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Quick Tip: How to Create a Broken Mirror Effect with Clipping Masks in Illustrator

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Read Time: 5 min

Lately I have seen on a magazine a woman reflected on a broken mirror. The shot was supposed to be real, but it was a clear Photoshop job, and I felt like the magazine was cheating. So I thought, how could I make an artistic broken mirror effect?


This is an artistic effect that gives the impression of an image reflected on a broken mirror, and it is done using Adobe Illustrator. To achieve this effect you will learn how to use Clipping Masks on multiple objects, to give a 3D effect and to use the Blob Brush Tool to add a shadowing effect.

For the purpose of this tutorial I am using a picture from Photodune.

Step 1

In Illustrator, open the picture of a broken mirror to use as a reference (to do that: File > Open > Name of your file). Double click on its layer, rename it "Mirror" and lock it.

open a file in illustratoropen a file in illustratoropen a file in illustrator

Step 2

Now we will draw the fragments of the mirror on four different layers, so open four new layers and call them "Small", "Large", "Medium" and "Small2".

mirror with some fragments maskedmirror with some fragments maskedmirror with some fragments masked

Step 3

Select the Pen Tool (P) and choose a color that will stand out from all the rest of the colors, such as green, blue or red. Select the layer "Small" and lock all the rest of them. Use the Pen Tool (P) to trace the borders of the smaller fragments. Don't trace them all, as for the small fragments you have two layers.

Notice that some fragments overlap. Continue tracing them imagining the shape they have under the piece of mirror that covers them. As this is just a guide, there is no need to be precise, and pay attention to the beauty of the composition, more than the actual displacement of the fragments.

first fragments tracedfirst fragments tracedfirst fragments traced

Step 4

When you finish tracing the fragments of the layer "Small", lock this layer and move to the next one. Change the color of your pen and trace the fragments of the layer "Medium". You can let overlap some of the fragments. Do the same with the other two layers. At the end you will have a result similar to this:

fragments completely tracedfragments completely tracedfragments completely traced

Step 5

Now it is time to bring the picture we will be using. Make a new layer right above the "Mirror" one and call it "Pict".

To place your picture, go to File > Place > Name of your picture.

layers pannel with pict

Step 6

Selecting the Artboard Tool (Shift + O) in the tools palette, change the size of the artboard to adapt it to your picture.

artboard resizingartboard resizingartboard resizing

Step 7

Copy and paste some of the fragments you traced in order to cover the entire picture, with the biggest fragments covering the face. Now you can delete the layer "Mirror" if you want.

Copy and Paste in place (Ctrl/Command + Shift + V) the picture on all the other layers, then send it back (select it, right click on it and choose Arrange > Send To Back) to have the fragments covering it.

Make small changes to all of the copies of the picture to replicate the casuality of the broken mirror: one will be smaller, one will be slightly moved to the left and so on. Reposition all the fragments in each layer to cover nicely your picture. Resize the fragments if you need to.

rearrange objectsrearrange objectsrearrange objects

Step 8

Now it's time to make the masks that will create the effect of the broken mirror. Make all the layers invisible but the "Large" one. Select all by pressing Ctrl/Command + A and deselect the picture by keeping pressed Shift on the keybord and selecting it with the mouse. Now just the fragments are selected.

Go to Object > Compound Path > Make. Select both the fragment and the picture and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.

Done! Impressive result, isn't it? Do the same thing with all the other layers. You can delete the layer "Pict" if you want.

picture in fragmentspicture in fragmentspicture in fragments

Step 9

Let's add some 3D effect. With all the layers visible, press on your keybord Ctrl/Command + A to select everything. Then go to Effect > 3D > Extrude And Bevel.Place the window that opens in a place where you can see what happens to your work, then check the Preview box. This slows the memory of your computer, but you can preview what you are doing.
Play directly with the cube to adjust the orientation of your artwork and with the value of Extrude and Depth.

Fragments in 3DFragments in 3DFragments in 3D

Step 10

Move the layers until you find the right visual combination and change their hierarchy. If necessary, you can also delete one layer.

second compositionsecond compositionsecond composition

Step 11

Almost finished, we just need a floor. Now make a new layer, call it "Texture" and put it on the bottom of your layers pannel, then place your texture of a floor.


Step 12

Make a new layer above the "Texture" and call it "Shadow". With the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) and all the other layers locked, choose the black fill and draw part of the edges of your broken mirror.

selections for shadowsselections for shadowsselections for shadows

Step 13

Now with all the other layers locked, select all the content on your "Shadow" layer, go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and choose a radius (for this work I chosed 20 pixels). Click OK and then change the Opacity to 50%, to give just a bit of shadow, and you are done!



I hope you liked this effect. To accomplish the final result you learnt a few helpful tricks that you could creatively use also in your future works. Till the next time!

Broken Mirror Effect FinishedBroken Mirror Effect FinishedBroken Mirror Effect Finished
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