Crystal Ball Effect

There are many apps out there that will transform an image into a mini-world or crystal ball. They also add all kinds of fun additions to the image. However, if you want to try to create your own in Photoshop I thought I would share some step by steps. This first tutorial differs from the mini-world tutorial in that you do not do one of the Polar Coordinates steps. The very top image is the image that I started with to create the Crystal Ball effect shown directly above.

Crystal Ball Effect

Bring your image into Photoshop

Depending on the version of Photoshop you are using, you may need to change your image to 8 bit mode. Don’t change it if you don’t need to. How do you know if you need 8 bit mode? If you are unable to access the Distort filter and it is greyed out than you most likely need to switch modes.To do so go to Image> Mode> 8 bit.

Change the shape of the image from a rectangle to a square by going to Image> Image size.  When the dialogue box opens uncheck the Constrain Proportions box. Then change the width to whatever the height is.

Filter > Distort> Polar Coordinates check Polar to Rectangular

Rotate image 180 degrees, Image> Image rotation > 180 degrees

Filter > Polar Coordinates check Rectangular to Polar

Image © 2016/Denise Ippolito Photography ~ Mini-world


Open your image in Photoshop. Change the bit mode if needed. Image>  Mode > 8-bit

Next you will change the shape of the image from a rectangle to a square by hitting Image> Image size.  When the dialogue box opens uncheck the Constrain Proportions box. Then change the width to whatever the height is.

Next, rotate the image 180 degrees, Image> Image rotation > 180 degrees.

Now go to Filter> Distort > Polar Coordinates. Check the Rectangular to Polar box. Then hit OK.

To clean up the seam duplicate the image Ctrl J and then hit Ctrl T for the Transform Tool.

Next rotate the image in either a clockwise or a counterclockwise direction by clicking anywhere outside of the transform frame. The cursor becomes a small, curved double arrow. Drag it to rotate the upper layer so that it overlaps the seam.

Next add an Inverse Layer Mask by holding the ALT key while clicking on the Layer Mask icon. Your Layer Mask will be filled with black; paint with a soft brush at 50 to 80 % opacity with the foreground color set to white and you can paint away the seam. You may need to adjust the opacity and the size of the brush when feathering the seam.

If you need more help with the Inverse Layer mask, consider my Photoshop Quick Tips File.

Image © 2016/Denise Ippolito Photography ~ Original base image that I started with, I color toned it before adding the filter.

*Tips, I find it best to work with panos or rectangular images for this effect. I also like to try it once through without rotating it for a different look. When you do the Crystal Ball effect you will not have that straight edge clean up that you have with the mini-worlds. You can also apply a spin or zoom blur to the outside canvas by going to Filer> Blur> Radial Blur> and checking spin or zoom. Do this on a duplicate layer so that you can apply the spin or zoom to only the outside portion of the image and not the circle part.

Below are three images that help to show the effects of both tutorials and how they differ. The top image is the Crystal Ball, the second image is the mini-world and the last image is the original base image.

Image © 2016/Denise Ippolito Photography ~ Crystal Ball

Image © 2016/Denise Ippolito Photography ~ Mini-world

Image © 2016/Denise Ippolito Photography ~ Original base image

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18 Responses

  1. Kristen Eder says:

    Thanks so much for sharing!! I’m gonna try these out this weekend ?
    I really look forward to your tutorials

    Hi Kristen, I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  2. Sharon Hallowell says:

    Oh boy! Another rainy day project! Thank you!

    Hi Sharon, I am going to look on Facebook for your creative crystal balls 🙂

  3. Sue Eberhart says:

    Can’t wait to try it! Thank you…..again!

    Hi Sue, glad you like it, I look forward to see what you come up with!

  4. Stu says:

    Thanks very much!
    I plan to see how much I can do in Elements.

    Stu, I did this tutorial when I was working with Elements, so I know you can do it unless they changed it.

  5. Cheryl Sewell says:

    Denise, you are a generous soul. Thank you, I can’t wait to try it out.

    Hi Cheryl, I look forward to see your creations, glad to share.

  6. Vickie McEnroe says:

    Thank you Denise, I’ve tried creating the ball but always end up with the line. No one has ever explained how to get rid of it. I really appreciate the details you include include in your instructions.

    Hi Vickie, great! I am glad to help.

  7. Kara J Chickering says:

    I’ve always called these “marbles”, and had varying degrees of success in the traditional Polar Coordinates steps. Thanks for the new ideas and inspiration!

    Hi Kara, Thanks and you are welcome, I’m happy to share.

  8. Chuck Nauman says:

    I see in one of your comments, above, that you developed this in Elements… maybe this is why I can not get either the Crystal Ball or Mini-Worlds procedures to work in CC2014.5 ?

    Hi Chuck, I am not sure what you are doing wrong but I am pretty sure you mean Photoshop CC 2015.5 – anyway I used Photoshop CC 2015.5 to create the examples in this post. Maybe you could try again, you are probably missing a step.

  9. Nancy Bell says:

    Just got to see this. Love seeing the difference between the crystal ball and mini-worlds. Your examples are awesome! Thanks!

    Thanks Nancy, these are old techniques for you and the old OOTB gang 🙂

  10. LensScaper says:

    Thanks for a great tutorial Denise. I have had a lot of fun playing around with Polar coordinates but I’ve learnt some new tricks through reading this today. Many thanks.

    Hi Andy, great! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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