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Jul 07, 2015

How to Add Special Effects in Photoshop

Adding Special Effects to images can actually be incredibly simple! All it takes is a little practice with blend modes, adjustment layers, and layer masks. Learn How to Add Special Effects in Photoshop in today’s episode!

Download the Practice Images

To create an awesome final product, we use multiple images from a recent photoshoot. They are available for download in the link above!

The base image comes directly from the photoshoot; we used sparklers to light paint around the model. From there, we can add elements from other photos to enhance the overall effect. Don’t be afraid to keep outtake images, because bits and pieces can often be taken from them and prove quite useful.

Layering using Blend Modes

To start, load all of your files into Photoshop. A quick way to do this is by going to File – Scripts – Load Files into Stack. Then, you can Shift + Click on all of the files and then open them at once. Once your images are loaded, it is really just about playing around!

To eliminate the darks in a layer, change the Blend Mode to Screen. For the image we work on in this episode, the Screen mode is vital to get the look we want. It leaves just the glow of the sparklers as well as other exciting bright elements! We end up adding some blurs that came from outtakes with people moving, as well as small pops of light. You can think of it as making a collage in Photoshop!

You will most likely need to mask out unwanted areas even after the Screen Blend Mode has been selected. You can create a layer mask on the layer, and then paint over it with black (using the brush tool) to hide those unwanted spots.

Transform & Duplicate

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the size and position of your layers. Hold Ctrl/Cmd + T to do this. You can also duplicate any layer by holding Ctrl/Cmd + J, which can add exciting detail when you start to layer images on top of each other.

Levels Adjustment Layer

For an added wow factor, we bring in a galaxy image from Fotolia. It has some light blue haze that we don’t want in the final image, so to fix that we change the Blend Mode to Screen again and then create a Levels Adjustment layer. Hold Ctrl/Cmd + L to do so. Then, drag the black slider in towards the center of the Levels graph. This should eliminate those dark/midtones that were too distracting before. You can use a layer mask once again to include only certain areas.

As you can see, there’s not much to adding special effects! The keys are Blend Modes, Adjustment Layers, and Layer Masks. Remember to keep on experimenting by duplicating and transforming your layers! There is no limit to what you can create in Photoshop.

 

 

65 Comments


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  • user image
    Olle

    Great tutorial. I would Love a “behind the scenes” on this to see how the light was set up and general tips on light painting.

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    Rob@Amsterdam

    Cool or is the correct phrase perhaps “Hot”

    I love it when you use stuff that at first glance makes no sense in a composition but later on looks great (after some editing)

    However there are not much tuts lately (last weeks).

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    Christopher

    I love this image and tutorial. I have no idea how to make such an excellent picture with a slow shutter speed, so I would love to learn how to work lighting with a slow speed. Thanks Aaron, love from SLC

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    Jordan M. Anderson

    HA! I knew all my blurry photos would come in handy some day!

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    Jake

    As kindly as I can ask. Can you please respond to one of my 2 emails, or the comment I left?

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    Kyle

    Aaron, I am loving this photo. The sparklers were a great idea and I never would have thought to use “blooper” photos as special effects! I was wondering how you took the original photo without getting a blurry subject? Did you take multiple exposures? Rear curtain flash? Maybe your subject was just really great at standing really still? Anyway, I’d love to know. Thanks for the video.

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    Victoria

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! It was so simple yet completely mind-blowing. I would of never have thought of these things. Again, thank you!

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    Brian

    HI there,

    Another excellent tutorial. Thank you so much. I would love to learn more about light painting. I have read a few e-books on it but still struggle. More specifically, how did you get such a sharp image of the model in this photo? Was it a separate exposure with normal light rather than the sparklers?

    Thanks so much. Keep up the amazing work.

    Brian

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    Marketta Sowers

    I LOVE light painting!! I am a book cover designer and I would like to incorporate it more into my work!

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    Chelle S

    I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to learn more about light painting!!! This was a great tutorial! I’ve always saved my blooper photos to use in something else. It’s a great idea!

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    Jeroen Mies

    Fantastic tutorial again. Could you explain how you created the light painting base image? Especially the part how you kept the face of the subject so sharp.

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    Harriet Smith

    Love the tutorial but can’t download the sample images. Can you send them to me

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    Media Mark

    Thanks man. Im a new Phlearn follower. Im learning so much. Here is a couple images that I had fun doing with some of the things ive learned from your tutorials.

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    Bob Harris

    Thank you for reading my mind for the next project I wanted to do! Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!

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    Abraham Cherian

    How did you managed to keep the models face that sharp, while doing a long exposure, please don’t ignore

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    Javier

    Definitely want to learn about light painting. I’ve seen it in other tutorials on youtube.com but I’m sure you’ll make it more interesting and understandable.

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    Scott Lee

    Light painting would be a cool episode. Yes please create more of these

    Thanks
    Scott Lee

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    Preston Shirley

    Yeah I learned years ago never through any image away. Great tutorial. Thanks Aaron. atb Opal

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    Mario Mifsud

    Thanks for your informative tutorials that you give us to those who wish to learn,especially to those who cannot afford to perches courses.

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    Ray Boreham

    Great tutorial. Thanks. I’m a recent discoverer of Phlearn, and wish I’d found you earlier. Remarkable stuff with great teaching. Love your relaxed approach which makes it sound like anything’s possible and the world is our oyster when it comes to Photoshop and the possibilities.

    Thanks for helping me see the light!

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    Alex

    I actually know nothing about light painting, but now I’m interested in learning more about it. Would definitely love to see a tutorial on this!

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    Anthony

    Good Tutorial Aaron, it would be nice if you could give a few details on the exposure time and aperture, maybe even a complete tutorial on the subject.. It created a great picture – well done..

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    Doug

    Morning, nice video on special effects. I would like to see one on light painting and how you would keep the faces and hands of the people holding the sparklers out of the shots. Take care. Doug

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    Kay Brewer

    I’d love to see more light painting episodes, particularly focusing (no pun intended….) on exposure times and different lighting techniques, like flashlights, sparklers, whatever. You rock!

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    pascal

    amazing how creative you are. my admiration grows with every tutorial. thanks a lot for all of them.

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    Kathy

    Truly amazing, I have so many bad photos that I usually delete, now you have given them a whole new life! Thank you so much for sharing your creativity.

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    Onno

    Thanks for the cool tutorial. it came in handy as I was out shooting the other night and came up with this… Thanks again

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    Drew

    This is inspirational. I am having a problem getting work done here at the office because of time spent watching Phlearn videos. Is it normal for me to be so obsessed with photoshop? Trying to nail that next creative idea is really exciting. I will be posting some of my work on your site when I have my confidence built up. You are supplying a wealth of knowledge on a fun level. I would have lost interest in Photoshop without Phlearns help.

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    Rhonda

    What a fun tutorial! I can see how using photos I already have, plus using Fotolia for ones I can’t take myself can really let me get creative! I already have some light painting pics, so off I go to create!

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    Rhonda

    Here’s one I created from some stock low-res images (not Fotolia, although I think I’ll be using them to get hi-res). I call it “Almost time.”

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    Larry

    It was an awesome idea to include photos to work with and a script. I can now go to Photoshop and try to follow the tutorial and learn some practical, useful work.
    I know by watching your u tube and Phlearn site that you are great at Photoshop and full of energy. A suggestion, slow down a little and explain your moves and setting a bit more.
    Great job !!!

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    M.Lemi

    I’m a new Phlearn follower.Thank you so much for your tutorial videos. I’m learning so much in everyday. Here is the image that I created my effort. I’ve learned so much from your tutorials. 🙂

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    M.Lemi

    Hi everyone, I’ve uploaded an image yesterday, but it’s not showing. I’m adding an image again in different sizes. Hopefully the image appears) Thank you. :))

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    Chris

    First attempt, had a lot of fun working with the different images and manipulating them, resizing, stretching, blending and adding small touches myself. I could have gone on for much longer and paid more attention to detail but it’s getting late 🙂

    Love the tuts from PHlearn so much easier to understand and work with, thanks guys I think I’m enjoying learning Photoshop

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    Chris

    Well looks like I had fun manipulating multiple images, best part was working with individual layers practicing on what works best, blending, stretching, rotating, blurring and much more, I could have spent ages playing around with this but unfortunately if late here, thanks PHlearn for the tuts and files 🙂

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    Chris

    Well looks like I had fun manipulating multiple images, best part was working with individual layers practicing on what works best, blending, stretching, rotating, blurring and much more, I could have spent ages playing around with this but unfortunately if late here, thanks PHlearn for the tuts and files 🙂

    My first time also so I am happy with the results

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    Chris

    My second attempt which I believe is a much better improved job, I made good use of the images and manipulated them to make flame effects and much more.

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    Jerry Masesar

    Hello! I’m a big fan of Aaron Nace & follower of phlearn on Youtube. I started as a photograher a year ago & i’m just an amateur on editing, so, here is the result of my editing ..hope you like it! 🙂

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    Jerry

    Hello! I’m a big fan of Aaron Nace & follower of phlearn on Youtube. I started as a photograher a year ago & i am just an amateur on editing, so, here is the result of my editing ..hope you like it! 🙂

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    Zafer

    Hello, Thank you so much for this tutorial. You guys are an inspiration and inspired me to do this shoot. Had a ball doing it and spent 3 hours editing. Keep up the good work.

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    Cameron

    Please show tutorial on using the sparkler light painting technique. I’m very curious how you painted so close to your subject yet not burning her plus getting the subject in sharp focus over a long exposure. Thanks!