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Reflections – Using 'Balls and Bubbles'
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Reflections – Using 'Balls and Bubbles'
Created by: Prof


Having a number of 3D space background images for my desktop, I wanted to see if I could create a similar background image. The feature I am using is the new 'Balls and Bubbles' effect of PSP 8 which has some incredible options for creating interesting ball objects.

The 'Balls and Bubbles' effect has various options for creating from transparent to opaque balls with various textures for the surface and bitmaps for images. We will use this feature in this tutorial to create a couple of globes, one transparent and one of the 'earth' that reflect in a body of water.


Download File Download File

I am using three tubes ('Cosmos', 'Storm' and 'Stars') which you can download with the zip file on the left (though these are optional steps in creating the background for our image).

The 'Storm' image is 1 x 1, the 'Cosmos' tube is a 3 x 3 image and 'Stars' tube is a 7 x 6 image. Load each into PSP, then go to File || Export || Picture Tubes and set the options for each image.


Intro on Desktop Background Images

Desktop background images or wallpapers are based upon an image that is either stretched or tiled and used for your screen's background image. In order to create one that you might like to use, you want to know your monitor's screen dimensions.

My screen resolution is 1152 x 864 pixels. Many are 800 x 600 pixels. Thus, I recommend if you want to use your image as a wallpaper then start with an image size of at least 800 x 600 or 600 x 450 pixels. These sizes will maintain the ratio for the background image when used.


New Image

Creating the Background

We will first create a background of a dark night. This background hopefully simulates a space-like background with a reflective body of water at the bottom of the canvas.

Create a new image, 400 x 300 pixels, Raster Background, Color = white, 16 Million Colors.

Convert the 'Background' layer to a layer (Layers || Promote Background Layer) and rename it to 'White BG'.


New Raster Layer     Flood Fill Tool     Picture Tube Tool

Creating the Sky and Water

Create a new layer (Layers || New Raster Layer) labeled 'Blue BG'.

Flood-fill this layer with blue (Red = 64, Green = 64, Blue = 255).

Create a new layer labeled 'Storm'.

Click on your Picture Tubes tool and select the 'Storm' tube with these values:
– Scale = 60
– Step = 200
– Placement = Random
– Selection = Random

Click into your image to fill the layer with the tube.

Selection Tool  Select Area = Custom Selection

Duplicate Layer

The bottom part of the 'Storm' image will interfere with the basic sky look I want so we will cut it off:

Use the Selection tool and click on the Custom Selection button in the Tool Options palette:
– Left = 0
– Top = 200
– Right = 400
– Bottom = 300

Delete that selection (Edit || Clear or Del) and then deselect (Selections || Select None or Ctrl+D).

Duplicate the 'Storm' layer and label it 'Storm Reflection'. Then flip this layer with Image || Flip.

Deform Tool

Click on the Deform tool.

Drag the top middle handle down until the top of the 'Storm Reflection' image reaches the bottom of 'Storm' layer image

Now, we will use the Blend Mode options to get the look for the stormy sky and the stormy water reflection:


Special Tip

First drag the 'Storm Reflection' layer below the 'Storm' layer in your Layer palette.

Now set the 'Storm' Blend Mode = Lighten, and
set the 'Storm Reflection' Blend Mode = 'Luminance (Legacy)'

We now have a cloudy sky and a water section. Later we may readjust the Blend Mode to create a different sky look.

Tip: One could use any photograph to overlay on the background layers to create the sky with clouds or with any other images. The technique for creating the "water" effect is to flip the main image and deform it so there is reflection in water.

New Raster Layer

Creating Reflecting Globes

We are now ready to create globes and have them reflect in the water. The new PSP 8 'Balls and Bubbles' effect is a very powerful and creative feature. One can create a variety of globes, balls, and bubbles using the various options.

For this tutorial, I will create an earth globe with a moon and a semi-transparent globe, with their respective reflections.

First, create a new top layer labeled 'Earth'. Then go to Effects || Artistic Effects || Balls and Bubbles.

Hint: There are a number of neat presets to choose from that illustrate how various options work. It is worthwhile to explore the presets and review how the values for 'Shape', 'Surface', 'Maps' and 'Illumination' are set.

We will first use the 'Earth' preset, so choose it from the Presets drop-down list but don't click on OK yet.

Zoom Out

The globe is too large for our image so we need to resize it. In the 'Balls and Bubbles' dialog, one has two options for types of globes: (1) Automatic multiple balls or bubbles and (2) Single ball or bubble.

The Earth preset uses the 'Single ball or bubble' option. Also, the 'Maximum possible size' option is checked which creates the image as large as the canvas will allow.

Uncheck the 'Maximum possible size' option so you are able to resize the globe. Then, under the top left preview window, click on the Zoom Out button until you have a thumbnail of 40%.

You will see a red dashed box with handles on the corners. This box works like the Deform tool. Just grab a corner handle and drag inward to create a smaller globe. We want a globe that is about the size of a 'quarter'.

Place the cursor in the middle of the red box and it will look like a Move tool. Move the globe so it is just under the top cloud or a bit higher and to the right of the center of your image. Then click on OK.

Duplicate Layer

Move Tool

Deform Tool

Create the Reflection

The basic technique for creating reflections is to duplicate the image, flip it, and then if helpful, deform it. Also using the Opacity slider to change values and possibly the Blend Mode option to make a more subtle effect would be helpful, too.

Duplicate the 'Earth' layer and label it 'Earth Reflection', then go to Image || Flip. Resize the layer image to about 80% (Image || Resize, and make sure that 'Resize all layers' is unchecked).

Use the Move tool and move the reflection into the water area where you think it looks good. I used a spot just below the water line and below and a bit to the right of the 'Earth' image.

Then deform it just slightly with the Deform tool: Grab the top middle handle and drag down just slightly, then hold the Shift key down, grab the bottom middle handle and drag it just slightly to the right.

In the Layer palette, set the Blend Mode = 'Screen' and the Opacity to about 54.


Creating Additional Globes

The technique for creating additional globes is to either use another preset or to create one using the various options available. Use the tabs for the four different and interactive options.

New Raster Layer

Creating Space Balls

Although there is a preset for space balls, I wanted to create my own using the various options. In this part of the illustration we will not reflect the globes as the illusion I want to create is a 3D effect of transparent balls floating through space.

Create a new top raster layer labeled 'Space Balls' and go to Effects || Artistic Effects || Balls and Bubbles and use these values:

Shape tab:
– Automatic multiple balls or bubbles = selected
– Coverage = 20
– Average size = 50
– Size variation = 100
– Balls or Bubbles type: = Overlapping
– Seed = 5

Surface tab:
– Material = Blue (Red = 4, Green = 45, Blue = 162)
– Opacity = 0
– Shininess = 100
– Gloss = 0

Maps tab:

– Bump map = unchecked
– Environment Map = checked
– Current Image = selected

Illumination tab:
– Maximum = 100
– Minimum = 0
– Light 1:
   – Position = bottom right corner (use your mouse in the
      thumbnail and drag to lower right corner)
   – Color = Teal (Red = 138, Green = 173, Blue = 184)
   – Highlight size = 47
   – Type = Both boxes unchecked
– Light 2: (click on the Add button for another light if necessary)
   – Position = top left edge, just slightly to the right of 45 degree
      point (use your mouse in the thumbnail and drag to upper left
   – Color = White
   – Highlight size = 31
   – Back light = checked
   – Bubble light = unchecked

Click on OK and reduce the Opacity of this layer to about 74%.


Special Tip

Hints and Tips

The basic steps for creating Balls and Bubbles and using the various options available have been illustrated above. One could leave the image as is or enhance it further with additional globes and tubes.

The key to reflections is duplication and flipping of an image and then positioning it where wanted. Also, using the Blend Mode options helps to create the effect.

The following are illustrations with just the values used to display some options.


New Raster Layer

Adding a Moon and Adjusting Mode Values

Add a new layer and move it below the 'Earth' layer in your Layer palette.

Go to Effects || Artistic Effects || Balls and Bubbles and use these values:

Shape tab:
– Single ball or bubble = selected
– Maximum possible size = unchecked
– Size deformed to about the size of a pea and moved to about a
   3 o'clock position just behind the earth

Surface tab:
– Material = Gray (Red = 176, Green = 173, Blue = 168)
– Opacity = 100
– Shininess = 100
– Gloss = 50

Maps tab:
– Bump map = checked
– Pattern = Cracked Desert
– Smoothness = 0
– Depth = 100
– Fit bump map = checked
– Environment map = checked
– Opacity = 60
– Environment map = selected: Chrome

Illumination tab:
– Maximum = 100
– Minimum = 0
– Light 1:
   – Position = left corner and in about 1/3rd
   – Color = dark teal (Red = 55, Green = 75, Blue = 81)
   – Highlight size = 27
   – Type = both options unchecked
– Light 2:
   – Position = just to the right of top left corner
   – Highlight size = 30
   – Back light = checked

Blend Modes in the Layer palette: 'Storm' layer = Darken and 'Storm Reflection' layer = Multiply, 'Blue BG' layer = Overlay.


Using Various Photo Enhancement Effects

Although subtle in the illustration, using various photo enhancement options on the original image results in the image being darkened some and sharpened.


Using the Cosmos and Star Tubes

In this illustration, I added some images from the 'Cosmos' tube including a white ring planet, shooting stars and a red planet. Once I had them positioned I then created the reflection.

Finally, I used the 'Star' tube at its lowest setting and drew the stars in the blacker areas of the sky. Again, once finished I duplicated the layer and flipped it and deformed it to fit in the water area as a reflection.


Final Comments

This tutorial just touches on the possible images one can create with the 'Balls and Bubbles' feature. Using the Bump Map will create various textures and depth of texture. The Environment Map has many different images that one can use to create very interesting globes or bubbles.

The key is to experiment and explore the options. By combining various values of the four key options one can create transparent to opaque outcomes. Also, experimenting with the presets will give some great ideas to explore.

Have fun. – Prof –