I've been trying to make pretty much exactly this crystal: http://wallpapersus.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/abstract-crystal-digital-art-3d.jpg

enter image description here

Now, the only thing I've used is Photoshop CS5, and it doesn't seem to be quite capable for that sort of work. I'm by no means a 3D artist either.

Still, I'm willing to pick up some 3D software to achieve this. What are the bare basics I require to render this sort of image? What software should I be using, if my main and only interest is on rendering something like that?

I've made simple models before, but never something with this sort of crystalline effect.

  • This might be a starting point: design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/…
    – benteh
    Apr 13, 2014 at 0:14
  • Unfortunately, I don't know of any real shortcuts to this. The ideal method would be to invest in a decent modeler, with built-in rendering package. Personally, I use Rhino and 3ds Max. I've had some students that were able to get decent rendering results using Sketchup and KeyShot. If you're not concerned with realism, and simply like the angularity and contrasting gradients; it may be possible to produce this sort of image in Photoshop. This will take a lot of time and care to pull off effectively, but it can be done using the Polygonal lasso, layered gradients, and lots of masking.
    – jwarton
    Apr 13, 2014 at 0:39
  • Do you know how to use blender?
    – Rosenthal
    Sep 6, 2014 at 2:15

2 Answers 2


Yes. A good illustrator can achive that in Corel, Illustrator or Photoshop. A very good one.

The rest of the mortals need a 3d program with some specific render engines, specificly a raytrace or path trace, one of the so-called phisically based.

You can use some excellent free tools. For example http://www.blender.org, Probably the best "all in one" option.

Or use http://www.sketchup.com and a render engine like http://www.kerkythea.net but you have several options on the extensions page (of Sketchup).

But the specifics on how to do that image are a little complex for a detailed answer.

  1. Make the model
  2. Prepare the materials
  3. Prepare the lighting
  4. Tweak the materials, prepare additional passes if needed
  5. Make the final render

Here is a simple test: Crystal Blender Render


This could also be illustrated with a vector editor like AI or a raster editor like PS, like Rafael mentioned. It is quite similar to a "low poly" illustration, which are quite trendy nowadays. This link has a tutorial on how to create a low poly portrait that can give you an idea of the method. It is quite time intensive and not for the faint of heart, but if you are like me and suffer of Mayaphobia (irrational fear of 3D editor software) it is a viable solution.

The basic idea, using AI, would be like this

  1. Draw your general outline of the shape. I have simplified it to a single gemstone in my example.
  2. Triangulate: start drawing triangles (or polygons) on top of the shape. Make sure to add triangles for the reflections and refractions (things you see throw the shape).
  3. After all triangles are done and tidy, start colouring.
    1. Select a triangle using the direct select (a.k.a. black arrow)
    2. Change its colour either by picking it from a reference image using the eyedropper or by selecting a different fill colour

I really don't have time to finish the whole gem right now, but if I have time later I will finish it. It would look something like this:

enter image description here


  • You can do the triangulation on top of the reference image and use a contrasting stroke colour so you can see the shapes you are creating. After you colour them, you can remove the stroke colour.
  • Don't be too tidy while triangulating. Actually, be extra non-tidy and overlap the polygons if you want. After you are done all of them, select them all and using the pathfinder apply "divide". This will get rid of overlapping areas and simplify the triangulation.
  • After colouring and removing the stroke you might notice that some of the polygons do not align perfectly. You can fix this two different ways:
    • Select the points that are not aligned and using the align window select "align to selection" then "vertical align center" and finally "horizontal align center". All the points will end up in the same spot.
    • Select one of the corners of the polygons and move it so it overlaps the adjacent polygon.
  • For extra effect, fill some of the polygons with gradients instead of flat colours.
  • We need to work on that 3Dphobia. Some programs are fun to work with!
    – Rafael
    Apr 22, 2015 at 16:32
  • My phobia was cemented by 3D Max haha. I agree, I should try the new generation ones : )
    – cockypup
    Apr 22, 2015 at 16:39
  • Blender has become one very easy to work with (I had blenderphobia prior to 2.5) And my 6 year old daughter love to play with sketchup (not only she). Kerkythea is a verey easy render engine to use with sketchup.
    – Rafael
    Apr 22, 2015 at 16:52
  • Cool. Shall try. Although I would never dream of having the same technical skills and brain flexibility that a 6 year old has : )
    – cockypup
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:02
  • Having a phobia for 3DS Max is healthy, all other 3D software are better. Including blender that in it self does not rank very high.
    – joojaa
    Apr 23, 2015 at 6:47

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