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Creating a Shiny Chain with Photoshop

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Read Time: 13 min

In this tutorial we'll use Photoshop CS to create a shiny new chain. We'll cover creating shapes using a knockout techniques with Shape Layers to applying some fairly sophisticated contours with Layer Styles. This tutorial will help you rethink how Photoshops Layer Styles work and by the end you'll not only have a damn sexy chain, but have learned some new techniques by thinking out of the box on how we assume things should work. Time to get to it!

Bonus Tutorial and Contest!

There's a second part to this tutorial over at Fuel Your Creativity where we'll take this completed shiny chain and make it look old, rusted and distressed. In addition, you could win a Premium Membership to Psdtuts+!! So when you're finished here, head on over to for a bonus tutorial and your chance to win a Premium 6 Month Membership to Psd Plus!

Final Image Preview

Take a look at the image we'll be creating. 

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Photoshop CS 2, 3 & 4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 30-40 minutes

Video Tutorial

Our video editor Gavin Steele has created this video tutorial to compliment this text + image tutorial.

Step 1

First let's create a new document by pressing Command + N and give it a width of 750 pixels and a height of 1500 pixels at 300dpi.

Step 2

Now before we create our chain shapes we need to set up our guides. Hit Command + R to show you rulers, then drag a vertical and a horizontal guide to snap in the center of the document. Drag another guide down 140 pixels from the top and one 50 pixels from the left.

TIP: Holding Shift while dragging will force the guide to snap every 10 pixels and holding Alt while dragging will switch from a horizontal guide to a vertical guide. So if you wanted to drag a guide to exactly 100 pixels from the left, you would hold Shift + Alt while dragging to get a vertical guide that snaps every 10 pixels.

Step 3

With our guides in place we want to create the base shape for our chain. Grab your Rounded Rectangle Tool and change the Radius to 750px. Place your cursor at the intersection of the two center guides and start to drag. While dragging hold Alt to scale from the center until it snaps in with the top and side guides as illustrated below. We'll name this layer, "base link." Note: it's important to start dragging before you you hold Alt. I will explain more in the next step.

Step 4

Now we need to knockout the center of the previous shape by repeating the last step with a few minor differences. Select your Rounded Rectangle Tool and change its radius to 325px. With the "base link" shape layer selected once again we'll start with our cursor in the center most intersection of our guides. As I mentioned in Step 3, it was important not to hit Alt until you were in mid-drag. This time we do want to hold down Alt before we start dragging.

You will notice your cursor now has a minus symbol next to it. This tells us we are going to subtract this shape from the "base link" layer. So let's go ahead and create our inner shape now. Starting at the center guides hold Alt and then start to drag your shape until you have a chain link shape like the image below.

Step 5

Let's chrome this puppy! With the "base link" layer highlighted, add a Bevel and Emboss Layer Style with the settings below but keep the dialog box open.

Step 6

Now we'll double-click the Gloss Contour. We want to shape this contour to look like a tsunami so using the image below as our guide, let's create the first half of the wave. Don't worry if it's not exactly like the image below but try to get it close. Now before we shape the second half, with the tip of the wave selected you want to check the Corner box as seen below for this point only. By default, all new points have this turned off so you should only have to check it once for the tip of the wave.

Step 7

For the second half of the wave we want a steep drop down and a sharp curve to the bottom as seen in the image below. Hey look...Is that Keanu?

Step 8

Now, right underneath the Bevel and Emboss filter is a nested checkbox called Contour. Lets check that box, then double-click the Contour and shape ours to look like the image below. It's kind of an S-curve with the initial point one grid space up from the top.

Step 9

Next, we slide into some Satin. Change the settings to match the below image.

Step 10

As you can probably see already our link is starting to look like a chain. But wait, there's more! Next, we'll add a Gradient Overlay.

Change the main dialog box settings to match the image below, and then double-click the gradient to customize the colors and steps of the gradient. Again we don't have to be perfect with the colors or stages of the gradient, but we've added the exact colors below for you to be more precise.

Step 11

Ewww, what happened to our chain? It's all washed out and icky, did we do something wrong? Fear not! For we will keep the Layer Styles window open a little longer and add the finishing touches to achieve our chrome goodness. Oh, and yes.. the corny remarks will continue as well, so get over it already.

Next, we'll add an Inner Glow to our recipe of Layer Styles. Inner Glow is a little misleading in this instance.

By default Inner Glow is set to a yellowish color with a Blend Mode of Screen. This is fine if we actually want an inner glow, but what it we are looking for the opposite?

There's no Edge Shadow filter. But by using Inner Glow and thinking in reverse we can add an effect to our shape that gives the edge of our shape the illusion of roundness. Setting the Blend Mode to Multiply and using a darker color instead of a lighter color we achieve this effect.

TIP: You can use this reverse Inner Glow trick on anything that you want to look like it rounds off at the edges.

Step 12

Oh, I'm sorry. Did I say we were finished with the Inner Glow? Remember our friend the Tsunami Contour from Bevel and Emboss"? Well, we're bringing it back for Inner Glow. This is where you'll really start to see your washed out parts come back to life.

Using the settings below and adjusting the Contour with our wave from Steps 6 and 7. Now we can put Inner Glow to bed and move on to the next Layer Style.

Step 13

Next, we want to add an Inner Shadow using the settings below. The &Inner Shadow distorts the coloration just enough to make the chain not look so symmetrical. When we attempt to create pseudo-realistic elements it's best to try and distort the perfection a little bit to give it a more realistic look.

Step 14

Now we're going to apply another Contour, but this time it's a preset. Open the Contour menu and select "Ring – Double" as seen below.

Step 15

Ok folks, one last Layer Style effect to add and it is Stroke. Change your settings to match the image below and viola - we have a chain! But we have one last piece of flair to add to the "base link" so lets jump to the next step.

Step 16

Let's start by adding a new layer by clicking Command + Shift + N and name this layer, "Hilight."

Step 17

Next, with the "Hilight" layer selected Command-click the base link layer to get our selection.

Step 18

Now we want to shrink this selection. We'll do so by heading to the top menu and click on Select > Modify > Contract, then contract the selection by 60 pixels.

Step 19

Next, we want to feather this selection by 5 pixels. Head back up to the top and Select > Modify > Feather by 5 pixels.

Step 20

While still on the "Highlight" layer, we'll hit "D" to make sure our foreground and background colors are at the default. Now hit Command + Delete/Backspace to fill our feathered selection with white. You could almost reach into your screen and grab it!

Step 21

Now we need to make the top and bottom links, which should be much quicker since we've already done all the ground work in the "Layer Styles" to make our chrome finish. So let's set up some new guides and we'll create the rest of our links.

We know that our chain from the side view is no thicker than one side of our chain from the front, so we drag a guide to the inside-left of our "base link" and one down to the outside-bottom of the "base link," as seen below.

Step 22

Using these guides we want to create the side-view links of our chain. Grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool, set the radius to 325 pixels and using our new guides, drag the shape into place until it snaps to our guides. You should end up with a new Shape Layer that looks like the image below. Name this layer "top link."

Step 23

Now we want to copy the Layer Style we applied to the "base link" and paste it on the side view link we just created. Right-click on the "base link" layer and select Copy Layer Style. Then select the "top link" layer, and Right-click, then Paste Layer Style.

Step 24

The image below now shows we have the same effect applied to the "top link" as we do to the "base link." Now we want to add the highlight to the "top link" just like we did in steps 17, 18 and 19 with the "base link." Let's move on to that.

Step 25

First, create a New Layer above the top link layer by pressing Command + Shift + N.

Then with the new layer still selected Command-click on the top link layer to get our selection. Now if you remember we have to Contract and Feather this selection by going to the top menu and choosing Select > Modify > Contract, and contract by 60 pixels and then choose Select > Modify > Feather and we want to feather the selection by 5 pixels.

Lastly we're going to fill this selection with white by hitting Command + Delete/Backspace. Name this layer "top link hilight" and now we have our top link with the same Layer Style and highlight as our base layer.

Step 26

Now let's put these pieces into place. Select both the "top link" and "top link hilight" layer by selecting one and Shift-click the other. Drag it to the top center as seen in the image below.

Next, we want to copy these two layers. We do this by Alt-clicking and dragging them down to the bottom until it matches the image. Now finally, rename these copies to "bottom link" and "bottom link highlight."

Step 27

Now, maybe it's just me, but I don't like the way the top of that bottom link looks. So let's fix it. Open up the Layer Styles dialog box for the" bottom link" by double-clicking on the layer. Then go to the Bevel and Emboss style and change it from Up to Down. Much better.

Step 28

This step isn't really a step as much as it is a best practice. Since we have different layers that make up the separate link parts we're going to group the layers together. Let's select the base link and it's "Hilight" layer and hit Command + G and name this Group Layer "base link." Do this same process for the "top link" and it's highlight and then for the "bottom link" and it's highlight. All nice and organized.

Step 29

If we have highlights we have to have shadows right? Right! So Create a new layer above the "base link" group layer as seen below and name it "shadows." Next, if it's not open already, let's open the "base link" group and with the "shadows" layer still selected Command-lick on the "base link" shape layer. Once again this gives us a selection of our "base link."

Step 30

Now, press Shift + M until we have our Elliptical Marquee Tool. We want to subtract a portion of this selection, so like before when we did the knock out effect of our base links shape layer, we press and hold Alt and again we can see that the minus sign is visible, which tells us we're going to subtract from this selection.

Now simply drag your marquee on either side of our original selection to subtract it from either side until you end up with a selection looking like the image below. As you can see below our selection isn't perfect either so if you want to try it a couple times we can wait.

Step 31

Feather our selection by 35 pixels. So if you remember from earlier you can head up to the menu and go to Select > Modify > Feather. Or just hit Shift + F6.

Step 32

To fill our feathered selection with black press Alt + Delete/Backspace, then deselect by pressing Command + D and move on to the next step.

Step 33

Again with the "shadows" layer selected, we Command-click on the "base link" layer to get our selection. Then we go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to create the mask layer. Now fill the mask by pressing Command + Delete/Backspace, and then Command + D to deselect.

Step 34

Wait, something's wrong. Shouldn't the shadow be ON the chain and not behind it?

Step 35

Oh yeah, a simple Command + I to invert our mask and there you have it. Drop that shadow to 70% Opacity by pressing V to make sure our Move Tool is active and then 7 to get our Opacity to 70%.

TIP: As long as the Move Tool (V) is active, pressing numbers one through zero will jump the opacity of that layer in steps of ten. So pressing 1 will give you 10% Opacity and pressing 8 will give you 80% opacity, while 0 will bring it back to 100%. Subsequently, pressing 5 then 3 quickly will give you 53% and so on and so forth.


We made it! Click here to see the full size finished chain.

I hope you had as much fun as I did! We learned a lot, and not just how to create a chain, but hopefully some other techniques you can use in the future designs you create yourself.

Remember, to head over to Fuel Your Creativity to read the sister tutorial on how to make this chain look old as well as your chance to win a Premium 6 Month Membership to Psd Plus!

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