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How to create shimmer effect in Photoshop tutorial

How to create an abstract shimmer effect background in Photoshop CC 2018 2017 2015 CS6 CS5 using Maximum filter and Pointillize filter as well as oil paint filter applied to gradients. All kinds of variant shimmer effects can be created using different source gradients in Photoshop

Shimmer effect in Photoshop how to create abstract shimmer swirl effect in Photoshop tutorial

  1. Create a Photoshop document (large) for the shimmer effect

  2. Go to the gradient tool

  3. Go to the gradient panel, select the blue red yellow default gradient

  4. Set the gradient type to linear

  5. Set the blending mode to difference.

  6. Use the gradient tool and repeat multiple applications of the gradient for a more extreme shimmer effect

Pointillize filter in Photoshop

  1. Now use the pointillize filter found in the pixelate category of the filters in Photoshop.

  2. Set the value to a fairly small size such as 12 etc and apply the filter.

The pointillize create a lovely spread of colorful shapes across the image based on the previous underlying colorful artwork and so will probably vary from experiment to experiment with the gradient tool. Ok, now you have a lovely colorful spotted background. You could stop here and just perhaps use an adjustment to turn the design into a black and white background or texture

Oil paint filter applied to the shimmer effect background

oil paint pointillize filter abstract background
  1. Now apply the oil paint filter a few times with maximum settings but adding no depth to the image (unless you want some) and you will then have a nice smeary swirly colorful background in Photoshop

Maximum filter for a mean shimmer effect in Photoshop

I love the other filter category, why couldn't they add the maximum to the blur or some other category but instead it ends up in the others. It is a useful filter though.

  1. Set the maximum to a fairly large value say 17 and roundness.

  2. Apply the maximum

  3. Edit menu

  4. Fade

  5. Fade using blending mode of difference

You should end up with is a super colorful edge / lines that follows the original contours of the pointillize.

Vibrance / Camera raw filter to re-color the shimmer effect in Photoshop

vibrance added background

It is probably not the most colorful design yet

  1. Use auto tone or perhaps vibrance to improve (or perhaps not) things. Or perhaps Camera raw filter or one of the Nik plugins

Repeat maximum filter to blur the swirly background design in Photoshop

You don't have to stop there. The maximum filter can be used multiple times and combined with multiple applications of the oil paint effect to smear the image. It is probably a good idea to take a snapshot at certain points as sometimes you may find the design is not working. Or perhaps just use the history panel to restore an earlier history state of the swirly background

  1. Re-apply the oil paint filter to smear and create an even more unusual swirly line / edge in Photoshop or

  2. Re-apply the maximum filter with the same setting or more or less and create a new edge to the edge and this can be repeated to create even more unusual abstract swirly line / edge effect.

  3. Oil paint

  4. Maximum filter

  5. And so on...

Use the oil paint filter to create an even more amazing smeared design in seconds

oil paint filter and tangle abstract background

You can finish the entire design off with an extra application of the oil paint to create a very unusual smeared design or perhaps pass the result into the lighting effects filter and use the spot light and add some texture to the design (personally, I would use Painter at this point) to give it some depth


CSH format, download



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Youtube Video tutorials



How to create a colorful edge / line swirly background in Photoshop using maximum filter and pointillize filter etc (youtube video)


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