Apr 07, 2016

How to Create Light Rays through Clouds in Photoshop

How to Create Light Rays through Clouds in Photoshop

Light rays are fun to create, and can make a big difference in your photos! Learn how to identify the best place to put light rays and how to create them using a brush tool and a radial blur filter.

Use the Radial Filter to Create Light Rays

It is important that light rays come from a light source. Start by identifying the light source in an image, then duplicate the background layer.

Next, convert the duplicate to a smart object, this will make it possible to use a smart filter. Smart filters can be changed at any time, making them easier to work with than regular filters.

Go to ‘filter – blur – radial blur’ and choose ‘zoom’. Next change the zoom level of the blur, anything over 90 should be good. Choose a blur center and hit ‘ok’.

Chances are, the blur center you chose isn’t perfectly in place. To adjust the blur center, double click on the smart filter and move the blur center. Repeat until you nail the center of the light source.

Now that the blur is set in place, it is time to make the light rays. Create a new layer and use the brush tool to paint daubs of white around the light source. Press CMD+F to apply the radial blur filter to the paint daubs, stretching them into light rays. Paint and blur until the light rays look perfect!


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  • user image

    Hi Aaron, can you show me how create some smoke on a stage of a music picture?
    Thank you in advance!

  • user image
    Malcolm Murgatroyd

    Try using a shotgun microphone for audio like the Sennheiser ME66.

  • user image

    I tried a slightly different approach and instead of painting in the rays:
    I duplicated the layer, used Aarons favourite ‘Blend if….’ to make only the highlights visible. Then turned the layer into a smart layer. That way dark parts of the duplicated layer were removed from the layer altogether. Added a bit more contrast to that layer, duplicated it. Then I added Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and desaturated and brightened it a bit. Grouped all these working layers and masked out the rays above the bright spots.
    P.S. the original picture had some rays in it but I used it to test and see if ‘Blend if’ technique can be used for more organic effect 🙂

  • user image

    Idea for a tutorial, creating a custom watermark logo that incorporates graphics and text.

  • user image

    Just watched video. OMG! Not what you want to hear, but my son was killed back in 96, and I wanted to make a quilt with title”I have someone waiting for me in heaven”. I could never figure out how to do the sun rays. This was great. With your 101 to 301 tutorials I am purchasing, I am going to build my dream photo. I just recently got photoshopcc. I have only watched 2 free tutorials and have learned so much. Thank you. Trying to teach yourself photoshop is slooooow 🙁