Sphere Attack

This tutorial will teach you one method for creating a fabulous-looking sphere of energy that can be used to simulate a magical attack in your artwork. It was created using Photoshop CS2 for PC. Newer versions may need slightly different steps. It also assumes that you are somewhat familiar with the software. :)

In order to complete this tutorial, first you need to follow the Lighting and Colored Energy tutorial to at least step 3 (step 4 if you want color in your sphere). Although following the tutorials exactly will help you replicate the same effect that I created, the best way to learn is to experiment and create your own results!

Let’s begin!

Getting Started: Draw the Sphere

Create a new document with a black background. For this tutorial I used the dimensions 1000×1000 at 300dpi.

Press CTRL+R to show the Ruler and then drag one horizontal and one vertical guide so they cross at the exact center of your document.

Create a new layer and call it “Sphere”.

Press M for the Marquee tool and set it to Elliptical, Fixed Size. Enter identical values in the “width” and “height” fields and then click on the canvas at the center to produce your marquee. If you draw your circle manually, ensure it is a perfect circle by holding down SHIFT.



Press D to set your default colors and then X to set the foreground color to white. Select the Gradient tool by pressing G and choose the Radial Gradient.


Place your cursor at the center of your marquee. Click and drag in any direction to a point just outside the circle and release. This will create a slightly nicer-looking gradient than if you only dragged the cursor to the edge of the marquee.

Press CTRL+; to hide the guides and CTRL+R to hide the Ruler. Press CTRL+L to bring up the Levels dialogue box. Drag the middle slider a little bit to the left to brighten up the sphere.

The Front of the Sphere

Spheres don’t actually have a “front” (or a “back”), but for the purpose of the image, the “front” of the sphere is going to be the side facing you.

Switch to the Lightning document you created earlier in the Lighting and Colored Energy tutorial. Press CTRL+A to select the entire canvas and choose Edit > Copy Merged (if there are separate layers). Then switch back to the Sphere document and CTRL+V to paste. The lightning image should be inserted into the document as a separate layer. If it isn’t above the Sphere layer, click and drag it into position.


Rename the new layer “Sphere Front”. Reposition the lightning image if needed so the desired lightning pattern overlaps the sphere.

CTRL+click the “Sphere” layer’s thumbnail to regain the marquee outline. Then choose Select > Inverse from the menu and press Delete to discard the unwanted areas of the lightning image.

CTRL+click the “Sphere” layer’s thumbnail again to get the original marquee. Make sure the “Sphere Front” layer is active and choose Filter > Distort > Spherize from the menu and enter an amount of 50% (Normal Mode). Click OK.

Lastly, change the Blending Mode of the “Sphere Front” layer to Screen.

The Back of the Sphere

The lightning image should still be on your clipboard. Paste it into the document again. Rename the new layer “Sphere Back”.

The back of the sphere should not be identical to the front of the sphere, so rotate/move the lightning image to use a different portion of it.

Trim the unwanted areas of the image by reacquiring the sphere marquee and inverting it. Then get the original sphere marquee back.


Make sure the “Sphere Back” layer is active and choose Filter > Distort > Spherize from the menu. This time, enter an amount of -50% (Normal Mode). Click OK.

Next, choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use a low number like 3. Click OK.

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Screen as well and press CTRL+D to drop the selection. The sphere is starting to take shape!

The Sphere Layer: Inner Glow

sph06At the moment, the interior of the sphere is a little too bright, so the details on the “back” are washed out.

Make the “Sphere” layer active by clicking on it. Lower its Fill (not Opacity) to 25%. The Fill drop-down box is on the Layers Palette across from the Padlock icon.

Now let’s add some special effects!

Click the Layer Style button on the Layers Palette (or choose Layer > Layer Style from the menu) and pick Inner Glow. I used the settings at right.

The Sphere Layer: Outer Glow


Click the Layer Style button again and pick Outer Glow. I used the settings at right.


Lens Flare


The sphere is looking pretty good at this point but there is still more we can do.

Create a new layer and call it “Lens Flare”. Press D to set the default colors and then ALT+Delete to fill the layer with black.

Choose Filter > Render > Lens Flare from the menu. Pick one to your liking.


ALT+click the preview window and enter the center co-ordinates of your image. This ensures (without guesswork) that your flare will be at the center of the sphere. Click OK twice to render the lens flare.

If you want, you can change the color of the lens flare. Set your desired color as the Foreground Color, then press CTRL+U to open the Hue/Saturation window. Click the Colorize option. You can also play around with the sliders to further change the color.

When you’re ready, change the Blending Mode of the Lens Flare layer to Screen.

Final Touches

Depending on the look you want, you can continue to add special effects. Just don’t overdo it!

First, I’m going to reorder my layers. The “Sphere Front” layer should be above the “Sphere Back” layer in the layer stack so all the blurred effects are truly at the “back” of the image.

Next, I want some light beams coming out of my sphere. This light beam layer goes between the “Sphere Front” and “Sphere Back” layers so some of the beams will appear to be behind the effects at the “front” of the sphere. Where the “front” of the sphere is empty, the beams will appear to shine through, creating a nice 3D illusion.

You can create light beams manually, or search Google for some free brushes. I’ve added some color and glow effects to mine. Here is my finalized Sphere Attack:


Once your sphere is finished it’s time to bring it into your drawing.

Press CTRL+A to select the canvas. Choose Edit > Copy Merged from the menu. Paste (CTRL+V) into your picture. The Sphere Attack should appear as a new layer. Rename this layer “Sphere Attack”.

Press V so you can click and drag the Sphere Attack into position. Use CTRL+T for the Transform tool to easily resize the image.

Lastly, change the Blending Mode of the Sphere Attack layer to Screen or Lighten—whichever you like better.