Design Process: How to Create a Detailed Wax Seal with Photoshop

Today we will create a detailed wax seal using Photoshop and a simple texture. I will not only explain the techniques used, but also why and follow exactly the steps I went through, with all the ups, downs and adjustments encountered on the way to the final design.

In short, the purpose is not only to learn to use blending properties, but also figure out how to create your own, without blindly following a preset. So let’s step away from the “copy these settings here and paste them over there” routine and think on our own for a while.
We are outside the box, so let’s act accordingly!

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Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Completion time: 15-20 min
Tools: Photoshop CS3

– Wax seal reference from Google search
– Concrete texture from

Final Image Preview

Research first!
Find some images of a real wax seal. I chose an image from a Google search. Now it’s time to take some notes!

Write down characteristics or the seal: shape, texture, color and small details. Here’s an example:

– round
– irregular edges
– embossed edges
– flat area in the middle

– slightly glossy
– Impurities in the wax
– some areas have dents

– Dark orange or red

Small details:
– tiny impurities
– small dents
– a few wax drops near the seal
– Embossed element in the center

Now that we have some useful info, we can start shaping it up. We won’t use precise values for it, we’ll just play around with values and tweak them around.

Let’s begin with the basic shape of the seal!


Create a new document of 1000 x 1000 px in RGB color mode. If you need a larger one, free to create a larger document.


Grab the Ellipse Tool (U), set it on Paths and draw an ellipse in the middle and just about the same size as mine. Double-click its layer thumb and set its color to #8a250a.


Grab the Path Tool (P), select the vector mask, set the tool on “Add to shape area (+)” and draw a wavy, extra edge for the circle. Instead of merging two separate layers, we extended the edges of the circle.


Let’s start shaping up the edges based on the info we gathered. In the Layers palette (F7), click the “fx” button. Check the “Bevel & Emboss” box.

This is clearly far from what we want to obtain. But keep in mind every setting is customizable, so let’s tweak the emboss settings.


Click the “Bevel & Emboss” tab. Looking at our result, what do we need? More depth, contrast and glossy areas. So let’s increase the Size and Depth a bit. I decided to have a 164% setting for Depth and 29 px for Size.


Now we have volume, but the contrast and glossiness are missing. Let’s fix that with the Altitude setting. Set it to about 74, uncheck the “Use Global Light” setting and set Angle to 108 degrees.


Now it’s starting to look a bit better. Let’s polish the lighting and shading a bit! For the “Highlight”, Set its Blending mode to Normal and 100% Opacity. For the Shadows, change the color to a dark red and adjust the Opacity a bit.


Still, the lighting is pretty blurry,we need it to be alot cleaner. This can be tweaked using the graph everyone passes by. Click it and click-drag the points as shown below or similar. Hit OK.

The graph controls the areas where shadows and highlights are on an object. The higher are points, the lighter are the areas. The shadows are controlled by the lower area.


Notice there’s a strong light spot in the left area and we want one in the right side too. For that, we need an edge inside our shape, so the bevel setting will apply from that point and not from the opposite side.

Hit OK to save the Blending Properties and select the vector mask again. Grab the Ellipse Tool (U), set it to “Shapes” and “Subtract from shape area (-)”. Click-drag in the middle of the shape, them hold ALT+SHIFT to create a circle. Hold the Space key to place it in the middle.


Since we don’t use any type of line art, we need a good contrast to define the shape. “Stroke” is not an option, because it’s too rigid, we need something smoother. “Inner Glow” will do just nicely.

Remember that if it’s called “Inner Glow”, it doesn’t really have to be a glow, might as-well use it to create a shadow or a stroke. The same goes for the other settings.


Let’s add some wax droplets! Select the vector mask again, grab the Path Tool (P), set it on “Shapes” and “Add to shape area (+)”. Draw in a few small dots. Double-click the “Effects” text under the layer thumb.


Shapes and objects drop shadows when placed next to another one. So check the “Drop Shadow” box. You can leave it default for now. Hit OK.

It’s time to move forward! Let’s create the interior of the seal.Grab the Ellipse Tool (U) again and make sure it’s set on “Create new shape layer”. Then create a circle like below. Hold ALT+SHIFT to create a perfect circle.


Now we need to create the illusion of a pressed flat area inside the embossed edge. Since the circle is lower than the edge, it will have a subtle shadow on it. Check the “Gradient Overlay” box. We’re defining a shadow, so set the gradient’s Blending mode to “Multiply.


Now we have too much contrast and the light is off. This Blending mode hides the light tones and enhances the dark ones, so let’s use that in our advantage! Click the gradient, then click the white slider. Click the color shown below and make it a light gray.

Now it has a bit more depth, but it doesn’t have a “connection” to the edge… yet!


We will now smooth the transition between the elements. Check the “Outer Glow” box. Again, we need a shadow, not a highlight. Change Blending mode to “Normal” and 100% Opacity and set the color to a dark red (or black). Also increase the size a bit.

Now we have a shadow for the top side and it means we need a light spot in the bottom side. The “Drop Shadow” setting will do just nicely.


We need a small glow in the bottom area. Check the “Drop Shadow” box and click its tag. Set Blending mode to “Normal” and Opacity to 100%, increase the Distance a bit and set it to a bright red, but make it a bit lighter than the color below it. We need it to be subtle, not strong and bright.


At this point, it looks pretty good… but not quite there yet. Let’s add some small details, like the edge of the symbol! Grab the Ellipse Tool (U) again and create a circle, but a bit smaller. Instead of trimming the circle to make a thin ring, we can apply the emboss effect to its stroke.

Check the “Stroke” box and click its tag. Now go to “Bevel & Emboss”. Instead of “Inner Bevel”, select “Stroke Emboss”. Now you only need to find the right settings for the highlight, size and shadows.


This element is a bit bevelled and will also drop a shadow. “Outer Glow” and “Inner Glow” will do nicely. We don’t need a perfect shadow, the element is really small and doesn’t need much detail. However, it does need to “connect” to the other elements.
Use a dark red color and the “Normal” Blending mode settings for both.


Let’s add some more interesting stuff to it. This is just to add a “Wow!” effect to it, an actual seal is highly unlikely to be like this. But we are not looking only for realism, we also want visual impact.

Select the “Shape 1” layer and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Now grab the Brush Tool (B), set the brush tip shape to a round brush with 100% Hardness and simply click in a few areas of the shape. Adjust the brush size with “[“ and “]”.


Now let’s add some texture to it!
Open the “concrete texture” image. Select the entire image, (CTRL+A), copy it (CTRL+C), go back to our document (Window > Untitled-1) and paste it (CTRL+V).


Find an interesting area of the texture and place it like below.


Hit CTRL+SHIFT+U (Image > Adjustments > Desaturate) to turn it into black & white. Hit CTRL+L (Image > Adjustments > Levels) and increase the contrast of the image – the left and right sliders control the shadows and highlights. Hit OK.


In the Layers palette (F7), set Blending mode to “Multiply”. CTRL+click the “Shape 1” vector mask, then hit the “Add Layer Mask” button.


Select the layer (currently, the layer mask is selected) and hit CTRL+U (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Check the “Colorize” box and use the “Hue” slider to give it a red tint. Make it a bit saturated and hit OK.

Now it blends in quite nicely. It suggests the idea of old wax, but it doesn’t stand out from the design, which is exactly what we were looking for.


Grab the Path Tool (P) and draw a shape similar to mine. This will be our base for the ribbon.


Let’s add some interesting effects to it! we start with a basic lighting: add the black-to-white gradient and adjust the angle to fit the shape.

Tip: Drag the window if it overlaps with the design, so you can see live what changes you make.


Click the gradient. In the pop-up window, click the first color box of the gradient, then click the other color box to change it. From black, turn it into a really dark, saturated red. Do the same for the white.


Click under the slider to add more colors and adjust them like in STEP 27.

Let’s add some volume, it looks flat and boring. Check the “Bevel & Emboss” box. We just want a bit of thickness added to it.


Adjust the Blending modes for “Highlights” and “Shadows”: change them both to “Normal” and 100% Opacity. Set the highlight color to pink and the shadows color to a dark red. Keep in mind we don’t need complicated effects with a ton of blending modes, we just want a small light and a subtle shadow.


As a finishing touch, add a small, dark red stroke (1 px) and a “Drop Shadow” effect. To adjust the shadow, simply click-drag it directly on canvas.


Now we need another one, but we don’t want to recreate those blending settings. Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer (CTRL+J), then hit CTRL+T and right-click > Flip Vertical. Hit Enter. Double-click the “fx” button and adjust the angles to fit the reflection.


To use it, select the top-most layer, select allt (CTRL+A), hit CTRL+SHIFT+C (copy merged) and paste (CTRL+V).

Download source files:

  Wax tutorial (3.1 MiB, 1,908 hits)

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12 Comments Design Process: How to Create a Detailed Wax Seal with Photoshop

  1. Will Jul 13, 2011 at 02:18

    Very cool. I will definately give this a go as soon as i get a chance next.


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  3. Fasha Jul 17, 2011 at 23:59

    Thanks heaps for posting this. It is really inspiring. I tried illustrating a mascot design for a project of mine and couldn’t seem to get it right. In the end I decided on getting some professional help. The designers at managed to realize my vision of illustrating a character design that was above expectations. I highly recommend them. For the price I paid it was indeed a steal. I guess I am not good at designing at all. Anyway, thanks for providing a source of inspiration I might add. This site rocks big time…

  4. Mandy Aug 12, 2011 at 15:56

    Amazing tutorial!! Exactly what Im looking for, thanks!!!!

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