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Achieve a sophisticated etched-glass look without any fancy carving

Added on Tuesday 17th of February 2009 01:07 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3

Operating Systems:

Microsoft Windows/Macintosh




Glass etchings offer a sophisticated, aesthetic quality to any art. But because not many of us have the tools necessary to create the real deal, we’ll show you how to mimic the look in Photoshop.


To make a glass etching with Photoshop, we'll:

     Load a quick-and-easy luminosity selection for the foundation of our glass etching.

     Apply a couple of layer styles to give the glass etching depth and dimension.

     Give our glass etching a new form so it appears to be etched on thick glass.


Items like corporate awards and wedding gifts may come to mind when you think about glass etchings. But there’s more to glass etching than logo-embellished giveaways. Glass etching is an intriguing art form requiring special skills, let alone pricy equipment. But don’t worry, we’ll show you how to bypass the bigger details and mimic the etched glass look right in Photoshop!


Load your selection

One of the aspects of etched glass that gives it so much appeal is the three-dimensional look that you get when the glass is etched to different depths. You’ll accomplish this look by loading a luminosity selection, which is simply a selection that Photoshop loads based on the image’s brightness, selecting only pixels that are equivalent to 50% gray or brighter. Then you’ll colorize the selection with white.

To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the file glassetch.psd, launch Photoshop, and open the file shown in Figure A. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


To load a luminosity selection and fill it with white:

1.       Open the file shown in Figure A.



2.      CS3: Press [command][option]1 ([Ctrl][Alt]1 in Windows) to load a luminosity selection. CS/CS2: Press [command][option]~ ([Ctrl][Alt]~ in Windows). Your selection should look like ours shown in Figure B.



3.      Click on the Create A New Layer button at the base of the Layers palette to add a new layer.

4.      Rename this new layer Etch.

5.      With the Etch layer selected, choose Edit > Fill, enter the settings shown in Figure C, and click OK. Our results are shown in Figure D.




Get some relief

Now that you’ve got the basic form in place for your etch, you’ll add a couple of layer styles to give your etch some depth and dimension.


To give your etch dimension:

1.       Press [command]D ([Ctrl]D in Windows) to Deselect All.



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