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How To Design a 3D Glass Icon in Photoshop

Learn How To Design a translucent 3D Frosted Glass Box based on the Safari Icon in Adobe Photoshop.

Step 1: Setting Up

Make a new document with these settings:

Setting Up

Next, select the fill tool (G) and fill it with #626262. Now, we need to make a new adjustment layer. Make a brightness/contrast layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast). Put it on these parameters.

Adjustment Layer Parameters

We add this adjustment layer so as everything looks better in the later stages.

Step 2: Making the Circle

Select the circular marquee tool and use these settings:

Circular Marquee Tool

Make a selection and fill it with #649ad2. Then, grab a soft eraser, on a low opacity, and erase some areas like this:

After Erasing

This is so that it looks more 3D, and later on, it’ll add a nice transparent feel to our icon.

When you’re happy, and you have a similar result to the one above, add these Layer FX to it, to make it look better.

Add These Layer FX

You should now have something resembling this:

Circle After This Stage

Step 3: Making the Circle 3D

In this step, we’re going to make the circle look 3D. The theory of this is simple. You think about where the light is coming from, then add shadows and highlights to fit your light source if you keep this consistent, then you’ll have a much better final result. Below is some light theory that should make it easier for you.

Set it to Multiply


Although this is not the best of diagrams, it shows basic lighting. If you stick to this, and have a constant light source, your piece will turn out far more striking and realistic.

OK, grab your circular marquee tool, set it to 10px Feather and make it 200px by 200px. There are many different ways of getting highlights/gloss and shadows. My favourite, and I think one of the best ways to get gloss is like this.

Change the layer mode to multiply

Set it to Multiply

And then, with white as your foreground colour, add this Layer FX

Set it to Multiply


You can vary this. When making your highlights, you can vary the opacity, or colour of the gradient you use. You can also vary the layer mode. Try changing some settings now, and see what happens!

Shadows are much easier to make, and in a way, more powerful. You can have more highlights than shadows, because shadows are more obvious. For a shadow, simply make a circle, you can vary this and the feather px. Then, you can set it to soft light, overlay or of course, normal, it really comes down to which one you like best.

With the shadows, you can make them very discreet, yet they still play a very important part in the eventual outcome of the icon. Highlights are less noticeable, so you can add more of them, but with shadows, they play a bigger part; and have more of an impact.

The worst thing you can do when shadowing is zoom in too far. When you do that, you can’t see the whole image, and so you can’t really tell if it looks right. Make sure that when shadowing, you can see the whole image, and you’re thinking about what you’re doing!

By now, you should have a well highlighted and shadowed 3D sphere, resembling this. Don’t worry if it looks a little strange at this point, it’ll all come together later on.

Your Icon So Far

Step 4: Adding Detail

Now, that looks OK. I added some highlights on the right that add a lot; I used the highlight technique described above. In this step, we are going to make those really nice 3D looking lines. The way to do this is simple, which we’ll find out in a bit.

Select your pen tool and get a brush size of 3px wide. You want to use these settings for the pen tool.

Circle After This Stage

Next, we want to start drawing paths like this:

Circle After This Stage

Set your brush size to around 3 – 5pxNow, for PC users, press right click > stroke path, for Mac users; CTRL + click > stroke path. When you stroke paths, there are two types of stroke paths. With simulated pressures and without simulated pressures. Here is an example of both.

Circle After This Stage

If it doesn’t work, you may need to reset your brushes here’s how to do that:

Reset Brushes

In the next step, we’ll work out how to make these lines aid the 3D look.

Step 5: Detailing the Detail

You probably have some white lines now, looking 3D, but not merging into the icon. Set the layers to soft light or overlay, you can also lower the opacity and/or the fill of the lines. You can also get a soft eraser to erase some areas to make it look more 3D.

If you look carefully, you will also see not only the very distinct circles, which I’ll tell you how to do later; but also the very faint ones. To make both of them, grab the circular marquee tool with these parameters:

Feathered Orbs

You can then edit the layer styles. For mine, I simply set the opacity to 50%. But you could set it to soft light or overlay.

For the faint ones, but it below every ‘line’ layer, and set it to soft light or overlay and lower the opacity.

In the next step, we’ll make 3D paths, that really add to the image.

Step 6: 3D Paths

This is a really short step, but it adds a lot.

Firstly, get your pen tool open, and then follow these steps.

Circle After This Stage


Try out different paths and set some layers to soft light or overlay and lower the opacity.

Step 7: Making the Basic Box

If you want to have something to trace around, you can do so around here. But of course, if you want to make your own, go for it! When you’re tracing, use the pen tool, and make each side on a new layer. Then, fill the paths with white (#ffffff). Then add these layer FX to every side.

On the ‘front’ sides, set the fill to 15% and the ‘back’ sides to 10%. This’ll get it looking transparent.

Circle After This Stage

In the next step, we’ll work on making it more 3D.

Step 8: Highlighting the Box

Remember that highlight technique earlier? Well, use that technique on paths like this. Make a new layer above each box ‘side’ and then make a path accordingly. To make ‘swirly’ paths, make two points, then; click in the middle of the path and drag it up/down left/right and it’ll make a nice path. Have a look at this example.

Circle After This Stage

Then, select the right ‘side’ layer and press CTRL + SHIFT + I or for Mac users CMND + SHIFT + I, then press delete. In the next step we will look at adding more detail into the box.

Step 9: Adding Details to the Box

In this step, there’s not going to be much writing, more annotated pictures. I am using the techniques for stroking paths, highlights and shadows that we looked at earlier to make the box, and anything you seen in these pictures.

Define these Strokes

Making Softer Shadows

If you want to make those soft shadows, get a soft brush (airbrush) around the size of 9-12px, stroke the paths and then lower the opacitysoft light.

Step 10: Making Everything Glow

That looks good, but… Not full of that striking glow. To get something to glow, it’s really easy. Simply get an airbrush, 100-300px and just paint on white. For background highlights, make new layers at the bottom and highlight there. For more centralised ones, do it on top, and maybe in a smaller brush.

To get a better glow-type look, adding lots of layers on 5-10% opacity will look much better than two or three on 40%. You can also add blue highlights to give it more of a glow.

Add some Glow Like This

Step 11: Finishing Details

The icon looks good, but it’d be nice to add a bit more shadow. Make a new layer at the top (behind your contrast one) and fill it with black (#000000) and set the fill to 0%. Then add these layer styles and you have a nice shadowed look.


And you’ll have a nice shadowed look to your image.


In this tutorial, we’ve learnt about strokes, layering, shadowing, highlighting, layer FX, layer modes, opacity and fill. Put together you can make so many amazing things in Photoshop, so good luck; and make sure you check Tutorial9 frequently for tutorials!

I hope you enjoyed creating your own internet icon!

A large version of the final image can be seen here.

Download the PSD (or source files)


  1. Add point Subtract point

    Photoshop tutorials, from beginner to advanced. photo manipulation, icon design, text effects, interface, layout, painting, photo effects, psd tuts, maxon cinema 4d, designing.

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  2. Add point Subtract point

    very nice !!

    webmaster of ///follow me ;) @meletwil

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  3. Add point Subtract point
    patagonia wetsuit (1 Point) November 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    more great tutorials, keep them coming!

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    black.friday.boys (1 Point) November 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I already bookmark this page

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    Design Hippo (1 Point) June 21, 2010 at 3:56 am

    Real good tutorial. Detailed step by step, thanks.

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    algdfa (1 Point) June 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    WHOIS lookups were traditionally performed with a command line interface application

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    kene (1 Point) May 7, 2010 at 7:16 am

    the outcome is beautiful. i will def be using this. Thanks so much !!!!

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    Web Design (1 Point) April 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    the outcome is beautiful. i will def be using this. Thanks so much !!!!

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  9. Add point Subtract point
    Hannah Golden (1 Point) April 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    this is a great tutorial! thx so much for posting :) i will deffinatly be using this. the outcome is great.

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    abanas (1 Point) April 8, 2010 at 3:47 am

    The first step is misguided. I don’t know if it was made intentional but overall it’s great tutorial and thanks for sharing.

    Certainly, I will follow this site’s tutorials.

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  11. Add point Subtract point

    in step 2, when you fill the selection to blue, it won’t work, and comes out grey? what am i doing wrong?

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  12. Add point Subtract point

    Simply add highlights. You can use the circular marquee and pen tools and just the pen tool. Fill white and lower opacity/fill and set to different layer styles. If you need more help, email me. :)

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    Carlito (1 Point) March 14, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Hi :) nice tut, but i dont understand step 3: How can i do the the circle/elliptical highlight stripes? :(

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  14. Add point Subtract point

    Cool tutorial but you missed some steps. Advanced Photoshop users won’t notice those missing steps as much but people who are more starting out will certainly get confused.

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    Tulsa (1 Point) March 8, 2010 at 2:57 am

    Did anyone actually follow the tutorial?
    If you start out with making the document in a grayscale color mode – how will you ever get a blue color? Step 3 is not explained at all. How do you get all the cool looking light effects into the sphere? A step by step explanation is needed. A beginner will have no chance of ever completing this tutorial. Also you should mention when you add a new layer (every time). I want to end on a positive note: I really like the end result.

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    AEVION (1 Point) March 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    This is awesome. It really looks like it is in 3D space. Very nice!

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  17. Add point Subtract point

    Great tutorial Will, the detail and strong use of lighting & shadows would definitely make this a good tutorial for beginners learning to texture and light well.

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    frank elejalde (1 Point) March 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Your tutorials are very well done and very easy to follow. Thank you for this.

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    Mimansa (1 Point) March 4, 2010 at 1:22 am

    this is great, but i can’t see the screen shots for when you say “so it looks something like this:”
    is this my computer messing up or the site?

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    Stella (1 Point) March 2, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Thanks for tutorial, It’s very useful
    but ,
    I’m sorry, I don’t understand step 3
    What I suppose to do with circular marquee tool
    can you explain me please

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    jakobsweg (1 Point) March 2, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Thanks for sharing this perfect tut! very detailed!
    nice work – more of them!

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    PsdDude (1 Point) March 2, 2010 at 2:05 am

    It looks nice and real ! Very good explained tutorial :) thanx

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    Mike Rundle (1 Point) March 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Nice tutorial. I wrote one last year designing something similar, an internet globe icon:

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    James (1 Point) March 1, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Realy interest for me… I like photoshop methods

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  25. Add point Subtract point
    Project Center (1 Point) February 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Fantastic tutorial – it’s especially helpful that you’ve included clear screenshots of the finer details with the actual tutorial.

    Will play around with this as this is one thing I haven’t done before.


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    Amberly | Web Designer (1 Point) February 26, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for this well explained tutorial.

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    James Leahy (1 Point) February 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Oops. PSD link is broken. Intesting tutorial. Good attention to detail, covering the finer points to make a design have extra impact.

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  28. Add point Subtract point

    You’re right, it is broken. Hopefully David will sort this out.

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  29. Add point Subtract point

    Great tutorial. Was hoping to have a look at the source file as well, but the link doesn’t seem to be working? Anyone else having difficulty?

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    Reglan Lawsuit (1 Point) February 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing.

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    Fantastic tutorial, hope to see some more from you. (;

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    sriganesh (1 Point) February 24, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    thanks for sharing nice and easy icon tutorial

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    Michal Kozak (1 Point) February 24, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Nicely done, I like how you did the lightening.

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  34. Add point Subtract point

    Great tutorial and very nice result. Thanks :)

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  35. Add point Subtract point

    Great job! thanks a lot. just you forgot to change your color mode to RGB or CMYK mode in making new document!

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  36. Add point Subtract point

    Sweet tutorial! Thanks a lot. Learned a few nice techniques here =)

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  37. Add point Subtract point

    Great job. Thank you for the tutorial…

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