How to enhance your subjects with striking light effects in Photoshop

How to enhance your subjects with striking light effects in Photoshop

In this Photoshop tutorial I’ll show you a simple technique that can be used to enhance any kind of subject with stunning light effects. We will use in particular selection tools, gradients and brushes to achieve the result.

Preview:

Click on the image for a larger preview

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Support material:

Step 1

Start creating a new Photoshop document. Mine is 2000×2600 pixels. Grab the gradient tool and add a radial gradient going from a dark grey (#454545) to black (#000000)

Step 2

We will create some clouds now. So create a new layer, make sure to have black and white as foreground and background color and go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Now press alt+ctrl+F to increase the effect strength and set the layer to screen with opacity 10%.

At this point you can use the erase tool (E), or a mask if you prefer, to remove unwanted pixels. Use a large soft (hardness 0%) brush for this purpose. As you can see in the screenshot below, I removed clouds from the bottom of the canvas, where I have in mind to place the text. I created soft clouds in the top center, where I want to put the dancer.

Step 3

Let’s add a text. This tutorial can be used as a reference point for a poster design. You could replace “wegraphics” with the name of the event.  In my case I wrote the name of my brand using Cicle, that is a thin elegant font. I made some blending effects to the text. So right-click on the text layer and select Blending options. I selected a gradient overlay and the outer glow. Take a look at the screenshot for the settings.

Step 4

Create a new layer and use a soft white brush to enhance the text:

Step 5

Create another layer and use the rectangular marquee tool to make a selection as shown in the screenshot below:

Step 6

With the gradient tool create a linear gradient going from white to transparent. Then go to Select>Deselect (or press Ctrl+D).

Step 7

At this point create a layer mask by pressing the “Add layer mask” icon at the bottom of the layers window, and use a large soft BLACK brush to make the gradient thinner.

Step 8

Place the just created light effect at the bottom of the text and reduce the opacity to 40%.

Step 9

At this point I decided to create a nice star to make the text shiner. We will create a custom brush for this purpose. So create a new layer and use the ellipse tool to create a thin black ellipse:

Step 10

Now go to Filter>Blur>Motion blur and apply the effect

Step 11

Duplicate the ellipse (press ctrl+J) and rotate it of 90°. Now we can save the brush: go to edit>define brush preset. Perfect! You can notice our new brush at the bottom of the brushes window.

Step 12

We can now switch to our main canvas. Create a new layer and use the just created brush to add nice light effects to the text.

Step 13

You can now paste in the subject. I bought the nice image of a dancer, but you can use any kind of image. The effect we are going to create can be applied to everything.

Step 14

The actual result is so boring! Let’s apply a gradient map layer. Go to Layer>New adjustment layer>Gradient map and add a gradient going from purple (#6f156c) to green (#00601b) to orange (#fd7c00). Set the layer to overlay and reduce the opacity to around 75%. Take in mind that this layer from now go on shall be at the top of all the other layers.

Better, don’t you agree?

Step 15

At this point I decided to add abstract effect to the backgrounds, so I downloaded a beautiful image of a fractal. You can create these kind of effects using Apophysis, which is a cool free tool (for windows only,unfortunately). Place the fractal above the clouds, set the layer to Linear dodge and reduce the opacity to 50%. Again use the erase tool to remove unwanted parts:

Step 16

Now the cool effect! Start creating a rectangle using the rectangle tool.

Step 17

Now ctrl+click on the rectangle layer in order to select its pixels, select the dude’s layer and hide the visibility of the rectangle. We have only the selection visible. Move the selection using the move tool (V). Then press ctrl+D to deselect.

Step 18

Grab the marquee selection tool and create a linear gradient going from white to transparent into a new layer (as in step 5). Then press ctrl+D to deselect and set the layer to overlay.

Step 19

Press ctrl+T to activate the transform tool and rotate the light effect to cover the part of the dude we moved out from the body.

Step 20

At this point we can create a mask and use a large soft black brush to make the light effect thinner.

Step 21

Now you simply have to apply the same technique several times.

Here you can see the dude after I divided him in parts:

And this is the result after I create light effects:

Step 22

As a final touch you can create a new layer, select a large soft brush and paint over the dude using blue or purple. Then reduce the opacity of the layer.

We’ve finished! Hope you appreciate this tutorial.

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Sebastiano

Howdy! I'm a self taught graphic designer who loves to create amazing stuff using every kind of media. I'm currently living and working in Italy.

146 Comments

(+add yours)
  1. Piotr

    This is very nice effect! I’ll have to try it out.

  2. I really like your color choice for this effect, it fits well with the subject and overall theme :)

  3. Very Nice effect. And well explained tutorial too.

  4. Rachel

    Love the explanations. Great result! Can’t wait to try it. :)

  5. Thank you folks! :-)

    • david

      im having trouble with steps 16 and on. If possible I would like some help. I can’t figure out how to selected the dancer’s pixels.

      • Hi David,
        When I write “ctrl+click on a layer to select the pixels of its content” I mean ctrl+click on the layer little preview in the LAYER WINDOW (not on the canvas). After you ctrl+click you should see the selection tool active.

  6. This is amazing! More so the image than the text

  7. hildergarn

    One word: Mesmerizing effect.

  8. great effect… thanks…

  9. Cool Stuff… I Like the end result. Looks really slick… Some shatter brushes around his legs should add enhanced realism..

    Good work, Sebastiano… love it…

  10. Brad

    I get lost on step 17…any help?

    • Hi Brad,
      When you ctrl+click on a layer, you select the pixels of what is inside this layer. So by ctrl+clicking on the rectangle layer, you activate the selection tool over the rectangle. At this point you can hide the visibility of the rectangle since we need only the selection to modify the dude layer. Then with the selection still active, select the dude layer and use the move tool (V) to move the selection.

      Hope this explanation would be useful to you

      • El

        but is there a whole new layer created for the rectangle??because i have tried many times over but the rectangle is blank and only the dude moves??

      • There is a new layer for the rectangle that is used only to make a selection. This is because you can rotate the rectangle, make a selection of it and then hide the rectangle (selection is still active). While you can’t directly make a selection like this using the selection tools.

        If you want to make a selection of a 30° rotated triangle, for example, the best way is to create a triangle, put it into the desired position, ctrl+click on its layer (into the layers window) and at the end hide the rectangle. All what remains visible is the selecion.

        with a selection active: if you have a selection tool (M) selected you can move the selection. if you have the move tool (V) selectd you move what is inside the selection

  11. hildergarn

    One question: what font type did you use Sebastiano for the text?

    • The font is “Cicle”. You can find the link at the beginning of the tutorial under “Support material”

  12. Great Tutorial. Very well explained as I find…nice work I WILL MORE ;-).

    Thanks a lot

  13. Very Cool. Thanks.
    .-= Eren Göksel´s last blog ..Create a Cute Short Pencil Icon =-.

  14. wow amazing tutorial!
    tnx very much, i enjoyed it!

    Greetz
    QDesign

  15. Marco

    Hey
    On step 2, Filter>Render>Clouds. My clouds look way different from yours. Did you do anything extra on that step?

    Marco

    • Hi Marco,
      the trick is to enlarge clouds layer (press ctrl+T then enlarge). Secondly reduce opacity and remove unwanted parts with the erase tool (or using a mask)

  16. Great tutorial, very inspirational. When I start shooting again, I’m definitely going to try more dynamic stuff like this and add movement, just got round up some subjects. Kudos.
    .-= ChrisDigitalcom´s last blog ..Free SEO tools to fine tune your Web site =-.

  17. Very good tutorial. I will use it for sure with one of my designs on the future,
    Thanks

  18. That’s very nice tutorial, Great Photoshop Art
    .-= PSO´s last blog ..Photoshop Tip: How to Reset Everything in Adobe Photoshop =-.

  19. This is really a helpful tutorial for the Adobe Photoshope user.

  20. Nice tutorial guys. A very minor but useful tip for me in this tut was the link to apophysis. I always wondered how you do that…

  21. Bram

    Hi there,
    This is a great one!

    But there is one probblem, I got stuck from step 16.
    When it starts with the white stripes and such.
    I don’t get it what to do with ctrl-click.

    • Hi Bram,
      if you scroll up the comments, you can read my answer to Brad (same question). Moreover I’m going to publish a tutorial for beginners about best selection techniques in Photoshop. It could sounds interesting to you in case you’d like to go in depth with this featured

  22. theansofia

    one of the most beautiful and useful tutorials..!i didn’t knew apophysis and its a great tool i agree..!thnx!!

  23. Hello Sebastiano. Here is my result after following your tutorial: http://t-law.deviantart.com/art/Dance-Time-166063487 I like this tutorial very much but I’d like to know where I can find free stocks for my future design projects like this? Thank you.

    • Great result, Tomas! The color palette is wonderful
      About the resources, I’m going to publish a set of fractal textures. Some of them will be free, but the entire pack will be for subscribers only

  24. Designz

    Thx for the tutorial, i tried it myself, i’m not that good at photoshop, only just started again after a year of doing nothing. Hope you like it ( nowhere near as pro as Tomas’s one and Urs, but i hope you like it :)

    http://i49.tinypic.com/14kyuzn.jpg

  25. 3allawa

    great and usefull tut thanks:D

  26. venes

    I don’t see PSD file for this tutorial. It goes to “page not found”.

  27. wow very nice…

  28. Hamed

    it’s Beautiful, i like this.

  29. nice man I like it

    you really good designer and you give real stuff

  30. this tutorial is very nice. thank u sebastaino, here is my version http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_k0pz1rmfMHs/TMPQ3-d50CI/AAAAAAAAB2M/Cpi54E-8tik/s1600/enhance.jpg

  31. Christian

    How are you actually creating the light effects in the end?

    • Hi Christian,

      I simply repeat steps 18,19 and 20

  32. EHMZY

    Hi There Owner i have a little questions here in step 14 when i go to (add a gradient going from purple (#6f156c) to green (#00601b) to orange (#fd7c00). Set the layer to overlay and reduce the opacity to around ) there i was lost there can you tell me how to do it? thanks

    • Hi,

      By going to Layer>New Adjustment layer>Gradient map you will create a new layer (that you can see in the layers window). If you click on the color picker, you can set up colors of your choice. Simply put in the purple, green and orange as shown in the screenshot above and switch the layer blending mode from normal to overlay. Done ;-)

  33. ali

    Very cool effect & it was pretty easy to follow. Nice work looks awesome!

  34. Hajar

    Great tut , but i need the name of that font please .
    Hajar / Morocco .

  35. Very cool tutorial. Thanks for sharing

  36. excellent work, i got all steps and did successfully. thanks

  37. I don’t know if this topic is still active so I am not expecting a reply. On step 16. I click the actual layer not on the canvass. All I can do is move the rectangle around. It doesn’t hide itself!

  38. Thanks so much for this tutorial. I’m really slow on photoshop work, but your article has helped me gained a lot. I will be trying it out, especially now that I am working on my own personal blog.

  39. Ginette

    I’m still annoyed about step 17, I cannot do anything. I mean I do the step: Create the rectangle, cltr + click above it, then click the dude’s layer but it just doesn’t work. I’m frustrated.

  40. Nice effect, I feel like you skimped on what the lighting effect section… But good nontheless!

  41. Apoorva

    Can you explain me in detail about step 6 7 8 and 10 PLEASE!!!!

  42. Nassour

    It’s awesome keep on giving us good things guys!

  43. Problem. The link to the fractal image says the image was deleted. Do you know of another place to get the image?

  44. Love the stars on the title of the image.

  45. tonye

    thanks for the Greate tutorial, but how do i do hide visibility thing. hanks

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  47. nice effects tutorial, thanks :)

  48. anonymous

    please add a video of this tutorial

  49. I am truly glad to read this webpage posts which includes lots of helpful data, thanks for providing these kinds of data.

  50. AbuTaha

    hey Man, great tutorial but can you explain more about step 20-21 how u create the light effect u did not explain how to create the light effect ? did u use filter motion blur ?

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