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How to create ultra-realistic clear glass

Glass varies from colour-tinted to embossed patterns, making reflections and distortion very complex. Still, don't worry, as all you need is to do is achieve the illusion of glass – just enough to convince the viewers.

If we take perfectly clear glass, what makes up for the illusion is using heavy highlights, reflection when looking at sharp angles, high transparency on flat surfaces facing the viewer, and distortion or refraction, depending on whether the glass is solid or hollow.

01. Begin with basics

master distortion and reflection step 1

A simple way of creating this illusion is first to paint the outline of the glass object in a separate layer and then paint the highlights on another layer on top of the original layer.

02. Duplicate for distortion

master reflection step 2

To create distortion, make a copy of the background behind the glass object, and make sure to include quite a large chunk so that you have enough information to work with.

03. Warp your image

master reflection step 3

Now, with the piece of the background in a separate layer, open the Liquify filter. To be able to see where to create distortion, make sure to tick off the Show Backdrop tick-box, and select the layer that contains the glass jar on the Use drop-down, and set Mode to In Front.

Now, use the Forward Warp tool, and push the background image so that you have heavy distortion where the glass is seen through a sharp angle, particularly on the sides.

04. Finishing touches

distort and reflect step 4

Lastly, delete the distorted elements outside the outlines of the glass jar.

Top tip: Create actions for repetitive tasks

distortion ad reflection artist tip

Create a selection of handy Photoshop Actions for things you do repeatedly, be it applying a special noise on your paintings, to glow effects or file formats. Also, remember that all actions can easily be used for batch-processing too.

Words: Henning Ludvigsen

Henning is a Norwegian digital artist now living in Greece. He has over nine years experience in advertising, and six in games. This article appeared in ImagineFX (opens in new tab) issue 36

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