How to create amazing light effects in Photoshop

How to create amazing light effects in Photoshop

This tutorial will teach you how to easily create light effects in Photoshop. We will play with blending modes, adjustments layers and brushes. We will use smoke brushes, but I recommend you to experiment with any kind of brush set. Remember that the key to obtain the best result with this technique is to create at first a dark background, then introduce the image you want to enhance, and at the end create your lights with a combination of brushes (or vectors or stock images).

If you like this style, you can give a look at this inspirational article:

20 unique examples of light effect in graphic design

Support files:



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Step 1

Create a new document. Select the Paint bucket tool (G) and fill the layer with black (#000000). Now paste in the paper texture and resize it (press ctrl+t to enable the transform tool). Set the layer blend mode to overlay. You should have a totally black document.

Step 2

Create a new layer between the black one and the texture. Select a large, soft white brush (hardness 0%) and start painting over the center. Reduce the opacity of the layer untill you’re satisfied with the result.

Step 3

Apply a gradient map by clicking on the “create adjust layer” button below the layer window. Choose the default gradient from purple to orange. Set the layer to overlay and the opacity to 70%.

Step 4

Paste in the image of someone/something. I chose this nice image of a statue, but you can pick up whatever you want.

Step 5

Use curves (ctrl+M) and levels (ctrl+L) to increase the contrast of the image (in this case the statue, but I always increse the contrast of the images I use to make them more vivid). Repeat step 3 and create an identical gradient map layer. This time we want to affect only the statue, not the background; so select the gradient map layer and go to Layer>Create Clipping Mask.

Step 6

Create a new layer, select white or a light purple as foreground color, and start painting with a large soft brush. The aim is to create a background light effect. Imagine that you have to create a route for the light effect. The curve in the screenshot below is the direction we want to give to the effect. I suggest you to create a single layer for each click with your brush, so that you’ll have more control and also you can use different colors. Remember to reduce the opacity of these layers from 10% to 30%.

Step 7

Grab the Lasso tool (L), set feather to 30px, and make a selection as shown below:

Step 8

Set purple as foreground color (#fb97fb) and black as background. Create a new layer and go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Press ctrl+F to increase the contrast of the clouds. Press ctrl+D to deselect.

Step 9

We want to eliminate the black parts of the clouds, so set the layer to screen. Now apply curves (ctrl+M) and levels (ctrl+L) to increase the contrast and use the erase tool to remove unwanted clouds. You can also duplicate the layer if you want a stronger effect.

Step 10

Create a new group and set the layer blend mode to color dodge. Create a new layer inside the group. Choose a white soft brush and start painting over the part of the image you want to enhance. As in step 6, use different layers, and reduce the opacity of anyone around 25%.

Step 11

Create a new layer, title it “light smoke” and switch the layer blend mode to color dodge. Set the foregorund color to a nice purple (#f053f0). Now select one of the smoke brushes and paint. Duplicate this layer 2/3 times: you have a nice light effect.

Step 12

Repeat step 11 in order to obtain other light effects. You can use the same technique with other brushes. Enjoy!


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Further reading

If you’re looking for more impressive lighting effects: check out this article from our friends at Medialoot for some neon lighting effects, or just go ahead and download this neon font and start making your own lighting effects from scratch.

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(+add yours)
  1. Wow! Can’t wait to see what this site has to offer. Good work, I subscribed.

  2. I am leaning lot of things from your site. Thank U very much.

  3. Thanks guys for the comments! I’m working on other nice tutorials

  4. Nick

    I do not understand how to make Step 3 to work.

  5. Good stuff, thanks



  7. djfani

    nice and amaging work keep it up!

  8. djfani

    nice and amazing work keep it up!

  9. Antonia Marina

    Wow! Nice and amazing – again and again!!!
    I love WeGraphics :)

  10. rajmeej poudel

    hi firstly thanks for you to sharing this amazing tutorials. and i believe that thought from you website tutorials i will be photo master.

  11. MaxHacker

    excellent Tutorial , i did it with sanguku picture ^_^

  12. Fran

    It seems i cant get the same effect with the clouds, maybe its because im working on low resolution? My image is 400×600 and im using CS3, i would highly appreciate any help in adjusting this bloody clouds. I was trying to lower feather when using lasso tool but i guess that wasnt the case.

    • Hi Fran,
      I don’t think the problem is low resolution. My trick to turn clouds with sharp edges into nice clouds is to increase the contrast (as shown in the tutorial) and set the layer to screen. Anyway you can try increasing the lasso tool feather,too.

  13. Dude! Nice tutorials this is so bookmarked thanks bro:)

  14. abem

    am happy now that you made me know.

  15. Aj

    Wow very nice! I think this is more harder than ‘cry of emotion’ made by Zack Bush. Sir wondering if you can make a tutorial on Cry of Emotion thanks in advance!

  16. nice tutorial !!!
    .-= Mahesh´s last blog ..Custom Brushes and Dynamics in Photoshop =-.

  17. hello mate
    i have tried to use ur technique and since i am a noob in using photoshop i cudnt understand a few points which if u can clarify wud be a gr8 help to me
    1.)Now paste in the paper texture
    2.)We want to eliminate the black parts of the clouds, so set the layer to screen. Now apply curves (ctrl+M) and levels (ctrl+L) to increase the contrast{this thing didnt work with me}

    ps:m using psCS5

    thanx and regards

    • Hi John,
      1) Open the texture in Photoshop (File>Open>select the texture from your computer)
      2) Set the layer blending mode to screen (in the layers window, bottom-right, where you see “normal” you have to switch to “screen”). Then press ctrl+M to activate curves window and later ctr+L to open levels window. Then you can follow the instructions. Let me know if you have other problems


    here’s wht i was able to make and it is a mess
    .-= john constantine´s last blog ..Commission-IrrerasableSin vol2 =-.

  19. how do i Create a new layer between the black one and the texture?
    .-= john constantine´s last blog ..Commission-IrrerasableSin vol2 =-.

  20. Andrew

    I’m also having trouble with the clouds from step #8. The clouds that came up in mine after the lasso tool have a lot less black and are a lot more blurry than yours. Pretty sure that I followed the previous steps correctly, only everything after this looks weird because the clouds aren’t right.

    Here’s a pic of my clouds:

    Great tutorial though! It’s a great technique that I hope to use a lot.

  21. Also to make stronger clouds you need to make the new document a larger one otherwise the clouds come out different.

  22. Rikz Farooq

    Um, Excuse me would you tell me where’s the Smoke Brushes in Adobe Photoshop i Can’t Find it …… plz tell me faster …..thnx

    • ertheh

      you dude, use your brains faster!!!

  23. Cecilia

    can u explain it better….. for meplease! its such a awesome technique.. and im a noob at reading instructions. THANKS if you can :)

  24. sajid

    Amazing stuff! Thanks a lot.

  25. Geraldine

    Sebastiano, thanks for a great tutorial. Your explanation is easy to follow and understand. I replicated it with little trouble.

    For those who couldn’t understand some of the basic concepts, perhaps Wegraphics could allocate levels according to difficulty to each tutorial. Then people will not be put off by starting something which is too complicated for them and losing heart… just a thought.

  26. dominik

    This tutorial is very hard to follow, very easy to miss a step. It would help if this was in bullet points with specific instructions per bullet point and it would also help if you showed your layer structure.
    The effect you are showing is beautiful, but I have no idea how to achieve it by following your tutorial.

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  28. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you
    penning this write-up and the rest of the website is very good.

  29. student

    Oh my gosh…. awesome tutorial. I’ve learned “how to create a light beam effect” before. that effect seems too similiar with the effect that you’ve give in this tutorial but, your tutorial seems like way better. oh no, it seems like WAAAAY better. now, in this tutorial, i’ve learned that the same effect could make different sense. thank’s a lot…

    btw sorry for my bad english XD

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