Prism Photography Effect in Photoshop (Step by Step Tutorial)

April 20, 2023

Thinking about how to use a prism in photography as a designer? Create a prism photo effect and see its magic for yourself!

Trick mirrors won't trick you if made for aesthetic purposes! On the contrary: they will immerse you in the most eye-pleasing imagery made of crushed glass, rainbow light, and fancy kaleidoscope mosaic. Or anything else, as only your imagination sets the boundaries. And your knowledge of Photoshop, as this is how you'll create a glass prism effect.

In this tutorial, you will hit the road exploring the universe of popular prism photo effects. And it really is a universe, as after completing the lesson, you will be able to create all kinds of glass/mirror distortion, use a prism, play with optics, and subdue the law of physics for the sake of beautiful photography.

Tutorial Assets

Here are the files you will need to approach prism photography (without even getting out your camera) and create an authentic prism effect:


What is Prism Photography?

Prism photography implies visual techniques that use a prism to disperse or refract light on a subject. For example, it allows an artist to add fairy lights or create rainbows. Or that's how they can reproduce the effect of distorted glass, triangular prism, or shattered mirror and make their images look kaleidoscopic.

Normally, all such effects come from the camera lens and custom prisms made from glass, plastic, or other materials. Plus mastership. That's why prism effects remained a secret weapon of professional photographers until the trend penetrated graphic design. Creative audiences invented a way to repeat glass prism photography in Photoshop without actually toggling the camera settings and being proficient at optics.


Creating Prism Photography Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Step 1— Begin by opening the photo you want to edit in Photoshop. Go to File > Open and select the image you've prepared for the creative photography experiments.
Step 2 — Select Line Tool and create two lines like below:
NOTE: Your lines should not be as thick as in the screenshot. I've made them thick on purpose so that you can see better. Put a tick on the Fill option and leave the Stroke option with No Color.
Step 3 — Select both shape layers while holding Shift, then Right Click > Merge Shapes. After that, Right Click one more time and select Rasterize.
Step 4 — Create 3 duplicates of the background layer using Control-J. Make all the layers Invisible — except the layer Lines.
Step 5 — Select the Lines layer and use a Magic Wand Tool to create the first selection.
Step 6 — Select the first duplicate and press Create a Mask.
Step 7 — Similarly, add layer masks to other layers.
Step 8 — Select the background layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the amount to about 10%.
Step 9 — Add a 10% Gaussian Blur to all the Masks.
Step 10 — To move the layer or the mask independently of each other, click these little icons to unlink the mask from the layer.
Step 11 — Select the first layer and press Control-T, then move and resize the image. You should expand the background and move it up and right. The face should position between three lines. First: 115%, 11°. Second: 108%, 12°. Third: 112%, 11°.
Step 12 — Do the same for the other two layers.
Step 13 — Join all three layers into a new group.
Step 14 — Create a new Solid Color layer. Select an orange or yellow color (I used the #ff8400 color code).
Step 15 — Change the Blending Mode of the layer to Vivid Light and the Opacity to about 40-50%.
Step 16 — Create a copy of the group and put it above all the layers.
Step 17 — Select the layer masks and slightly move them from each other.
Step 18Double Click on the second group and make the Green channel Invisible.
Step 19 — Move this group a bit to create a color shift effect.
Step 20 — Select all the layers. Right Click > Convert to a Smart Object, add a Gaussian Blur effect set to 1-2%.
Step 21 — We're almost done! Now, let’s add a Noise filter set to 2-3%.
Step 22 — For the final step, let’s add the Curves adjustment layer and set its Opacity to 75%.
Then you can use the following settings for each channel:
Done! We've been able to recreate the authentic photography prism effect without resorting to your camera. Only a graphic editor and some patience!
This tutorial allows you to try different manipulations with your graphics for the sake of memorable images. For example, you can use the same instruction with minor modifications to imitate triangular prisms or explore rainbow effects. For example, here is another example of the image I’ve created the same way:

Video Tutorial

Don't feel like playing with prism photography right away? You can have the Crystal Prism Photo Effect. for Adobe Photoshop for such cases. It's a whole collection of triangle, kaleidoscope & prism lens options ready to turn your graphics into reflections from a mirror labyrinth.

All these creative effects are easy to use, so get some distorted graphics, place the original image inside the Smart Object, and here you have a perfect shot! This way, you'll create imagery for fashion magazines, editorials, posters, and advertising to make everyone freeze with enchantment!

Crystal Prism Photo Effect

The package includes a triangle, kaleidoscope & prism lens, all enriched with realistic features.

Broken Glass Photo Effect

Get a set of 6 different glass cracks made with blur, noise, and color distortion.

Aura Leaks Photo Effects

Which filter style suits you best? We’ve named them Lunar, Ritual, and Sacral, all highlighting the art pieces putting accents here and there.

written by

Ivan Gromov

Ivan is a Photoshop tutor and stock graphic designer who loves to create textures, templates, and all kinds of effects and tools for Adobe Photoshop. Be sure to check all his exclusive tutorials for Pixelbuddha!