Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Creating Apple's "Shiny Table" Effect

      A recurring theme throughout Apple's graphical style is the "shiny table" mirror effect. Examples can be seen in 3- or 4-person video chats in iChat, the icons in Front Row, and countless other places. This effect blends well with Apple's simple yet visually appealing style. This GIMP tutorial will step you through the creation of a desktop background (or any size image, really), giving a logo this signature mirror effect.

      To start off, we will need just two things:

- An image manipulation program. For this tutorial, I will be using GIMP version 2.2.11 on an Intel iMac. [Get the GIMP]

- The logo/image that is to be the focus of the wallpaper. [Example]

      First, we'll start out with our blank canvas - I will be making a 1440 x 900 wallpaper for my iMac. The first thing to do is make a simple, top-down gradient. Select the Gradient tool, set the foreground color to a light color [969696] and the background to white. Without changing any of the gradient options, click and drag from the top down so that the top of the image blends from the light color to white at the bottom.

Next, just import the target image or logo into the wallpaper image. Pretty simple so far. There should be two layers, one background layer with the gradient and the new logo layer that we just added. Now to create the reflection. Duplicate the logo and call it "reflection", or whatever your little heart desires - just be able to differentiate it from the original. Select the reflection image and click Layer>Transform>Rotate 180 degrees. Next, flip it - Layer>Transform>Flip Horizontally. Drag it down so that it ALMOST touches the original image, but leave a tiny space for later. Done correctly, yours should look like this:

Now we need to make the reflection look realistic - here's where the tweaking comes in. In the Layers window, set the reflection image mode to "Multiply". Then, we revisit our friend the Gradient tool. Select white for the foreground color, change the gradient type to "FG to Transparent", and draw a bottom-up gradient over the reflection image so that the top slowly fades to transparency at the bottom. It may take a few tries to get a realistic-looking fade, so this is where Ctrl-Z comes in handy. When you have a gradient fade you like, set the entire Reflection layer opacity to about 75%. Once you are satisfied, it should look something like this:

It's looking pretty good, and it's basically done, but putting some finishing touches should make it look a little cleaner. Let's start by making a little shadow. Choose the Elliptical Region Selector tool and draw a flat oval slightly overlapping the gap we left between the image and the reflection. Pick a dark associated color with the Eyedropper tool (color selector) and fill the oval with that color.

Once the oval is colored in, deselect the region (Ctrl-Shift-A) and use the Blur tool (water drop) to smooth out the rough spots. I set my Blur tool settings as such:

Then, all that's left is to smooth out any rough edges (again with the Blur tool) and you are ready to go! Add text or anything else you see fit and you have yourself a "shiny table" wallpaper! Easy, huh? The final version looks like this:

Clean. Simple. Apple.