Deke’s Techniques 232: Creating Highly Reflective Sunglasses in Photoshop

232 Creating highly reflective sunglasses

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke turns ordinary dark sunglasses into uber-cool reflective mirrors in Photoshop. The sunglasses in question happen to be mine, shot on my very own face against the dunes of the White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

My advice, if you’re going to let someone use a fairly natural version of your 48-yr-old face shot against an unforgivingly reflective backdrop of white sand dunes in order to make a point, insist that you look this cool in the final result:

Once you properly mask the glasses, the reflection technique is a simple matter of applying a couple of layer styles. Read on to see how Deke made these radical reflections:  Here is the before version of me, looking decidedly less glamorous. (Yes, I put it after the jump. Can you blame me?)

1) Select the lens shapes with the pen tool.

First, Deke uses the rectangular marquee tool to select and copy the entire sunglasses area. Then, he makes a path around the lenses, relying primarily on the pen tool. Note that when you’re talking about a man-made object like sunglasses, the pen tool is going to be your go-to selection implement. (In all likelihood, the designer probably used a bezier curve-generating tool to pattern the sunglasses in the first place, so it makes sense that you can recreate that aviator curve with the pen tool.)

2) Select the paths and turn them into a vector mask.

With the path(s) selected in the Paths panel, switch to the Layers panel and Command-click (Ctrl-click) the mask icon at the bottom of the panel. Holding down that modifier key tells Photoshop to create a vector mask instead of the default layer mask.

Just so happens that Deke makes two separate paths for this selection: one to outline the lenses and one to account for my nose and the little organic detail on the right side of my glasses. In Photoshop CC, you can select multiple paths in the Paths panel and combine them into one single vector mask in the Layers panel. The paths stay separate, so you can manipulate them with respect to one another, even after they’re all living in the same vector mask.

4) Subtract the nose area from the lenses.

The last thing I need here is a shiny nose. So with the the nose path (and that little circular detail on the right) selected, Deke removes them from the lens selection by going to the options bar, clicking the Path Operations icon, and choosing Subtract Front Shape. With that, the lens area is successfully isolated.

5) Add a Color Overlay layer effect to the lens layer.

With the lens layer selected, Deke clicks the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then he chooses Color Overlay from the popup menu. You can change the default red color to white by double-clicking the red swatch and moving the color picker to the upper right corner of the preview window, then click OK. Back in the Layer Style dialog box, Deke sets the Blend Mode to Overlay. Suddenly, we have enough “reflection” to confirm it’s Deke shooting this picture.

6) Fine-tune the edges.

In this particular image, the Color Overlay effect causes a fine white ridge along my nose. In the video, you’ll see how Deke uses a combination of Feather settings applied to the vector mask and a layer mask for my nose area to help smooth out that transition. It’s particular to this image, so unless you and I are headed to White Sands, you’ll have to adjust this step to your own picture. But Deke’s approach in the movie will give you some idea of how to troubleshoot your own photo.

7) Reduce the noise.

Deke’s machinations so far have caused some noise in the lens area. To mitigate, he chooses Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise and applies the settings below. Again, your settings may vary depending on your image, but this is a good place to start.

6) Apply a Gradient Overlay effect to complete the reflective effect.

To emulate the curve of the glasses in the reflection, Deke adds a Gradient Overlay effect to the lens layer. Set the style to Reflected, the Blend Mode to Linear Dodge, and the Opacity to 5 percent to mimic the effect that mirrored lenses give off. You can drag the angle of the reflection to align with your particular set of sunglasses. Here, an angle of 1 degrees works great, but you can set this by hand by dragging within the image window.

For those of you who are members of, Deke’s got an exclusive movie this week in which he applies some other effects to really play up the drama of the dunes and my Colleen of the Sands attitude. You can check it out here. If you’re not a member, you can get a free trial week of by going to

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