5 Advanced Photoshop Techniques for Web Designers

If we look at web design today, it’s anything but simple. Sometimes you need that extra Photoshop knowledge in order to achieve the look we need.

In this step-by-step tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create five killer effects for your site.

When I was choosing examples for this article I visited some design galleries and roundup posts and took screenshots of design details that are used (sometimes overused) in web design. I don’t encourage you to follow trends but rather develop your own style. Nevertheless, it is always useful to polish your Photoshop skills a bit more. Let’s get rockin’!

Editor’s Note: Andy Clarke will be teaching an interesting session called “How to Design in the Browser” and Elliot Jay Stocks will be showing you how to design the “The Perfect Portfolio” at The Future of Web Design Tour.

#1 Awesome Buttons

Now what is a site without a great “Call to action” button? The design style and colors will depend on your overall site style and importance of each button. Here is one example of a simple but effective button that we’ll be trying to recreate (taken from transmissionapps.com).

Step 1

Open New Document, set canvas to 470px wide and 350px high. Create a new layer and draw in this shape with Rounded Rectangle Tool with radius set to 80px.

Step 2

Right after that we will add some layer filters to make this button immediately awesome. Drop Shadow – Color: Black, Opacity:65%, Distance: 2px, Size:2px, the rest leave by default.

Step 3

Gradient Overlay. Just copy these hex codes for gradient colors and place color buckets in approximately same position as you can see in the image.

Step 4

Inner Shadow will make this button stand out even more. Notice that this is just a subtle effect. Inner Shadow – Color: Black, Opacity: 15%, Distance: 0px, Size: 5px;

Step 5

Finally add some Stroke. You will notice that this is a Gradient Stroke with same colors as our buttons Gradient Overlay. The only difference here is that gradient direction is set -90, which is the opposite of buttons Gradient Overlay. With this little trick we made a nice light effect to our button and made it stand out a bit more.

Step 6

Done with effects, time for some shine! Create a new layer above others.

Step 7

Cmnd (Ctrl) + Click on Button shape layer. We have made a selection out of it.

Step 8

Choose Marquee Tool. Hold down the Alt key and Subtract the half from selection.

Step 9

Choose Black to White Gradient Tool, set the layer mode to Screen and pull upwards from bottom of selection to about 30px outside the selection. There you have it! A nice shiny button.

Step 10

Add some text like I did here. Draw in a circle and position it like you see it in the picture. Add a Gradient Overlay with same values like shown in the screenshot. Finally give it a 2px white Inside stroke.


Step 11

Choose Shape Tool. From presets choose an Arrow. Rotate it.

Step 12

Like the image says, position the arrow in bottom direction.

Step 13

Now choose Direct Selection Tool and select the shape. Next, select two points from upper part of the arrow and move them with Arrow Keys few pixels to the right. Do the same with the right top side of the arrow, just shift it to the left. This way our top part will become a bit thiner. With the same tool adjust the bottom part (triangle).

Step 14

This is how it should look like. You can also see the layer structure.

#2 Navigation Menus

The most important part of a website: the navigation. I’ve chosen the example that uses some transparency and fade out effect (taken from legacylocker.com).

Step 1

Open a New Document, same dimensions from previous example. Create a New Layer and fill it with Gradient Overlay using the color hex values you can see in the image.

Step 2

For the purpose of this example I added few clouds :)

Step 3

Draw in a Rectangle, paint it with #6bb9ec and set Opacity to 65%.

Step 4

Add a Quick Mask to this layer. Choose 200px radius Soft Brush, set the color to Black and mask the ends of this rectangle, like you see it in the image.

Step 5

Draw in another Rectangle, but much higher. Put it under the small rectangle. Use the same color and Opacity. Again add a Quick Mask to this layer.

Step 6

Choose 600px Soft Brush and carefully mask bottom of the rectangle os that top line stays visible across the document.

Step 7

Now we can play a bit with the small Rectangle by adding some light and shadows. Cmnd (Ctrl) + Click small Rectangle to make a selection out of it. Go to Select>Modify>Contract and enter 1px. Create a New layer and set Mode to Overlay. Choose 200px Soft Brush, color white and click few times the top part of the rectangle just like you see in the image.

Step 8

Do the same with bottom part just change the Brush color to Black.

Step 9

Here you can see how this looks like. It’s really a subtle effect of light and shadow which you can use wherever you want.

Step 10

With Line Tool draw in a line just the same width as small rectangle. For color choose #8dd1fe.

Step 11

Mask the ends of the line just like we did in Step 4. Copy this line and shift it to the bottom of the small rectangle.

Step 12

Finally I added some Navigation items and that’s it!

#3 Typography Inset

Even though we’re used to seeing this technique now, it’s still a good skill to add to your toolbox. Please use it only if you have to :) The example was taken from forabeautifulweb.com.

Step 1

Same New Document filled with #aa8e5c.

Step 2

I added some floral brushes just to recreate the same background from the example :)

Step 3

Choose Type Tool, set font to Times New Roman. Choose color #591e0d and type something.

Step 4

Add Inner Shadow filter and use settings like shown in the image.

Step 5

Add 2px Outside Stroke with color set to #bc9f6c.

Step 6

Done! What, that’s it? Yes, that’s it! Simple and effective.

#4 Faded Shadow

With a little bit of Blur and Quick Mask we can create shadows that fade out in any direction we want to. With this effect you can make boxes look like they pop out of the background. This example is from mint.com.

Step 1

First thing first, the background. As usual by now, within New Document same dimensions like previous ones.

Step 2

Draw in a white Rectangle.

Step 3

Create a New Layer and place it under the white rectangle layer. Cmnd (Ctrl) + Click white rectangle shape. Fill the empty layer with Black.

Step 4

Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter Radius: 12px.

Step 5

Add a Quick Mask to this layer. Select a 300px Soft Brush Tool and carefully mask all

Step 6

Now this was pretty easy, don’t you think? Now you can play around with this technique and who knows what awesome results you’ll get.

#5 Depth and 3D Space

More and more interesting 3D elements are being used in web design lately. Here you can see how with just few extra layers, you can create an illusion of 3D space. This example is from mosaiko.com.br.

Step 1

New Document filled with Black.

Step 2

With Rectangle Toll draw in rectangle and fill it with #21262a.

Step 3

With same tool selected draw in another, this time smaller rectangle and fill it with #191b1d. These two rectangles will create our space on canvas. It will look like a wall is passing through it.

Step 4

Cmnd (Ctrl) + Click bigger rectangle shape to get a selection. Create a New layer. Choose 300px Soft Brush, color Black and click few times in top center of the selection.

Step 5

Do the same with smaller rectangle but this time click on bottom center part of the rectangle.

Step 6

Now, do the same for the background layer itself just use White as Brush color.

Step 7

Draw in a 85×20 px rectangle, fill it with #555759.

Step 8

Add following effects. Drop Shadow – Color: Black, Opacity: 25%, Angle: 90, Distance: 1px, Size:4px. Inner Shadow – Color: White, Opacity: 7%, Angle: -90, Distance: 1px, Size: 2px. Gradient Overlay, use values provided in the image.


Step 9

Choose Pen Tool and draw in a shape like you see in the image. Fill it with #555759.

Step 10

With a little use of Quick Mask and some Brushing we will create the illusion of 3D space. First add a Quick Mask to the layer and with 100 px Soft Brush mask the sides of the stripe.

Step 11

Next, select the whole stripe and choose 100px Soft Brush again. Create New Layer, set color to white and click few times at the beginning of the path but only with the top of the brush just like shown in the image.

Step 12

I added some navigation links, copied few more stripes, modified the perspective a bit and there we have it.

I hope you enjoyed it and hopefully learned something new. Watch out for Part 2 where we will be covering more interesting Photoshop techniques.

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