This is one of my most used techniques in compositing. My style usually involves some form of glitter or glow in every image. I love the magic feel it gives the story-line, so today I want to do a very quick tutorial on how you can create a glowing or lighting effect in Photoshop! This effect can be used for SO many things… turning on a car’s headlights, creating stars in the sky, adding a shing of sparkle, manipulating and refining a directional light, creating a lens flare… basically anywhere you want to create a source light this is the go-to technique.
Here is the stock image I chose to use. The goal is to make the headlights look as if they are actually on. (If you are interested in following along you can download this Creative Commons stock image on Flickr here… )
1. Create a new layer above the car layer and label it “Glow” and set the blending mode to “Screen”
2. Select the round brush tool. Make sure your brush is 0% hardness. I usually keep my opacity and flow at 100%. However, if you want more delicate control over how much glow is applied I recommend you turn down the opacity and flow. This gives you more control and you can then build up the glow effect slowly.
3. Next pick the color or tint you want your glow to have. In this particular image the headlights have a lot of blue tones to them. A lot of times, when I apply glow, I sample a darker color that is next to where my glow is being applied, since light is reflective and will naturally bounce color around causing a color cast. For this image I sampled the blue at the bottom of the headlights to set my color swatch. You will notice the color is Dark Blue.
It may seem counterintuitive, however when using the screen blending mode, you do not need a bright color to create glow. The screen automatically lightens the pixels in order to create the glow effect.
4. The key to getting a realistic effect is to build the glow up over a series of layers. I start with the darkest color, and largest brush size first. I set my brush’s center directly over the spot where the glow would be the brightest. The following is an example of the brush size. As you can see it covers a large portion of the right side. (Note: I set the brush hardness to 100% in order demonstrate size only.)
5. You may notice above, the color that was laid down is a light blue in tint. This is why you can choose darker colors when using screen mode. Here is the glow created with a soft brush.
6. As you add glow, you step down in brush size and step up in color brightness. Use the same exact technique as above. Put the brush’s center right over where you would like to create the glow.
7. Here is the glow created with the soft brush.
8. Now step down in brush size, pick a lighter color blue, center the brush again and click. You build this up in steps because light has it’s brightest point in the center. As you step down in brush size, it applies the glow and builds up the brightness in the center without applying too much in the light’s spread.
9. Here it is with the soft brush…
10. Finally once you reach the center you choose a small soft brush and apply the glow directly over the headlight bulbs…
11. You can add as many layers and steps in the light as you need. Sometimes, I will change color tones – switching from cool tones to warm and continue to layer it up until I feel it is most authentic to my eye.
Here is the final image!
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