In this video tutorial by Aaron Nace from Phlearn we look at a method of creating light rays in Photoshop using levels.
Making Light Rays in Photoshop
There are all sorts of ways to create light beams in Photoshop. The method Nace demonstrates in this video starts by creating a new layer and creating rough dots and rays around the area where you want them (and in the direction that you want them) on this new layer using the brush (thinner / thicker etc.).
This doesn’t need to look perfect, it just needs to look like an O.K. scatch of light rays. The next step is to convert this layer into a smart object so we can change it later on at any stage.
Next, we are going to add some blur to the layer that we just created. Go to Filter>blur>radial blur. We are going to use the “zoom” for blur method and we are going to play with the location of the blur direction in the image.
The main problem with this method is that you can really see how it will look until you actually apply the blur (there is no preview). There is a good chance that you will need to re-do this by clicking on the smart layer that we created and playing with the location again until you get it right.
If you feel that this is not enough what you can do is re-apply this blur again and create an even more powerful look of dreamy light rays to your image (go to filter and the first option will be radial blur).
If you want to change the color of the rays (for example to yellow) what you need to do is turn the layer into a selection. Just hold ctrl/CMD and click on the layer. Now add a levels adjustment layer go to the Red channel and move the slider to the right a bit and to the same with the green and blue until you get the right mix that you want.
Try to match the color of the rays to the color of the light in the image as much as possible. if there are areas in this mask that do not look good you can paint black and remove them. Now you can paint white to add more rays (just do another radial blur to make them look nicer) or black if you want to remove them.
If your image has a bit of noise you can add noise to your layer mask – just go to filter>add noise (usually this will be a small number). This will add just a little bit more noise to make your entire image look more uniform.
That is it – you just created an image with some extra light rays and you can add and remove those easily anywhere in the picture using the black/white brush on your layer mask.
More on Creating light beams in Photoshop
We looked at other techniques for creating light beams in Photoshop in the past – including Nace’s own video on “How to Create Beams of Light and Lens Flare in Photoshop” and “How to Create Beams Of Light From Nothing In Photoshop“ and photographer Glyn Dewis on “How To Make Sun Beams in Photoshop“.