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With Photoshop one can easily make lightning and other dazzling effects such as sparkles and vortexes. This is tutorial number one in the "Bert Monroy" series, inspired by the Photoshop master, Bert Monroy's PixelPerfect video podcasts. Bert's video podcast for this tutorial can be found at PixelPerfect Lightning


To use Photoshop to create lightning emanating from point source such as a magic wand, a hand or in this case the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

Part 1 Making The Lightning


  • Choose your image, the image Bert uses in the video podcast is a drawing of a wizard using a magic wand. For this tutorial I will be using an image of the Statue of Liberty. Dimensions 640x460px
    Statue of Liberty
  • Press "D" on your keyboard to set your background color to white and your foreground colors to black

Create the Lightning

  • Create a new file in Photoshop larger than the one you are currently using in my case 1000x1000px
  • Using the Rectangular Marquee tool make a series of 4 long narrow selections of varying widths from top to bottom fill each one with the foreground color by pressing (Alt-Backspace.)(Opt-Delete) See fig. ???
  • Next we apply a some Gaussian Blur which can be found under the menu/Filter/Blur/Gaussian blur... In the dialog bos set the Radius of the blur to 20 pixels.
  • Next we apply the Polar Coordinates filter menu/Filter/Distort/Polar Coordinates Make sure that "Rectangular to Polar" mode is selected and click OK.
  • Now, to create the Lightning we apply the Difference Clouds filter menu/Filter/Render/Difference Clouds
  • By inverting the result we get lightning, menu/Image/Adjustments/Invert or press (Ctrl-I)(Cmd-I)
  • To clean up the lightning and make it more pronounced we adjust the levels of the layer by menu/Image/Adjustments/Levels... (Ctrl-L)(Cmd-L)
    • Adjust the dark slider to about 125 or so and adjust the mid tones to about .35 and Click OK
  • If you wish to make your lightning any other color than white we can do this by adjusting the Hue/Saturation of the leyer by menu/Image/Adjustments/Hue/Saturation... Make sure the "Colorize" check box is checked and bring the "Saturation" to 100 and adjust the "Hue" slider to a color you like. Click OK
  • Using the move tool drag the image of the lightning onto the image of the statue. Afterwards you can discard the lightning file.
  • In order to see the image below set the layer mode to "screen". This hides the dark tones and only shows the light tones of the layer
  • Use the Move tool to center the lightning on the edge of the statue's torch.
  • Rotate the lightning so that it is not covering the statue's body by menu/Edit/Transform/Rotate You may need to scale it a little also so that it fits in the image properly.

There you have it, the Statue of Liberty menacing NY with her lightning torch.

Part 2 Creating The Vortex

The second part of Bert's tutorial focuses on creating a vortex above the subject accented with some sparkles

Create More Room

  • Using the Eyedropper tool pick up the color at the very top of the image and set it to the background color by holding the (Alt)(Option) key while clicking the color.
  • Increase the size of the canvas by menu/Image/Canvas Size...
    • Make sure that relative is unchecked.
    • Set the height to a larger number (in this case 800px)
    • Set the anchor to the bottom center position
    • Set the Canvas Extension Color to Background amd click OK

Making the

  • Create a new layer
  • Press the "D" key to set the foreground and background colors to black and white
  • While holding down the (Alt)(Option) key apply the Clouds filter by menu/Filter/Render/Clouds
    • You may need to undo and re-apply the clouds filter to "find" the lightning within (watch the video it makes more sense there)
  • Apply the Find Edges filter by menu/Filter/Stylize/Find Edges
  • Invert it by pressing (Ctrl-I)(Cmd-I)
  • Adjust the levels of the layer by menu/Image/Adjustments/Levels... (Ctrl-L)(Cmd-L)
    • Adjust the Lights to the left to make the image very light
  • Using the Eraser tool erase all but your "lightning"
  • Adjust the Hue/Saturation by pressing (Ctrl-U)(Cmd-I)
    • Select Colorize
    • Raise the Saturation to 100
    • Select a hue color that you like
    • Save the color settings for use later by clicking on the save button and putting the file somewhere you can find it later (Desktop)