Creating a glass orb effect

Using Photoshop’s polar co-ordinates filter

The polar co-ordinates filter in Photoshop is a rarely used gem. Following this tutorial I will show you how to simply create a reflective glass orb or ball from any photograph. This works with ANY version of Photoshop going back over the last 15 years.

How to do it.

Select your photograph (I am using an image from Stockvault).

For best results crop you image to a square using the crop tool with ‘shift’ key.

Now apply the Distort: polar co-ordinates filter on the ‘Polar to rectangular’ setting. You will have a weirdly distorted image!

Next go to image:image size and unproportionaly scale your image height by 50%, then duplicate your Background layer.

Now go to image:canvas size and increase the height by 200% leaving your image in the top half.

Now Edit:transform your ‘Background copy’ layer using ‘Flip Vertical’, then with your shift key held down move the whole layer down to the bottom half to line up.

Here’s the fun bit

Flatten your image in the layers palette. Now run Distort: Polar co-ordinates again using ‘Rectangular to polar’ this time.

Voila! You have the start of an Orb!

Now select your orb with the ellipse selection tool then you can adjust the amount of edge reflection using Distort:Spherise filter  (I will use 100% for this exercise).

Edit: Copy the orb. Now File:Revert back to your original picture. Then Edit:Paste

Adding Shading

Scale down your Orb a little then select it again (Ctrl click the layer icon).

Next gently shade the bottom right hand edge using black, a soft brush set to multiply and 20% opacity.

Select a slightly smaller circle and centre it in your orb.

And using a smaller soft brush with white set to ‘screen’ and an opacity of 20%, gently brush in a highlight inside your inner circle in the top right.

Finishing touch

Create a new layer and edit:fill:black 100%. Then Filter:Render:Lens flare (Pick one to your liking). Then set this layer to ‘Screen’ in the layer palette

Move the layer so the bright spot falls on your brushed in highlight….

You are done!

This is a great technique for generating crystal balls, Christmas tree baule baules and (using different areas of an image) bubbles. Have fun with it.

Ivan Longland.

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2 Responses to “Creating a glass orb effect”


    whats this theme. I really love it. I am starting a blog and id like to use it. thank you!

  2. IVAN says:

    It’s a custom made theme we put together in-house….

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