How to Add Light Beams to Images in Adobe Photoshop

Image Tutorials Tutorials
May 11, 2016

How to Add Light Beams to Images in Adobe Photoshop


From light sabers to sunrays, there are tons of creative ways to add light beams to an image. In this Adobe Photoshop tutorial, we give new life to a stock image of a lighthouse from our library. You can make your vacation photos shine or emulate extraterrestrial activity in any JPEG or PNG—just play around with this cool effect.

Here’s how we turned on the lights in this lighthouse using Photoshop.

Step 1: Open Your Image in Photoshop

Once you’ve picked an image, you’ll first need to open it in Adobe Photoshop on your computer. For this tutorial, we used a royalty-free picture of a lighthouse.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 2: Lasso a Light Beam

Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, outline your desired shape of a light beam. Be sure to make this first light beam a bit narrower than you would like the final product to appear. We’ll be enlarging it with a second beam later.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 3: Fill the Light Beam with a Gradient

Under the Layer tab, scroll over New Fill Layer and select Gradient.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 4: Set the Gradient Opacity

In the box that pops up, set the desired opacity for your gradient. We used around 60 percent. Make sure the color is None and the mode is Normal. Then hit Okay.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 5: Adjust the Gradient Angle

Depending on which direction you would like the beam to face, you’ll need to adjust the gradient angle. In the box that appears, you can type in the desired angle degree. For this image, we set it to zero to make the light appear to shoot out of the lighthouse.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 6: Convert Gradient to Smart Object

You may see this alert appear after hitting Okay. If so, simply click Convert to Smart Object.
Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 7: Blur the Gradient

Next, go to the Filter tab in the menu and scroll down to Blur. Select Gaussian Blur and set the desired radius. For this gradient, we set the radius to 10.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

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Step 8: Outline a Second Light Beam

Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, outline your desired shape of a light beam. This time, make it a bit wider than the gradient beam, though it should be about the same size at its narrowest point. In this case, the narrowest point is where it meets the lighthouse.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 9: Add a Curves Layer

Click the circular icon in the menu at the bottom right of the program and select Curves. A box will open up with a diagonal line.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 10: Adjust the Curves Layer

Drag the midpoint of the line up until you see the beam fill with the desired amount of light. It should look about as bright as the image shown.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 11: Blur the Curves Layer

Once again, select the Gaussian Blur option from the Filter menu (under Blur). Set the desired radius for the blur and hit Okay.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 12: Add a Curves Layer to the Whole Image

To adjust the overall lighting of the photo, which helps create a more realistic effect, you’ll need to create another Curves layer. This time, drag the dot in the lower left corner of the Curves box up just a little.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 13: Add Clouds to the Image

Clouds make a light beam look more realistic since moisture is what allows air to hold light. To add a layer of clouds, go to Filter, Render, and select Clouds. A translucent cloud effect will appear.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 14: Increase the Size of the Clouds

To make the clouds larger, which creates a mistier look, press Command+T. Then grab the corner of the clouds layer and drag outwards to increase the cloud size.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 15: Brush Away Some of the Clouds

Use the Brush tool to blend away clouds from unwanted areas, leaving the light beam and a few other spots covered in clouds. Spots of clouds and clouded light will look more realistic than a consistent cover of clouds across the whole image.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 16: Create Another Clouds Layer

Repeat Step #13 to increase the texture and visibility of the clouds.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 17: Add a Curves Layer to the Clouds

Press the Adjustment Layer icon in the lower right corner and select Curves. Use the second dropdown menu in the later panel to select Blue. Drag the line down just a little to increase the warmer, yellow tones and make the second clouds layer more pronounced.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 18: Adjust the Color of the Curves Layer

Using the same dropdown, select the color Red and move the line slightly upward.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 19: Brush Away Unwanted Clouds

Using the Brush tool, rub away some of the clouds to soften the effect. Use a circular motion over the areas you would like to brush away. Leave some clouds around the light beam and intended light source, and leave a few patches over reflective areas like water.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 20: Group the Layers

Select all the layers in the lower right panel and left click or use CTRL+click. Then select “Group from Layers” and a box will pop up. Hit Okay.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 21: Duplicate the Group

Left click or CTRL+click the group and select Duplicate Group. The light beam will become much brighter. Then add a Layer Mask using the icon in the lower right corner. Use the Brush tool on the light beam.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 22: Adjust the Opacity of the Light Beam

Open up Group 1 by clicking the arrow next to the folder icon and adjust the Opacity of the light beam layers until they reach your desired brightness. Opacity is at the top of the Layers panel. Just click it and drag the arrow to the percent Opacity that looks the best.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Step 23: Add a Gradient Overlay

To create a realistic glowing effect closer to the source of the light beam in your image, you’ll need to create another gradient. Select the duplicate Group and, using the Gradient tool, go to the upper left-hand corner and select the Foreground to Transparent option (make sure White is set as your foreground color). Then click and drag the Gradient tool from outside the picture behind the light source to about halfway across the image. The angle and length of your gradient line will vary depending on the picture and the desired effect.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Save Your Image

And you’re done! Just save your newly glowing image as whatever file type you need. We chose to save our lighthouse as a PNG. Go to File, then Save As, and select the file type from there.

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Here’s the final product:

Adobe-Light-Final-Product

And this is what it looked like before:

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial How to Add Light Beams to Images

Now that you have the skills to bring a little more light into the world, try them out on some of our royalty-free images.

 

Melissa Mapes

Sr. Marketing Creative Manager

Melissa is a creator of things, from short stories to baked goods. She writes, edits, and helps direct brand and creative projects at Storyblocks.


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