Adobe Photoshop Tutorials – Rainbows, Glows and Light Effects


Lighting effects in Adobe Photoshop are used to add flare and polish to images. They communicate feelings of creativity, technology, magic, and fantasy. Creating beams, glows, motion trails, rainbows, or an assortment of other lighting effects, give your images ambiance and depth.

Now it’s time for a sparkling dose of related Photoshop learning material. This article provides a resource of Adobe Photoshop Light Effects tutorials. These tutorials offer an assortment of techniques for making your work creatively glow.

Please consider them as an extension of our ultimate Adobe Photoshop series:

Photoshop Light Effects Tutorials

  • Lines Tutorial3
    A super simple tutorial that makes rainbow colored lines. It shows you how to give them an appearance of brightness and depth.

    Lines Tutorial4

  • Expressive lighting effects545
    This tutorial combines both vector and raster based techniques to achieve a glowing floral design. The glows are applied in Photoshop.

    Expressive lighting effects6

  • Vector Polishing Techniques7
    This tutorial covers numerous ways to transform your vector illustrations into masterpieces by using Photoshop lighting techniques, glows, and filters.

    Vector Polishing Techniques8

  • How to Make the “Flare” Effect As Seen On
    In this tutorial, the Lens Flare filter is used on the background. Then the lighting is created with brushes and different blending modes.

    How to Make the Flare Effect As Seen On

  • Sparkling Hot Girl in Photoshop9
    Utilize an assortment of techniques to achieve a sparkling design. Masks, blurs, brushes, layers styles and other effects are used in this tutorial.

    Sparkling Hot Girl in Photoshop10

  • Amazing Photoshop light effect in 10 Steps11
    “If you know a bit of Layer Styles and the Brush engine in Photoshop you will be able to create amazing effects. It will depend exclusively on your imagination and playing with the tool. Sometimes just changing some settings and you get a totally different effect.” This tutorial applies lighting effects to a coffee cup icon.

    Amazing Photoshop light effect12

  • Creating A Fantastic Fantasy Night Sky In Photoshop13
    Create cartoon style clouds with rainbows, stars, and glowing effects. Based on a Nik Ainley14 design.

    Creating A Fantastic Fantasy Night Sky In Photoshop15

  • Neon lights with Photoshop16
    Tutorial on how to make glowing lights effects out of vector shapes and brushes.

    Neon lights with Photoshop17

  • Electrifying Energy Beams18
    In this tutorial you start with the pen tool by drawing a line. Then you transform that line into an energy beam with layer effects. This makes it glow white and purple around a microphone.

    Electrifying Energy Beams19

  • Add Another Dimension20
    Use glows and blending modes to “add another dimension” to your Photoshop artwork

    Add Another Dimension21

  • Magic lighting effect in Photoshop22
    Learn to magically make text wave and glow out of a magician’s hat.

    Magic lighting effect23

  • Extreme sports branding24
    This tutorial first covers creating a logo then it gets into the main snowboard illustration. Vector shapes are applied with layer effects and brushes to make the illustration stand out. This is part one in a series.

    Extreme sports branding25

  • How to Create Intense Light Streaks in Photoshop26
    This tutorial shows you how to create light streaks that appear to flow around an object.

    How to Create Intense Light Streaks in Photoshop27

  • Chroma Wallpapers575628
    This tutorial explains how to create an energetic design with lines. Utilize blurs, warps, and other effects. Add glowing and vibrating colors to give this image a dynamic feeling.

    Chroma Wallpapers29

  • Advanced Glow Effects30
    This tutorial teaches how to create glow effects using layer styles, the pen tool, and some color blending effects.

    Advanced Glow Effects31

  • Lighting Effects – Beam Wave32
    Learn to transform a one pixel lines into a glowing beam. Then add radial balls of light to emulate a pulse explosion.

    Lighting Effects - Beam Wave33

  • Add A Sparkle Trail To A Photo34
    Learn how to add a sparkling trail of stars to your photos using brushes, layer styles, and effects.

    Add A Sparkle Trail To A Photo35

  • Creating light motion trails & glowing sparks36
    This tutorial covers creating light motion trails by using the pen tool with layer styles. It also covers creating sparkling stars in Illustrator and then importing them into the Photoshop design.

    Creating light motion trails & glowing sparks37

  • Blue Glow Layout38
    This tutorial reviews the process for creating a simple layout in Photoshop, while revealing techniques for creating an abstract glowing centerpiece design.

    Blue Glow Layout39

  • Fantasy Art Photoshop tutorial40
    Learn to create a fantasy image with glowing halos of lights and stars. Notice how you can apply glow directly to a cropped image. The tutorial creates the halos with the Elliptical Marquee tool. It applies a stroke and then a glow to the selection, on its own layer.

    Fantasy Art Photoshop tutorial41

  • Photoshop: Light Beam42
    This tutorial reviews the basic process of creating a light beam in Photoshop; however, it does refer to other tutorials for some effects. The techniques in this tutorial involve using different brushes to paint the light, and then they are smeared with the Smudge Tool. There are a few filters used as well.

    Photoshop: Light Beam43

  • Even fairies have to rest – glow and lightning tutorial44
    First, the photograph is treated to make it a little darker so that the points of light in the design will stand out. Both a linear wrapping beam and points of radiating light are covered in this tutorial.

    Even fairies have to rest - glow and lightning tutorial45

  • Beautiful lighting FX effect in Photoshop46
    This tutorial will show you how to make a beautiful lighting effect with the scatter brush. This tutorial covers the basics.

    Beautiful lighting FX effect in Photoshop47

  • High-Tech Swirling Aurora48
    This tutorial covers how to apply the Wind Filter to a waving light beam to create an aurora effect.

    High-Tech Swirling Aurora49

  • Slow shutter text effect – Photoshop50
    Layers of blurred elements are used in this tutorial. This blurring technique is worked into glowing linear text and circle shapes.

    Slow shutter text effect - Photoshop51

  • Seriously Cool Photoshop Explosion Effect52
    Use layer masks and light effects to creatively break apart an image. Points of bright lights, swirly brushes, and warped lines help bring this design together.

    Seriously Cool Photoshop Explosion Effect53

Which techniques can be applied?

At the compositional level, these effects are often applied through shapes. So, you might start with the pen tool by drawing a curvy line. Or, grab a brush and draw some scattered stars. Or, open up Illustrator first to compose design elements that you then pull back into Photoshop. The tutorial Expressive lighting effects545 demonstrates how to use interesting design shapes first and then apply glowing effects to them.

Once you know how you’d like to use shapes, you can apply effects to them. Layer styles and Blending Modes are common effects used to create this look. With Layer Styles, you might apply Glow. Or, with Blending Modes, you might set the layer to Lighten, Overlay, or Color Dodge – get the element you’re working with to sparkle and shine.

Chroma Wallpapers55
In the tutorial Chroma Wallpapers575628, lines are bent with the Warp Transform tool before being given a glow treatment.

There are more techniques often used; such as different types of blurs and gradients. You could play with Photoshop’s built in lighting effects, like Lens Flare, as well. Or get creative. Mix in rainbows. Paint glowing bursts of light. Manipulate the lines and shapes your working with.

In the tutorial Chroma Wallpapers575628 lines are bent with the Warp Transform tool before being given a glow treatment. This puts a new spin on the use of glowing light techniques.

Where can I get some inspiration?

Consider raising it to the next level, after you’ve mastered the basics of lighting and glow techniques. To raise the quality of your glowing work you’ll need inspiration and imagination.

Look at artists, such as Chuck Anderson6058, that have mastered these techniques. Try to figure out what they have done – beyond the basics.

Chuck Anderson59
Chuck Anderson6058‘s work impresses with the beauty of its lightning effects.

Also, look at photographic effects; for example, look at how light appears to blur and travel in long exposure photography. See the Flickr Group Light Stream61 for samples of this kind of photography.

Keep your eyes and mind open. You’ll start to see these effects in the real world. Or look to fantasy art; the sparkling feel of these effects can be used to supersede reality, magically transforming your designs.


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Sean Hodge is the creative mind behind AiBURN, a weblog about design, creativity, inspiration and graphics.

  1. 1

    Smashing mag strikes again!

    Love this one :)

  2. 2

    uooooooooooo my tutorial in smashing mag?!?!?!? thanx!!!!!!

  3. 3

    the best photoshop tutorial collection i’ve seen.

    thanks SM! *thumbs up*

  4. 4

    another bunch of photoshop tutorials, thanks

  5. 5

    Once again, an absolutely amazing collection!

  6. 6

    Great article… i love light effect…

  7. 7

    This is superb! Thanks for the collection of tutorials!

  8. 8

    Wow! Great! thx so much!!

  9. 9

    So are lighting effects and glows the new bevel or drop shadow?
    At what point is it an old out dated style?

  10. 10

    that,s amazing whit photoshop!!

  11. 11 is one cool Photoshop tutorial site

  12. 12

    Hey! I’ve read Psdtuts tutorial and I thought I could try to make it better! So I wrote my own Rainbows tutorial, please check it out:

  13. 13

    pretty much all of them were from psdtuts

  14. 14

    Stunning TUTORIALS!!!!!
    Great to see them all in ONE…

    Smashing u guys are the best

  15. 15

    Thanks a lot for listing some of the tuts I wrote ;)…

  16. 16

    Sweet, now this is what I want to see more of!
    Light makes such beautiful motion within pictures!

    I’ll be back for sure now ;)

  17. 17

    I like the flare effect for WordPress logo.

    • 18

      did you find the tutorial?
      I can’t find it anywhere

      • 19

        I found a very similar one for all the people that are looking for it and can’t find it>

  18. 20

    GREAT TUTTOS, i like all

  19. 21

    Excellent collection…

  20. 22


    I’m not seeing any degrading pictures here, but then again, that’s a bit subjective. Care to clue me in?

  21. 23


    I’m not remotely offended by anything in the article but like Chris said, something that is offensive to one may not be to another. Sadly, the only think that offends me on this page is your comment…

  22. 24


  23. 25

    christopher jack

    April 3, 2008 9:50 pm

    wow, coool. that is what i want to study : )

  24. 26

    I am sorry but this is getting very repetitive. We have seen most of the tutorials before. Anyone who reads Smashing magazine surely reads PSDtuts and other good graphic sites as well. and thus. These tutorials have already been publicised enough.

  25. 27

    Great tutorials guys, as always!

  26. 28

    Die beste und schönste PS Tutorial-Sammlung, die ich je gesehen habe! Danke!
    The best and nicest PS tutorial-collection i’ve ever seen! Thanks! :P

  27. 29

    damn, you did it again xD

    best collection, awesome things,…

    SM rockz

  28. 30

    hold on.. hold on… is this for real?? wait imma scroll back and see… LOL
    awesome tutorials! thanks guys!

    cheers SM m/

  29. 31

    One Winged Angel

    April 4, 2008 1:28 am

    I really love this tutorials collection. They sure help me a lot. Thanks SmashMag!

  30. 32

    Although these are great tutorials… this style has seen its day. Its over used these days.

  31. 33

    Veeery nice… thanks….. :)

  32. 34

    Thanks for this list though i knew most of em’ already but its good to have a list. :-)

  33. 35

    Sorry, but I find this post very repetitive. Ok, nice effects but in most cases, same things about glows and lighting effects.

  34. 36

    This is why Photoshop rocks.

  35. 37

    Absolutely great. Thank you!

  36. 38

    starting to double up from other ps posts. maybe less is more in this case so you can post more later

  37. 39

    Nice tutorials guys, as always!

  38. 40

    I absolutely agree, its like its so over used..

  39. 41

    Wonderful resource list. I can’t wait to try some of the new ones that I haven’t seen before.

  40. 42

    This post is literally jam packed with exceptional hard to find yet practical and useful information.

    Thanks for investing the time and effort this post may have required.

  41. 43


    Thank you so much for adding my tutorial (fantasy art, by to your list, it’s a great honour for me!

  42. 44

    the greatest ever..thank you very much for your precious information.

  43. 45


    April 6, 2008 1:08 pm

    wow that’s stunning… thanks a lot for all these awesome tutorials!!!

  44. 46

    Avasilcai Daniel

    April 6, 2008 3:47 pm

    For every lightning effect you’ll need a dark background, that’s the first rule,
    as you see in your examples are almost all with a dark background.

  45. 47

    Wow, pretty usefull.

  46. 48

    Lighting is one of my favourite areas of Photoshop – a great post!

  47. 49

    hey, what took you so long? :)
    I’ve been searching for this effect for some time

  48. 50

    Best stuff, excellent !!!
    Thank You :-)

  49. 51

    its awesome!!! very addictive….

  50. 52

    Awesome tuts. Lovely works and great learning for newbies like me.

  51. 53

    U are the best really helped me a lot..thanks !

  52. 54

    Hola podrian colocar esta misma pagina pero en español
    para ver los controles

    espero respuestas


  53. 55

    Great Tutorials!

  54. 56

    amazing..i really like it..:)

  55. 57

    Kumar D'signer

    May 19, 2008 9:27 pm

    Awsomeeeeeeeeeee tutorials. Smashing Guys trully doing amazing Job.

  56. 58

    im so glad i came accross this website youve helped me out loads :D thankyouuuu

  57. 59

    Woww .. :) great list SM. Todays trend : Glow and Light Effects … Rockkkkss …

    I’ve created a social link share about tutorial links for designer. Visit I hope it will be useful.

  58. 60

    Sweeeeeeeet! thanks

  59. 61

    Nice very nice thanks for adding this stuffs I very much appriciate your work thanks again

  60. 62

    All of them are beautiful to look at But some of the tutorials are hard to follow and too long. I know that everyone likes to show off but I think it will be muh better if someone can post the basic steps to get those effects instead of “do this do that”.

  61. 63

    so coooooooooooool!!!!!!!!!!

  62. 64

    very good stuff here

  63. 65

    I wonder how this pictures would be print. If I change the Color-Profile to CMYK the colors are natural not that bright as in RGB…

  64. 66


  65. 67

    you’re the best

  66. 68

    I’m truly grateful for all your effort into helping us noobs.

  67. 69

    utterly speechless

  68. 70

    Yet another fantastic compilation. This one is especially inspiring. So well done, Smashing Magazine – never failing to impress!

  69. 71

    dammmmm awesome!!! Really Well Done Once Agian!

  70. 72

    Dude, I love you! I have been looking for stuff like this everywhere. Very nice collection, you rock!!!

  71. 73

    So Far this is one of the best collection of tutorials I ever got on the internet. Keep up the great job.

  72. 74

    BEAUTYFUL EFFECTS i love it! How can i get them or how do i have to work with photoshop, that i can handle it alone? Awesome…

    Greetz Mareike from vinergy

  73. 75

    WOW this is quite impresive for me i can create more nice looking sig and banner using this tutor i hope you will release moooore efect that will booms my skilll up and UP hahahaha btw thanks

  74. 76

    Will definitely try my hand at a few of these. Thanks! :)

  75. 77

    The most of tutorial ..

    it very very Good …

    i love thai page ..

  76. 78

    this is superb . but how can u download it?

  77. 79

    wooooooooooooooooooooow realy i searshed for tut like this and i finaly found lol

  78. 80

    thanks for every thing

  79. 81

    zttaa muuY wenOO gRaaCiaaaz! :D

  80. 82

    Smashing magazine is absolutely Superb!
    Best of luck to the editorial team.

  81. 83

    dame seein these stuff here made me horny :D

  82. 84

    It’s amazing,thx for sharing

  83. 85

    stop referring and linking to – their tutorials seem to be written in stupor induced hazes because they seldom ever work and are filled with errors. otherwise nice tutorial but would have been better had you actually tested some of these tuts for quality as some are just horrific

  84. 86

    I love it…..Thanks for everything!……I love it

  85. 87

    Amazing, really nice !!

    Thank you alot !

  86. 88

    I like your technics but some time problem with images inwhich these not show the view….
    otherwise this is best….

  87. 89

    thank’s very much for tutorial..

  88. 90

    There’s no link to the ‘“Flare” Effect As Seen On’ Tutorial. Can anyone help?

  89. 91

    AMAZING!!! Thanks a lot

  90. 92

    yyesssssssssssss, i like it!!wwoowwwwwwwww

  91. 93

    awesummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm i lurvee this fankkkk uuuuuuuuuuu

  92. 94

    i can’t do that. it’s very beautifull.

  93. 95

    This is amazing! Can’t wait to try it!! XD Thankies!

  94. 96

    whats photoshop?….

  95. 97

    Awesome tutorials!!
    Thanks a lot *bows*

  96. 99

    ONE WORD: beautiful *__*

  97. 100

    great ! love it so… :D

  98. 101

    Fantastic collection, will save me a bunch of time.
    Thanks for compiling!

  99. 102

    Awesomeness! A great thank you Sean! : )
    P.S. from one comment to be the one hundredth!!

  100. 103


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  102. 105

    Thanks for uploading friends !

  103. 106


    Thank you so much for featuring my “Plasma in The Lake” tutorial. I just have one concern, if I may – I moved the forum to a blog platform, could you please change the link for the tut #20 from


    That would be much appreciated as the forum is totally inactive and people can’t view the tutorial.

    Thank you!!
    Liza Kliko aka Lorelei

  104. 109

    oh i looooooooove the preety colours!!!!!!!!!

  105. 110

    Really beautifull

  106. 111

    Marco de la mora

    April 2, 2010 9:58 pm

    Well, there are not words enough to say THANK YOU !!!!!… :) :)

    Nice Job


  107. 112

    Didn’t help me at all.

  108. 114

    Carl - Web Courses Bangkok

    June 17, 2010 5:49 am

    Loving working through these, thanks!

  109. 115

    freelance web designer

    June 20, 2010 12:22 pm

    impressive tutorials i learned something new from this tutorial and i bookmarked thanks freelance web designer

  110. 116

    love your creativity . :)

  111. 117

    Great roundup :) I love glow effects, you can do amazing things with those. They give that little extra touch to some photos, it’s amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  112. 118

    km puedo hacer una imagen de esas con mi foto

  113. 119

    it was very helpful for me

  114. 120

    nice tutorials . . hmmm is there any other effects that would suit to a poster making?

  115. 121

    Such an amazing works

  116. 122

    veryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy nice

  117. 123

    Nice collection of tutorials.

  118. 124
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    thanks very much!!!

  120. 126

    amazing whit photoshop…!!

  121. 127

    amazing whit photoshop

  122. 128

    yes amazing
    whit photosh amazing

  123. 129

    i love u realy

  124. 130

    These are absolutely fabulous. I love your collections!

  125. 131
  126. 132

    Awesome Tutorial !!! Thanks for the posting this glowing effects ………………

  127. 133

    THANK YOU soooo much for this!!….bookmarked this and now im gonna try out the tutorials one by one, loved and tried the first one already!!! :D


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