Light Rays

Step 1: Open a photo you would like to edit.

Step 2: Duplicate the layer (Layer> Duplicate or Ctrl+J).

Step 3: To find and separate the light source of the photo, use the Levels tool (Image> Adjustment> Levels or Ctrl+L). Drag the middle input slider all the way to the left.

Step 4: Now that we have the light source identified, we can distort it into a ray of light. For that, we’ll use the Radial Blur filter (Filter> Blur> Radial Blur) with properties set to

  • Amount: 100
  • Blur Method: Zoom
  • Quality: Best

After you have those properties set, click and drag the blur center to the area where you would like the ray of light to zoom out from.

Step 5: You’ll notice that there are visible speckles on the ray of light. To smooth down the speckles, we will apply the filter two more times and most of it should be gone. Press Ctrl+F to redo the previous filter again. After the filter has been processed, press Ctrl+F again to redo the previous filter once more. In total, press Ctrl+F two times.

Step 6: Now that ray of light is created, we can blend it into the original image by changing the blending mode of the current layer to Screen.

Step 7: Although the light is blended into the original photo, it still doesn’t seem very strong. To increase the visibility of the rays, we’ll use the Levels tool again (Image> Adjustments> Levels or  Ctrl+L). Drag the right input slide towards the left to increase visibility. You may also press the Auto button to have Photoshop automatically set it to an appropriate level.

Step 8: In case you are working with a large image, you may still notice that there are speckles on the rays. To remove that, we’ll use the Despeckle filter (Filter> Noise> Despeckle). Press Ctrl+F to repeat the filter until the speckles disappear.

Step 9: Now we need to erase the areas that the ray of light shouldn’t be visible on. To do this, we are going to use layer mask. Add a layer mask to the top layer (Layer> Layer Mask> Reveal All) and click on the thumbnail of the layer mask to ensure it has been selected.

Step 10: With the layer mask selected, use the Eraser tool (E) to erase the areas where the light shouldn’t appear.

Step 11: To emphasize the colors of the ray of light, use the Hue/Saturation tool (Image> Adjustments> Hue/Saturation or Ctrl+U) to increase the saturation. Before you can use the Hue/Saturation tool, you need to click on the thumbnail of the ray of light layer.


Note: 1. Using too much of Despeckle filter will blur the ray of light, so don’t overuse it.

2. To add more rays, use the brush tool to draw white lines where you would like the additional ray of light to appear, after you’ve used the Levels tool to separate the bright areas from the photo (step 4). Thicker the line, the brighter the ray of light will be. After you’re done, continue with the rest of the tutorial.

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