Courtesy of the comprehensive arsenal of tools that Photoshop provides, designers are able to create breathtaking works of digital art. Following is a basic walkthrough of one of the more popular techniques used by designers and enthusiasts alike. This tutorial is a basic guide to designing glowing streaks good enough to add that extra oomph to your work of digital art.
Now, the steps are very simple but do require a lot of hit-and-trial and tweaking as per the user’s taste. Let’s start then, shall we?
Okay, first, open up a new file in Photoshop with a canvas size of 640×480. The canvas doesn’t need to have those exact dimensions but the mentioned size is the one we’ll be using for this tutorial.
Select the Paint Bucket Tool from the toolbar on the left (as in the default workspace), set the color palette at the bottom to black and click on the background. Now that you have a black background, create a new layer by selecting Layer>New>Layer from the taskbar, pressing Shift+Ctrl+N on the keyboard or clicking on the new layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel.
Select the Pen Tool from the toolbar and draw a curved/snaking line as shown in the following screenshots.
To curve the line, click and drag on the canvas and a tangential line will begin to extend on both sides of the active anchor point.
Hold down the control key if you want to tweak the shape of the drawn path. When your satisfied, select the brush tool from the toolbar and right-click anywhere on the canvas. When you do, the following context menu will appear.
This menu lets you select the diameter of the selected brush tool. The selected diameter will determine the thickness of the streak for which we have just drawn a path.
Let’s set it to 5 px for this tutorial. When working at higher resolutions, you may require thicker diameters.
Switch the color on the palette to white, select the pen tool once again and right-click on the canvas.
From the context menu, select Stroke Subpath (or Stroke Path if the path is deselected). In the Stroke Path dialog box, select Brush from the drop down menu and check the Simulate Pressure option below. Click OK.
We’re half way there! Now, create another new layer. Tweak the shape of the drawn path slightly as shown in the following screenshot (left-most image), making it follow the underlying stroke.
Stroke the path as before with the new layer selected, but this time, reduce the diameter to 3 px.
With the pen tool selected, right-click on the canvas and select Delete Path from the context menu.
Optional: Add another pair of overlapping streaks that somewhat mirror the first in the following fashion.
Now that we’re done with the drawing part, let’s get to the fun part: adding glow.
In the Layers Panel, right-click on the first layer (Layer 1) and select Blending Options.
This brings up the Layer Style dialog box. Select the Outer Glow blending option from the Styles list on the left. This will automatically enable it for your layer.
In the Structure box, click on the color palette to select a color of your choice. Note: Colors close to white will look more effective as they will blend more with the white stroke in the layer. As you can see, we’ve chosen a very light blue.
Select the second layer and repeat the previous step, but this time, select a different color and reduce the glow size to 5 px for the thinner stroke.
Repeat the process with the remaining two layers and you should get something like this.
Optional: If you want your light streaks to be brighter and with greater glow, an easy way to do that is to select all present layers (by holding down the Shift key), right-clicking on one and selecting Duplicate Layers from the context menu. If your having trouble with handling layers, you may want to check out our guide to Photoshop Layers here.
The duplicated layers are selected automatically. Right-click on them and select Merge Layers. The resulting/combined layer is a duplicate of your entire project. You can further duplicate it as many times as you see fit or add Gaussian Blur (Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur) to it to get the desired effect.
Duplicated the layer one more time and add a 6.3 px Gaussian Blur and voila!
There are a lot of possibilities with this technique. Play around with brush settings and Blending Options enough and you may surprise yourself. Chew on the following screenshot for added inspiration.