How to make a crystal ball with Photoshop

Crystal balls have all kinds of powers — foretelling the future, casting spells and viewing hidden sorcerers. Every mystic needs one. While they are very rare in real life, they are easy to create in Photoshop.

A glowing white ball

My crystal ball is brilliant white. It glows and has light rays shooting into space. But crystal balls aren’t in space. They are found in the hands of powerful sorcerers.

The photo below is of Aria floating above the floor. I asked her to pretend she was holding a soccer ball. Using my magic wand named Photoshop, I’ll show you how to put this talisman in the proper hands.

A woman in a gypsy inspired outfit pretends to hold an invisible soccer ball.
Read how to make a subject float in How to levitate with Photoshop

Making a digital crystal ball

I used her hands as a guide to creating the magical orb. On a new layer labeled White Ball, I used the Elliptical Marquee tool to draw a circular selection.

I started drawing the ball by putting the cursor as close to the center of her hands as I could. I held down the Shift key to make the ellipse into a circle and added the Option (Win: Alt) key to make it draw from the center of the cursor. As I drew the circle holding the Shift + Option (Win: Alt) keys I used my thumb to press the spacebar. This lets me drag the selection as long as the spacebar was down. When I let it go the cursor could change its size.

I carefully positioned the circular selection to match her fingers. I knew that it would cover some of them at the beginning.

Close up view of the circular selection in her hands.
This selection will become the crystal ball.

Fill with white

The new layer White Ball gets filled with white. The layer is highlighted in the layer stack. I tapped the D key to set the default colors — the foreground color is black, the background color is white. I choose the Edit menu > Fill, and set Contents to background color (white). I clicked OK.

Tip: Get to the Fill dialog from the keyboard with Shift + F5 or simply type Command + Delete (Win: Ctrl + Backspace). The Option (Win: Alt) key will fill with the foreground color. The ball hides her fingers. That fix comes later.

The circular selection is filled with white on the layer White Ball
The layer White Ball filled with White

Then, I choose Select > Deselect.

Build the glow

Crystal balls, at least the magic ones, have an inner glow that shimmers around them. That’s the next part. I duplicate the layer White Ball. I could drag White Ball to the new layer icon at the bottom of the Layer panel. It’s just to the left of the trash icon. Option (Win: Alt) dragging the layer up will duplicate it too. My favorite way is to type Command + J (Win: Ctrl + J). That is what I did.

Rename the layer White Ball copy to First Glow by double-clicking the label. It’s a great practice to name the layers to make it easier to understand what you did when you revisit a Photoshop file.

I went to the Filter menu and selected Blur > Gaussian Blur. I hovered the preview square cursor over an edge of the ball to see what it would look like as I moved the Radius slider to 30.3. This is not a formula. I did it by feel. When you make your glowing crystal your radius will be different.

Blurring the first layer Glow above the White Ball layer adds a glow
Gaussian Blur creates a glow.

The glow is kind of weak. I made it more distinctive by duplicating the First Glow. I typed Command + J (Win: Ctrl + J) to do it. Once didn’t seem “gloowy” enough so I made another copy. That looked just about right to me.

Duplicating the First Glow layer intensifies the glow effect.
Two copies of First Glow makes the glow about right.

Finger fix

The glowing ball looks great but her fingers look like they are amputated. I Command (Win: Ctrl) clicked the White Ball layer to bring back the circular selection. Next, I highlighted the Background layer by clicking it then, made the selection into a new layer by typing Command + J (Win: Ctrl + J). I renamed it Fingers.

Next, I hid the three glow layers by clicking on their eye icons. Then, I dragged the Fingers layer above the White Ball layer and lowered its opacity to 50%. When the Move tool (V) is active, tap a number to set that as the opacity. 2 = 20%, 5 = 50%, etc.

The Fingers layer at 50% is just above the White Ball layer.
The White Ball layer with the Fingers layer at 50%.

I made a new layer mask on the Fingers layer. Then, I picked the Brush tool (Shift + B) and set the colors to white over black (D) then exchanged them (X) so that black is over white. I carefully painted around the fingers being careful to stay within the white ball’s outline.

Painting black on the layer mask leaves only the fingers that would naturally be in front of the crystal ball.
The layer mask shows only her fingers that would hold the front of the crystal ball

I returned the Fingers layer to 100% opacity. Finally, I clicked the three glow layers eye icons on. Her fingers are very faint because of the glow layers above them. If I wanted them to be more distinct, I could move one or two of the glow layers below the Fingers layer.

Showing the glow layers obscures her fingers.
The three glow layers are visible.


Aria’s crystal has a lot of power as shown by the glow. It has so much energy that when she works with it bursts of light fly out of it.

I hid the glow layers again, then with the Fingers layer highlighted I made a new layer named Starburst. I set white as the foreground color. Then, I selected the Line tool (Shift + W) and set It to Pixels, Mode: Normal Opacity: 100% and Weight: 15 pixels. I held down the shift key and drew a line through the ball. I went to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and chose seven pixels and clicked OK. Next, it was back to Filters and Blur. This time I chose Motion Blur. I set its angle to 0º and set the distance to 1,031 pixels.

The horizontal starburst.
The line, blurred and motion blurred forms a starburst.

I wanted the starburst to be at an angle. The layer is selected so I went to Edit > Free Transform. I moved the cursor until it became a curved double-arrow and rotated the starburst to about -24º. The anchor point (which looks like a plus sign) shows the center of the starburst. I clicked on the starburst itself inside the transform bounding box and centered the anchor point in the crystal ball. I clicked the Commit checkmark in the Options bar (return does this from the keyboard).

In the last step I duplicated the starburst layer with Command + J (Win: Ctrl + J), then selected free transform. I right-clicked inside the transform bounding box and chose flip horizontal.

Two starbursts shine from the magically power crystal ball Aria holds.
Free Transform can change the angle of each starburst. They can be brighter by duplicating their layers.

I turned the glow layers’ eye icons on to finish the crystal ball Aria holds in the opening photo of this article.

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