Creating a Glass Window Effect in Illustrator

By Ken Burnside

Updated September 28, 2017

Adobe Illustrator’s vector drawing tools are the industry standard for images that can scale up to any size without loss of resolution. Glass window effects are used for artistic impressions ranging from fine art to commercial artwork and advertising, and Illustrator's set of tools allow graphics artists to make them – both simply with pre-built effects and through custom use with the transparency and gradient fillers.

Finding the Effect

Locate Illustrator’s pre-built "Glass" effect by clicking on the “Effect” menu and selecting "Distort." "Glass" is one of the options under "Distort." This opens a second window to show a preview of the effect on the selected object. Choose the level of optical distortion with a slider, the smoothness of the grass and what texture to apply. The "Frosted" texture is the best choice for making a "glass window" effect with the standard Illustrator effect.

Manual Creation

The stock effect in Illustrator's Effects menu is good for some glass window effects, where window frosting or a glass brick effect is used as an overlay. To make a glass window effect that's subtler in tone – one that looks like some excess reflectivity on looking through a glass window at something behind it, you use transparency and gradient sliders.


Glass window effects in illustration add a sense of realism. Looking through a window at someone or something behind it is both artistically and technically different from looking through empty air. When used for advertising, glass window effects, especially with frost-style semi-opaque displays, provide a layer for text that partially obscures or mutes the colors of the subject behind the layer.

Related Effects

Glass effects are one of the set of distortion effects and filters that Illustrator offers. Related ones include an ocean ripple effect, which replicates looking through water, and a diffuse glow. Another related effect in Illustrator is beveling and embossing, which gives the effect of cut glass, or gives a slick, glossy surface to an Illustrator drawing element.