Paint Glowing Light With 2 Basic Photoshop Tools: Brushes and Levels Adjustments
I watched a new video recently about how to paint glowing light with 2 basic Photoshop tools. The video, Pet Elephant Walk Through, demos many different tools and techniques, but Brushes and Levels Adjustment stand out as key ingredients. I’ve always used third party plugins to create glow effects, but never was 100% satisfied with the result. I’ve also learned many techniques for how to paint glowing light in Photoshop without plugins, but these seem to fall short, too. Pet Elephant Walk Through is the first tutorial I’ve encountered that puts it all together. The video shows every step needed to create soft luminous glow across a photograph or illustration — but you can use just the Brushes and Levels Adjustment. It isn’t difficult, and you have total control over the process.
Brushes and Levels are housed within Photoshop, so you don’t need external or additional tools. I worked on the image below while watching the video replay many times. Because the video’s silent, I paused it often for a close look at the instructor’s control panel settings. At each step, I applied the same settings to my own image. Although I used a completely different background photograph, elephant, and child, I was able to achieve a similar glow effect. You can, too!
Some knowledge of Adobe Photoshop will help as you paint glowing light with Brushes and Levels Adjustment.
1. Photoshop Brushes: In the Brush Panel, find the Soft Round and Hard Round brush presets. Select the hard round brush and set Hardness to 2%.
Add a new layer above the background layer. Select a color to match a natural light source, such as a sun, or lamp, and apply your brush to the new layer. The brush “paints” color wherever you choose.
To achieve the glow effect, use different hard and soft brushes and vary the opacity and blending modes in the Layers Panel. Soft Light is a good place to start with blending modes. See the how the background changes with each new layer and variation.
To modify a selected area of a subject or item, create a new layer above it. Clip that layer to the subject and apply your brush. This helps blend the entire image, giving it more depth and color consistency. In the image above, notice how the pale orange light from the background spills onto the elephant. This is the brush effect.
Continue adding new layers and applying brushes with varying sizes and Softness/Hardness levels. I started with 2% Hardness, but try going from 0%-100% on new layers to observe how coloration from the brushes alters subjects and the background. Remember to add new layers above each new brush layer.
2. Photoshop Levels. Levels affects tonal range and color balance by modifying intensity of shadows, midtones, and highlights.
In the Adjustments Panel, select Levels and click on it to create a new layer above the background image. Clip that new layer to the background or subject in the background (if that subject is already isolated on its own layer).
First, to darken shadows, midtones, and highlights:
- Drag the slider button on the lower bar from the left into the middle. You’ll see either the whole image or your selected area darken.
- Click on the Levels Adjustment Mask on that layer and select Invert. Your selection will appear unchanged, no longer dark.
- On the mask, dab or drag a brush with 100% white.
- Use the Multiply Blending Mode and reduce Opacity to about 70%-80%.
Second, to lighten shadows, midtones, and highlights:
- Create a new layer between the background (or subject) and the first Levels Adjustment layer.
- Drag the slider button on the lower bar from the right into the middle. You’ll see either the whole image or your selected area lighten.
- Follow the same next steps above, but focus on adding light to edges where natural light would fall. This creates a more dynamic tonal quality and helps blend a subject into the background image. Then use the Soft Light Blending Mode and try different Opacity levels.
Paint glowing light with 2 basic Photoshop tools. Use Brushes and Levels Adjustment to create luminous glow on any photograph or illustration. For more great tutorials and digital resources about how to paint glowing light with 2 basic photoshop tools, take a look at Story Art Education. I became a member and affiliate recently. I highly recommend this website for photographers, illustrators, Photoshop users, and others interested in creating beautiful digital art.