How To Create The Lens Ball Effect – Photoshop Tutorial

lens ball effect photoshop tutorial

Creating The Lens Ball Effect In Photoshop

After seeing this effect floating around my instagram feed constantly, I figured it was time to give it a try. I began to play around with a few different shape layers and brushes to see what kind of looks I could pull off.

Who needs to actually buy one of those $50 lens balls when you could just make them in Photoshop amiright? Ok, it’s totally not supposed to replace the real thing, BUT, it is still a fun effect to create. What I love about this effect is how it turns a potentially boring photo into something more dynamic. Heck, you could put this effect against a brick wall and it would look great. Want to get in on the action? Well let’s break down how to make this effect for yourself.

Video Tutorial

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Creating The Lens Ball Effect – The 10 Steps

1. Create A New Ellipse shape

First we need to create a new ellipse shape layer. This is going to act as our template throughout this effect, so make it pretty!

Grab your ellipse tool by pressing U on your keyboard, then click and drag out a new ellipse. Hold SHIFT to make the ellipse a perfect circle. Remember the shape of this ellipse is going to dictate the final shape of your lens ball!

ellipse tool photoshop

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 4.20.38 PM
New ellipse added onto the image
Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 4.21.55 PM
New ellipse in layers panel

2. Make A Selection With The Marquee Tool

Next we need to create a selection to fill the content of our lens ball. Select your image/background layer, and grab your rectangular marquee tool. With the active selection, press Command(Mac) or Control(PC) + J to duplicate and add this selection onto its own layer.


With your newly duplicated layer, press Command(Mac) or Control(PC) + T to transform the image. Now right click and go to flip vertical. Reposition the layer into the centre of the canvas.

Lastly, rename the layer to “Lens Reflection”.

3. Add Distortion Effects

It’s time to add the bubble look to our layer! Best part of all, it’s just one simple distortion filter. With your Lens Reflection layer selected, go to FILTER > DISTORT > SPHERIZE. A dialogue box will open up and you can adjust to slider up to +100. This will give your image a bulging bubble distortion.

If it’s not enough distortion, repeat this process until you are happy with the amount.

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 4.39.36 PM
Your most recent filter effect will be stored here. Click to repeat the distortion process.

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 4.40.09 PM

4. Add Ellipse Layer Onto Layer Mask

Obviously things aren’t quite looking like a bubble, more like just a giant distorted blob. Let’s add a layer mask to give our lens reflection layer some context.

Go back up to the Ellipse Shape Layer and hold Command(Mac) or Control(PC) + Click on the Ellipse Layer thumbnail to turn it into a selection.

ellipse layer selection in photoshop
Click this thumbnail while holding CMD or CNTRL to activate selection.

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 4.40.44 PM

With the selection active, select the lens reflection layer and add a layer mask. Add one by clicking the layer mask icon. It will automatically apply the active selection onto a layer mask. Easy peasy.

creating layer masks in photoshop

5. Reposition Lens Reflection

You likely won’t be happy with whats showing through on your lens ball at this point. Let’s reposition it to better suit our creative fancies.

Click the chain icon between the lens reflection layer and layer mask. This will allow you to move the layer independently from the mask. Wahoo!

After unlinking the layer mask, click on your lens reflection layer thumbnail and grab your move tool by pressing V. Reposition the reflection to your hearts desire, once you are happy I will see you over in step number 6.

6. Adding A Reflection Flare

To make this look as if it has more of a glossy texture, let’s add a bit of a flare. Select and duplicate your ellipse layer and drag it underneath the original ellipse in the layer stack. Change the fill of your ellipse to white and the stroke to transparent. Rename the layer to Glass Reflection.

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.45.01 AMPart6SETTINGSScreen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.45.07 AM

With this newly made white ellipse, grab your move tool by pressing V and move the edge of the ellipse towards your images light source. In this case, the light source is coming from the upper left, so I’ll want to leave a small gap on the bottom right of my lens ball – always the opposite of your light source.

lens ball effect photoshop

Add a layer mask to this glass reflection layer and mask out the entire ellipse except for the bottom edge that we just repositioned. I find that using a black brush at 100% opacity and 0% hardness works best for this.

7.  Add a Blur To Your Reflection Flare

It’s not going to look super realistic with an extremely hard edge, so let’s feather it out a little. Select your Glass Reflection Layer and go to FILTER > BLUR > GAUSSIAN BLUR.

Set the pixel radius anywhere between 1 and 2.5 pixels and click OK. A little goes a long ways for this one!

gaussian blur photoshopScreen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.47.16 AMScreen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.47.41 AMScreen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.48.05 AM

8. Create An Edge Highlight

To make it easy on ourselves, let’s go back and utilize the ellipse tool for this one. Selecting your initial ellipse layer once again, duplicate the layer by pressing Command(Mac) or Control(PC) + J and rename this new layer to Highlight. Then access your Shape Tool by pressing U.

lens ball effect photoshop , duplicate layers

Your upper tool bar will now show fill and stroke options. Change the fill to transparent and the stroke to white. Set the pixel radius to 10 pixels.


Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.51.15 AMYou now have a white ring around your lens ball, let’s refine this a little. Add a layer mask to this ellipse and paint black to mask out the entire white ring. Do not mask out the ring in the area around the images light source. In this case, the light source is coming from the top left, so I will be leaving the highlight visible in the top left of my lens ball.

9. Create A Shadow

Click on your lens reflection layer and then add a new layer. This will put the layer directly above. With this new transparent layer, right click on the layer and go to create clipping mask. Now the content of this layer are confined to the same layer mask as our lens reflection layer.

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.54.28 AM

Grab your brush tool by pressing B, painting black with a 0% hardness brush, lightly paint around your lens ball on the opposite side of the highlight. You will start to get a very light shadow around the edge of your lens ball. If it appear too dark, just bring down the fill slider until you are happy with the look.

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.54.52 AM

10. Make It Float… With Another Shadow!

Assuming we want this giant lens ball to be floating (because that’s wicked cool) we just need to add one extra shadow. Once again, create a new layer, grab your brush tool by pressing B, painting black with a 0% hardness brush and then create one large black dot on this new layer. Rename the layer to Lens Ball Shadow.

With the Lens Ball Shadow layer selected, grab your move tool (V) and rescale this feathered dot until it looks as if it is sitting on a flat surface. To free scale your layer hold Shift + Option(Mac) or Alt(PC) while using your move tool. Continue to scale until you are happy with the size and position of the shadow.

Change the layer blending mode from Normal to Soft Light and adjust the fill slider as necessary to soften the shadow.

creating shadows in photoshopmaking shadows in photoshop

11. Bonus Step: Add Contrast To Improve The Look

Now sundaes are pretty great on their own, but add a few sprinkles and suddenly they’re so much better! Think of contrast as the sprinkles on our lens ball sundae… mmmm.

Shift click all related lens ball layers and press Command(Mac) or Control(PC) + G to group your layers. Rename this group to lens ball.

Now grab a curves adjustment layer and place it directly above the lens ball group. Add a clipping mask by clicking the clipping mask icon in the bottom bar of our adjustment layer window.

To add some contrast add an anchor point in the highlights and drag up, then add another anchor point in the shadows and drag down. Adjust this until you are happy with the amount of contrast added.

I found that adding a bit of extra contrast really helped to make this effect pop and accentuate the glassy reflective look we have created! Here’s how the image turned out:

lens ball effect photoshop

If you enjoyed creating this effect then it sounds to me like you’d be all about creating composites! In just a couple weeks I will be hosting a free LIVE webinar.

In the webinar we will be talking all about SKY REPLACEMENTS. Tips on how to effectively cut out your foreground and blend in the perfect sky. It’s a great trick used by many professionals and allows you to create ideal conditions in nearly any photo!

There will be limited seats available and exclusively for my email subscribers only. If you want in on the free webinar action, sign up by clicking the button below!

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If you have any questions about this tutorial feel free to leave a comment below!

Happy Editing!


Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. You can view my photography portfolio here.

These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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