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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photoshop Actions

How to Create a Shatter Photoshop Effect Action

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Read Time: 12 min
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create an amazing shattering effect in Photoshop. I'll explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened this software for the first time. 

The effect shown below is the one I'll show you how to create in this tutorial. If you'd like to create even more advanced shatter effects using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out this ShatterPoly Photoshop Action from Envato Elements.

ShatterPoly Photoshop ActionShatterPoly Photoshop ActionShatterPoly Photoshop Action

And if you prefer video tutorials, you can watch this new video from the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel to learn how to create and apply cool shattered effects to images in Photoshop:

What You'll Learn in This Shattering Effect Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to get started
  • How to create the shatter brush
  • How to create the shatter parts
  • How to adjust the color and tone of the shatter parts
  • How to make the final adjustments

What You'll Need

To recreate the image with a shatter effect, you'll need the following resources:

1. Let's Get Started

Let's start this shatter effect Photoshop tutorial. First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2000–4000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
Checking image size and modeChecking image size and modeChecking image size and mode

2. How to Create the Shatter Brush

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the brush that we will need for this shatter effect in Photoshop. Go to File > New to create a new file, name it Shatter Brush, and use the settings below:

Creating new fileCreating new fileCreating new file

Step 2

Now go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it SP_1.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 3

Choose the Pen Tool (P), set the Tool Mode to Path and draw one shatter part. Then, Right-click anywhere inside the canvas and choose Make Selection.

Making selectionMaking selectionMaking selection

Step 4

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches, go to Edit > Fill, and set Contents to Foreground Color, Blending to Normal, and Opacity to 100% as shown below:

Filling layer with foreground colorFilling layer with foreground colorFilling layer with foreground color

Step 5

Press Control-D on your keyboard to deselect. Then, Right-click on this layer, choose Blending Options, check Inner Shadow and enter the settings below:

Adding layer styleAdding layer styleAdding layer style

Step 6

Now change the Fill of this layer to 90%.

Changing fillChanging fillChanging fill

Step 7

Repeat this method to create as many shatter parts as you want. Here are a few tips:

  • Draw the shatter parts in various shapes and sizes.
  • To quickly create more shatter parts, select any of the shatter parts layer that you have and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer.
  • To move any of the shatter parts, select that shatter part layer, choose the Move Tool (V), and click and drag anywhere inside the canvas to position them as you like.
  • To transform any of the shatter parts, select the shatter part layer, press Control-T on your keyboard, and adjust the transform settings to transform them as you like.
  • To blur any of the shatter parts, select the shatter parts layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and adjust the Radius as you like.
  • Use different Inner Shadow layer style settings.
  • Use a different layer Fill.

Then, press Control-Shift-E on your keyboard to merge all visible layers.

Creating more shatter partsCreating more shatter partsCreating more shatter parts

Step 8

Now go to Edit > Define Brush Preset to define these shatter parts as a new brush and name it Temp.

Defining brushDefining brushDefining brush

Step 9

Press B on your keyboard, Right-click anywhere inside the canvas, select the Temp brush, and hit Enter. Then go to Window > Brush and in the Brush window use the settings below:

Adjusting brush settingsAdjusting brush settingsAdjusting brush settings

Step 10

Now to define this brush with new settings as a new brush, click on the top right icon in the bottom right corner of the Brush panel, and name it Shatter. After that, you can close the Shatter Brush file window.

Defining brushDefining brushDefining brush

3. How to Create the Shatter Parts

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the shatter parts. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it SP_Small.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 2

Now set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick the Shatter brush, set the Diameter of the brush to around 250 px, and brush as shown below:

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 3

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it SP_Medium.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 4

Now set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick the Shatter brush, set the Diameter of the brush to around 500 px, and brush as shown below:

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 5

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it SP_Large.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 6

Now set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick the Shatter brush, set the Diameter of the brush to around 750 px, and brush as shown below:

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 7

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it SP_Very_Large.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 8

Now set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick the Shatter brush, set the Diameter of the brush to around 1400 px, and brush as shown below:

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 9

Shift-click on the SP_Small layer to select all layers between. Then, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from the selected layers and name it Shatter Parts.

Creating new group from layersCreating new group from layersCreating new group from layers

Step 10

Now go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole group. Then, set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, and brush over the areas where you want to remove the parts.

Brushing into layer maskBrushing into layer maskBrushing into layer mask

4. How to Adjust the Color and Tone of the Shatter Effect Parts

Step 1

In this section, we are going to adjust the color and tone of the shatter effect parts. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Temp. Then, drag this layer to the top of the Layers panel.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 2

Now hide the Shatter Parts group and fill in your subject with a color.

You can do it in various ways. For example, you can create a selection of your subject using the Pen Tool (P), Magic Wand Tool (W), Lasso Tool (L) or some other tool, and then just fill the selection with a color. Or you can choose the Brush Tool (B) and brush over your photo using a hard or soft brush. It doesn't matter what color you use.

Then, show the Shatter Parts group.

Filling subject with colorFilling subject with colorFilling subject with color

Step 3

Control-click on this layer to make a selection of this layer. Then, hide this layer, select the Background layer, and press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection. After that, drag this new layer just below the Temp layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new layer using selectionCreating new layer using selectionCreating new layer using selection

Step 4

Now go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 50 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filter

Step 5

Press Control-J on your keyboard nine times to duplicate this layer nine times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp 2 to select all layers between, and press Control-E to merge them into one layer.

Merging layersMerging layersMerging layers

Step 6

Now go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 50 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blu filterAdding gaussian blu filterAdding gaussian blu filter

Step 7

Press Control-J on your keyboard nine times to duplicate this layer nine times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp 2 copy 9 to select all layers between, and press Control-E to merge them into one layer. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 50 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filter

Step 8

Now press Control-J on your keyboard nine times to duplicate this layer nine times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp 2 copy 18 to select all layers between, and press Control-E to merge them into one layer. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 50 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filter

Step 9

Press Control-J on your keyboard nine times to duplicate this layer nine times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp 2 copy 27 to select all layers between, and press Control-E to merge them into one layer. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 50 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filter

Step 10

Now press Control-J on your keyboard nine times to duplicate this layer nine times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp 2 copy 36 to select all layers between, and press Control-E to merge them into one layer. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 50 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filter

Step 11

Now press Control-J on your keyboard nine times to duplicate this layer nine times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp 2 copy 45 to select all layers between, and press Control-E to merge them into one layer. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 25 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filter

Step 12

Drag this layer just above the SP_Small layer in the Layers panel. Then, press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask and name this layer SP_Small_Color.

Creating clipping maskCreating clipping maskCreating clipping mask

Step 13

Now press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer and drag this layer just above the SP_Medium layer in the Layers panel. Then, press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask and name this layer SP_Medium_Color.

Creating clipping maskCreating clipping maskCreating clipping mask

Step 14

Press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer and drag this layer just above the SP_Large layer in the Layers panel. Then, press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask and name this layer SP_Large_Color.

Creating clipping maskCreating clipping maskCreating clipping mask

Step 15

Now press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer and drag this layer just above the SP_Very_Large layer in the Layers panel. Then, press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask and name this layer SP_Very_Large_Color.

Creating clipping maskCreating clipping maskCreating clipping mask

Step 16

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it SP_Contrast.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 17

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and set the Opacity to 55%.

Changing blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacity

Step 18

Select the Shatter Parts group and change the Blending Mode of this group to Normal.

Changing blending modeChanging blending modeChanging blending mode

5. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make final adjustments to the design. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color Look. Then, drag this layer just below the Temp layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new curves adjustment layerCreating new curves adjustment layerCreating new curves adjustment layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and inside the Properties panel enter the settings below:

Adjusting curvesAdjusting curvesAdjusting curves

Step 3

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall Contrast.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 4

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and set the Opacity to 10%.

Changing blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacity

Step 5

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance to create a new vibrance adjustment layer and name it Overall Vibrance/Saturation.

Creating new vibrance adjustment layerCreating new vibrance adjustment layerCreating new vibrance adjustment layer

Step 6

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel, set Vibrance to +27 and Saturation to +22 as shown below:

Adjusting vibrance and saturationAdjusting vibrance and saturationAdjusting vibrance and saturation

Step 7

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels to create a new levels adjustment layer and name it Overall Brightness.

Creating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layer

Step 8

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and inside the Properties panel enter the settings below:

Adjusting levelsAdjusting levelsAdjusting levels

Step 9

Press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a screenshot, and then press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer. Then, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 2 px as shown below:

Adding high pass filterAdding high pass filterAdding high pass filter

Step 10

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Hard Light and name it Overall Sharpening.

Changing blending modeChanging blending modeChanging blending mode

You Made It! You've Created a Shattered Effect in Photoshop!

Congratulations, you've made an image with a shatter effect in Photoshop! Here is our final result:

Final resultFinal resultFinal result

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Photoshop actions from Envato ElementsPhotoshop actions from Envato ElementsPhotoshop actions from Envato Elements

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Discover More Amazing Photoshop Resources and Tutorials

If you've enjoyed this tutorial on how to recreate a shattered fx effect in Photoshop, you might be looking for more tutorials and resources! Luckily, Envato Tuts+ has plenty of Photoshop tutorials for you:

Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Maria Villanueva. Maria is the Associate Editor of the Tuts+ Design channel.

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