Shattered Glass Effects

Written by rob callahan
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Shattered Glass Effects
Shattered glass can add depth and character to an image. (broken interior glass door image by ooooo from Fotolia.com)

A popular and impressive visual effect, the imposition of shattered glass or a shattered glass effect within an image can draw and direct the viewer's eye, lend depth to the image and increase a visual artist's prestige and reputation. There are several ways to achieve a shattered glass effect. It is most commonly achieved via the application of specialised brushes or the manipulation of a transparent layer, and both commercial and free tools exist to aid the designer in achieving this stunning image.

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Overlays

An image of broken glass can be created, either by scanning or by photographing actual broken glass, and placed into a transparent layer within the image. Once the image is in place, the opacity of the layer can be altered to achieve a transparent effect that will create the image of a layer of broken glass in front of the image's other graphics.

Layering and Outlining

Most modern image manipulation programs have a lasso tool available as part of the "select" function. The lasso tool allows the user to trace a line around an area so as to alter or manipulate only the section of the image within the line. To create a shattered glass effect with the lasso tool, first create a new transparent layer and then create a selection with all straight edges. If the lasso tool does not automatically allow straight edges, select the polygonal lasso from the function's submenu. Once the selection is traced, select your gradient tool and set your desired opacity. Apply the gradient and then trace another selection along the edges of one side of your new shape. Fill the second selection with solid grey. Finally, under the layer menu, make everything in the layer transparent an image remarkably similar to a glass shard will be resting over your image. This process works in both Adobe Photoshop and the free GIMP software.

Broken Glass-Shaped Brushes

Brush shapes can take many forms, from squares and circles to lines and specialised shapes. The shape of the brush tells the graphics program where to apply a specific colour when the pointer is clicked. Brushes with the shape of the cracks and lines that would appear on broken glass are available for purchase. Once downloaded, the files for these brushes are placed in the appropriate directory and become available for use the next time the graphics program is used. These brushes can be applied directly to a digital image or to a separate transparent layer to allow dragging and other manipulation without corrupting the original image. There are both free and commercial brushes widely available for download.

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