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DESIGN USABILITY

Creating Aqua Style Images


Anyone that has used a Mac running OSX will have seen Aqua style icons in action. Aqua is the name of the default theme of OSX and presents a visual style with a kind of liquid, glossy effect. Aqua style icons look very nice and convey an image of style and professionalism, but needn't be that hard to create, being composed primarily of transparency layers and lighting effects.

Author Info:
By: Dan Wellman
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 10
November 08, 2006
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Creating Aqua Style Images
  2. · Getting started
  3. · Using the wand and lighting effects
  4. · Add a drop shadow

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Creating Aqua Style Images - Getting started
(Page 2 of 4 )

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be working with a small rectangular shape which we will Aquify, but don’t worry, the same techniques can be applied to any shape of any size.  In Photoshop then, open a new document 250 pixels wide by 250 pixels high, with a transparent background and default resolution and color mode settings.  Choose the rounded rectangle tool and set the background color to black (obviously this can be any colour you want but when learning the Aqua technique, highly contrasting colors, like black and white, make the learning curve less steep). 

Drag out a rectangle and rasterize the shape layer.  Now use the magic wand to select the rectangle and then duplicate the layer in the Layers window.  Call the new layer Shade Layer 1.      

Next, with Shade Layer 1 still selected, choose the gradient tool. Set the gradient to ‘Foreground to Background’ (make sure the background is set to white), linear and check the Reverse tick box. Drag a straight line from the centre of the rectangle down to a little past the halfway point to draw the gradient. To shade the image appropriately, choose the Perspective effect from the Edit --> Transform menu and push the sides of the gradient layer in slightly. Then choose the Scale effect from the same menu and push the area of shading up so that it ends about a quarter of the way from the top of the rectangle.

To give the gradient a round-edged appearance, choose the Warp effect. Move the left and right bottom corner boxes, so that they meet in the middle of the image, and then to give the shading a more round-edged appearance, drag both sets of round place holders along each side out.  The vertical length of this area of shading will contribute greatly to how thick the resulting image looks; a long layer that goes right down to the middle will give a much more rounded effect, making the shape almost semicircular if rotated in the third dimension.  A shorter area of shading will make the image appear much flatter. Use a length appropriate to its application.


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