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How to Create Your Own Light Ray Brushes From Scratch in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Photoshop Brushes from Scratch.
Photoshop in 60 Seconds: Create a Custom Texture Brush
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to make light rays in Photoshop using an easy technique. To do that, you'll use different filters and color adjustments.

These brushes are great if you want to enhance the existing light on your photos or add light ray overlays to your photo manipulations or paintings.

Short on time? Then check out our amazing Light Brushes available on Envato Market and Envato Elements.

What You Will Learn in This Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to prepare the base for the sun rays
  • How to create various sun rays
  • How to create the light ray Photoshop brushes
  • How to test your light beam Photoshop brushes

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

I'll show you how to create two basic brushes in this tutorial. After that, you can play with different settings to create many more. Let's get started!

If you want to learn these techniques via video, check out our lesson on the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

1. How to Prepare the Base for the Sun Rays

Step 1

Create a New Document in Photoshop. Set its Width and Height to 5000 Pixels and Resolution to 72. Press OK.

creating a new document

Step 2

Grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Pick a black color and Fill the Background layer with it. Create a new empty layer and name it SUN RAYS.

filling the backgound with black color and creating a new layer

Step 3

Grab the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and select the middle part of the image.

selecting the part of the background

Go to Select > Modify > Feather Selection and set Feather Radius to 200 pixels. Press OK.

creating a feather selection

Step 4

Set black as your Background and white as your Foreground.

switching the background and foreground color

Step 5

Make sure the SUN RAYS layer is active by clicking on it. Go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Go to Edit > Deselect.

adding clouds filter

2. How to Create Various Sun Rays

To create the base of our light beam Photoshop brushes, you need to blur the clouds you rendered in the previous step. There are plenty of variations of rays you can create. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create two different brushes.

Step 1

Select the SUN RAYS layer and hit Control-J to create a duplicate of the layer. Name the new layer SUN RAYS 1.

Make the SUN RAYS layer Invisible by clicking on the eye icon to the left of the layer.

creating a duplicate of the layer

Click on the SUN RAYS 1 layer. Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and set the panel as shown below. Set Amount to 99 and select the Zoom Blur Method. Move the Blur Center to the top left corner.

adding the blur effect

To create sunbeams in Photoshop, press OK. Take a look at the result of this step.

the result of blur effect

Step 2

To make the sun rays more visible, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and set the Input Levels to 25; 0.65; 205. Press OK.

adding the levels adjustments

Step 3

To add more details to the rays, you'll sharpen them a little in this step. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and set the Amount value to 1% and Radius to 180 Pixels. Press OK.

adding unsharp mask

This is the base for your first brush. Make this layer Invisible for now by clicking on the eye icon on the left side of the layer so you can focus on creating another brush.

making the layer invisible

Step 4

Right-click on the SUN RAYS layer and select Duplicate Layer or hit Control-J. Name the new layer SUN RAYS 2.

Creating second duplicate

Step 5

Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and set the Amount to 99. Select Zoom Blur Method and set the Blur Center to the upper center of the image. 

adding the radial blur effect

Press OK. To create a more visible effect, press Alt-Control-F on your keyboard to repeat it.

repeating the effect

Step 6

To make the sun rays narrower, go to Edit > Free Transform and transform them as shown below. Press OK to apply the changes.

transforming the layer

3. How to Create the Light Ray Photoshop Brushes

You've already created the shapes of your brushes. Now you need to make the actual brushes from them. I'll show you how to do that for the first brush. The process is the same for the second brush.

Step 1

Make the SUN RAYS 1 layer visible and the SUN RAYS and SUN RAYS 2 layers Invisible.

You need to invert the colors to create the proper shape of the brushes. Add a new Invert adjustment layer on top of all the layers.

creating invert adjustments layer

Go to Select > All to select the whole image. Go to Edit > Copy Merged to Copy it and Edit > Paste to Paste it.

Step 2

Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and name the brush Sun Rays 1.

creating brush preset

Step 3

Do the same with the SUN RAYS 2 layer to create another brush.

creating the second brush preset

4. How to Test Your Brushes

To create more variations of these two basic brushes, you can increase or decrease the contrast, sharpen them, make them wider or narrower with the Free Transform Tool, or set the blur from different directions. It's up to you which effect you prefer.

Before testing, let me give you a couple of tips on how you can create the most realistic results with your brushes:

  1. Study how light actually works and mimic it in your artworks. You can take a look at the photo in the preview to see real-life sun rays.
  2. Avoid using a pure white color while painting the light. It won't look realistic. Try some bright yellow or orange tones instead.
  3. Work with a lower brush opacity to get the most realistic result.
  4. Keep in mind the direction of the light. The rays should have the same direction.
  5. If you want to use the brushes on your photos, try to just enhance the light that is already on the photo.

Let's take a look at how the Sun Rays 1 brush works.

First Sun Rays Brush Preview on Image

In the photo below, you can see how the Sun Rays 2 brush works. Here, I've used it to highlight the existing rays in the photo and make them more obvious.

How the second sun ray brush works

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

In this tutorial, you've learned how to make light beams in Photoshop and convert them into brushes. You can use them to enhance the light in your photos or to create a new light source from scratch. To get the most realistic light, I recommend studying how natural light works and also using a low opacity.

I hope you'll have fun working with these brushes. I'm looking forward to seeing your results!

Ray Brush Photoshop Packs From Envato Market

Shine some gorgeous light into your photo manipulations or digital illustrations with amazing Light Brush Packs from Envato Market.

82 Light Effect Photoshop Brushes

Step up your game with this brilliant set of Photoshop brushes dedicated to various lighting effects. Explore 82 effects for incredible light flares, bokeh, and so much more! Create an amazing light ray overlay for your photo! Download this pack to get access to a bonus set of light leaks and sun flares.

82 Light Effect Brushes

Boke-Aji – 80 Large Bokeh Brushes

Boke-Aji  80 Large Bokeh Brushes

Do you want not only to create sunbeams in Photoshop but also to enhance your photos with awesome bokeh overlays? Check out this amazing package of light ray brushes with a great variety of different bokeh light effects.

Battlefield Photoshop Action

Battlefield Photoshop Action

If you need not just light ray brushes, but something more complex, then try this stunning action. This action adds amazing effects to your photos in a few simple steps. The final result is non-destructive and editable! 

75 Sunshine Photoshop Stamp Brushes

75 Sunshine Photoshop Stamp Brushes

This ray brush Photoshop collection contains 75 hi-res elements and could be a great addition to any project. Try them on your photos or add some special effects to flyers, cards, or banners.

Lens Flares V1

Lens Flares V1

In this light ray overlay pack, you will find four awesome transparent PNG files, which you could easily use just by dragging and dropping them onto your images. All of the light rays come in 5000x3000 px size and 300 dpi resolution, so they could be used almost for any purposes.

Prestalgia - 25 Nostalgic Effects and Light Leaks

Prestalgia - 25 Nostalgic Effects and Light Leaks

If you're a fan of vintage and retro photo effects, you won't want to miss this amazing product! Here you'll find fabulous vintage light leaks and color presets. Add one simple light effect or combine them to get more complex results. All the effects are non-destructive and extremely easy to use.

Now you know how to make light beams in Photoshop, but if you want to learn more about lighting and light ray overlay effects, check out these awesome tutorials:

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