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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 - Using the wand and lighting effects
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Now deselect the layer and choose the magic wand tool. Set the tolerance to 180 and re-select the gradiant layer. Go back to the Edit --> Transform menu and choose the Scale tool, and hten shrink the layer slightly from the top edge so that there is a border of black around the shaded area. Now duplicate this layer, and call it Shade Layer 2. Use the Flip Vertical option from Edit --> Transform menu and then move the inverted layer down to almost the bottom of the image. 

Now choose the scale tool again and shorten the height of this layer slightly. You now need to blur out this layer, so choose Gaussian Blur from the Filter --> Blur menu. A radius of 10 pixels or so will work best for this shape.  You should also lower the opacity of this layer to about 70%.

Now for some lighting effects. First of all, merge the layers, then choose the Lighting Effects tool from the Filter --> Render meu. Rotate the effect circle until the light is coming directly from the bottom, then move the circle up so that the middle place holder is at the top of the rectangle. 

Now lengthen the effect circle to just past halfway between the bottom of the image and the bottom of the preview window, and finally widen the circle as much as possible. In the Properties panel at the right, move the Gloss slider up to the maximum and move the Material slider to about -30.

Using the lighting effect will create some weird shapes at the bottom of the image, so choose the magic wand tool and lower the tolerance to 5. You’ll need to zoom in a bit and then hold down the shift key while selecting the shapes to make sure you get all of the remaining areas outside the rectangle. 

Now invert the selection and copy it. Paste the copy to a new layer and then delete the original layer. Put a stroke around the rectangle 3 pixels wide, black and on the inside.  Next you should set an inner glow; set the blend mode to Overlay, the color to white and the opacity to maximum. The size should be set to around 25 pixels. Finally select a thin strip at the bottom of the top shading effect and apply a 2 pixel Gaussian blur, just to take the edge off of it.


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