Churches and cathedrals often have very impressive stained glass windows, illuminated by the light from outside. These often tell a story or are of a specific saint or person and require a great deal of time from a skilled craftsman to create. Fortunately you don’t have to spend years training, you can create your own stained glass effect portrait with Photoshop. The original image doesn’t need to have religious overtones, but it works better if it’s something more sombre or restrained than a shot from a beach holiday. If you want to shoot an image specifically, then wrap your subject with cloth and get them to assume a thoughtful or praying pose. The tutorial will use the Line tool to create the leading framework that separates each glass element, colour to fill them and the Glass filter to finish it off with a slightly frosted feel.
Step 1: Setting it up
The first step is to create the leading for the individual elements so load the main photo and then press Cmd+Shft+N to create a new layer. Name this Framework. Then, select the Line tool from the Tools palette. In the Options bar click on Fill Pixels and enter a value of 50 for the Weight.
Step 2: Create the frames
Select black as the foreground colour and set the type as Fill Pixels, not vector shapes. Connect each line together and slightly draw over at connecting points to give the impression of blobs of leading. Avoid drawing over the middle of the face or through hands, but otherwise the exact pattern is down to you.
Step 3: Finish the blobs
To further give the impression of connecting blobs of leading select the Paintbrush with round tip and a 100% Hardness so it isn’t feathered. Set the brush size to be between 85-95 pixels – you can vary it depending on the complexity of the junction. Paint blobs over the joins.
Step 4: Outside border
To create a leaded border for the image press Cmd+A to select all then go to Edit> Stroke. In the Width box enter a value of 50px and for the Location select Inside. Click on OK to apply it to frame the image. Remember to add blobs to where the lines join the border.
Step 5: Select areas
Press Cmd+Shft+N and call this new layer Coloured glass. Set the blending mode to Overlay. Then select the Magic Wand tool and set the Tolerance to 75 and the operation to Add to Selection. Ensure that Contiguous has a tick but Sample all Layers does not. Click on the Framework layer. Now click in some of the glass pieces, not adjacent, to be the same colour.
Step 6: Add some colour
Select the Coloured glass layer again then click on the Foreground colour. Select a colour to use for these glass pieces. Then go to Edit> Fill and select Foreground colour for the fill. Click on OK to apply. The colours will have different shades. Press Cmd+D to deselect this selection.
Step 7: Repeat and fill
Click back on the Framework layer to make another set of selections and then back onto the Coloured glass layer to do the colour fill. Repeat the process until you’ve filled all the pieces of glass with different colours. Obviously, don’t place the same colours next to each other.
Step 8: Make path
Select the Background layer and make a duplicate of it. Call this the Reduced layer. Switch off the visibility of the Coloured glass and Framework layers for now. Use the Pen tool or any other selection tool and mark around the outline of the figure. Select the Paintbrush and set the thickness to 30px. Select the Pen tool again.
Step 9: Create outline
Right click on the path and select Stroke Path. Select the Paintbrush as the Tool and click on Okay to apply. Right click over the Path again and select Delete Path. You can extend this to include the head and more features if you want. Then go to Filter> Texture> Stained Glass.
Step 10: Reduce detail
On it’s own this filter doesn’t really create a stained glass window, but what it does do is reduce the detail and give a pixelated effect when used small enough. Set the cell size to 10, the Border Thickness to 1 and the Light Intensity to 2. Click on OK to apply.
Step 11: Create glass
Duplicate the Reduced layer and call it the Glass layer. Then go to Filter> Distort Glass. Select Frosted as the Texture, 5 for Distortion and 3 for Smoothness. Click OK to apply. You can try the alternative textures to see what the different glass effects look like. Some are more classical, others look more like a 1970s lounge window.
Step 12: Style of glass
At this point you have a choice. You can either leave the glass layer with a Normal blend mode which has less detail but a stronger overall shape, reduce the Opacity of this layer a little to make it blend with the underneath more, or change the blend mode to Darken, which adds glassy highlights to the previous small cell effect. That’s what we’ve done here.
Step 13: Embossed frame
Now to add some embossing to the leaded frame so select the Framework layer. Go to Layer> Layer Style> Bevel and Emboss. Select the Inner bevel with Smooth technique. Set the Size to 15px and the Soften to 10px to give a nice molten lead effect. You can set the light direction to one which suits the lighting in the image.
Step 14: Fogged glass
Now to fog out a few panes of the glass. In the Layers Palette create a new, blank layer called Fogging, above the Framework layer and Below the Coloured Glass layer. Select the Framework layer. Select the Magic Wand tool and click in four of the glass frames. Click on the Fogging layer. Go to Filter> Render Clouds.
Step 15: Finishing off
Reduce the Fogging layer Opacity to 35% to make it a subtle effect. Finally, make all layers visible. Make any tweaks to layer opacity to get the effects how you want them then merge all the layers. Finally, use either Curves or Hue/Saturation to make brighter, more contrast or stronger overall colours.
Bonus Tip: Photos with uneven lighting
This entire process works best with an image that has no very light, white or dark areas. If you have those then the Overlay blend mode isn’t as effective. One of the things you can do is to select the main image and use Highlights/Shadows to increase the brightness of the shadow areas and to lower it in the highlight or white areas. You can also use the Hue/Saturation slider to increase the original colour in the image. It’s better to avoid using a really dark or strong colour when you fill in the face area as well. Use a more muted colour so it’s still easy to see the person’s face.