shadows. For Bevel and Emboss use settings from the screenshot below. In the Shading section, for Highlight Mode select Linear Dodge for a much stronger highlight than Screen blending mode. Also for the Shadow Mode use Color Dodge to simulate at the edge of the shape that light is passing through a translucent object. Below the Bevel and Emboss is the Contour of Bevel and Emboss, which will basically define the edge or shoulder of the Bevel. Click on the Contour Pop-Up panel and select Gaussian type from the contour list.

Step 13

Now click on the Inner Glow and use the settings from the screenshot below. Notice the use of Darken as the Blend Mode to produce a darker color blend.

Step 14

Outer Glow creates glow that spreads from the outside. We use this to create a darker outside area to make the clear style more prominent. Match the settings from the screenshot below. Blend Mode is Darker Color to produce a partial darker color blend. So there will be brightness variation in the outer glow region.

Step 15

Inner Shadow adds a shadow that falls just inside the edge. It’ll add volume around the edge of the shape. Use the settings from the screenshot below. Here Blend Mode is Multiply to produce a very dark outer edge.

Step 16

Drop Shadow adds a shadow that falls behind the shape. But here Drop Shadow is not creating shadow. The purpose of the Drop Shadow here is to create that bright light is passing from the edge of a translucent object look.

Step 17

Satin creates interior shading variation that produces a glossy finish. We use this to define the reflective glossy nature of the surface. Color Dodge as the Blend Mode is helping to do that by creating bright surface reflections. In the contour use Ring – Double for lots of light reflections but for subtlety reduce the Opacity below the Blend Mode to 15%.

Step 18

The base style is now complete. We’ll create two more duplicates of this style and combine them to produce a more complex effect. Now open the Styles Panel (Window > Styles) and click on the Panel Option at the upper right corner. Select New Style and type a name in the next New Style dialogue box. Click ok to save the style for future use. Below is the screenshot after finishing the basic Plastic style. For saving style check the second screenshot.

Step 19

Right click on the “Plastic style” layer and choose Duplicate Layer. Rename the duplicate layer as “Plastic highlight”. Double click on the layer to open Layer Style dialogue box and uncheck everything besides Bevel and Emboss and Satin. For Bevel and Emboss match below settings. Keep the Contour (Below Bevel and Emboss) as it is.

Step 20

Now click on the Satin Style and use settings from below. Contour is Ring – Double, but this time with much higher opacity.

Step 21

This is after finishing “Plastic highlight” layer.

Step 22

Duplicate the “Plastic highlight” layer and rename into “Plastic sheen”. Double click on the layer to open the Layer Style dialogue box. In The Bevel and Emboss match the settings from below.

Step 23

Below are the Drop Shadow settings. The purpose of this Drop Shadow is to boost the light passing from the edge look more.

Step 24

This is after finishing the “Plastic sheen” layer.

Step 25

The Plastic style is complete now. But let’s tweak it little more. Target the “Plastic sheen” layer and press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to create a copy merged layer on top of it. This process is known as Copy merged, which makes a merged copy of all the visible layers in a new layer. Rename it to “Upper reflection”. Duplicate the layer and rename it to “Floor reflection”. Drag or reposition the “Floor reflection” layer below the “Plastic style”. Reduce the opacity of the “Floor reflection” layer to 40% and blend mode to Multiply. Now target the “Upper reflection” layer. Lower the opacity to 50% and change the blend mode to Overlay. Below is the result.

Step 26

Let’s create the glow now. We can create a blank layer on top of the “Upper reflection” layer and use a soft brush to paint the glow spots. But let’s explore another precise technique which will produce a much better output. First turn off the visibility of the “Circle pattern distort”, “Upper reflection” and “Floor reflection” layers by clicking on the eye icons (Visibility toggle button). Then target the “Plastic Sheen” layer by left click on it. Now press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to create a merged layer of all the visible layers on top of it. Rename the Copy merged layer into “glow sharp” and drag it above “Upper reflection” layer. Then Image Adjustments > Desaturate to change the layer into grayscale or rather remove all color information. Then Image Adjustments > Levels and match the settings from below. Basically we are trying to separate the brightness information only and turning everything else into black.

Step 27

Change the layer blend mode to Linear Dodge (Add). Check the very precise and sharp crisp shaped glow on top of the highlight areas. Linear Dodge (Add) removed the dark colors keeping only white glow areas visible. Then duplicate the “Glow sharp” layer by right clicking on it and choose Duplicate layer. Rename the duplicate layer into “Glow blur” and drag it down below the “Glow sharp” layer. Then Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur with radius 5 pixels to produced a soft and blurred version of “Glow sharp” layer.

Step 28

Ctrl + click on the shape thumbnail of “Hedera 2” shape layer to load the hedera shape as a selection. Create a new blank layer on top of “Circle pattern distort” layer and rename as “Shadow”. Fill the layer with black and double click to open the Layer Style dialogue box. Apply a Drop Shadow style with the settings from below screenshot. Reduce the layer opacity to 50%.

Step 29

Congratulations, Advanced Reflective Clear Style is now complete. Below is the final image. Also check the final screenshot of the Layer Panel after that.

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About the Author:

Arindam Bhaduri is a designer and an Adobe Certified Instructor. He is currently teaching Communication Design in Kolkata, India.

Leave a comment


  1. James Moore says:

    I really like the way he is very casually discussing the whole thing. This is very heavy stuff but he is presenting it in a very light and interesting way, Many Thanks for sharing.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks James! Yes I agree, it’s a very easy to follow tutorial, despite being incredibly detailed. We’re definitely trying to keep Arindam on as part of our team :) .

  2. samuel.woodbridge says:

    Very good tutorial. Unique outcome and very easy to follow. Learned a few new techniques too, which will save me time in the future. Thank you for sharing.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Samuel, I appreciate the kind words. Remember that these layer styles you’re creating can be easily applied to future projects to save more time.

  3. Hamid says:

    Awesome article and technique.

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