How to Make Plastic in Photoshop

Updated February 21, 2017

Applying a plastic effect to text and objects in your image can add the finishing touch to your project. To simulate realistic plastic, you must create a transparent, smooth texture with highlights to add shine. Using Photoshop's layer styles, you can easily customise and apply all of the necessary components to your image from a single dialogue box.

Load Photoshop and select "File," then "New" to open a new document. Specify your desired image dimensions in pixels in the "Width" and "Height" text fields. Select "White" or "Transparent" in the Background Contents drop-down menu. Click "OK" to create the document.

Select the Horizontal Type tool from the toolbox. Choose a thick, blocky font and a medium-to-large font size from the top menu bar. If you prefer to add an object, press the "U" key and select your desired shape from the menu bar. In both instances, choose a light version of the final colour you want for your object in the Swatches panel. Click anywhere in the document and enter your text or create your shape. Drag the shape until you are satisfied with its size and proportions.

Click on your text or object layer in the Layers panel. Choose "Layer," "Layer Style" and then "Satin" to darken the colour, leaving highlights around the edges. Adjust the "Opacity" scroll bar to a value between 1 and 100 per cent. A higher opacity will result in a darker hue. Choose a distance of between 1 and 250 pixels to determine the size of the highlights around the edges. Adjust the "Size" scroll bar to a value of between 7 to 13 pixels to select an appropriate blending brush size.

Click on "Bevel and Emboss" in the Styles toolbar to add shine and dimension. Select a depth of around 70 per cent and a size between 1 and 250 pixels to suit your preferences. Under "Shading," set the opacity for "Highlight Mode" to 100 per cent and the opacity for "Shadow Mode" to zero per cent. Set the angle to 90 degrees and the altitude to 70 degrees. Under "Controur" in the left side panel, select a range of around 80 per cent to add additional depth.

Select "Drop Shadow" in the Styles toolbar. Choose a colour slightly darker than your primary object colour to give your text a transparent look. Set the opacity to around 80 per cent. Adjust the size and distance to values similar to your choices in Step 3.

Choose "Inner Glow" to further enhance the transparency of the plastic. Select a colour much lighter than your primary object colour. Set the opacity to 50 per cent and choose a size between 1 and 250 pixels to suit your subject.

Click "OK" in the upper left corner of the Layer Styles dialogue box to apply your plastic effect modifications.

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About the Author

Heather Laurent is a nomadic writer and photographer who has worked and/or studied in over 10 different countries on five continents. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Denver in 2007 with a B.A. in languages and international studies. Laurent's work has appeared in the reports and official websites of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Zambia's refugee camps.