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Design

How to Create Your Own Light Ray Brushes From Scratch in Adobe Photoshop

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:QuickLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Photoshop Brushes from Scratch.
Photoshop in 60 Seconds: Create a Custom Texture Brush
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you'll learn an easy technique to create your own custom sun ray brushes. To do that you'll use different filters and color adjustments.

These brushes are great if you want to enhance the existing light on your photos or add special effects to your photo manipulations or paintings.

I'll show you how you can create two basic brushes in this tutorial. After that you can play with different settings to create many more. Let's get started!

1. Prepare the Base for the Sun Rays

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop. Set its Width and Height to 5000 Pixels and Resolution to 72. Press OK.

Image Size

Step 2

Grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Pick black color and fill the Background layer with it.

Create a new empty layer and name it SUN RAYS.

Layer order

Step 3

Grab the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and select the middle part of the image.

Selection

Go to Select > Modify > Feather Selection and set Feather Radius to 200 pixels. Press OK.

Feather Selection

Step 4

Set black as your background and white as your foreground.

Color settings

Make sure the SUN RAYS layer is active by clicking on it. Go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Go to Edit > Deselect.

Result of this step

2. Create Various Sun Rays

To create the sun rays you need to blur the clouds you rendered in the previous step. There are plenty of variations of rays you can create. In this tutorial I'll show you how to create two different brushes.

Step 1

Right click on the SUN RAYS layer and select Duplicate layer... Name the new layer SUN RAYS 1.

Make the SUN RAYS layer invisible by clicking on the eye icon to the left of the layer.

Layer order and visibility

Click on the SUN RAYS 1 layer. Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and set the panel as shown below. Set Amount to 99 and select Zoom Blur Method. Move the Blur Center to the top left corner.

Radial Blur Setting

After you're done, press OK. Take a look at the result of this step.

Result of this step

Step 2

To make the sun rays more visible, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and set the Input Levels to 25; 0,65; 205. Press OK.

Levels setting

Step 3

To add more details to the rays, you'll sharpen them a little in this step. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and set the Amount value to 1% and Radius to 180 Pixels. Press OK.

Unsharp Mask setting

This is the base for your first brush. Make this layer invisible for now by clicking on the eye icon on the left side of the layer so you can focus on creating another brush.

Layers visibility

Step 4

Right-click on the SUN RAYS layer and select Duplicate layer... Name the new layer SUN RAYS 2.

Layers order

Step 5

Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and set the Amount to 99. Select Zoom Blur Method and set the Blur Center to the upper center of the image.

Press OK. To create a more visible effect, press Control-F on your keyboard to repeat it.

Result of this step

Step 6

To make the sun rays narrower, go to Edit > Free Transform and transform them as shown below.

Press OK to apply the changes.

Free Transform setting

3. Create the Brushes

You've already created shapes of your brushes. Now you need to make the actual brushes from them. I'll show you how to do that on the first brush. The process is completely the same for the second brush.

Step 1

Make the SUN RAYS 1 layer visible and the SUN RAYS and SUN RAYS 2 layers invisible.

You need to invert the colors to create the proper shape of the brushes. Add a new Invert adjustment layer on the top of all layers.

Result of this step

Go to Select > All to select the whole image. Go to Edit > Copy Merged to copy it and Edit > Paste to paste it.

Step 2

Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset ... and name the brush Sun Rays 1.

Define Brush Preset setting

Step 3

Do exactly the same with the SUN RAYS 2 layer to create another brush.

Creating Sun Rays 2 brush

4. Test Your Brushes

To create more variations of these two basic brushes, you can increase or decrease contrast, sharpen them, make them wider or more narrow with the Free Transform Tool, or set the blur from different directions. It's up to you which effect you prefer.

Before testing, let me give you a couple of tips on how you can create the most realistic results with your brushes:

  1. Study how light actually works and mimic it in your artworks. You can take a look at the photo in the preview to see real-life sun rays.
  2. Avoid using pure white color while painting the light. It won't look realistic. Try some bright yellow or orange tones instead.
  3. Work with a lower brush Opacity to get the most realistic result.
  4. Keep in mind the direction of the light. The rays should have the same direction.
  5. If you want to use the brushes on your photos, try to just enhance the light that is already on the photo.

Lets take a look at how the Sun Rays 1 brush works.

Sun Rays 1 brush example

On the photo below you can see how the Sun Rays 2 brush works.

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

In this tutorial you've learnt how to create your own sun ray brushes. You can use them to enhance light in your photos or to create a new light source from scratch. To get the most realistic light, I recommend studying how natural light works and also using the brush with low opacity.

I hope you'll have fun working with these brushes. I'm looking forward to seeing your results!

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