Photoshop: Portal To Another Dimension

Ivy: Liiiiiiiib, I’m pitching a sci-fi tv series as part of my course and it would really help if I had a picture of a PORTAL TO ANOTHER DIMENSION!

Er, where to start…

Haha, it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. Abstract always is. It’s trying to make realistic looking things that’s tricky.

So, I chatted with Ivy, who told me ‘it has to be purpley/blue’ and ‘a bit like that whispy stuff that is left behind in that Jumper film, but slightly more tangible.’ Oookay…

I have seen Jumper, but pretty much all I remember was Hayden Christensen. Who I don’t rate as an actor, but I find very attractive. Until he talks. I wasn’t paying too much attention to whispy stuff…

So, in the interest of not wasting too much time, I made a mock up in five minutes using a glitter brush and the ‘liquidise’ tool.

After sending to Ivy, who confirmed I was roughly on the right lines, I decided to have a proper go. This took about 15 minutes and was really good fun to make:


A little bit better than the 5 minute job! Here’s how I made it.

The Starting Point

Probably the simplest starting point ever. A black square. 500×500 in its original size to give me plenty of space to work with.

The first thing I had to do was make a second layer over the black background so later, when I start editing the colours so they go swirly and portal to another dimension-y the black stays separate and the colours stay crisp. All my editing in the following stages takes place on that second layer.

Stage 1

Once again using brushes made by the wonderful Obsidian Dawn (seriously check out their stuff, they’re amazing) this time the Glitter Brush Set, I selected a nice dark blue colour and layered three or four of the different glitter brushes over each other.

I wasn’t really trying to create any specific pattern or style as I knew later I would be blurring the whole thing into a big swirly circle, but I wanted to get lots of texture to the initial picture.

Stage 2

Next up was purple. I chose quite a bright purple, as this was meant to be sci-fi rather than calming lavender. The hearts look a bit rubbish at this stage, but I love how they turned out in the final picture.

Again, it was all about building up texture, so I used random brushes (all from the glitter set) and just printed them on in random places. I could make this again using different combinations and would get a slightly different end product, but it’s all pretty much working towards the same thing.

Stage 3

Now it was pink’s turn. Ivy only specified bluish-purple, but I added pink because it highlights the other two colours nicely. I thought it would be a bit of a dark portal, particularly against the black background, if it didn’t have a bit of pink.

Also, this is the only time I used a specific brush in a specific place. I did the random glitter attack for a couple of different brushes, then used the firework1 brush for that central burst.

Stage 4

Next I used the filter>blur>radial blur tool to turn my glitter explosion into a spinning wheel of pink and purple. I set the spin to 32 (not specifically, that’s just where it landed as I scrolled through the preview until I saw a look I liked) which gave it a soft enough blur to still have some definition, but enough so it looked nice and round. And portal-y.

I then set the history brush to the action before the radial blur so I could return just a little more definition to the portal.

Stage 5

After turning the opacity and flow of the history brush roughly half way, I started tracing round the edges to give the outside of the portal a few errant sparkles, like it was made of them and they came away at the edges.

I also gave the firework in the middle a bit more definition, trying to bring out the sense that it was something you went into. I was careful to avoid touching the very central bit, as I wanted this to remain extra swirly, like that was the most powerful bit of the portal. Or, you know, because it looks kind of cool that way.

Stage 6

Next, I turned the flow on the history brush way down to 10% and traced some lines, both straight and wavy, from the outside of the portal into the centre. You can barely see it, but I thought it made it look a bit more like something you were supposed to walk into, not just a random swirl on a page.

It’s a bit like everything is sucking into the middle now. Or at least, that was the look I was going for.

Final Stage

After that I sent it to Ivy, who said she wanted the pink toning down a bit. I used the image>adjustments>replace colour tool, selecting the bright pink in the middle and just turned down the darkness so it all went a bit more purple.

I also attacked the pink dots at the top with the blur tool, just because I didn’t like them and thought they stood out too much. They were easy to smudge into the background.

And there you have it! How to make a portal to another dimension in seven easy steps.

All photos are linked to their original file if you want to view any of the stages at full size.

Want something making? Leave me a comment and I’ll see what I can do!


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