Create a Vibrant Color Ring – Photoshop Tutorial
In this tutorial we will tackle intermediate and advanced methods of creating this amazing piece of artwork! We will talk a bunch about creating and manipulating complex paths and working with multiple Adjustment Layers and Layer Styles to non-destructively create this graphic which can be made many different colors with the click of the mouse and can be scaled up or down within your Photoshop document without losing detail. It’s vector-based! It’s advanced and complex, but if you jump in you’re going to love it!
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Create a new document sized 1280px by 720px at a resolution of 72.
We’re going to double click the Background Layer to unlock it and then go Image>Adjustments>Hue&Saturation (Shift+U) and set the “Brightness” to -70.
Now the fun begins! We will be creating this graphic with a rock solid base of Photoshop paths so we can scale it up or down without worrying about pixilation here within Photoshop. It will also give us options down the road as far as how we want to size the ring. Open up the Paths panel by going Window>Paths and grab the Ellipse Tool (U) and set the tool to “Paths” by selecting the middle icon up in the Tool Options Bar.
Hold down the Shift key and drag out a large ellipse in the center of the document. Check out the Paths panel and notice we have created a path, not pixels. This is sort of a template-or stencil-we are building. We will tell Photoshop later on to put colors, graphics, gradients, and all kinds of beautiful graphic goodness into these “stencils” we’re building.
Go ahead and double click the path we just created and name it “Base” so we can keep track of it. We’re going to create our donut shape first, and then worry about the complex arcs we need to make later. Grab the Path Selection Tool (A) –we want the black arrow, not the white arrow! Select the path we drew just a moment ago and go Edit>Copy to copy that path to the clipboard.
Go Edit>Paste to paste this path right there on top of our original path. It may look like nothing has happened, but have no fear! Look up to the Tool Options Bar and select the “Exclude Overlapping Shape Areas” icon (it’s the one to the far right of the four icons on the left side of the bar). Now hit Ctrl + T to bring up Free Transform and, holding down Shift + Alt/Opt, scale this path in until we have a nice donut shape. Notice you can see the cut out happening in the Paths panel! Hit Enter/Return to commit those changes and select both paths by Shift-clicking them and hit the “Combine” button in the Tool Options Bar. We have combined those two paths into one.
Select the path we just made (if it isn’t still selected) and go Edit>Copy and hit the little create new path icon at the bottom of the Paths panel to drop a new “Paths layer” below our current path. Go Edit>Paste to paste our path into the document. Grab the white Direct Selection Tool (A) -located under the black arrow which we’ve been using. We need to drag a selection out which covers the entire inner circle path and then hit “Delete” to get rid of our cut out and give us one solid circle again.
Let’s go ahead and add a fill to our path. Select the “Base” path and flip over to the Layers panel and select the half black/half white icon at the base of the Layer panel and choose “Solid Color” and choose a color that is easy on the eyes (I chose #666699, but the color here really does not matter at all).
Jump back over to the Paths panel and take note that the Vector Mask we just created to contain our Fill Layer has appeared as another path. Don’t worry about that, we’ll just let Photoshop do its thing! Grab the Path Selection Tool (A) and select our “Base” path by first selecting the “Baser” path layer and then selecting the path. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + R to bring out the rulers and drag guides to cross over the exact center of our donut. TIP: Use the anchors points as reference for the middle of your circle!
Now things get tricky! Select “Path 1” with the Path Selection Tool (A) and hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to Free Transform the path. Look to the Tool Option Bar and set the reference point location to the top center dot (you’ve got a little 9-dot grid up there). Drag the bottom of the path up to meet at the bottom of our center cut-out and bump the left and right sides in just like I have in the screenshot (ideally you want the anchor point to be JUST off of the donut and sitting in the center of the donut, but only a very tiny bit!).
Hit Enter/Return to commit those changes. Select that path with the Path Selection Tool (A), copy it and hit the new path button at the bottom of the Paths panel and paste the path into that new path layer. This is named “Path 2”. Grab this ellipse and drag it down until the top of it is aligned with the top of the center of our donut (ideally you want the anchor point to be JUST off of the donut and sitting in the center of the donut, but only a very tiny bit!). Check out the screenshot for reference.
Select the “Path 1” layer and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) -white arrow- and select the anchor point on the right side of the path and drag it out to the right and then select the tangent handle pointing downwards and drag it straight down until your path looks a little like mine does in the screenshot.
We now need to trim these shapes up and merge them together to get the “swoosh” that we really want! Select the “Base” path and use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to drag a selection over the path which is cutting the center into our donut shape. This will select all of the anchors points associated with the inner ellipse. Copy this ellipse and create a new path layer and paste it into that path layer. Name this new path “Inner Cutout”.
Select the “Inner Cutout” path with the Path Selection Tool (A) and copy it to the clipboard (Cmd/Ctrl + C). Go ahead and select the “Path 1” path layer and paste it. Now look to the Tool Options Bar and select the “Subtract From Shape Area” icon (second from the left) to chop that center area right out of our path. Hit the “Combine button to avoid trouble down the road. Note that you can see the cutout in the Paths panel.
We now need to split the bottom ellipse in half so we don’t destroy the good half of our top ellipse. Select the “Path 2” path layer and turn snapping on by going View>Snap then grab the Rectangle Tool (U) and look to the Tool Options Bar and select “Subtract From Shape Area” and drag a rectangle out which will get rid of the left half of our lower ellipse. Check out the sceenshot to see what your Paths panel should look like now.
Grab your Path Selection Tool (A) and select both paths on the “Path 2” path layer and hit the “Combine” button to merge our changes.
Look to the Tool Options Bar and select the “Subtract From Shape Area” icon and watch the thumbnail for this path seem to invert colors over in the Paths panel. Copy this path and select the “Path 1” path layer and paste it. Select both paths using the Path Selection Tool (A) and hit the “Combine” button.
We now need to trim the excess away using the donut shape itself! We’re just about there! Select the “Base” path layer and select the path using the Path Selection Tool (A) and choose the “Intersect Shape Areas” icon (second from the right) and then copy the path to the clipboard. Select the “Path 1” path layer and paste it into there. Select both paths and hit the “Combine” button.
Select this new path and copy it. Create a new path layer and paste it right in. Now, with the path selected, hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to Free Transform the path. Drag the little reference point location so it is sitting right on the perfect middle of the donut (drop it right onto where those guides intersect each other!). Now rotate it just like I have in the screenshot.
We now have the proper paths to create this effect! It’s all easier from here on out! Select the “Path 1” path and jump over to you Layers panel. Select the Adjustment Layers icon (half black/half white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel) and choose “Solid Color”. Choose any color you like. NOTE:The color is masked to the path that we selected just prior to creating this Adjustment Layer. This is the base of our first “swoosh”. Name the Layer “Swoosh 1”.
Select the other swoosh path we created in the Paths panel (mine is named “Path 3”) and do the same for this second swoosh as we did for the first one. Go ahead and name it “Swoosh 2”.
Select “Swoosh 1” and go Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options and reduce the “Fill” to zero. Add the Inner Shadow & Gradient Fill just as I have.
Next, select “Swoosh 2” and add the Layer Styles I have.
At this point because we’re using shades of gray (in our case black to white gradient & white for the inner shadow) and Blend Modes so if we change the color of the initial Shape Layer the whole look of the graphic can be changed by editing just that one under-lying Layer. I’m going to change it to a orange color.
Select the “Base” path (in the Paths panel) and create another Solid Color Fill Layer above all of our Layers (in the Layers panel), reduce the Fill Opacity to zero and add the Layer Style “Inner Glow” just as I have. I have given the Layer the name of “EdgeRound”.
Let’s give our original Shape Layer (the one that I now have colored orange) a name of “Donut”. At this point we can get rid of our guides. Go View>Clear Guides.
Select the “Donut” Shape Layer and jump over to the Paths panel and select the “Base” path. Now add another Solid Color Fill Layer. This will place your new Layer just above our “Donut” Layer. Give this new Layer a name of “Glow”. Reduce the Fill Opacity to zero and add the Layer Style “Inner Glow” and “Satin” just as I have in the screenshot. These styles add some life to the ring and almost give the illusion that something is floating inside of the ring!
Time to add a shine to the top of this beast! Press the (D) key to set your foreground/background colors to black & white and then hit the (X) key to swap them and make white the foreground color. Next select the top-most Layer (“EdgeRound”) and then select the “Base” path and go ahead and create a new Gradient Fill Layer. Select the gradient bar and choose the “Foreground to Transparent” option. Adjust to angle and hit the “Reverse” button if your gradient is not starting the white at the top.
Name that Gradient Fill Layer “Shine” and set the Blend Mode to “Overlay” and the Opacity to 40%. At this point we have created a complex graphic which is going to interact with any color we place beneath all of these styled Layers.
Select the “Donut” Layer and hop over to the Paths panel and select the “Base” path. Go ahead and add a Gradient Fill Layer. Select the gradient bar in the little dialog box that pops up and you will enter the Gradient Editor. Choose the straight black to white gradient. Click just below the horizontal gradient bar in this dialog box to add a color stop to our gradient. Add three color stops and set the location to 25% – 50% – 75%, respectively.
You should now have 5 total color stops in this gradient. (Two stops for the original colors and three new stops). Set the colors to these hex codes (starting with the left-most color stop) – ff0f86 – ffbe33 – 2ec243 – 4a64d8 – ff0f86. Feel free to save the gradient by hitting the “Add New” button. Hit the “OK” button and choose “Angle” from the “Style” drop down menu in the Gradient Fill dialog box.
Select the top-most Layer and then select the “Base” path again. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer and set the Blend Mode to “Multiply”. Reduce the Opacity to 25%. Cmd/Ctrl + Click the Vector Mask attached to “Swoosh 1” to load it as a selection. Create a new Gradient Fill Layer and use the setting I have.
Cmd/Ctrl + Click the Vector Mask for the “Swoosh 2” Layer and select the mask we just had created for our new Gradient Fill Layer. Fill that selection with black and set the Gradient Fill Layer to “Overlay” as well as reduce the Opacity to 85%.
Let’s throw a stroke around this and we’ll be ready to roll! Select the “Base” path again and create a new Solid Color Adjustment Layer and reduce the “Fill” to zero. Use the “Stroke” settings that I have. Your stoke will not really be visible over this darker gray, we’ll make it visible in just a moment.
Fill the Background Layer with e7e7e7 (very light gray) and go Filter>Noise>Add Noise and give it 2% Noise –Uniform with Monochromatic ticked on. Follow the video portion of the tutorial for the added ending including the shadow and the background completion. That’s it!