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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation

How to Create a Surreal Broken Glass Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial we will be learning how to envelop a model in shards of shattered glass, thus developing a surreal fashion-forward image! We will be masking fur, painting using only default brushes, and tapping into the full potential of Blending Modes and textures in this advanced level tutorial. 

Tutorial Assets

Here are the resources we will be using, found on Envato Elements:

1. Create a Basic Background

First, we will be creating our own basic background!

Step 1

Create a New Document with a size of 2000 x 3130 pixels.

Next, create a Color Fill layer and set it to a dark purple #080609.

Create another New Layer, fill it with pure black #000000 using the Paint Bucket tool, and set the Layer Mode to Screen.

Add a small amount of noise to the layer by going to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. This is a good trick to prevent things like color banding! 

Add noise to background

Step 2

Next, we are going to add light to the background by creating a New Layer and setting its Layer Mode to Soft Light.

Using a large soft Brush, with a Flow of 5%, let's paint blobs of white #ffffff in the middle of the canvas to create a light source.  

Paint a light source on your background layer

Step 3

Create a New Layer and set it to Screen.

Using the same brush as before, paint pale purple #130c17 blobs of light on top of the white ones we just created. This will not only add more light but will also bring more color to our backlight. 

Add purple background light

Step 4

Next, create a New Layer and set it to Soft Light.

Once again, paint white blobs to add even more light to our background. Use varying brush sizes to give a smoke or fog-like effect. If you have a smoke or fog brush you could also use that, but a basic soft, round brush will work just as well!

Create a New Group, group all the current layers together, and name it "Background." 

Below is approximately what our background should look like so far, along with our current layers. Don't worry about being exact—always feel free to experiment and innovate! 

Paint purple light on your background

2. Extract a Subject Using the Pen Tool

Next, we will be placing the model onto our background, which means extracting her from her original background. There are multiple ways to do this; however, today we will be using the Pen Tool. 

Step 1

Place the Model Image in the middle of the canvas.

Use the Pen Tool to create a path around the hard edges of the model. Basically, anything with a smooth edge. On this model, it's everything but her furry jacket. 

Create a Pen Tool path around subject

Step 2

Add a Layer Mask to the woman and Right Click > Fill Path.

Invert the layer mask by pressing Control-I.

Fill path with black on subjects layer mask

Step 3

Now, that her body and head are both extracted, we will be moving on to her fur jacket!

Using the Quick Selection Tool, select the rest of the model's original background around her jacket. It doesn't have to be perfect, just a rough selection!

Select Subjects coat with Quick Selection Tool

Step 4

Add a Layer Mask to the model and invert it by hitting Control-I.

Double Click the Layer Mask or hit Control-Alt-R to open up Refine Edge. Set the settings as follows: Radius 6 px with Smart Radius checked and Feather 0.5 px.

With the Quick Selection Tool active, brush around the edges of the model's fur coat. More and more fur will become selected. 

If too much fur or some of the background becomes selected, press Alt and the brush will then subtract from the selection instead. Change the size of the brush as needed. You can always Control-Alt-Z to Undo a selection or deselection. 

Keep running the brush over the edges of the fur, paying attention to how the fur comes and goes, until you are satisfied. 

Finish selection in Refine Edge

Step 5

Finally, with a hard round Brush set to black, mask out any unwanted edges or leftover background. You can also mask back in some of the longer fur strands if you'd like by using a very small, semi-hard round Brush!

Mask out remaining bits of background

Step 6

Next, we are going to add some shading and contrast. 

Create a New Layer and clip it to the "Model" layer. Set it to Overlay.

Using a soft, round Brush with a Flow of 10%, paint white on the model's highlights and black on her shadows to increase her contrast. Use varying brush sizes depending on where you are painting. Setting the Brush Tool to a low Flow Rate helps to build up the shadows and highlights slowly.

Add contrast to model

Step 7

Create another New Layer and clip it to the model. Set it to Soft Light. 

With a large, soft, round Brush, paint white on the edges of the model's coat and hair. 

Add light to coat

Step 8

Create a New Layer below the "Model" layer. Keep it set to Normal. 

Using a medium, soft, round Brush, paint white back-lighting behind the model's jacket and hair. This will give her a soft glow. 

Create a New Group, name it "Model", and place all of our newly created layers into it. Below is our current progress, along with the current layers!

Add contrast to the model

3. Create Glass Shards

Now, on to the starring effect of this tutorial: the glass!

Step 1

First, size and place the Broken Glass Texture in the middle of the canvas behind the model. Set it to Screen. 

Create and clip a black and white Gradient Map Adjustment Layer to convert the image to black and white. You can remove the color using any method you prefer; I prefer a gradient map as it adds some extra contrast.

Merge the glass texture and gradient map layer together. Reset the now black and white glass texture to Screen. 

Place glass texture behind model

Step 2

Next, we are going to individually cut out the shards of glass using the Magnetic Lasso Tool! 

Hide the "Model" group, for now, so all you see is the shattered glass texture. 

Set the Magnetic Lasso Tool to Width 5 px, Contrast 10%, and Frequency 57.

Find a good-looking section of glass and drag the Lasso Tool around that section of glass to select it. 

Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste. It will paste as a new layer. We want all our pieces of glass to be on their own separate layers so we can rearrange them easily later.

Select a piece of glass

Step 3

Keep the newly cut glass shard layer set to Normal, for now, so we can keep track of them and see them while we are extracting our other pieces.

You can also temporarily hide the shattered glass layer to get a clearer look at the shards. 

Hide glass texture

Do this over and over until you have several glass shards. Remember, keep all of the shards on separate layers!

You want to have a good amount of shards in varying shapes and sizes. The more you make, the better you'll be! I ended up with about 19, as seen below. 

Select and extract multiple shards

Step 4

Unhide the "Model" group.

Now, we want to arrange the glass shards in a diagonal line going from the top-left corner of the canvas to the bottom-right corner. 

Flip, rotate, and resize the shards as needed. We want it to flow naturally, with a mix of very tiny pieces of glass and larger pieces. 

Also, you can duplicate, flip, resize, and rotate some of the glass shards to fill in any empty spots. You don't want it to look as if you have a lot of repeating/copied glass, however!

Arrange glass shard

Step 5

Create a New Group and group together all of the glass layers. Name the group "Glass" and set the group to Screen.

Duplicate the "Glass" group, place it below the original glass group, and merge "Glass Copy" together.

Add a Color Overlay layer style to the glass copy and fill it with a dark purple #0b030b. Set the Opacity to 70%. This is to make the glass less transparent, and also to give it a tint of color. 

Darken the back of the shards

Step 6

Create a New Layer and clip it to the "Glass" group. Keep it set to Normal. 

With a small, hard Brush, paint white on some of the glass shard edges, but not all. Look at the already existing white lines in the cracked glass—that is what we are replicating. 

Add borders and edges to the shards

Step 7

Create another New Layer and clip it to the "Model" layer. Keep it set to Normal.

With a very large, soft, round Brush, paint white on the glass coming from the left side of the canvas.  

Set the layer Opacity to 40%. This is to add a light glare to the upper glass pieces.

Add light to the shards

Step 8

Create and clip a New Layer to the "Model" layer. Set it to Overlay.

Using a medium, soft round Brush with a Flow of 5%, paint high points white and low points black. This is to add contrast and shading. You don't have to be precise! Most of the white will fall on the left side of the glass, and the black will be largely behind the model and to the bottom right. 

Add contrast to the shards

Group all of the glass layers together in a New Group and name it "Large Glass."

Step 9

Before we finish up, let's go back to our "Glass" group and duplicate some of the smaller glass shard layers.

Bring these duplicated layers above the model, and arrange them around the model's legs and body to give the effect that there are glass shards both in front of and behind her.

Group those layers together and name the group "Small Glass." See our current layers below:

Copy paste shards above the model

4. Add Light Flares and Particle Effects 

To start, we are going to add some smoke and tiny particles of glass to make our shards more dynamic. We will be using the default Photoshop CC brushes for the particles, although there are countless alternatives! Anything that makes dust, specks, or dots will work. 

Step 1

Create a New Layer. Using "Kyle's Splatter Brushes", located in the "Special Effect Paint Brushes" folder in the default Brush Panel, paint very small white specks around the edges of the glass shards.

Add specks of glass using brush

Step 2 

Next, we are going to create our own smoke brush using only the Brush Settings panel. The settings are as follows:

1. Brush Tip Shape

  • Hardness: 0%
  • Spacing: 42%

2. Shape Dynamics 

  • Size Jitter: 100%
  • Roundness Jitter: 45% 

3. Scattering

  • Scatter: 44%
  • Count: 2
Fog brush settings

Set the Brush Flow Rate all the way down to 1%. You will be changing the size of the Brush Tool manually as you paint. 

Step 3

Create a New Layer and paint white smoke, using the new smoke brush we just created, all around the glass shards. Build the fog up slowly from top-left to bottom-right, changing the brush size as you go. 

Add fog

Group the smoke and particle layers together, and name the group "Smoke and Particles".

Step 4

Next, we will be adding some light reflections to our glass by using the Pen Tool's Stroke Path function.  

Create a New Layer and bring it on top of the "Large Glass" group. Set the layer to Screen. 

Create small line paths on the edges of the glass shards. We don't want to add a path to every glass shard, only a few. And only place the paths on the left side of the glass as that is where the light is shining from. 

Add paths to edges of glass

Step 5

Go to the Brush Tool and set it to a small, soft, round Brush, and set the color to a pale blue #8484c3.

Go back to the Pen Tool and Right Click > Stoke Path. Set Tool to Brush, make sure Simulate Pressure is Checked, and then press OK. This will add a glowing line everywhere you placed a path. 

Add the first glow to edges of glass

Step 6

To intensify the glow, create a New Layer and keep it set to Normal.  

Select the Brush Tool, make it smaller, and set the color to white. 

Go back to the layer you just created and once again Right Click > Stroke Path. This will create a soft, white line to help make the glow seem more intense and help blend it into the edges of the glass shards. 

Right Click > Delete Path to get rid of your paths. 

Add glowing edge to shards with pend tool

Step 7

Next, we will be adding some final light flares to finish up our glass. Create a New Layer and keep it set to Normal. 

Paint a simple six-point star using a small, soft, round Brush set to white and a Flow of 1%. You can also find premade brushes of these all over—any star will do!

Create star brush

Duplicate and place these stars on the edges of the shards that have a glowing edge. Flip, rotate, and resize them to make them look more varied. 

Group all the shine and glow layers you just created together and rename the group "Light".

Add shines to shards

5. Add Reflections in the Glass

To finish up our glass, we are going to be adding a reflection of our model in the glass behind her.

Step 1

Duplicate the "Model" group and merge the new "Model Copy" group together. Rename this layer "Reflection".

Bring the "Reflection" layer down above our "Large Glass" group and clip it to the group. 

Set the "Reflection" layer to Lighten with a 60% Opacity. 

Step 2

Now, place the reflection slightly to the left of the original model so that you can see some of the coat showing in the glass behind her.

Duplicate the "Reflection" layer, and place it to the right similarly. 

You can duplicate it one more time and drag it down lower to add a bit of a leg reflection as well. 

Clip model into glass layer to add reflection

6. Color Correct

To finish off our image, we are going to do some final color correcting which will bring the whole image together!

Step 1 

First, create a New Layer above all of the current layers. 

Using a combination of a very large soft round Brush and the newly created smoke brush from step 4, paint white starting in the upper left-hand corner and going down about halfway through to the middle of the image.

Add flares of light with brush tool

Step 2

Lastly, we are going to add our final color correction layers. These layers consist of six Adjustment Layers and are in order from last to first. So each new Adjustment Layer will go on top of the most recent. They are also numbered below. 

  1. Create a Color Lookup Layer. Settings: (3dLUT File) Crisp Warm and 20% Opacity.
  2. Create a Color Lookup Layer. Settings: (3dLUT File) Crisp Winter and 24% Opacity.
  3. Create a Color Lookup Layer. Settings: (3dLUT File) EdgyAmber and 10% Opacity.
  4. Create a Color Lookup Layer. Settings: (3dLUT File) FoggyNight and 25% Opacity. 
  5. Create a Color Lookup Layer. Settings: (3dLUT File) HorrorBlue and 29% Opacity.
  6. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer with the settings below: 
Adjust red curves

Group all the adjustment layers and your light layer together in a New Group and name it "CC" or "Color Correction".

Final layers

You've Done It!

You have conquered layer modes and masks, the Pen Tool, and textures. Remember, always try and experiment! There is more than one way to do everything, and none of them are wrong, so have fun and follow your artist instinct!  

Feel free to ask any questions or share your very own results in the comments below! 

Final image
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