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How to Create a Light Leak Photoshop Color Effect

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create Photoshop color effects for pictures using a light leak overlay and how to add an atmospheric fade effect with gradient fills and gradient maps. 

I created my Faded Presets Stories Action with plenty of different light leaks using the same method for my GraphicRiver portfolio.

Faded preset stories action promo image

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

Want to create even more Photoshop effects? Check out this list of useful Photoshop templates:

Tutorial Assets

You will need the following resources in order to complete this tutorial:

1. How to Create a Color Photo Effect Using a Gradient Map

Step 1

To create a color photo effect, we'll use a gradient map adjustment layer. Press Control-O and select the image you want to use.

Opening the image in photoshop

Step 2

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map.

creating gradient map

Step 3

Double-Click on the gradient map icon and create a gradient with the following settings:

  • Color: #4a595f; Location: 0%
  • Color: #ba8254; Location: 100%
Creating colors for the gradient map

Step 4

Change the Blending Mode of the gradient map to Color.

Changing the blending mode of the gradient map

2. How to Create Light Leaks in Photoshop

Step 1

Now we can start to create the light leaks. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient.

Creating gradient fill adjustment layer

Step 2

Double Click on the Gradient Fill layer and use the following settings:

  • Style: Reflected
  • Angle: -50.53°
  • Color: #89515e; Location: 0%
  • Color: #d26348; Location: 46%
  • Color: #ff9f3b; Location: 100%
setting up the parameters for the first gradient fill

Step 3

Change the Blending Mode of the gradient fill to Lighten.

changing the blending mode of the layer

Step 4

Create another gradient fill layer as we just did above, but use the following settings:

  • Style: Reflected
  • Angle: -160°
  • Color: #fd605b; Location: 26%
  • Color: #533664; Location: 46%
  • Color: #e05929; Location: 76%
  • Opacity: 0%; Location: 0%
  • Opacity: 100%; Location: 16%
  • Opacity: 100%; Location: 31%
  • Opacity: 100%; Location: 67%
  • Opacity: 100%; Location: 70%
  • Opacity: 0%; Location: 73%
Creating the second gradient fill layer

Step 5

Change the Blending Mode of the gradient fill to Lighten.

changing the blending mode of the light leak

Step 6

And for the last light leaks, let's create another gradient fill layer with the following settings:

  • Style: Linear
  • Angle: 140°
  • Color: #454543; Location: 0%
  • Color: #d96331; Location: 52%
  • Color: #d79863; Location: 100%
  • Opacity: 100%; Location: 23%
  • Opacity: 55%; Location: 27%
  • Opacity: 100%; Location: 40%
  • Opacity: 55%; Location: 69%
  • Opacity: 100%; Location: 90%
creating the light leak overlay

Step 7

Change the Blending Mode of the last gradient fill to Lighten.

changing the blending mode of the layer

Step 8

And finally, to make our image look a little more "faded", we need to create another adjustment layer. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Exposure and set the Offset to +0.0200.

creating the exposure adjustment layer

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

In this simple way, we can create a light leak Photoshop action using gradient maps and gradient fill layers to achieve different Photoshop color effects.

Final Result of the manipulation

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial, and feel free to contact me for any help with it. If you want to create similar effects using Photoshop actions for portraits, check my Faded Presets for Stories Action, which has a lot of fade effect Photoshop presets and light leak overlays, in my portfolio on GraphicRiver.

Faded presets stories action promo image

If you want to learn how to create similar Photoshop effects, be sure to check these tutorials:

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