Feb 04, 2015

How to use Lighting Effects in Photoshop

In today’s episode, learn how to use amazing Lighting Effects in Photoshop! Watch and learn as we transform a flat piece of art into a textured, 3-D masterpiece!

Amazing Textured Lighting Effects

To start out, crop and place your image to be where you’d like it to be. Then, go to Filter- Render- Lighting Effects.

In this dialogue, there are a lot of unfamiliar settings to play with. The main three light sources are:

  • Point (flat light, like a flashlight)
  • Spotlight (angled, makes sense for this specific image)
  • Infinite (Infinitely bright light, choose the angle)

For your image, be sure to imitate the light in the environment. If there are individual light sources it’s important to emulate those, but don’t forget about the ambient light! If the room is relatively dark, adjust the ambience slider accordingly so that it looks realistic. You can also adjust the type of material as well as the texture.

If you’d like to add something like a drop shadow to a painting on a wall, layer effects are what you’re looking for! Double click on the layer and the layer style dialogue will come up. There, you can play with bevel and emboss options as well as many other details.     


user image You
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  • user image

    What if… at the end of each video, you added 3 or 4 other images as examples, with a brief before and after? Like a short 10 second clip that shows B/A of different images using the same technique? Perhaps that might help others with different styles to better incorporate the idea into their own style? Just a thought, lol 🙂 I love your work… you might remember me as Christan Chance, from Phan Week episode 3 🙂

  • user image

    Oh my god Aaron, thanks so much for this tutorial. I was looking for these techniques for such a long time! 😀

  • user image

    So cool! I’ve used the lighting effects before, but this helped me understand it much better! Can you create a new layer with lighting effects with a black background, then use the Transform tool on it, like you once did with the lens flare effects?

  • user image

    Hi Aaron. I have a question.

    Would this lighting effect work on the flashlight in your Bakster tutorial? In that tutorial, you painted in a light beam, but I wonder if there is a way to use the lighting effect to create the same thing.

    For those of you who don’t know what the Bakster tut is, you can find it here:

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    Jeff Kingston

    Thanks Aaron, it amazing how often your videos happen to tie in with something i am working on at the moment!

  • user image

    Aaron, Thanks for this tutorial. Lighting makes such a difference. I did have a question though: is there a way to add multiple drop shadows to a single image? Since there are three light sources in your image (not counting ambient light), there should be three shadows, which would overlap each other and be strongest in-between the light sources. Is there a way to layer in multiple instances of layer effects?

  • user image

    Aaron – I really enjoy these tutorials, have watched nearly all of them, and have significantly improved my PhotoShop know-how. One process I don’t think you’ve covered is how to cut a person (particularly a female with curly hair) from a complex background. It seems all the tutorials you’ve done which involve cutting a subject out were done with a simple monochrome background. It would be helpful if you could show how to do that where the background is other than a single color such as in a room or outdoor scene with darks, lights, and mid-tones. Thanks for you consideration of this.

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    Matt D

    Hi Phlearn,

    Is this only for Photoshop CC? I have CS5 and I can’t seem to find it.

  • Ammerz

    Hi Aaron

    As always, a great tutorial, my only question is would you not convert the the layer into a “smart object” that way one is able to go back and edit the lights and you’ll be working non destructively.

    I love the fact you can add texture using the spot light, i never knew this feature even existed!

    Thank you! 🙂

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    Liz Birchall

    love this effect. Going off to play with it. Thanks for all the great ideas.

  • user image

    Hi Aaron – just needs a little light spill onto the floor to make it completely convincing 🙂

    How cool would it be to do a tutorial on turning an ordinary portrait image into something like the painting that you started with here – that would be a great effect !!! 🙂

  • user image

    tahnks so much for your tutorials ! it’s so creative. But I have a probleme with this one ! I can’t acces to the lighting effect; it’s there in render but not in “fat”… I changed the mode of my image, i tried to apply it on a normal layer, ona stanp visible layer… but I just can’t acces it ! did I miss something somewhere ?
    thank for your lights !

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    Nic Barlow

    The lighting tutorial is inspired !
    Can I suggest a tutorial which would be so helpful …
    I would love to see a tutorial on how to make a flat image have a 3D appearance. For example, a flat image of a flag with the rolls and undulations combined to make it look totally realistic.
    All the best,

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    Matt Sweadner

    Aaron, you just rock and totally have a gift for teaching. Not to mention having mad skills in PS.

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    Pad Enn

    Hi Aaron
    This tutorial was (as very often) fantastic. Thank you very much. But I do have one question: When I add a second (and third) light by pressing on the light symbol (like you did), I do get a second light, but I can’t use it independently from the first one, i.e. when I rotate the second light, it automatically influences (and turns) the first light. How can I avoid this?

    Thanks for your help!

  • user image

    Hi Aaron,
    This is great, but I have a question. What did you do with the layer mask in the video time between 3:07, when the mask is there and 3:15 when you return and the mask is gone? Thank you!

  • user image

    this looks both hard and easy but i’ve tried this its really fun and easy

  • user image

    This was very useful ! and I love how much you are into your work and how much of a perfectionist you are which helps you to create perfect looking effects and so on ! Please make more Videos related to interior design and Architecture !
    Keep the great work !

  • user image

    In my CC version adding new spot light results in adding new…but the old one is still present and it “sticks” to the new one. It cannot be detached so moving the second one the same time displaces the first one….What shall I do? (switching it off on the right side does not help)

  • user image

    Thank you for tutorials that are easy to understand. You teach in such a way that I feel as though I can actually learn this. I have watched many tutorials that I could not understand or that made me feel as though I would never grasp these things. I am following along with you in your tutorials though, and finally learning photoshop after so many years of just being intimidated by it.

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    Lingy Harhangi

    You guys make my life easier every time. Keep up the great work!!!

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    Bhavna Bhen

    Hi Aaron, I love your videos and your teaching style. thank you very much.
    I have a question please :
    For some unknown reason, when I go to “filter- render” the “lighting effects” is grayed out. 🙁
    What am I missing? (I am on the correct layer)
    Thanks again. 🙂

  • user image

    can we make the wall in photoshop… with wooden flooring

  • user image

    My light and shadow attempt, its probably a little to heavy on mid tones but i’ll let you all be the judge of that 🙂

  • user image

    Why Can I not get the light to move or expand , Click and drag does not seem to work as on older versions. Any idea what I am doing wrong

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    Tammy Hall

    as always another great tutorial 🙂 I’m going to go play with this idea and have some fun. Question: If i wanted to add a person in this to make it look like they are looking at the painting or maybe do other effects like someone taking a picture of it or any effect really how would i go about it so it would look real?? I hope my question makes sense

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    Vinay Gupta

    Hiii….I am Vinay Gupta I like your video tutorials very much. Thanks for this…I am your grat fan.

  • user image
    Ami Parvin

    Thanks for your documentary tutorial’s
    They are useful for me
    Thanks again…….

  • user image

    Hello! I have been trying this effect and it works but when i apply it the rest of my image goes into darkness. how do i fix this?

    • user image

      Play around with the settings 🙂 You might have to turn down the Ambience 🙂