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How To Make Sunbeams In Photoshop

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The following is a simple but constructive technique
for adding morn sunbeams to your images. For this technique information technology’s best to showtime with an image that has the sun ascent upward backside trees, through fog,
or through another subject. Look for a photograph that makes you recollect to yourself “Geez, I wish I captured those sunbeams I saw when I took this picture!” That existence said, allow me as well mention that it’s always best to capture your sunbeams in-camera—but when you miss’em, yous can always autumn back on this technique.

Below is the image I used for this tutorial. The epitome has already been enhanced by applying a custom DNG profile created using X-Rite Photograph’s ColorChecker Passport. I besides adapted the contrast, applied a bit of warming to give it more of that “early morning” look, and sharpened the image for brandish on a screen.

The image without sunbeams

The image earlier applying sunbeams

The prototype with sunbeams

The image after applying sunbeams
The image after applying sunbeams

Watch the video

The steps

Quick steps for advanced Photoshop users

  1. Duplicate the Colour Channel with the nigh contrast between the sky and the trees.
  2. Make full this channel with Black and set the Blending Mode set to Overlay.
  3. Fill this channel over again with White and fix the Blending Mode set up to Overlay.
  4. Repeat the last Fill two to 3 more times until all of the grays turn white.
  5. Cmd+Click [PC: Ctrl+Click] on the layer to load it as a choice.
  6. Create a new layer and make full with White and the Blending Mode set to Normal.
  7. Cmd+D [PC: Ctrl+D] to deselect.
  8. Apply a Radial Mistiness fix to 100%, Zoom, and Best.
  9. Employ an Outer Glow gear up to Soft Light, 100% Opacity, Default Yellow, and Size of 5px.

Select an paradigm

Select an image that already has the sunday peeking throuth objects.

You may want to postpone sharpening the image until after the sunbeams are added. Because I prefer softer sunbeams, I practical sharpening before calculation the sunbeams.

Select a color aqueduct

Open the image in Photoshop, and cycle through the various color channels to determine which channel has the highest contrast betwixt the sky and the trees (or other objects in your image).

Duplicate the color channel

For the image I’grand working on, this was the blue channel. Click and elevate the all-time channel to the “Create New Channel” icon to create a duplicate channel. If you selected the bluish channel similar I did, this new channel will be chosen “Bluish Copy.”

Photoshop Color Channels
Dragging the blue aqueduct layer to the new channel icon

Fill the duplicate color channel

With the indistinguishable color channel selected, select
Fill up
(or use Shift+Delete). Set the “Use” color to Black, the “Blending” mode to “Overlay,” and “Opacity” to 100%. Click “OK.” This will force any of the darker gray areas to blackness.

The Fill Dialog Box with Black color and Overlay Blend Mode selected
Fill Dialog Box with Black colour and Overlay Blend Fashion selected

Fill the duplicate colour channel again

With the indistinguishable color aqueduct notwithstanding selected, select
over again. This time set up the “Use” colour to White, exit the “Blending” mode ready to “Overlay,” and “Opacity”gear up to 100%. Click “OK. This will make most of the gray in the sky plough white. You lot may need to repeat this stride 2 or three more times to convert all of the grays to white. This technique will only bear on the lite greyness areas of the prototype, and should leave the blackness areas lonely.

Load as a option

Cmd+Click (PC: Ctrl+Click) on the duplicate channel to load it every bit a selection—this will only load the white areas of the channel as a selection. When yous do this, you will see the “marching ants” appear on the paradigm.

Create a new layer

Return to the Layers panel and create a new empty layer above the current working layer by pressing Cmd+Shift+N (PC: Ctrl+Shift+North), or click on the new layer icon.

Fill up with white

With this new layer selected, select
again. In the Make full dialog box, set the “Utilise” color to white and change the blending mode to “Normal,” and click “OK.” Hit Cmd+D (PC: Ctrl+D) to deselect the option (removes the marching ants).

The Fill Dialog Box with White color and Normal Blend Mode selected
Make full Dialog Box with White colour and Normal Blend Mode selected

Adding sunbeams

We’re ready to add the sunbeams using the Radial Blur role in Photoshop, but first allow me mention that as of Photoshop CS5, there’southward still no preview for your selection in the filigree, so yous’ll just have to give information technology your all-time guess and review the results afterwards clicking on “OK.”

The easiest and most accurate way to get the blur aligned properly is to run an intermediate Blurring step before adding the actual sunbeams.

The easiest and most accurate way to get the blur aligned properly is to run an intermediate Blurring step before we add the actual sunbeams. To practise this exist sure the new layer is still selected, and select
Radial Blur. In the Blur dialog box, prepare the Corporeality to 10, the Blur Method to “Spin,” and the Quality to “Draft.”

Side by side drag in the filigree to motion the center signal to the correct location on the mistiness grid (requite it your best estimate). Click “OK” when you retrieve everything gear up setup properly. One time the blur has been applied, yous’ll come across how skilful you did on your guess for placing the blur.

Radial Blur Filter with Spin Settings
Radial Blur Filter with Spin Settings

If yous got information technology right the starting time time, congratulations! Use Cmd+Z (PC: Ctrl+Z) to disengage the application of the Spin blur and go back to
Radial Blur. This time set the Amount to 100%, the Blur Method to “Zoom,” Quality to “All-time,” and click “OK.”

If you didn’t get the blur positioned properly the first time, striking Cmd+Z (PC: Ctrl+Z) to undo the application of the Spin blur, go back to
Radial Blur, and attempt dragging the center indicate in the filigree to a different location. Click “OK” and view the results. If you still got the positioning incorrect, repeat this procedure until you get the middle point where you want it. If you did get the positioning right, use Cmd+Z to undo the application of the Spin blur and get back to
Radial Blur. Set up the Amount to 100%, the Blur Method to “Zoom,” Quality to “Best,” and click “OK.”

One time you’ve applied a satisfactory blur, you may notice that the sunbeams wait a little rough and faint. Reapply the mistiness 1 or two more times by pressing Cmd+F (PC: Ctrl+F) until y’all become effect you’re looking for.

The Radial Blur Filter Dialog Box
Radial Mistiness Filter Dialog Box

Apply Outer Glow layer style

Next enhance the sunbeams by applying a layer way. Click on the
icon to open the Layer Style dialog box and select “Outer Glow.”

The Outer Glow Filter Style Selection
Outer Glow Filter Style Selection

In the Layer Way dialog box, select the “Preview” check box, and set the blend manner for this effect to “Soft Light,” and set the Opacity to 100%. The default yellow colour volition piece of work fine for this effect. Set the size gear up to 5px, or increase it if you want a softer glow. This is a smashing time to experiment, so explore the other settings for the alloy mode, opacity, etc. Click “OK” when yous’re washed making your selections.

The Outer Glow Layer Style Dialog Box Settings
Outer Glow Layer Fashion Dialog Box Settings

Duplicate the layer (optional)

If the sunbeams aren’t intense plenty, try “jumping” (duplicating) the layer by using Cmd+J (PC: Ctrl+J). This volition double the effect. If the event is also stiff after jumping information technology, y’all can always lower the opacity of the layer.

Changing the Opacity of the Jumped Layer
Irresolute the Opacity of the Jumped Layer


You may notice that some of the sunbeams are rolling over the front end/shady areas of the trees, which makes the entire sunbeam outcome wait artificial. To correct this trouble, add together white layer mask and paint over the problem areas using a soft black brush (be sure the mask is selected before you start painting).

Adding a Layer Mask
Adding a Layer Mask

To pigment on the mask, showtime click on the mask, so hit “D” to load the default colour pallets, then hit “X” to reverse the color pallets, then striking “B” to select the Brush Tool. Set up the “Opacity” and “Flow” for the brush to 100% and begin painting on the mask.

Indistinguishable the mask (optional)

If you lot choose a brush menses setting below 100%, or if y’all are using a Wacom tablet, you lot might desire to double the intensity of the layer mask by copying information technology to other layers that don’t already accept a mask. To copy a mask, Option+Elevate the finished mask to i of the other sunbeam layers. Don’t forget you also have the option of manipulating the mask using the Mask dialog box.

Copied Layer Mask to another Layer
Copied Layer Mask to another Layer

That’s it! Experience free to experiment with different layer opacity settings to get the desired issue.

The Final Image

The final image with sunbeams
The last image with sunbeams