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  1. Design & Illustration
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Design

How to Make a Spotlight Effect Photoshop Action

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

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a spotlight effect Photoshop action to add amazing special effects to your images. 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 photo 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 spotlight effect Photoshop action shown below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my Dust Storm Photoshop Action.

action final results

What You'll Need

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

1. How to Start Creating an Action

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 2000–4500 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 mode and size

Step 2

Now we need to expand the canvas on the top and bottom so we have more space around the subject on these sides. Go to Image > Canvas Size and use the settings below:

expanding canvas

Step 3

Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner, choose New Set to create a new set, and name it Spotlight. Then, click on the same menu icon again, choose New Action to create a new action, and name it Spotlight.

creating new action

2. How to Select the Subject

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make a selection of our subject and then copy the subject to a separate layer. Choose the Quick Selection Tool (W) and select the background of the photo. Use the Shift-Alt buttons on your keyboard to add or subtract areas from the selection. After you've made a perfect selection, press Control-Shift-I on your keyboard to invert the selection.

making selection

Step 2

Now go to Select > Modify > Smooth and set the Sample Radius to 5 px. Next, go to Select > Modify > Contract and set Contract By to 2 px. Finally, go to Select > Modify > Feather and set Feather Radius to 2 px.

modifying selection

Step 3

Press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using a selection, and name this new layer Subject.

creating new layer using selection

3. How to Create the Background

In this section, we are going to create the background. Select the Background layer, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color to create a new solid color fill layer, name it Background Color, and choose the color #000000.

creating new solid color fill layer

4. How to Create the Light Source

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the light source. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient Fill to create a new gradient fill layer, name it Light Source, and use the settings below:

creating new gradient fill layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, using the Move Tool (V), click and drag anywhere inside the canvas to position the gradient fill as shown below.

positioning layer

Step 3

Select the Subject layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate it. Then, go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and set the Angle to and Distance to 1000 px.

adding motion blur filter

Step 4

Now press Control-Alt-F on your keyboard to apply the previous filter again. Then, press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer. After that, using the Move tool (V), click and drag anywhere inside the canvas to position the layer as shown below:

duplicating layer

Step 5

Press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer and, using the Move tool (V), click and drag anywhere inside the canvas to position the layer as shown below:

duplicating layer

Step 6

Now Shift-click on the Subject copy layer to select all layers between. Then, press Control-E on your keyboard to merge these layers into one layer. After that, press Control-J to duplicate this new layer.

merging layers

Step 7

Control-click on the Subject copy 3 layer to select both layers at the same time. Then, press Control-E on your keyboard to merge these layers into one layer. After that, using the Move Tool (V), click and drag anywhere inside the canvas to position the layer as shown below:

merging layers

Step 8

Now Control-click on this layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and select the layer mask of the Light Source layer. After that, go to Edit > Fill, and set Contents to Foreground Color, Mode to Normal, and Opacity to 100% as shown below:

filling selection with foreground color

Step 9

Press Control-D on your keyboard to deselect the selection. Then, Right-click on the Subject copy 4 layer and choose Delete Layer to delete this layer.

deleting layer

Step 10

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and select the layer mask of the Light Source layer. Then, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, set the Opacity of the brush to 50%, and brush as shown below:

brushing onto layer mask

Step 11

Press X on your keyboard to exchange the swatches and Control-click on the Subject layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, press Control-Shift-I to inverse the selection. After that, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, set the Opacity of the brush to 100%, and brush as shown below:

brushing onto layer mask

Step 12

Now press Control-D on your keyboard to deselect the selection. Then, in the Properties panel, set the Density of the layer mask to 95%.

adjusting layer mask density

5. How to Blend the Subject

Step 1

In this section we are going to blend the subject with the background. Now Right-click on this layer, choose Blending Options, check Gradient Overlay, and use the settings below:

adding layer style

Step 2

Now go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole layer. Then, go to Image > Apply Image and use the settings below:

applying image

Step 3

Right-click on this layer, choose Blending Options, select Gradient Overlay, and change the Blend Mode to Multiply.

adjusting layer style

Step 4

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light.

changing blending mode

Step 5

Control-click on this layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection. After that, drag this new layer to the top of the layers in the Layers panel.

creating new layer using selection

Step 6

Now Control-click on this layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, go to Select > Modify > Contract and set Contract By to 40 px. After that, go to Select > Modify > Feather and set the Feather Radius to 50 px.modifying selection

Step 7

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection to add a layer mask that reveals the selected area of the layer.

adding layer mask

Step 8

Now select the thumbnail of this layer and press Control-Shift-U on your keyboard to desaturate it. Then, change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and name it Subject Contrast.

changing blending mode

Step 9

Control-click on the Subject layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, go to Select > Modify > Contract, set Contract By to 2 px, and press Control-Shift-I to invert the selection. After that, select the Subject layer, press Delete to delete the selected area of the layer, and press Control-D to deselect the selection.

refining layer

6. How to Create the Texture

Step 1

In this section we are going to create the texture. Select the Subject Contrast layer, go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and name it Texture.

creating new layer

Step 2

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Filter > Render > Clouds. After that, press Control-T on your keyboard to transform this layer and set the Width and Height of the layer to 150%.

transforming layer

Step 3

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Overlay and set the Opacity to 25%.

changing blending mode and opacity

7. How to Make the Final Adjustments.

Step 1

In this section we are going to make some final adjustments to the design. Right-click on the Light Source layer and choose Rasterize Layer. Then, click on the link icon between the layer and layer mask to unlink them. After that, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 50 px.

adding gaussian blur filter

Step 2

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and X to exchange them. Then, select the layer mask of this layer, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, and brush as shown below:

brushing onto layer mask

Step 3

Now go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 7 px.

adding gaussian blur filter

Step 4

Select the Texture layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer, and name it Color Look.

creating new curves adjustment layer

Step 5

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

adjusting curves

Step 6

Control-click on the Subject layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection. After that, drag this layer just above the Subject Contrast layer in the Layers panel.

creating new layer using selection

Step 7

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole layer. After that, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, and brush as shown below:

brushing onto layer mask

Step 8

Select this layer thumbnail and press Control-Shift-U on your keyboard to desaturate it. Then, change the Opacity of this layer to 10% and name it Subject Details.

changing opacity

Step 9

Now 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 S_D_Contrast.

creating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 10

Press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask. Then, change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light.

changing blending mode

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! You have now learned how to create a glow effect Photoshop action to add amazing Photoshop effects to your photos by using various Photoshop filters along with other techniques. Here is our final result:

final result

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

With this action, you can create amazing spotlight Photoshop effects from your photos with no work at all! Simply fill in your subject with a color and play the action. It’s really that simple! The action will do all the work for you, giving you fully layered and customizable results that you can further modify.

You can choose from eight different lighting directions, and the action also creates 40 preset color looks that you can choose from. A snowstorm action is also included!

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 results

Do you like Photoshop actions and effects? Then you may also like:


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