Photo Manipulation

Ray of Light

Use Photoshop to create and add a dramatic ray of light to your photos. It’s easy, accurate, and fun!

Finding and Identifying the Light Source

Before we can create the ray of light, we need to separate the bright areas from the image.

Step 1

Open a photo you would like to edit. Or, you may use the photo used in this tutorial (from iStockPhoto).

Step 2

Before we start, we need to duplicate the layer (Layer> Duplicate or Ctrl+J).

Duplicate Layer

Step 3

To find and separate the light source in the photo, we’ll use the Levels tool (Image> Adjustment> Levels or Ctrl+L). Drag the middle input slider all the way to the left.

Forming the Ray of Light

Step 4

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

  • 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.

Radial Blur Filter

Step 5

You’ll notice that there are visible speckles on the ray of light. Don’t worry about it, we can simply apply the filter two more times and most of it will 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, you’ll have pressed Ctrl+F twice.

Ray of Light


Blending and Enhancing the Ray of Light

Step 6

Now that we have our ray of light created, we can blend it into the image by changing the blending mode of the current layer to Screen.


Step 7

The ray of light is blended into the photo but it doesn’t seem very strong. To increase the visiblity of the ray of light, we’ll use the Levels tool (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.

Levels Tool

Step 8

If you are working with a large image, you may notice that there are more speckles on the ray of light. To remove this, we’ll use the Despeckle filter (Filter> Noise> Despeckle). Press Ctrl+F to repeat the filter until the speckles disappear. Use Despeckle filter sparingly because it will blur the ray of light.


Step 9

Now we need to erase the areas that the ray of light shouldn’t visible at. To do this, we’ll need to add a 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.

Layer Mask

Step 10

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

Eraser Zoomed In

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.


Final Results

Rollover the images below to see the before and after effect.

Ray of Light Photoshop Tutorial

Final Results

Ray of Light Photoshop Tutorial After Enhancement

Final results after further editing.

Questions and Answers

  1. How did you create the effect on the “final results after further editing” photo?
  2. Why does my Photoshop freeze when using the Radial Blur filter?
  3. What types of photos should I use with this Photoshop ray of light effect?
  4. I want to add more rays of light. How can I do that?

How did you create the effect on the “final results after further editing” photo?

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