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How to Add a Glow Effect in Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today we will be learning how to do a glow effect in Photoshop! Whether it’s edgy cyberpunk or high fantasy, you can never go wrong with a vivid neon glow! Today, I will be teaching you how to create the perfect neon glow using just a handful of layer styles and layer modes. Learning how to do a glow effect has never been easier!

You can get an instant glow light effect with this Glow in the Dark Photoshop Action! With a set of light leak overlays and the ability to glow in any color you might need, it's an awesome one-click solution for creating a neon effect. 

Glow in the dark Photoshop ActionsGlow in the dark Photoshop ActionsGlow in the dark Photoshop Actions

What You'll Learn in This Photoshop Tutorial 

  • How to create a day-to-night color grade in Photoshop
  • How to select colors in Photoshop
  • How to add a glow effect in Photoshop
  • How to create a glow light effect in Photoshop 

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Need

To complete this project, you will need the following image:

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Create a Nighttime Color Grade 

Step 1

Today, we will be adding a glow effect to the stripes of this tiger, but in order to make the neon glow really pop, I want to turn this image from day to night.

This step is completely optional and will ultimately change from image to image. But for today’s image glow effect, we are starting out with a black to white Gradient Map adjustment layer with a 44% Opacity. 

black to white gradient black to white gradient black to white gradient

Step 2

Now, add a Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Night From Day, with its layer mode set to Color. 

night from day set to color night from day set to color night from day set to color

Step 3

Next, let’s duplicate the Color Lookup layer and change the layer mode to Multiply. 

If your subject has eyes or any distinct highlights you’d like to keep, go ahead and mask some of this layer out over those areas. You can always come back and do this step later after you have laid down your glow effect, however. For now, I just masked out enough to make sure the eyes were still visible. 

night from day  set to multiply night from day  set to multiply night from day  set to multiply

Step 4

Up next, we are going to bring back some of the highlights to keep our image from looking too flat. 

Create a Curves layer, bringing the top anchor point to the left about a quarter of the way. Adjust the Curve’s Blend If settings so that it only affects the brightest points of the subject. Remember to hold Alt in order to split the Blend If toggles!

Once we are happy, we can Group the four adjustment layers we just created, naming the group “Subject’s Color Grade.”

curves setting curves setting curves setting
blend if settings blend if settings blend if settings
curves result curves result curves result

2. How to Create a Violet Color Grade

Step 1

For the second part of this image’s color grade, we are going to create a new Group above all current and future layers. It will consist of first a Foggy Night layer set to 28% Opacity. 

foggy night foggy night foggy night

Step 2

Second, a Selective Color layer affecting the Cyans, Blues, Magentas, Whites, Neutrals, and Blacks.   

selective color selective color selective color

Step 3

And finally, a Color Balance layer set to Red -13, Green -19, and Blue +27. In combination with the first color grade, this will give our image a high contrast vivid blue tone. The two color grades should be split, as in this case, we are going to sandwich our glow effect between them. 

color balance  color balance  color balance

3. How to Select Colors in Photoshop 

Step 1

Let’s start to prep a layer for our glow effect! First, we are going to create a New Layer between our two color grades, adding a layer mask to the layer. 

Step 2

Next, we are going to temporarily hide both of our color grade groups. 

To select only the black stripes of the tiger, we are going to go to Select > Color Range. Use the color dropper to select the black tiger stripes, and then set the Fuzziness to around 140. Feel free to adjust this number, keeping in mind that the white areas are the areas being selected. 

Once you're happy with the Fuzziness settings, press OK and then add a Layer Mask to the new layer. The mask will take the shape of the selection. Below, I have selected the layer mask so you can see the shape of the final layer mask. 

Turn your color grade groups back on once your mask is complete!

selection layer mask selection layer mask selection layer mask

4. How to Add a Glow Effect in Photoshop

Step 1

Finally, we can start to create a glow, beginning by adding seven different layer styles to our new layer. 

First, add a Bevel and Emboss:

  • Depth: 250
  • Size: 21
  • Soften: 8
  • Angle: 60
  • Altitude: 0
  • Gloss Contour: Ring - Double
  • Highlight Mode: Color Dodge
  • Color: #dcdcdc
  • Opacity: 50%
  • Shadow Mode: Vivid Light
  • Color: #e5e5e5
  • Opacity: 10%
bevel and emboss bevel and emboss bevel and emboss

Step 2

Next, add a Contour:

  • Contour: Cone - Inverted
  • Range: 50%
contour contour contour

Step 3

Now, add an Inner Shadow:

  • Blend Mode: Linear Light
  • Color: #ebd5f3
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Angle: 90
  • Distance: 0
  • Size: 21
inner shadow inner shadow inner shadow

Step 4

Next up, an Inner Glow:

  • Blend Mode: Linear Dodge (Add)
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Color: #ddbfff
  • Source: Center
  • Size: 21
inner glow inner glow inner glow

Step 5

Add a Satin layer style next:

  • Blend Mode: Vivid Light
  • Color: #e6a2ee
  • Opacity: 50%
  • Angle: 90
  • Distance: 42
  • Size: 146
  • Contour: Linear
satin satin satin

Step 6

Now an Outer Glow:

  • Blend Mode: Linear Dodge (Add)
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Color: #c689ff
  • Size: 63
  • Range: 85%
outer glow outer glow outer glow

Step 7

A Drop Shadow:

  • Blend Mode: Screen
  • Color: #f227ff
  • Opacity: 85%
  • Angle: 30
  • Distance: 0
  • Size: 208
drop shadow drop shadow drop shadow

Step 8

And one last Drop Shadow:

  • Blend Mode: Screen
  • Color: #f227ff
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Angle: 90
  • Distance: 0
  • Size: 250
second drop shadow second drop shadow second drop shadow

Step 9

Finally, paint on your layer using a soft round white Brush! Thanks to the layer mask, the glow will only show in the darker parts of the image.

paint white on neon layer paint white on neon layer paint white on neon layer

Step 10 

From here, it’s just filling in the areas you’d like to glow. 

You can adjust the layer mask to further refine your glowing areas. Using Brightness/Contrast to add Contrast to the mask will help define the area your glow is coming from more. On the other hand, taking away Contrast or adding Brightness will increase the glowing area.

You can also make multiple glow layers, choosing a different Fuzziness for each layer mask and then pinpointing the glow with different brushes.

Don’t worry about having to redo the layer styles—just Right-click > Copy Layer Style and then Right-click > Paste Layer Style onto your new layer. 

Lower the Flow Rate of your brush to help build the glow effect up slowly. And don’t be afraid to use hard brushes for things like hair strands and eye detail.  

fill in dark stripes with neon glow effect fill in dark stripes with neon glow effect fill in dark stripes with neon glow effect

5. How to Add a Glow Light Effect in Photoshop

Step 1

Finish everything off with a few extra boosts of glow! 

First, add a layer set to Color placed above the glow style layers. Use this layer to paint a hot pink color, or whatever color your glow is, around the glowing area. Lower the layer Opacity if the effect is too strong. 

layer set to color layer set to color layer set to color

Step 2

Next, add a new layer set to Screen placed above the Color layer. 

Again, paint the same light neon color around the glowing areas. This layer will add more brightness and a general undefined glow. 

layer set to screen layer set to screen layer set to screen

Step 3

Lastly, add a new layer set to Overlay, placed directly below the top "Color Grade" group. 

Paint white on areas you want to look extra bright and vivid. You can also adjust the Blend If settings to make the glow more defined and restricted to the lighter areas of the image, keeping the light out of the shadows. 

blend of settings blend of settings blend of settings
blend if results blend if results blend if results

You're Done! 

That's all there is to making a glow effect in Photoshop! Learning how to do a glow effect has never been easier! Create glow, atmosphere, and energy with only a few layers and some preparation. Go with a classic neon pink, as we did here today, or switch it up with blues, greens, or even golds! This image glow effect is incredibly versatile and has endless uses and variations! 

how to create a glow effect in Photoshop  how to create a glow effect in Photoshop  how to create a glow effect in Photoshop

Get Easy & Instant Neon Glow! 

If you need some glow right now, or you just want to add more light to your current neon tiger, these actions all have you covered!

Neon Glow Photoshop Action

Neon Glow Photoshop ActionNeon Glow Photoshop ActionNeon Glow Photoshop Action

The Neon Glow Photoshop Action takes the inner glow and places it on the outside! It creates a neon border on any image with just a few clicks. Great for posters, flyers, and other graphic design projects! 

Neon Layer Styles

Neon Layer StylesNeon Layer StylesNeon Layer Styles

Need an easy way to apply a rich neon glow to text? This set of 60+ neon layer styles is the perfect solution! With five different style categories, you can create even the most photorealistic neon signs. 

Glowing Smoke Photoshop Action

Glowing Smoke Photoshop ActionGlowing Smoke Photoshop ActionGlowing Smoke Photoshop Action

The Glowing Smoke Photoshop action is the perfect companion to the neon glow effect featured in this tutorial! Add swirling flames of neon fire around subjects including people, animals, and objects!

Prism Photoshop Action

Prism Photoshop ActionPrism Photoshop ActionPrism Photoshop Action

Finish off your neon art piece with the Prism Photoshop action! With just a two-step process of choosing your subject and then pressing play, it's easy to see these glowing geometric shapes surrounding anything with a neon glow effect. 

Looking to learn even more? Check out some more tutorials below:

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