Add lighting effects in Photoshop
See how Photoshop’s Lighting Effects filter uses 3D tools in a 2D space to realistically add dramatic vibrance to your photos
Photoshop’s Lighting Effects filter has been around for a long time, but it was removed in Photoshop CS5 due to conflicts over the 32- to 64-bit translation. CS6 saw the return of the functionality, but in reality it wasn’t the same filter. In CS6, Lighting Effects was reborn, utilising the new 3D functionality with 2D implementation.
The idea behind this feature is to digitally mimic the setup of lights similar to how their real-world counterparts might be used in a photographer’s studio. This is accomplished by setting up lights that can be manipulated in a digital 3D space, even though the results are strictly 2D.
These lights can be positioned and rotated with familiar on-screen widgets borrowed from the other 3D tools. This workflow presents a more intuitive way to set up lighting.
In Photoshop CC, the filter has been given Smart Object support so the effects are non-destructive. The value in this is not only found in the filter’s options, but also in the mask. By having a mask assign how the filter is applied to the image, the lighting effect can be painted onto the image.
The range of lighting effects that can be accomplished by the filter is substantial and holds more creative potential than a simple portrait spotlight. The three different light sources – spot, point and infinite – contain settings that provide extensive control over the light’s colour and intensity, as well as properties such as Metallic and Gloss to adjust the appearance of the specular highlights.
In this quick tutorial, you will learn how you can use this powerful feature to add the effects of light streaming in through a window.
Step 1 – Set up a Smart Object
Begin by opening the image in Photoshop CC and converting the Background into a Smart Object (Layer>Smart Objects>New Smart Object). If you’re using an older version of Photoshop, duplicate the Background (Cmd/Ctrl+J), then continue the tutorial.
Step 2 – Add the Lighting Effects filter
Go to Filter>Render> Lighting Effects to activate the Lighting Effects dialog. Start by selecting the 2 O’clock Spotlight from the Preset menu. Now get familiar with controlling the position and direction of the light with the on-canvas widgets.
Step 3 – Position the lights in the scene
Use the outer widget handles to scale and rotate the light until it’s an elongated oval. Drag inside the adjustment circles to move the light and position it so it matches up with the light coming in through the window.
Step 4 – Adjust the filter settings
In the Properties Panel, adjust the light settings to fit your tastes. Here, set the Hotspot to 60 and the Ambience to 40. Now set the Colorize tone to a bright yellow and hit OK to return to the regular Photoshop workspace.
Step 5 – Work with the mask
Next, use a large soft brush and set the paint colour to black. Click on the mask thumbnail to ensure Photoshop’s focus is on this, then softly paint out the lighting effect on the inside of the archway near the window, but don’t overdo the effect.
Step 6 – Select a window
Create a new layer and grab the Quick Selection tool. Set the Options to Sample All Layers and paint over a selection of the very bright window areas. After this is done, fill the selection with white using the Edit>Fill dialog box.
Step 7 – Produce a stronger beam
Hit Cmd/Ctrl+D to cancel the selection, then go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Set the Amount to around 29%, use the Gaussian option and check the Monochromatic box. Now go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur, set the Angle to 0 and the Distance to 1,200.
Step 8 – Bring more distortion
Move the blur layer to fit the left side into the window frame, then go to Edit>Transform>Distort and reposition the right side corners to give the blurred lines a downward angle. The light rays should be almost parallel, but not perfectly so.
Step 9 – Blur and erase
Set the layer’s blending mode to Screen and soften the lines on the beam by using a Gaussian Blur filter at 15 pixels. To intensify the effect, duplicate the beam layer and use a very large, soft Eraser at 20% to gently fade the effect at the right.
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