Use custom brushes in Photoshop to create energy and light effects
In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create from scratch abstract light effects in Photoshop, how to turn them in a custom Photoshop brushes and finally how to use them to add lights and vividness to your images just with few clicks. You will learn some useful techniques related to brushes, and you will understand how they can make your (graphic design) life easier.
This tutorial was inspired by your requests. After published the Energy light effects brushes set, I’ve received via Twitter many requests for writing a tutorial on how to create these effects from scratch. And here I am!
Create a new document in Photoshop. Here we will realize the custom abstract brush. The size is 2500×2500 pixels, which is the largest size for a Photoshop brush. Set “Grayscale” as color mode and 300 pixels/inch for the resolution.
Why grayscale as color mode? As you can notice, brushes are all in grayscale tones. When you save a brush, Photoshop saves only black areas and grayscale tones, while white areas are considered as transparent ones. A 50% black is semitransparent once saved as a brush, a 30% is less visible than 50% black and so on. You can modify a brush color only after used it, with blending options.
Let’s start from a black circle. Use the Ellipse Tool (U) to draw it (hold down shift to maintain constant proportions).
Right-click on the circle layer (in the layers palette) and select “Blending options”. The first thing to do is to reduce fill opacity to 0%.
Then add an inner shadow with no distance and size around 150px. The aim of this step is to give depth to the circle, so it starts looking like a sphere.
Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter a radius around 2 px.
Add a layer mask, grab a large soft black brush with hardness 0%, and remove the top-left area of the sphere.
Duplicate the layer a couple of times to make the bottom-right area darker.
Create a new layer and move it below the circles ones. Grab a large soft black brush and click once over the center. Then reduce the opacity to around 20%. I had the impression the center of the circle was too light, so in this way we’ve added a subtle fill color. At this point you can select all the circle layers from the layers window and group them (ctrl+G).
Now we can fill the area inside the energy sphere with abstract effects. The first tool we will use is the wave filter. Create a new layer – above the circles group – and fill it with black using the Paint Bucket tool.
Grab a soft white brush and make a spot in the center:
Go to Filter>Distort>Wave. Just play with the options to distort the white circle. Don’t worry about the black area, we will remove it later.
After applied the filter the first time, press ctrl+F a couple of time to apply the same filter again.
Press ctrl+I to invert image colors, and set the layer blend mode to multiply to eliminate white areas.
As we made with the circle at the beginning, add a layer mask and use a large soft brush to remove some areas of the abstract effect.
Repeat the same technique to add more of these effects.
We can now put in some smoke effects. Create a new layer, grab the Lasso tool (L), set feather to 30px and make a selection as shown below:
Make sure to have white and black as foreground and background color and go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Then press ctrl+D to deselect.
Press ctrl+L to open the levels window and increase contrasts by moving the white and gray arrows a bit to the left:
Set the layer to multiply and again use a mask to remove some areas:
You can add other smoke effects using the same method. Once satisfied with the result, group all the layers and title the group “inside”.
Here is my result:
We are going to create some floating spots. To do it, we will use some brushes options (well explained in this tutorial: Playing with custom brushes to create magical scenes). Create a new layer, set black as foreground color and grab a round brush of around 25px (hardness 100%). Open the brushes window (Window>Brushes) and enter the following settings:
Now that all brushes’ options are correctly set up, just paint over the canvas.
To give the sensation of movement, apply the Radial blur (Filter>Blur>Radial blur) with a 2px amount.
Open the image in you main Photoshop document, then press ctrl+I to invert the colors and set the layer blend mode to multiply. Press ctrl+L to open the levels window and move the white arrow to the left until the lightning is completely isolated.
With this technique, you can extract and add several lightnings, re-size (ctrl+T) and combine them.
The brush is now ready to be saved:
Go to Edit>Define Brush Preset… and title it as you prefer.
Now that the brush is complete, you can use it to embellish your works. Below is an unfinished composition I was working on. Remember that light effects work better on dark backgrounds.
Create a new layer, select the new brush from the brush library and click once over the canvas. Don’t worry about the position, you can move the brush at any time since we’ve created it on a separate layer.
Where is my new brush? After saved the new brush, you will find it in the brushes library. To open it, simply select the Brush tool (B) and, from the option tool bar, on top, click on the arrow which is near the brush in use. In this way you will open a window where you will find the new brush, below the others.
If you want the final outcome more luminous, create a new group and switch the blend mode of the group to “color dodge”. Create a layer inside the group, grab a white soft brush and paint over the areas you want to enhance. Then reduce the opacity of the layer till you’re satisfied with the result. We’ve finished, dear friends! Now you can use these techniques to create your own sets of abstract brushes, or you can consider to download ours.
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