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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 Link

  • Expressive lighting effects403
    This tutorial combines both vector and raster based techniques to achieve a glowing floral design. The glows are applied in Photoshop.

    Expressive lighting effects4

  • Vector Polishing Techniques5
    This tutorial covers numerous ways to transform your vector illustrations into masterpieces by using Photoshop lighting techniques, glows, and filters.

    Vector Polishing Techniques6

  • 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 Photoshop7
    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 Photoshop8

  • Amazing Photoshop light effect in 10 Steps9
    “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 effect10

  • Creating A Fantastic Fantasy Night Sky In Photoshop11
    Create cartoon style clouds with rainbows, stars, and glowing effects. Based on a Nik Ainley12 design.

    Creating A Fantastic Fantasy Night Sky In Photoshop13

  • Electrifying Energy Beams14
    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 Beams15

  • Add Another Dimension16
    Use glows and blending modes to “add another dimension” to your Photoshop artwork

    Add Another Dimension17

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

    Magic lighting effect

  • Extreme sports branding18
    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 branding19

  • How to Create Intense Light Streaks in Photoshop20
    This tutorial shows you how to create light streaks that appear to flow around an object.

    How to Create Intense Light Streaks in Photoshop21

  • Chroma Wallpapers434222
    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 Wallpapers23

  • Advanced Glow Effects24
    This tutorial teaches how to create glow effects using layer styles, the pen tool, and some color blending effects.

    Advanced Glow Effects25

  • Add A Sparkle Trail To A Photo26
    Learn how to add a sparkling trail of stars to your photos using brushes, layer styles, and effects.

    Add A Sparkle Trail To A Photo27

  • Creating light motion trails & glowing sparks28
    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 sparks29

  • Blue Glow Layout30
    This tutorial reviews the process for creating a simple layout in Photoshop, while revealing techniques for creating an abstract glowing centerpiece design.

    Blue Glow Layout31

  • Photoshop: Light Beam32
    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 Beam33

  • Even fairies have to rest – glow and lightning tutorial34
    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 tutorial35

  • Beautiful lighting FX effect in Photoshop
    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 Photoshop

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

    High-Tech Swirling Aurora

  • Slow shutter text effect – Photoshop36
    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 - Photoshop37

  • Seriously Cool Photoshop Explosion Effect38
    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 Effect39

Which techniques can be applied? Link

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 effects403 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 Wallpapers41
In the tutorial Chroma Wallpapers434222, 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 Wallpapers434222 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? Link

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 Anderson, that have mastered these techniques. Try to figure out what they have done – beyond the basics.

Chuck Anderson
Chuck Anderson’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 Stream44 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.

Footnotes Link

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SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

Hold on, Tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? Like SmashingConf Barcelona, on October 25–26, with smart design patterns and front-end techniques.

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

  1. 1


    April 3, 2008 6:11 am

    Smashing mag strikes again!

    Love this one :)

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    Wow! Great! thx so much!!

  4. 4

    the best photoshop tutorial collection i’ve seen.

    thanks SM! *thumbs up*

  5. 5

    another bunch of photoshop tutorials, thanks

  6. 6

    Once again, an absolutely amazing collection!

  7. 7

    Great article… i love light effect…

  8. 8

    This is superb! Thanks for the collection of tutorials!

  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

    Vlad Gerasimov

    April 3, 2008 8:55 am

    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

      Raymond Lopez

      July 5, 2010 10:21 am

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

      • 19

        Raymond Lopez

        July 5, 2010 1:22 pm

        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?


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