Learn how to create a realistic hourglass with Photoshop only. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create your own hourglass, add realistic shadows and lighting, then complete it with custom sand and wood texture. Throughout the tutorial, you’ll learn techniques that will help you create more realistic artworks in Photoshop.
What you’ll be creating
Hourglasses are common elements in print and web design. You will find them everywhere in various forms. They used as a symbol of time or passing of time. To create this image of an hourglass, we’ll start by creating shapes, then edit them to the hourglass shape. Next, we’ll add shadows and lighting to create the glossy surface of glass and wood. Finally, we’ll finish it up with a custom-made sand with Noise filter and use the Fibers filter to create the wood texture for the base and stands. You’ll need Photoshop CS3 or newer to follow this tutorial.
Open a new file (File > New) in Adobe Photoshop with the following settings. Save the file as “Hourglass.psd”. During work remember to frequently use File > Save (Ctrl/Cmd + S) to save and update the file.
We need the Info Panel to create the hourglass shape precisely. Go to Window > Info to turn it on. In the Info Panel click on the “+” sign besides the X and Y coordinates and select Pixels as your unit. Then select the Rectangle Tool from the Toolbox and change the Foreground color to #808080. Go to the Option Bar above and select “Path” if it is not already selected. Then drag a 164 x 235 pixel rectangle like the below screen shot. Rename the layer to “Glass upper”.
Take the Path Selection Tool and drag a selection around the rectangle to select it. Four selected Anchor Points are now visible like black solid squares. Select Pen Tool and add eight Anchor Points on the selected path of the rectangle by clicking on it. In the image below red dots indicate where you have to click to insert anchor points. Next we will edit the points to change the rectangle shape into the upper portion of the hourglass.
We will edit the points with Convert Anchor Point Tool and Direct Selection Tool. With Convert Anchor Point Tool, we will extend handles from Anchor point. Also it is helpful for creating spiky or angular shapes. Direct Selection Tool help us to rotate and move the Points. Direct Selection tool is good for creating or shaping curve shapes. Delete the two bottom corner points of the rectangle. This will help to create the neck portion of the upper hourglass. Practice with Anchor Point editing to refine your shape more.
RT-click on the “Glass upper” layer and select Duplicate layer. In the Duplicate layer option box type “Glass lower” then click OK. Then Edit > Transform Path > Flip Vertical. Position the shape of the “Glass lower” layer like the image below. This is the lower portion of the hourglass.
Double click on the “Glass lower” layer to open the Layer Style window. Create a Gradient Overlay like shown in the image below.
RT-click on the Layer Style symbol of the “Glass lower” layer and select Copy Layer Style. Then RT-click on the “Glass upper” layer and select Paste Layer Style. Double click on the “Glass upper” layer to open the Layer Style window. Check the Reverse option at the right side of the gradient bar in the Gradient Overlay.
Again double click on the “Glass lower” to open the Layer Style window. In the left side Blending Option: Custom should be selected, which is the first category. In the right side check Blend Interior Effects as Group. Then reduce the Fill Opacity to 35%. By checking this option we are ensuring that reduction of Fill Opacity will not effect the layer style opacity. This will give the glass a transparent look. Do the same for “Glass upper” layer.
Select both “Glass upper” and “Glass lower” layers. Then Layer > New > Group from Layers. Rename the group to “Glass upr + lwr”.
Click on the Background layer and create a new layer on top of it by clicking the Create a new layer button in the Layers Panel. Name this new layer “Bg grd” then double click on it to open the Layer Style window. Match the layer style settings from the images below. First the Inner Shadow.
Inner Glow settings:
Gradient Overlay settings:
Click on the “Glass upr + lwr” group and expand it by again clicking on the arrow at the left side. Now CTRL-click on “Glass upper” layer to select. Collapse the group by again clicking on the arrow. Layer > New > Group to create a new group on top of that. Rename this group to “Glass upr highlights + shadows”. Click on Create a new layer button in the Layers Panel to create a new layer within this group. Rename this layer to “Glass upper shadow edge 1”. Fill this layer with Black (#000000).
Selection still active, Select > Modify > Contract. Type 2 pixels in the Contract by field the click OK. Again Select > Modify > Feather and type 2 pixels in the Feather Radius field then click OK.
Press Delete key to delete the selected area. The Feather is creating a nice fading effect from the edge.Change the layer opacity to 30
Again CTRL-click on “Glass upper” layer to select. Then create new layer on top of “Glass upper shadow edge 1” with the name “Glass upper shadow edge 2”. Select > Modify > Contract with a value of 6 pixels.
Then Select > transform Selection. Drag the top and bottom middle handle of the Bounding Box to elongate the selection.
Fill the selection with Black (#000000). Then Select > Modify > Contract with a value of 4 pixels. Delete by pressing DELETE key. Then Filter > Blur> Gaussian Blur and set radius as 2 pixels. Reduce layer opacity to 20.
Add a layer mask to the “Glass upper shadow edge 1” layer by clicking on the Add Layer Mask button in the layers panel. Select a soft brush with black color and 50% opacity. Then paint within the mask to hide the top and bottom edges.
Add a similar type of layer mask to the “Glass upper shadow edge 2” layer also.
Go back to the “Glass upper” layer. Add a Layer Mask like the image below to hide lower portion of the glass upper neck.
Follow same process for “Glass lower” layer.
Create a new layer named “Glass highlight upr sides” on top of the “Glass upper shadow edge 2” layer. Follow same technique like the edge shadow and create the white color shape within the shape of the “Glass upper shadow edge” layer. Experiment with the Contract and Blur filter. Remember that matching the exact shape is not the objective here. When you like the shape then add a layer mask to hide the top and bottom edges.Finally, Change the layer opacity to 30%.
Select Pen Tool and create a white color shape like the image below on top of the “Glass highlight upr sides” layer. Rename this layer to “Glass highlight upr left” then Rt-click on it and select Rasterize. Gaussian Blur it and add a Layer Mask. Paint within the mask with soft black brush with 50% opacity to blend the right side. Then change the opacity of the layer to 70%.
Similarly create the “Glass highlight upr right”. Check the image below for the process. Also change the opacity of the layer to 70%.
CTRL-click on “Glass upper” layer to select. Create a new layer named “Glass upr right edge up” on top of “Glass highlight upr right” layer. Fill the selection with White color. Keep a small portion on top and delete the rest like the image below.
Add a layer mask like the image below. The highlight will be more visible to the right side than the left side. Change the layer opacity to 70%.
Create a new layer named “Glass upr highlight mid” on top of the previous. Take a 30 pixel soft brush with White color. Then draw a straight line the image below. Then Edit > Transform > Warp. Drag the bottom handles of the bounding box inside to taper the lower portion.