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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Lightning Brush in Photoshop

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today we will be learning how to make a lightning brush in Photoshop. Add drama and energy to your photos with just a click of a mouse with a lightning bolt Photoshop brush! I'll then show you how to create a lightning effect in Photoshop by applying your brush to a photograph.

What You Will Learn in This Adobe Photoshop Brush Tutorial

  • How to create a lightning brush in Photoshop
  • How to apply lightning brushes to a photo
  • How to create quick lightning effects with layer modes 
  • How to create a quick stormy color grade 
  • How to add fire to a photo

What You'll Need

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

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Create a Lightning Brush in Photoshop

Step 1

Import a photo of a Lightning Bolt on a dark but clear sky. 

How to Create a Lightning Brush in Photoshop

Step 2

Create a white to black Gradient Map adjustment layer, which will turn the image greyscale. 

turn the image greyscale

Step 3

Next, create a Levels adjustment layer above the gradient map layer. Use this layer to increase the contrast of the image so that the lightning becomes darker and the sky becomes whiter. 

increase contrast

Step 4

Create a new layer under both adjustment layers, keeping it set to Normal.

Using a combination of both a hard and soft round Brush, paint black in the areas that still need to be hidden, like the sky. Make sure there are no harsh edges.

paint white

Step 5

Finally, go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. 

If the option is greyed out, simply Right-Click > Merge Visible all of your layers and try again.

Define Brush Preset

Step 6

Create a whole set of lightning brushes using the same method!

2. How to Apply Lightning Brushes to a Photo

Step 1

You can use your new lightning brush by selecting the Brush Tool and going into the Brush Preset Picker. It will appear below all previous brush presets. 

Step 2

Open your photo and create a new layer.

Use the new lightning brush to stamp a bolt of lightning in the sky. This is the start of our lightning effect in Photoshop.

paint lighting strike

Step 3

You can stamp multiple times in the same place to make the lightning appear brighter and more solid. 

brighten lightning

Step 4

Use a soft round Eraser brush to erase any edges and to further blend the lightning into the clouds. 

erase edges

3. How to Create Quick a Lightning Effect Using Layer Modes 

Step 1

Create a new layer and stamp a second lightning strike. 

stamp lighting brush

Step 2

Set the layer to Overlay.

set to overlay

Step 3

Duplicate the lightning layer twice. You can duplicate it more or less depending on the image and how strong you want the lightning effect to be. 

duplicate lightning

Step 4

Group all three layers together, adding a Layer Mask to the group. 

Use a soft Eraser brush to erase any harsh edges, blending the lightning into the clouds just like before. 

erase edges

Step 5

You can use a soft round Brush set to white to further enhance the light flares coming from the lightning. 

Either paint white directly on one of the lightning layers or create a new layer set to Overlay and paint the blooms of light. 

increase lighting

4. How to Create a Fast Stormy Color Grade

Step 1

Once you are happy with your lightning strikes, create a Color Lookup adjustment layer above all current layers. Find them by going to Window > Adjustments.

Step 2

Set the 3DLUT dropdown menu to Foggy Night. 

foggy night

Step 3

Set the Foggy Night layer mode to Multiply.

set to multiply

Step 4

Bring the Foggy Night layer down to 57% Opacity.

reduce opacity

5. How to Add Fire to a Photo in Photoshop

Step 1

We can finish up our image with some quick and easy fire effects! And while a lightning strike wouldn't cause a fire to spread this quickly, who's to say a few lightning strikes wouldn't! 

Find a photo of Fire and drop it onto your canvas, below the color lookup layer but above everything else. 

An image of burning sticks works best if you are creating a flaming tree effect. 

Step 2

Set the fire's layer mode to Screen.

set fire to screen

Step 3

Shrink and place the fire over the tree. Hold Shift to squish the image horizontally if needed. 

place fire

Step 4

Enhance the fire's color and saturation by going to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Set it to Hue +13 and Saturation +30. This will make it a more vibrant orange. 

increase color

Conclusion 

We are done! That is all there is to creating a lightning brush in Photoshop. Remember to create a whole set of them so that a dramatic lightning strike is only a couple of clicks away! 

How to Create a Lightning Brush in Photoshop

In a Hurry? 

In a hurry and need a premium set of lightning brushes to create a lightning effect in Photoshop right now? Check out Envato Elements! Here are my top five favorite lightning bolt brushes for Photoshop.

50 Lightning Photoshop Brushes

50 Lightning Photoshop Brushes

Get 50 high-quality lightning strikes and thunderstorm effects with this premium pack of Photoshop brushes. A powerful tool for concept artists, designers, photographers, and matte-painters!

180 Electrifying Lightning Strikes

180 Electrifying Lightning Strikes

This pack contains a whopping 180 high-quality sky lightning strike and lightning bolt brushes! Save yourself hours of brush making by getting everything you need, all in one pack!

30 Storm Lightning Ptohoshop Stamp Brushes

 30 Storm Lightning Ptohoshop Stamp Brushes

These lightning brush textures are high resolution and are a great addition to any project. Use them in a digital photo manipulation, as visual effects for games or artwork, or just as decorative digital elements!

30 Bold Lightning Photoshop Stamp Brushes

30 Bold Lightning Photoshop Stamp Brushes

Grab these bold lightning brushes, full of high-res lightning brushes that are sure to fill up the sky of all of your photos with highly detailed lightning strikes! 

30 Thin Lightning Photoshop Stamp Brushes

30 Thin Lightning Photoshop Stamp Brushes

Looking for something a bit more classic? Then look no further than these 30 thin lightning strike stamp brushes! They're perfectly thin, but they still pack a punch. Create bright streaks of light with just a few clicks of the mouse. 


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