Lighting Effects in Photoshop


We will need a nice model image and some vector curves.

There are plenty to be found at Vecteezy and here is where I got mine.

All rights of these resources belong to their respective owners.

Step 1 – Setting Up Background:

Create a document of size 750 by 550px.

Set your foreground color to #505050 and background color to #000000.

Drag a Radial Gradient at the position shown in the diagram.

Step 2 – Cropping the Model:

Crop out the model with Pen tool. You can check out this post to find out how. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels to tone it darker.

Open up the vector curves you downloaded from Vecteezy in Illustrator. Select the curves and press Ctrl+C. Switch back to Photoshop and press Ctrl-V. Select Paste As Smart Object.

Postion the curves as shown on the left.

Step 3 – Glowing Curves:

Duplicate the vector curves layer. Right-click on this new layer and choose Rasterize.

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with 2px. Set the Blending Mode for this layer to Color Dodge.

With Soft Eraser tool of 300px, erase those parts that are further away from the model.

Step 4 – Adding Color Light:

Create a new layer between the curves and the model.

Make a circular selection with Elliptical Marquee tool at the center. Go to Select > Modify > Feather with 30px.

Fill this selection with #D200FF. Change the Blending Mode to Screen and opacity to 40%.

Step 5 – Adding More Lights:

Using the same method in Step 4, create 2 more colored lights above the model layer.

The colors used are #F6FF00 and #00A2FF. Change the Blending Mode for these two layers to Overlay and opacity to 60%.

Step 6 – Creating Smoke:

Create a new layer below the model and draw a large rectangle with color #FFFFFF.

Go to Filter > Liquify. Using the Forward Warp tool with size 300px, push the white rectangle any way you like to form a wavy look.

Step 7 – Glowing Smoke:

Select the Smudge tool with size 200px, smudge the white wave earlier around the model. You can pull and push the waves around in any manner.

You can start to see nice glow of colors blending around the blurred edges.

Step 8 – Adding Point Lights:

Create a new layer on top of the rest.

Select a Soft Brush tool with #FFFFFF. Paint some white dots of various sizes along the edge of the model.

Step 9 – Stroking Paths:

Create another new layer on top. Use the Pen tool and make one or two paths similar to the one I had in the diagram.

Set the foreground color to #FFFFFF. Select the Brush tool and reduce the size to 3px. Right-click on the path(s) you drawn and choose Stroke Path.

Check on Simulate Pressure then OK.

Step 10 – Glowing Lines:

Right-click on the lines layer and choose Blending Options > Outer Glow. Set the Blend Mode to Linear Dodge (Add), Size to 6px and Color to #00D2FF. The rest leave as default.

Click here to view the final image.

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103 Comments | Write a Comment

  1. Bruno Mars says:


  2. Richie says:

    Hi, I have downloaded the vector curves, but i don;t know how to paste it on photoshop… please help me…

  3. Ricardo Castro says:

    you know the tutorial is awesome when your own work takes a life of its own.. Now I have the perfect anniversary gift for my girlfriend and it didn’t cost me a dime. Thanks dude! Much appreciated!! ^^

  4. Ifeanyi says:

    fabulous tut., really enjoyed this one.

  5. Bachun says:

    Great Tutorials,, Thank you very much ! ~

  6. Marie Gilmore says:

    Mine does NOT look like yours!! I am only on step three. I feel ridiculous! haha

    I am using a picture of myself, so i cropped myself out and placed it on the background (step one)

    Then I dragged the curves download and did those steps. I didn’t see any steps as to when I should crop the curves model out or the background. and Erase whattt around the model…….(With Soft Eraser tool of 300px, erase those parts that are further away from the model.)???If you cant answer all of this I understand. I might just have to keep trying. i just would love to complete this! Thank you.

  7. brackets says:

    Great effect, thanks a lot!

  8. Great tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

  9. andgy says:

    totorial is very nice..!!
    I like it..!!

  10. neo says:

    whats with the step 7 ?
    i did everything as mentioned but the glow of smoke is not visible in different colors
    after i use the smugde tool
    it is still in white color. help !

  11. mony says:

    thank youuuu

    استفدت منها كثير لديك اسلوب رائع في التصميم

  12. nadz says:

    help i seem to be stuck with step 7. i’ve tried smudging but the colors wont seem to blend with the white wave.

    • Johnson Koh says:

      Hi Nadz, are working on the same document size as mine? If you have a larger document, you will need to set a bigger radius for your Smudge tool so it will blend better.

  13. byron napier says:

    yow i did this with my idea and brush

    ( )

    this on i learn from your tut thanks for sharing i have more ideas for this project.

    ( )

  14. Versavia says:

    Could you tell me pls, do you use CS4 or CS3, because I’m a little bit stuck at Step 6.
    I’ve drawn the rectangle. But when I try to use Filter/Liquify it warns me that it will “rasterize the shape”. I’m aware that I can use other means to create the smoke, but I want to understand yours.

  15. Patrik says:

    how do i create an “Radial Gradient” ? is that a tool ????

    • Inu says:

      It is inside the gradient tool in Photoshop in the options bar at the top there are gradient styles,it is usually the second one.

  16. Eri says:

    Thank you for your tuts, Johnson! I’m from Brazil. I’m still studying about PS and CorelDraw, and it’s been helpful and funny following your explanations! With this one I made a New Year’s Virtual Greeting Card! I’ll always take a look at this wonderful site and learn more and more… Happy 2010 for you full of creativity and good energy!

  17. ecem says:

    hi ! it is perfect 😉 thanks for sharing!but ı couldn’t do it 🙁 came a bit complicated 🙁

  18. Very nice tutorial 🙂 – Best wishes to all designers who visited this … hope you learn something from this tutorial.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us and doing it so clearly. This is a fun technique and I can see so many possibilities of what you can do with it. Thank You!

  20. taryarL says:

    great tutorial 🙂
    what a beauty colour mix..
    thank u..:)

  21. Johnson Koh says:

    I must say you have a good eye for details David!

  22. david says:

    Great tutorial!
    I don’t know if you saw but she’s zipper is open :))

  23. rakshasa says:

    where can i download this ?
    its awesomeee

  24. Hacker God says:

    damn cool man……awesome……….excellent…….

  25. Johnson Koh says:

    Certainly Deano. See you around!

  26. Deano says:

    Excellent TUT Johnson – THKS for sharing there are some really GR8 tips here that can be expanded on! Keep ’em coming! Deano

  27. jinyam says:

    exactly what i’ve been looking for!
    it’s what i need for my current project

  28. Johnson Koh says:

    Glad you guys like it! I have just seen your sites. They are both beautiful 😀

  29. teuingsaha says:

    Awesome …. very clear & easy to undertand. TY 4 sharing

  30. Very creative and interesting effect! Great job 🙂

  31. Johnson Koh says:

    Thanks guys!
    @Jessa: Great work there 😀 You got the idea totally!

  32. yuliana says:

    thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!
    congratulation for the site!!!

  33. Johnson Koh says:

    Thanks guys 😀 I’m learning a lot while writing these tutorials as well. Glad to have you all here with me.

  34. jessa says:

    you are very nice really to share your knowledge about photoshop….thank you very much…you are a big help..mwahhh..

  35. othonk says:

    KERENNN!!! (indonesia)
    thank’s 4 sharing, your tutorial is very usefull

  36. Mons says:

    Not nice not hard

  37. SAMI-P says:

    U R THE MAN …

  38. bessam says:


  39. Fajar says:

    I just tripped on it! lovely work mate! thanks alot for sharing.

  40. Quang says:

    amazing work. it found your site while trying to figure out how this one person retouches his photos. your tutorial is the closest i could find. any other ideas or explanations as to how he does his stuff? is the site with similiar photoshopping techniques.

  41. Johnson says:

    I’m flattered Rocco. You have done a great job in your attachment too 😀

  42. Rocco says:

    Hey Johnson you are god!!!
    very nice, this is my version:

  43. Johnson says:

    Thanks Manuel!! For seeing my efforts and all the kind comments that you left. 🙂

  44. Awesome!!!

    Creating Smoke looks very interesting… you create the smoke rather than “i used the xxx smoke brushes you can download here”.
    I’ll try this one!! thnx

  45. Tom says:

    maybe you could send me a step by step in more detail on how to use this technique? It would be great to learn for my digital photography course in my A – Levels =]

  46. Tom says:

    I didn’t get it i mean step 7 lost me and i spent ages trying to get it! I mean when i smudge the white rectangle thingy all i get is white everywhere… Is it possible to post a screenshot of the layer positioning ? …

  47. Acolyte says:

    hi johnson , this learning is very good
    plz send to my email this psd file
    i change your learning :
    english to persian
    write to my site
    very nice

  48. mizzy says:

    thank you this is a very classy piece of work 🙂
    thanks for sharing and teaching others your techniques

  49. Abdul Hakim says:


  50. apple says:

    wow!!! thanks for sharing!

  51. Johnson says:

    Great job HAQ! Keep it up 😀

  52. HAQ says:

    Very good tutorial. Teached me a whole new way of making signatures.
    This is what I made with this tutorial:

  53. watajoy says:

    cool tut! thnx!

  54. Johnson says:

    Thanks Santiago 😀
    I’m glad you like this tut.


  55. Santiago says:

    this is juat amazing!
    i just installed photoshop on mi pc
    and this was my first tutorial.
    you made it so easy and detailed!!!!

    u thank you so much!

    now i’m recommending the website to all my friends!

  56. AUSTIN says:

    Man This Is Amazing

  57. Solune says:

    Vraiment magnifique comme effet. Je l’ai essayé, j’ai adoré! Merci de nous transmettre ainsi vos recherches graphiques!!!

  58. sweetie says:

    how about those w/o illustrator? is there any alternatives?:p

    this effect is so cool! wanna try it but i dont have A.I for the vector thingy

  59. zubair says:


  60. monsterTruck says:

    omg this is sweet! thanks for sharing!

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