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How to Create a Kaleidoscope Effect in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Music Video Inspired Effects.
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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

As we continue with our series on effects inspired by music videos, one of the effects I've always been fascinated with was the kaleidoscope mirror effect. The best examples of this effect can be seen in the visually rich Pillow Talk video by Zayn. Check it out at 1:20, 1:55, 2:26, and 3:12.

The challenge is to find a way to create the effect easily and not by manually placing dozens of copies. 

Fortunately, Photoshop has a couple of useful features to make this task significantly easier. First is the frequently overlooked Scripted Fill, which makes short work of creating kaleidoscope patterns and has enough options to keep you busy experimenting for hours! Paired with that is the Transform Again feature, which is a fun way to create repetitive objects similar to the way the old Spirograph used to work. 

If you're looking for a Photoshop action to create a mirror effect, check out our roundup of the best reflection and mirror effects available on Envato Market and Envato Elements.

Follow along with our tutorial over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

1. Create the Pattern

The scripted fill is extremely useful for this type of effect, but it has to use a predefined pattern to work. Patterns that are not square tend to work best, so we will start out by extracting a musical artist from the background and creating a pattern to use.

Step 1

This technique will work with almost any image, but for this project let's work with a musician image to best imitate the source effect from the video. Specifically, we'll use this image of a sensual girl next to a rocky wall from Envato Market.

sensual girl on the rocks image
Credit: Envato Market

Step 2

Grab the Quick Selection Tool (W) and paint along the model to create a selection that completely surrounds her. If the tool grabs a background area, hold down the Alt key and paint along that background to deselect it.

create a selection around the subject

Step 3

Press the Refine Edge button to launch the dialogue box. Adjust the Radius to 2 px and check the Smart Radius option. Then use the Refine Radius Tool to brush along the edges of the model's hair to create a better selection for those long locks. Then press the OK button to return to the main Photoshop interface.

using the select and mask option to refine the image selection

Step 4

Use the selection as a layer mask by going to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection.

use the selection as a mask

Step 5

Click on the layer thumbnail to make sure the focus is on the layer and not the layer mask. Then go to Edit > Define Pattern. Give the pattern a name of girl.

define a pattern

2. Scripted Fill Fun

With our custom pattern defined and ready to go, it's time to use the Scripted Fill to create the kaleidoscope pattern. There are several options to experiment with; the ones listed here are just a suggestion to get you started. Feel free to craft your own patterned effect.

Step 1

Create a new document with File > New. Set the Width and Height both to 2500 px. Set the Background Contents to Other and specify the color to be black (#000000).

setting up a new document

Step 2

Create a new layer with Layer > New > Layer (Shift-Control-N) and name the new layer Scripted Fill.

creating a new layer

Step 3

Go to Edit > Fill and change the Contents to Pattern and set the Custom Pattern to the Guitarist pattern you created earlier. Then check the Script option box and select Symmetry Fill.

edit fill settings

In the Symmetry Fill dialogue box, choose the following settings:

  • Symmetry type: 32 wallpaperP6 symmetry
  • Pattern Scale: 0.75
  • Pattern translation along width: 25% of width
  • Pattern translation along height: -40% of height
symmetry fill settings

Step 4

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and choose the following settings:

  • Hue: 0
  • Saturation: -57
  • Lightness: -62
adding a hue saturation adjustment layer

Step 5

Use the Ellipse Tool (U) set to Path and draw out a circle (800 x 800 px) centered in the middle of the canvas. Holding down the Shift key while drawing the circle keeps the shape as a perfect circle.

draw a circular path

Step 6

Add a new layer named girl circle and go to Edit > Fill again. Change the scripted fill to Place Along Path. Then, in the Place Along Path dialogue box, apply the following settings:

  • Pattern Scale to 0.45
  • Spacing to -720 pixels
  • Check the Adjust spacing to fit option
  • Distance from path to 360 pixels
  • Scale progression to 100%
  • Color and Brightness randomness both to 0
place along path settings

At this point, the image should look similar to this:

image with pattern along path added

3. Transform Shortcuts

To create the "blossom" effect, we will use a fun feature called Transform Again. This feature feels more like a happy accident than an intended feature. Regardless of why it's in the program, it is certainly useful for quickly creating math-based patterns! 

Step 1

Hold down the Alt key and go to Edit > Transform (Control-T). This will generate a copy of the girl circle layer. In the Options Bar, set the Width and Height scale to be 80% and the rotation to be 20 degrees.

transform a copy of the girl circle

Step 2

Hold down the Alt-Shift-Control keys and press the T key. This is the Transform Again command that can be found in the Edit > Transform menu. It makes another copy of the layer and applies the previous transformation. Continue pressing the same key combination until there are three copies of the girl circle layer.

adding more copies of the girl circle

Step 3

Add a new layer named gradient at the top of the layer stack. Make sure the foreground color is set to black and grab the Gradient Tool (G). Use the Foreground to Transparent preset and Radial gradient shape. Then draw out a gradient starting at the center of the canvas.

adding a gradient

4. Finish With Some Line Art

The final stage is using the same techniques from before but on some simple lines and shapes to bring the entire effect together into something special.

Step 1

Use the Polygon Tool (U) and set the Sides to 5, Fill to null, Stroke Color to white, and stroke to 4 px. Then draw out a five-sided polygon at the center of the canvas.

create a five sided polygon

Step 2

Go to Layer > Rasterize Shape to turn the vector shape into pixels. Then hold down the Alt key while clicking on the visibility toggle icon (that's the eyeball) for the Polygon layer. That will make this the only visible layer. Go to Edit > Define Pattern and name this pattern polygon.

turning the polygon into a pattern

Step 3

Alt-click on the visibility toggle icon for the polygon layer again to reveal all the other layers again. Add a new layer over the Hue/Saturation 1 layer and call it background lines.

adding a new layer

Step 4

Use Edit > Fill again and set the Custom Pattern to the polygon pattern you just created. Also set the Script to Symmetry Fill.

In the Symmetry Fill dialogue box, make the following settings:

  • Symmetry Type: 33 wallpaperP6M symmetry
  • Pattern Scale: 0.4
  • Pattern translation along width: 50% of width
  • Pattern translation along height: 50% of height
  • Color randomness: 0
  • Brightness randomness: 0
symmetry fill settings

Then reduce the layer's Opacity to 25%.

lower the layer opacity

Step 5

Hide the Polygon layer and grab the Polygon Tool (U) again. Set the Sides to 3 and the Stroke to 4 px. Then draw out a triangle in the center of the canvas.

adding the triangle

Step 6

Hold the Alt key while going to Edit > Free Transform. This will create a new copy of the triangle layer to transform. Rotate the copy by around 20 degrees.

rotating a copy of the triangle

Step 7

Use the Transform Again key combination (Alt-Shift-Control-T) about 18 times to create a Spirograph type of effect at the center of the image.

adding the remaining triangles

Step 8

Select all of the triangle layers in the Layers panel by Shift-clicking the first one and the last one. Then group them all together with Layer > Group Layers (Control-G) and name the group Triangles.

grouping the triangle layers

Step 9

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All to add a layer mask to the group. Then set the foreground color to white and grab the Gradient Tool (G). Use the Foreground to Transparent preset and the Radial gradient shape. Draw out the gradient at the center of the canvas on the group's mask to fade the triangle artwork into the human circle.

masking the triangles and then revealing them

Step 10

Use the Crop Tool (C) to crop the image just below the center to complete the effect.

You Are Done!

How did your fun kaleidoscope effect turn out? Share it with us in the comments below. Want to try your hand at some other effects inspired by music videos? Then check out some of the other entries in our Music Video Inspired Effects series.

finished project preview

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Learn more about creating mirror and reflection effects, here on Envato Tuts+:

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