How do I create a partially transparent overlapping "Stain Glass" effect with shapes in Photoshop?


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I like the repeated shape, with color "overlap" but I do not know what to call this, or how to create something similar in Photoshop.

How do I create this effect in Photoshop?

4/9/2014 7:06:00 PM

Accepted Answer

Like many terrific repetition effects, this one is much simpler than it looks. The layout technique is called "Step and Repeat." As the name says, it's done by stepping a fixed distance, repeating the element, stepping again and repeating, as needed. This is the basic way that any pattern is created, but it's not restricted to making patterns.

In Photoshop, you can accomplish the same thing via the Edit > Free Transform command.

  • Create the initial shape layer

  • Hold down Alt/Option while you choose Edit > Free Transform

  • Move the shape. Notice that because you used the Al/Opt key, you actually created a copy on its own layer.

  • Press Enter/Return to accept

  • Press Clt-Alt-Shift-T (Cmd-Opt-Shift-T) -- the keyboard shortcut for Transform Again plus Alt/Opt -- to create another copy that is offset the same distance from the first as the first is from the original.

This "Copy and Repeat" technique works for all transforms, by the way, including scaling, rotation and skew. In this example the basic hexagon repeats, evenly distributed from either side toward the middle.

In CS6 and later you can use vector shapes (stretch a six-sided polygon created with the Shape tool), each on its own Photoshop layer. Fill with a color-to-transparent gradient and change the Blend Mode to Overlay. This augments that overlap effect created by the partial transparencies of each layer adding to the one below. Each blend mode will give you a different effect, so you've plenty of effects to choose from.

In earlier versions, create shapes at first, then use Ctl/Cmd-Enter/Return to change the shape path into a selection, and fill the selection on its own raster layer with a color-to-transparent gradient as above. You can also use a soft-edged brush to paint the color gradient to the edge of the selection, following the shape. The artist who created your example used that approach.

That will give you a starting point from which to experiment.

4/9/2014 7:05:00 PM

I agree I would do this in Illustrator, but since you ask for Photoshop, here it goes. There are probably endless other ways of doing it, but this is what I did, using colour layers to be able to easily change the colours.

  1. Start with a white canvas.
  2. Add a solid fill colour layer of the colour of your choice (Layer->New Fill Layer->Solid Colour)
  3. Click on the mask thumbnail of the solid colour.
  4. Fill it with black. The colour disappears, since everything is masked.
  5. Draw a white hexagon on the mask. With the mask still selected, use the Shape tool (U) to draw an hexagon. Make sure that you select Pixels (as opposed to Shape or Path) on the top menu. If you don't select pixels, it will add an hexagon layer instead of drawing on the mask.

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  1. To create the hexagon gradient (there are probably other 10K ways of doing this, with the mask still selected Ctrl-Click on the mask thumbnail. This creates a selection with the shape of the hexagon.
  2. Select the gradient tool and select a black-to-white gradient. Select 90% opacity at the top menu.
  3. Click on the gradient thumbnail to enter the gradient editor. Move the black handle to 75% more or less (you can play with this values to obtain the desired smoothness, will make sense later)

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  1. Draw a gradient that goes from the bottom right edge to the top left edge. enter image description here

  2. Select Screen on the Gradient Mode enter image description here

  3. Draw another gradient from top right to bottom left enter image description here

  4. Press Ctr-D to get rid of the marquee selection

Now you have your hexagon with the hexagon gradient. To create the rest of them, just

  1. Duplicate this layer (right click, duplicate)
  2. Make sure that Black is selected as the background colour enter image description here

  3. With the mask selected (not the colour, very important. click on the mask thumbnail it to select the masl, do not double click it), draw a marquee around the hexagon

  4. Press V to select the move tool and move the hexagon to the right. enter image description here

To create the opposite hexagons, draw a marquee around the hexagon (again, with the mask selected), press Ctr-T to transform the selection and rotate it.

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To create other colours, just double click on the colour thumbnail (now it is on the colour, not on the mask) and select the colour you want.

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