Design an Ancient Cracked Sword in Photoshop

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In this tutorial, I will show the processes I took to create this cool-looking, ancient cracked sword in Photoshop.  Personally I think the steps aren’t hard to follow and the end result looks good, Have a go :)

The technique I would like to emphasise in this tutorial is how you can use the cloud filter to add contrast to object, and the important of using the correct blending mode for layers to maximise the effect.

You will also see by choosing a great quality texture, you can easily add extra effect to your design with mimimum effort.

Here is a preview of the final image: (click to enlarge)

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Ok let’s get started!

To complete this tutorial, you will need the following stock:


Crack Texture

Step 1

Create a new document sized 1000px * 1300px, fill the background layer with black color. Load the “Sword” texture into Photoshop and cut out the sword using whatever method you prefer (I used the magic wand here, set tolerance to 32px), then paste it onto our canvas, as shown below:

You can choose a different angle for the sword if you like, totally up to you. The steps below will still apply.

Name this layer as “sword”. On this layer, apply the following “Reduce Noise” settings to it:

and you will see by doing so, we managed to get a few more details out of the sword image, as shown below:

Load the selection of the sword layer by holding down Ctrl key + left-click the thumbnail image of the sword layer on the layer palette. Then hit Ctrl + Alt + R to bring up the Refine Edge tool, apply the following settings:

and you will have the following effect for the selection:

Now we’re ready for the cloud rendering in the next step.

Step 2

Create a new layer called “cloud 1” on top of the “sword” layer, maintain the selection we did in previous step, render some cloud within the selection, as shown below: (set back and foreground colour to be black and white)

Now hit Ctrl + L and bring up the Levels adjustment tool, apply the following settings to it:

Now the settings for Levels might differ slightly depending on the cloud render outcome, however the ultimate goal is to bring more contrast to the cloud so it gives us more lighting variation, as shown below:

Change the blending mode of the cloud layer to “Color Dodge”, you will have the following effect:

Now here is the interest part of the tutorial – we’re going to max-out the effect by playing with the cloud layer.

Duplicate the cloud layer a few times, apply following layer blending mode, opacity and layer mask to each layer:

and you will have the following effect:

You can see now we have some very dynamic contrast placed on the sword. They will look good when we apply the crack texture later on in the tutorial.

Step 3

Go back to the background layer, grab a big soft round brush with a 30% flow and opacity settings, do a few single clicks as shown below:

You will see now we light up the background a bit – however not too much. This effect will reflect when we add the crack texture later on in the tutorial.

I decide to add some effect on the bottom of the sword. So I duplicate the original cloud layer once, change the blending mode to “Normal” and drag it below the sword layer and above the background layer, use the Free Transform tool to resize it to a small size, position it as shown below:

Name this layer as “light”, duplicate it a few times, and position them as shown below:

and here is the effect so far:

Step 4

We can now add the crack texture onto the sword. Load the Crack Texture into Photoshop, select a portion of it with the Lasso tool (40px feather), copy and paste it onto the canvas and put it on top of all previous layers, name the layer as “crack”:

Make sure you resize the layer to roughly the size of the sword, as shown below:

Change the blending mode of the crack layer to be “color dodge”. Duplicate the crack layer a few times, position each duplicated layer as shown below:

Maintain the blending mode for all crack texture layers to be “color dodge”, apply layer mask according to the screenshot above.

For the top crack texture layer, add the following levels adjustment layer to it (with clipping mask optin enabled):

You will have the following effect:

Step 5

Now we can add some image adjustments layers to fine-tune the effect. I have the following two adjustment layers on top of all layers:

Color Balance


and you will have the following effect:

That’s it pretty much it! For the final effect I added some brushwork on the top, here is my end result: (click to enlarge)

That’s all for this tutorial! I hope this can give you more ideas about the use of layer blending, cloud filter and applying textures in Photoshop. Hopefully you will find those steps in the tutorial useful and the end result inspiratinal :)

Till next time, have a great day!


  • My name is James and I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0 (long time ago!). PSD Vault is my spare time hobby and I write majority of the Photoshop tutorials and articles here. I hope you enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

  • Show Comments

  • Cool !!!

  • t00tzki3

    So beautiful outcome. I really like this one…

  • Great tutorial, will use it when I get some free time on my hands.
    Thanks for sharing :D

  • Piers

    The only problem is that you left out the most important piece of the tutorial!! All the things in the begining you just assume that a rookie like me will know!! And lo and behold, I can’t get started because I do not know the first steps! So in other words this is totally usless to people like me.

  • James Qu

    @piers: This is James from totally understand your difficulty. What I would suggest is that if you just started Photoshop and don’t know the majority of the command, you will need to study the basics before attempting a tut like this one. The “Help” menu in Photoshop is a good starting point.

    Hope this helps.

  • Hitman

    Step 3
    “Go back to the background layer, grab a big soft round brush with a 30% flow and opacity settings, do a few single clicks as shown below:”

    So we grab a brush go back to the background (Tool = “B” right?) and click there a few times. But it doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t get more clear.

  • Naurglaur

    I`m made like this do you like it ??

  • Claudy

    Wow this is really cool!

  • amazing tutorial for design an sword using Photoshop, you sharing amazing tips as well.

  • Awesome tutorial, i have learned a lot from this

  • Szkielko

    Here’s my manipulation: Thanks for this tuto!

  • Madrigosa

    Nice tutorial this is what i did for my upcoming movie based on World of Warcraft, that I plan on releasing this next X-Mas:

  • Nillix

    how do i open this menu ? apply the following “Reduce Noise” settings to it: ????????

    some thing in this tut arent realy clear like u have that sword and u already have the with color around it but u never mentioned anything about it

  • Nillix

    are u sure u used color dodge cuz that only makes the clouds disapear and my sword becomes very light

  • hieronymus

    hey m8, yet another great tutorial you made. It realle inspires me and really wanna try it out when i get home tonight from work ;)

    Greetings hieronymus

  • vanessa

    Great tutorial but you must be more specific in explaining the layer masks. You say: Duplicate the layer a few times and change the opacitiy and blending modes and layer masks. And all we see is a pic. But you should explain this a bit more with words in this tutorial. But besides that still a good job!

  • Another great and impressive tutorial :)

  • are u sure u used color dodge cuz that only makes the clouds disapear and my sword becomes very light

  • Lee

    Another great and impressive tutorial :)

  • Richard

    are u sure u used color dodge cuz that only makes the clouds disapear and my sword becomes very light

  • PaulShine

    Hi everyone
    I was trying to do this, but it’s too hard for me.
    I need help, perhaps someone do me a favour and do this for me in psd. file with this picture. I wont learn for it.
    It’s very important for me.

  • Jan

    I would really like to get in contact with the author, as i am having difficulties here :(

  • wow, this is cool and sure i put acopy of this lesson on my site here

  • Steve

    Following these instructions to the letter and I couldn’t even come close to thus tut

  • Matija Corbic

    My result is nothing like tut and I followed everything!

  • CEDesignsandmedia

    To those who are experiencing problems, You have to take into account that Adobe update their programs quite frequently and depending on when this tutorial was created depends on what version of the program that was used to get these effects, take into account that some artists also don’t want to give a whole in depth explanation on how to use the different contrast tools and levels to gain these effects, My tip to you guys is to experiment with the levels and try and get it as close to the tutorial as you can but also bare in mind if you want to be an artist try not to copy exactly what you see try and make it your own piece of art :)

    I will be uploading some tutorials on my youtube channel soon so for those people interested in learning the basics of “Photoshop. Illustrator and In Design” check out my channel when you have the chance first video will be uploaded today or tomorrow depending on my schedule.

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