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How to Create a Sparkle Overlay Effect in Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Do you know how to create particle effects in Photoshop? You can use this technique for many magical photo effects, in many different ways. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a sparkle overlay effect—a special texture that you can use to add a sparkle effect to any photo!

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

Save time by using a Photoshop Action from Envato Elements. To add this sparkle overlay effect to any photo, just brush over the selected areas and play the action—colorful sparkles will appear automatically!

Sparkle Photoshop Action

How to Create a Sparkle Overlay Effect in Photoshop

Step 1

First, create a New File. Use these dimensions:

file dimensions

Step 2

Use the Rectangle Tool (U) to make the background three-colored—this will help us adjust the effect to every level of brightness.

create universal background

Step 3

Create a New Layer. Fill it with black using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Then go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Use these settings.

add noise

Step 4

Add a Curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves). Drag both ends of the curve towards the “hill” in the background. Then click between these points and drag this new point down, to increase the contrast.

add curves adjustment layer
increase contrast with curves

Step 5

Go back to the noise layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Adjust the Radius to turn the noise into a starry sky.

add gaussian blur
create stars in photoshop

Step 6

Click the curves layer and press Control-Shift-Alt-E twice to create two merged versions of the whole image. Hide the layers below and one of the copies.

duplicate whole image

Step 7

Press Control-T and make the stars five times larger.

resize the layer

Step 8

Go to the Channels tab, hold Control, and click any of the thumbnails. Then go back to the Layers tab, create a New Layer, and fill it with white. If you delete the lower layer now, you’ll see the black background has been removed. Name this layer “Big Sparkles”.

copy channel selection
remove black background

Step 9

Duplicate Big Sparkles by pressing Control-J. Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Adjust the settings to create a subtle smudge.

add motion blur
add smudge

Step 10

Duplicate Big Sparkles again and add Motion Blur to it. This time, make the smudge longer. Lower its Opacity to make the effect more natural.

add stronger blur
add shiny particles
lower the opacity

Step 11

Repeat the process once more, this time using an opposite angle. Don’t forget to lower the Opacity each time!

add opposite blur
add snow photoshop
add strong blur
create shiny stars

Step 12

Select all the sparkles by holding Shift, and make a group out of them (Control-G). Name the group Big Sparkles. Add a Layer Mask to the group.

create new group

Step 13

Go to Filter > Render > Clouds. This will add a little variety to the sparkles. To make it more visible, press Control-L and drag the right marker to the left.

make texture more natural
add clouds

Step 14

Duplicate the group. Right-click it and select Merge Group, and then right-click the Layer Mask and select Apply Layer Mask. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and adjust the Radius to create a nice glow around the sparkles.

add gaussian blur
create sparkles in photoshop

Step 15

Let’s add some smaller sparkles now. Show the second merged layer you created at the beginning, make it twice as large, and remove its black background the same way we did before. Name this layer Small Sparkles.

add small sparkles

Step 16

Hold Alt and drag the Layer Mask of the Big Sparkles group to Small Sparkles. Then go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. The preview will not tell us much, but experiment with Brightness and Threshold and see how it works.

add lens blur

Step 17

Duplicate this layer and make it four times larger. You may need to duplicate it once or twice to see the effect better.

add bokeh photoshop

Step 18

All right, the sparkles are done, but they’re completely invisible on the light background. Let’s fix it by adding a black filled layer on the bottom. Add a Layer Mask to it and paint with a soft black brush in the middle. Then lower the Opacity to around 50%.

add black background
lower opacity of shadow

Step 19

The sparkle overlay effect is done! Now simply hide the background to make it ready to use.

hide the background

Step 20

If you want to add this sparkle effect to a photo, just open your photo, go to File > Place, and select this file. Resize it to your needs. If you want to adjust something, just double-click the Smart Object and you’ll get a chance to edit everything once again.

dust particle effect photoshop
sparkle effect photoshop
add dust particles photoshop
particle effect photoshop

Photoshop Particle Effects

Sparkle Photoshop Action

To add this sparkle overlay effect to any photo, just brush over the selected areas and play the action—colorful sparkles will appear automatically!

Sparkle Photoshop Action

Glitterstorm Photoshop Action

Turn your photo into glitter with this action! You can convert the whole photo, or create a trendy Photoshop dispersion effect with it.

dust particle effect photoshop

Shimmer Photoshop Action

If you want to add a dust particle effect, with this action you only need to paint over the selected area and press play!

add dust particles photoshop

Magic Bokeh - Animated Photoshop Action

This professional Photoshop action will allow you to create stunning animated light effects from your photos with a lot of options to customise and improve them. You can save the result as a static image, a video for social media, or an animated GIF file. Create an animated sparkle effect in no time!

how to create particle effects in photoshop

Sparkler Photoshop Action

With this action, you can turn any line into sparkler art! Just draw your outlines over the photo and play the action.

Sparkler Photoshop Action

Good Job!

Now you know how to create a sparkle overlay effect in Photoshop! You can modify this technique to create other photo effects as well—add snow, create bokeh, or add dust particles. Photoshop makes it all easy!

sparkle effect photoshop

And if you need other types of sparkle photo effects, try one of these tutorials as well:

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