Painting With Light in Photoshop

Light is very important to any photograph, and by learning painting light techniques, you will be able to adjust and improve your original photographs. If the available lighting wasn't quite right at the time or if the focal point of the photo needs changing, then Painting with light in Photoshop can be very useful.

The process of painting with light is actually surprisingly easy and it's an ideal way to lighten up an image and make it look much better.

Step 1: Opening the Image

First, you should start by opening Photoshop and then loading your chosen image; this is simply a matter of clicking File, Open and selecting the image that you want to work on. If you want to keep the original Image safe, then you should also consider saving it as a new name.

Step 2: Duplicating Layers

When your image is first opened in Photoshop, there will be a single background layer--this will now need to be duplicated. Click on the Layer menu and then select Duplicate layer. This will create a new layer on top of the background layer with the same content. This can be renamed as BW layer, as it will be converted into black and white at a later stage.

Improve the image by running sharpness filters, color corrections and anything else you might need to improve the quality of the image.

Step 3: Converting to Black and White

Once your BW layer has been cleaned up, it's now time to convert it to black and white. Either apply the B&W filter to the picture or adjust the color channel mixer to create a black and white image. Make sure that you are left with a detailed black and white image.

Step 4: Duplicating the Layer Again

Your new BW Layer now needs to be duplicated again in the same way as in step 2. This new layer should be renamed to Overlay.

Step 5: Creating a Mask

Create a new layer below the new Overlay layer which is filled with black. On the overlay mask, use your brush to paint black on anything that you don't want highlighted in your image. Anything which is painted over with black will be hidden.

When you're happy, blend the Mask layer down with the Overlay layer. Now, change the Overlay Layer's blend mode to Overlay. This should result in an image which looks much more interesting.

Step 6: Creating a Light Beam

A light beam can be used to highlight anything in the photo; to do this, create a new layer at the top of the layers. Call this layer Light Beam and create some beams of light using your preferred technique. An easy option is to use the lasso tool to make a selection with feathering, and then fill it with white--blurring can make your light look more realistic.

Change the blend mode of the Light Beam layer to overlay and adjust the opacity to something that looks the best. 46% seems to work pretty well for most images, although you might need to do some experimenting.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

That's the basic technique, although there are plenty of other things that you can do with the image too. Color tints can be added if you don't like the idea of using a black and white image.

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