photoshop creative

Tutorial: How to create glow effects in Photoshop

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
January 18, 2013

Our free Friday tutorial is about using layer styles to convert a photo into this glowing masterpiece


Glow effect with layer styles

Tutorial original created by Dani Dixon

Download start image.

Step 1 – Set up canvas

Create a new Document of 24 x 29cm, then drag and drop your cat into it. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T to activate Transform, hold Shift to keep the perspective, drag a corner pointer outwards to increase the cat’s size and hit Enter. Sharpen the cat layer to bring out details via Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask.



Step 2 – Add light

Duplicate the cat layer by dragging it over the Create a New Layer icon at the base of the Layers palette. Click on the top layer in the palette then go to Filter>Stylize>Glowing Edges. Turn the Smoothness to 15, Edge Brightness to 14 and the Edge Width to 5. Hit OK and then select the Eyedropper tool.



Step 3 – Soften the effect

Opt/Alt-click on the background area to sample the darkest colour. Switch to a large soft edged brush at 60% Opacity and paint onto the glowing cat layer, hiding some of the effect. Add a mask to the glowing layer by pressing the icon at the base of the Layers palette.





Step 4 – Mix up filters

Select a medium sized soft edged brush at 60% Opacity and make sure the Foreground and Background colours in the Toolbar are set to black and white. Click on the mask thumbnail in the Layers palette and, on the main canvas, paint over the nose and ear area letting the underneath show through. Now add some colour with a Color Balance adjustment layer.



Step 5 – Warm up the colour range

Go to Window>Adjustments (CS5) or click on the adjustment layer menu at the base of the Layers palette and select Color Balance. Work on all three options – Midtones, Shadows and Highlights – moving the sliders towards Yellow and Red to warm the image. Click on the adjustment layer’s mask icon and, with the Brush tool set to black and white, paint the colour over the eyes.



Step 6 – Create some whiskers

Select the Pen tool and in the Options bar set it to Paths. Draw a curved line by clicking once to start the whisker, then again, but before releasing the mouse move it to curve the line. Opt/Alt-click on the second anchor point, then click once more, arching the line. An S-shaped bend will have been created.




Step 7 – Stroke a path

Add a new layer at the top of the Layers palette. Select the Brush tool, set the Foreground colour to white, and in the Options bar pick a 7px hard-edged brush with 100% Opacity and Flow. Ctrl/right-click on the newly drawn path on the canvas and select Stroke Path from the sub-menu. When the dialog box appears, select Brush and check Simulate Pressure.



Step 8 – Glowing style

Double-click the whisker’s layer to open the Layer Style menu. Check the Outer Glow box and, from the options, select 50% Opacity, a Color Dodge blend mode and a bright yellow colour. Check the Inner Glow box, from the options select 70% Opacity, the Normal blend mode and a yellow colour.




Step 9 – Extra blur

In the Layers palette, duplicate the glowing layer. Ctrl/right-click on the top one and select Clear layer styles from the menu. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and choose a Radius of 2px.





Step 10 – Build on glowing foundations

Once the styles have been added to the whiskers, drag them over the Create a New Layer icon at the base of the Layers palette to duplicate and use the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl+T) to flip and reposition them in place. Reuse the Pen technique as before to trace the outer edge of the cat. Once you have drawn round the figure, stroke and add a glow.




Step 11 – Create fur effect

Add more glow with a Gaussian Blur on the path. Pick the Smudge tool from the Toolbar set to 80% Exposure and a 9px hard-edged brush. Pull out parts of the glowing edge framing the cat, working around the whole animal. Repeat steps 6-11, tracing the main elements with the Pen tool and adding a glow.




Step 12 – Dodge and burn

Select the Dodge tool, set to 70% Exposure and choose a large soft-edged brush. Click on the Glowing Edge cat layer and paint over the pattern, increasing the highlights. Switch to the Burn tool with 70% Exposure and paint around the eyes, mouth and ears to darken patches. Doing this will enhance the depth.




Step 13 – Balance image

From the Adjustment Layer palette or the menu at the base of the Layers palette, select Levels. This should sit at the top of your layer stack. Move both the middle Midtone slider and the right white slider left a small amount, increasing the highlights and boosting the light effects.





Step 14 – Boost the fluff

Select the Brush tool, set white as the Foreground colour and add a new layer at the top of the Layers palette. Go to Window>Brushes to bring up the Brushes palette. Click on Brush Tip Shape and select the individual Dune Grass brush. In the Options bar, set the brush’s Mode to Hard Light.



Step 15 – Paint on fur

Using the Dune Grass brush, work around the edge of the cat adding brush marks to simulate tufts of fur. Move the Angle circle around in the Brushes palette to alter the angle of the tip, enabling the brushstrokes to sit more naturally along the shape edge. Vary the brush size as you work by pressing the square bracket keys.



Step 16 – Repeat techniques

After going round the cat shape once, switch to the Grass brush and repeat the process, altering the angle and size to make the cat fur as realistic as possible. When happy with the brush marks, add a 2px Gaussian Blur and lay on the same glow effects as you have to the other layers, to complete the image.

  • Carlos

    When ever I try this I end up with a different image after step 2. the image isin’t as clear as shown and I have followed the steps exactly. The image I get is a lot less clear.