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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Photoshop

How to Add a Rainbow to a Photo

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

If you want to make your photo look more magical, just add a rainbow to it! If you do it in a convincing enough way, nobody will be able to tell it's fake. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to edit a rainbow into a photo in Photoshop.

Are you interested in fun photo effects? You should check out Envato Elements—one subscription gives you access to millions of creative assets, including this rainbow light photo effect. Make your photo glow with a single click!

rainbow light photo effectrainbow light photo effectrainbow light photo effect

What You'll Learn in This Rainbow Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to create a rainbow in Photoshop
  • How to add a rainbow to a picture
  • How to add a rainbow in Photoshop
  • How to make the rainbow wider or narrower

What You'll Need

For this tutorial, you're going to need a photo to add the rainbow to. This is the photo I've used:

1. How to Create a Rainbow in Photoshop

Step 1

Before we can add a rainbow to a picture, we need to create the rainbow. Create a New File with dimensions of 10000 x 10000 px.

create new filecreate new filecreate new file

Step 2

Take the Ellipse Tool (U) and set the Mode to Shape, with an empty Fill and Stroke.

ellipse tool settingsellipse tool settingsellipse tool settings

Step 3

Click on the canvas. Use the dimensions 5000 x 5000 px, and align the invisible ellipse to the canvas using the Move Tool (V).

create new ellipsecreate new ellipsecreate new ellipse
align the ellipsealign the ellipsealign the ellipse
You need to select both layers for this to work

Step 4

Double-click the ellipse layer to open the Layer Style window. Add a Stroke with these values:

  • Size: 250 px
  • Position: Inside
  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Fill Type: Color
  • Color: #5300bb
add a purple strokeadd a purple strokeadd a purple stroke
purple strokepurple strokepurple stroke

Step 5

Click the plus icon to add another Stroke. Use the same settings as before, changing only these values:

  • Size: 214 px
  • Color: #0000ff
add a blue strokeadd a blue strokeadd a blue stroke
blue strokeblue strokeblue stroke

Step 6

Add another Stroke with these values:

  • Size: 178 px
  • Color: #00c5b1
add a cyan strokeadd a cyan strokeadd a cyan stroke
cyan strokecyan strokecyan stroke

Step 7

Add another Stroke with these values:

  • Size: 142 px
  • Color: #00e100
add a green strokeadd a green strokeadd a green stroke
green strokegreen strokegreen stroke

Step 8

Add another Stroke with these values:

  • Size: 122 px
  • Color: #d9d900
add a yellow strokeadd a yellow strokeadd a yellow stroke
yellow strokeyellow strokeyellow stroke
This isn't a mistake—the green band is supposed to be narrower to ensure proper blending.

Step 9

Add another Stroke with these values:

  • Size: 86 px
  • Color: #ff9300
add an orange strokeadd an orange strokeadd an orange stroke
orange strokeorange strokeorange stroke

Step 10

Add another Stroke with these values:

  • Size: 50 px
  • Color: #f11601
add a red strokeadd a red strokeadd a red stroke
red strokered strokered stroke

Step 11

Add an Outer Glow using these values:

  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Opacity: 95%
  • Color: #f11601
  • Spread: 0
  • Size: 114 px
add outer glowadd outer glowadd outer glow
outer glowouter glowouter glow

Step 12

Right-click this layer and select Convert to Smart Object. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use 25 px for the Radius.

blur the rainbowblur the rainbowblur the rainbow
rainbow blurredrainbow blurredrainbow blurred

2. How to Add a Rainbow to a Photo in Photoshop

We've got our rainbow, so now let me show you how to add a rainbow to a photo!

Step 1

Hide the Background. Select all (Control-A) and go to Edit > Copy Merged. Paste your rainbow into the target file.

copy and paste your rainbowcopy and paste your rainbowcopy and paste your rainbow

Step 2

Resize the rainbow with Control-T to put it in the right place. Keep the circle symmetrical—a rainbow is always a part of a circle, not an ellipse.

resize the rainbowresize the rainbowresize the rainbow

Step 3

If, after resizing, your rainbow looks too wide or too narrow, go back to your previous file. Double-click the Smart Object to open its contents, and then resize it by pressing Control-T. You may need to use the Crop Tool (C) to fit the circle inside the canvas.

When you're done, save this file and close it.

resize the smart objectresize the smart objectresize the smart object
crop the filecrop the filecrop the file

Step 4

It may take a while for Photoshop to process these modifications, but after this, you can copy the rainbow and paste it into the target file again.

paste the rainbow againpaste the rainbow againpaste the rainbow again

Step 5

After you've found the perfect size and position for the rainbow, change the Blend Mode to Screen. This will make the rainbow look nice and bright.

change the blend mode to screenchange the blend mode to screenchange the blend mode to screen
glowing rainbowglowing rainbowglowing rainbow

Step 6

To make the rainbow more realistic, we need to do two more things. First, add a Layer Mask to the rainbow layer and use a black Soft Brush over the area touching the ground. This will move the rainbow away from the foreground.

add a layer maskadd a layer maskadd a layer mask
blend the rainbowblend the rainbowblend the rainbow

Step 7

Second, the sky outside of the rainbow often looks darker than the part inside it. To achieve this effect, select the Background layer and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment. Lower the Lightness to darken the sky strongly.

add hue saturationadd hue saturationadd hue saturation
lower lightnesslower lightnesslower lightness
darken the skydarken the skydarken the sky

Step 8

Paint on the Layer Mask with a black Soft Brush to remove the effect from under the rainbow.

paint on layer maskpaint on layer maskpaint on layer mask
effect removedeffect removedeffect removed

Step 9

Then adjust the Lightness again until the effect looks realistic to you. Lowering the Saturation can be a good idea as well.

adjust the effectadjust the effectadjust the effect
effect adjustedeffect adjustedeffect adjusted

Step 10

And if you want to be super realistic, it may be good to fade the rainbow slightly by lowering its Opacity:

lower the opacitylower the opacitylower the opacity
fade the rainbowfade the rainbowfade the rainbow

Step 11

You can also duplicate the rainbow and move the copy a little to the side, lowering its Opacity until it's barely visible. This second rainbow should technically have its colors reversed, but I don't think it's noticeable enough to warrant any extra work:

create double rainbowcreate double rainbowcreate double rainbow

Step 12

If you want to achieve more striking colors in your rainbow, you either need to use a darker image, darken your image with the Adjustment layers, or simply use the Sky Replacement function (Edit > Sky Replacement).

create more colorful rainbowcreate more colorful rainbowcreate more colorful rainbow

Good Job!

Now you know how to add a rainbow in Photoshop! Make sure to save your file with the rainbow for later use—this way, the next time you need to add a rainbow to a photo, it will be ready to copy and paste!

rainbow added to photorainbow added to photorainbow added to photo

Top Rainbow Photoshop Actions From Envato Elements

Did you know you can do plenty of fun things with your photo using rainbow Photoshop add-ons? Here are a few of the examples available from Envato Elements:

Lens Burn Retro Photo Effect for Photoshop (PSD)

Lens burn retro photo effect for photoshopLens burn retro photo effect for photoshopLens burn retro photo effect for photoshop

This is a template that you can use to give your photo the effect of an old, scratched lens. Just place your photo inside the Smart Object to cover it with rainbows!

Chroma Art Photoshop Action (ABR, ATN, PAT)

Chroma Art Photoshop ActionChroma Art Photoshop ActionChroma Art Photoshop Action

This amazing Photoshop action will turn your photo into a colorful work of art in just a few clicks! After it's done, you can customize it to create the effect you like best.

Prism Rainbow Light Photoshop Action (ATN, PAT)

Prism Rainbow Light Photoshop ActionPrism Rainbow Light Photoshop ActionPrism Rainbow Light Photoshop Action

This action will allow you to add a prism effect to your photo—a nice rainbow crossing the image, instantly bringing attention to it.

Fractal Mirror Burn Photo Effect (PSD)

Fractal mirror burn photo effectFractal mirror burn photo effectFractal mirror burn photo effect

You can make even the most ordinary photo look magical by applying this crystal effect to it! Just replace the image in the Smart Object with your photo, and you're done.

Color Dust Photoshop Action (ATN, ABR)

Color Dust Photoshop ActionColor Dust Photoshop ActionColor Dust Photoshop Action

Color Dust Photoshop Action makes your images explode in a beautiful cloud of rainbow dust in just a few clicks. Select your subject and let the action do the rest!

Recommended Rainbow Tutorials

If you like this tutorial, you may also enjoy these rainbow Photoshop and Illustrator tutorials:

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