Whether you are a fan or not, there's no denying that the Star Wars movies are inspirational material for children (and adults) everywhere who dream of being a Jedi and wielding the mighty weapon of Force users throughout the galaxy... the lightsaber!
With the release of the latest film, I thought it would be a great time to work out how to crate a lightsaber in Photoshop. With my son being a 12-year-old boy, you can just guess how excited he was to see himself as a Jedi!
So follow along on our quest to create a believable lightsaber effect in Photoshop and see how to turn your kids into Jedi knights!
1. Set Up the Photo Shoot
We all know that Jedi photos are all about the lightsaber. Every Star Wars fan fantasizes about wielding one of those elegant weapons from a more civilized age. But the setting, props and costume are all important to making the effect believable. These don't need to be elaborate and can usually be assembled from items found around your house.
The background should be a simple solid color. We used a white backdrop, but a solid color wall would work too.
We also had a costume that is supposed to be a Jedi outfit. We added a cloak borrowed from a friend, but any large dark expanse of cloth could work if it's draped over the head shoulders properly.
The lightsaber handle is nothing more than a simple vacuum attachment. The stand-in for the blade is one of my microphone boom poles, but a humble broomstick would work just as well.
Have fun thinking of different poses and positions. Encourage your young Padawan to be creative with fighting stances. But always keep the lightsaber in front so it isn't obscured in any way.
2. Process the Shots
Work together with your child to select a good shot to use. The Jedi are strong and stern, but not aggressively threatening. The shot should reflect that character.
The background will need to be replaced to give a more authentic setting. Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to create a selection of the figure. If the selection tool highlights an unwanted area, hold down the Alt key and use the tool to deselect that area.
Click the Refine Edge button and make the following settings:
- Engage the Smart Radius option
- Radius: 3 px
- Shift Edge: -10%
- Output to: Layer Mask
Convert the layer to a Smart Object by going to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. Then rename the layer to Jedi.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves and add a slight S-shaped curve as shown here to intensify the contrast of the figure.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. Adjust the settings until the gloss of the robe is clearly visible but the shadows are still deep and dark. For our image we set the Shadows at 24% and the Highlights at 32%.
Use the Crop Tool (C) to pull outwards on the sides of the canvas to extend it and create a more cinematic composition.
Add a New Layer below the Jedi layer and name it Gradient 1. Then use the Gradient Tool (G) with a linear gradient to add a subtle gradient going from the bottom right with color
#525156 to the top left with color
Go to Window > Extensions > Adobe Paper Texture Pro to launch the paper texture extension. Choose the Newt texture and Photoshop automatically adds that texture to a new layer. Set that layer to Overlay so it blends with the gradient behind it.
Add another New Layer and name it Gradient 2. Use the Gradient Tool (G) with a Black to Transparent gradient going from the bottom right corner towards the opposite corner. Then reduce the layer's Opacity to 20%.
At this point, all the major elements are taken care of. All except one... the lightsaber! For that, we will call in the young apprentice to take over.
3. Hey, Kids!
It's time for the most important (and the most fun) part of this project. I know you've always wanted to have your very own lightsaber! Now's your chance to see what it would be like if you really were a Jedi Knight!
First click on the Jedi layer in the Layers panel to make sure it is the active layer. Then go to Layer > New > New Layer (Shift-Control-N) and name the new layer Lightsaber.
Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to draw out a tall rectangular selection. Try to make the rectangle just slightly thicker than the fake sword in the photo.
Go to Edit > Fill and change the Contents to White. Then click OK to fill the box with white.
Remove the selection by going to Select > Deselect (Control-D). Then turn the layer into a Smart Object by going to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. The thumbnail image in the Layers panel will change to show that it is now a Smart Object.
Soften the edges of the white box by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use a Radius of 4.0 pixels.
Any true fan of Star Wars knows that a lightsaber is slightly tapered with a rounded point at the end. To start creating that shape, go to Edit > Transform > Warp. Set the Warp to Bulge and the Bend amount to 100%.
To create the tapered shape, go to Edit > Transform > Perspective. Pull in on one of the top corners of the box to make it narrower than the base.
At the base of the Layers panel, click on the Fx icon to select from a menu of Layer Styles. Choose the Outer Glow style.
Make the following settings for the Outer Glow layer style:
- Blend Mode: Screen
- Opacity: 100%
- Color: #0068cb
- Spread: 15%
- Size: 70 px
The bright blade looks good, but it needs that familiar glow around it. Create another new layer with Layer > New > New Layer (Shift-Control-N) and name it Glow. Make sure the Glow layer is beneath the Lightsaber layer.
Hold down the Control key and click on the Lightsaber layer in the Layers panel. This creates a selection in that shape, but make sure the Glow layer is still the active layer. Go to Edit > Fill and change the Contents to Color. Sample the color of the glow already surrounding the blade.
Cancel the selection with Select > Deselect (Control-D) and add a blur by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use a Radius of 35 pixels.
Near the top of the Layers panel, set the blending mode for this layer to Screen. This brightens up the effect and completes the effect. That's your lightsaber! Now it's time to put it into your hands.
Hold down the Shift key and click on the Lightsaber layer so both the Lightsaber and Glow layers are selected. Then click on the little chain link icon at the bottom of the panel. This will Link the layers together so they always move with each other.
Go to Edit > Free Transform (Control-T) to get the transformation handles around the lightsaber. Move the glowing blade into place and pull around the corners to rotate it to the correct angle. When it seems to be in the proper position, press the Enter key to finalize the transformation.
Wow, look at that! Just like a Jedi! The Force is strong with this one, to be sure. But now it is time to invite your parent to come back and help finish things up.
4. Finish Effects
Thanks to your little prodigy, the hard work is now done. But there's still more to do. The lightsaber needs to look as if it's fitting into the handle, and that stand-in needs to be removed.
Add a Layer Mask to the Lightsaber layer with Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Then use the Brush Tool (B) with black paint to gently paint out the glowing blade where it overlaps with the hilt.
The black stand-in is still visible behind the lightsaber and needs to be removed. Go to the Jedi layer and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to create a rough selection over the area that surrounds the black stick. Then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection to mask it out.
The lightsaber needs to be casting a blue light onto the Jedi. Create a New Layer over the Jedi layer for Blue Light and set the blending mode to Screen.
Switch to the Channels panel and Control-click on the RGB channel to create a selection of the luminous pixels. Back in the Layers panel, use the Add Layer Mask button at the base of the panel to create a mask from the selection. This ensures the blue light effect will only be applied to the highlight areas of the figure.
Click back on the Blue Light layer to make sure the focus is not on the mask. Use the Brush Tool (B) with a Soft Round Brush tip. Sample a light blue from the lightsaber glow and gently paint in the light effect onto the side of the Jedi's face and the folds of his robe directly behind the lightsaber. If the effect is too strong, reduce the layer Opacity.
Go to the topmost layer, the Lightsaber layer. and hold down the Alt key while going to Layer > Merge Visible (Shift-Control-E). This creates a merged layer at the top of the layer stack. Rename it Merged and convert it to a Smart Object.
Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter and in the Basic tab set the following:
- Clarity: +40
- Vibrance: +20
Switch to the Effects tab and set Post Crop Vignette Amount to -20 to darken the corners.
That's It. Complete, Your Training Is.
Well done, young Padawan! Welcome to the order of the Jedi Knights!
How did yours turn out? We'd love to see some fellow Jedi knights in the comments below.
I hope you and your child had as much fun with this project as my son and I did! I've got more Photoshop for Kids! tutorials along with some photo manipulation projects, custom brushes, and even more Photoshop fun. Check out my profile here at Envato Tuts+ for my other tutorials, quick tips, and courses.
Short on Time?
I fully encourage you to take the time to work through the tutorial, but I fully understand if you are short on time and need a quicker solution. If that’s the case, consider grabbing my glowing lightsaber graphic from Envato Market. It includes 8 different colors of lightsabers on a high resolution, layered Photoshop file. It’s even got a graphic for the new fiery tri-saber from the latest film, The Force Awakens.