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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

How to Add Lights to a Tree With a Photoshop Action

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to create an amazing sparkling light effect. I will explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time. 

The effect shown above is the one I will show you how to create in this tutorial. If you would like to create the even more advanced sparkles effect shown below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my Christmas Photoshop Action.

Action final result

What You'll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following photo:

1. Let's Get Started

Step 1

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2000–4000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
Checking image size and mode

Step 2

Now we are going to crop the image to remove some of the space on the left. Choose the Crop Tool (C), and transform the Crop Box as shown below:

Cropping image

2. How to Create the Sparkling Lights

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create sparkles. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Temp_1.

Creating a new layer

Step 2

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Edit > Fill and set Contents to Foreground Color, Mode to Normal and Opacity to 100% as shown below:

Filling layer

Step 3

Now go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint and set Type to Coarse Dots as shown below:

Adding mezzotint filter

Step 4

Go to Select > Color Range and using the Eyedropper Tool, select the white color by clicking on some of the white particles in your photo. Set the Fuzziness to 200, go to Select > Select and Mask, and choose the following settings:

Making and refining the selection

Step 5

Now hide this layer, go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and name it Temp_2.

Creating a new layer

Step 6

Set the foreground color to #ffffff, go to Edit > Fill, and set Contents to Foreground Color, Mode to Normal, and Opacity to 100% as shown below. Then, press Control-D on your keyboard to deselect the selection.

Filling selection

Step 7

Now Right-click on the Temp_1 layer and choose Delete Layer. Then, select the Temp_2 layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 2.5 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filter

Step 8

Press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer again, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the Radius to 5 px as shown below. Then, press Control-J on your keyboard once more, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the Radius to 9.5 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filter

Step 9

Now press Control-J on your keyboard twice to duplicate this layer twice. Then, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 55 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filter

Step 10

Press Control-J on your keyboard twice again to duplicate this layer two more times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp_2 layer to select all layers between, and then press Control-E to merge them into one layer.

Merging layers

Step 11

Press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the Radius to 7 px as shown below. Then, press Control-J on your keyboard once more, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the Radius to 28 px.

Adding gaussian blur filter

Step 12

Now Shift-click on the Temp_2 copy 7 layer to select all layers between, and press Control-E on your keyboard to merge them into one layer. Then, name this layer Sparkles_1.

Merging layers

Step 13

Now we are going to add more sparkles. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Temp_1.

Creating a new layer

Step 14

Set the foreground color to #000000, go to Edit > Fill, and set Contents to Foreground Color, Mode to Normal, and Opacity to 100% as shown below:

Filling layer

Step 15

Now go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint and set the Type to Coarse Dots as shown below:

Adding mezzotint filter

Step 16

Go to Select > Color Range and using the Eyedropper Tool, select the white color by clicking on some of the white particles in your photo. Set the Fuzziness to 200, go to Select > Select and Mask, and choose the following settings:

Making and refining the selection

Step 17

Now hide this layer, go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and name it Temp_2.

Creating a new layer

Step 18

Set the foreground color to #ffffff, go to Edit > Fill, and set Contents to Foreground Color, Mode to Normal, and Opacity to 100% as shown below. Then, press Control-D on your keyboard to deselect the selection.

Filling selection

Step 19

Now Right-click on the Temp_1 layer and choose Delete Layer. Then, select the Temp_2 layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 2.5 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filter

Step 20

Press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer again, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the Radius to 5 px as shown below. Then, press Control-J on your keyboard once more, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the Radius to 9.5 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filter

Step 21

Now press Control-J on your keyboard twice to duplicate this layer twice. Then, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 55 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filter

Step 22

Press Control-J on your keyboard twice again to duplicate this layer two more times. Then, Shift-click on the Temp_2 layer to select all layers between, and then press Control-E to merge them into one layer.

Merging layers

Step 23

Name this layer Sparkles_2 and drag it just below the Sparkles_1 layer in the Layers panel.

Arranging layers

Step 24

Now Control-click on the Sparkles_1 layer to select both layers at the same time. Then, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from the selected layers, and name it Sparkles.

Creating new group from layers

Step 25

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All to add a layer mask that hides the whole layer folder. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff, choose the Brush Tool (B), and pick some soft brush. After that, brush over the areas where you want sparkles to appear.

Brushing into mask

3. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make final adjustments to the design. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color_1.

Creating new curves adjustment layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel use the settings below:

Adjusting curves

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance to create a new color balance adjustment layer and name it Color_2. Then, drag this layer just below the Color_1 layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new color balance adjustment layer

Step 4

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel use the settings below:

Adjusting color balance

Step 5

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color_3. Then, drag this layer just below the Color_2 layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new curves adjustment layer

Step 6

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel use the settings below:

Adjusting curves

Step 7

Select the Color_1 layer thumbnail and press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall Contrast.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 8

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and set the Opacity to 19%.

Changing blending mode and opacity

Step 9

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation to create a new hue/saturation adjustment layer and name it Overall Saturation.

Creating new hue and saturation adjustment layer

Step 10

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel use the settings below:

Adjusting saturation

Step 11

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels to create a new levels adjustment layer and name it Overall Brightness.

Creating new levels adjustment layer

Step 12

Now Double-click on this item thumbnail and in the Properties panel enter the settings below:

Adjusting levels

Step 13

Press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a screenshot and then press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer. Then, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 2 px as shown below:

Adding high pass filter

Step 14

Name this layer Overall Sharpening and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Hard Light.

Changing blending mode

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! Here is our final result:

Final result

If you would like to create the even more advanced sparkles effect shown below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my Christmas Photoshop Action.

The action works so you simply brush over your subject and just play the action. The action will do everything for you, giving you fully layered and customizable results. The action also creates 20 preset color looks that you can choose from.

The action comes with a detailed video tutorial that demonstrates how to use the action and customize the results to get the most out of the effect.

Action final result
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