Photoshop Tutorial : Light Effects

Light effects have become increasingly popular in advertising. In this tutorial I’m going to run through how to create a simple neon light effect on text and how to use the same styles to create other streaks of light using Photoshop.

1. Open the image that you want to apply the effects to. I’m using this picture of superman which can be downloaded from


2. The first thing I want to do is separate Superman from his background. On this particular background it’s easy to select Superman using the magic wand and then do a little bit of tidying up using the quick mask. Once you’ve made your selection, hit Ctrl + J (windows) or Cmd + J (mac) to add your selection to a new layer. Name this new layer “cutout”


3. To make the light effects stand out a bit more, I’ve added a black background underneath the cutout layer. I’ve also dragged the cutout layer down to the bottom left corner of the image.


4. Now to add some text. The colour is white and the font used here is called MA Sexy and it has a nice loopy handwriting feel about it. You can get it free from


5. With the new Super text layer selected, click on the “add a layer style” button on the layers panel and choose Outer Glow from the drop down menu.

Set the Blend Mode to Screen, Opacity to 100% and choose whatever colour you would like your light effect to be. I chose a bright red.

Set the Spread to 0% but give a fairly large size – this is something you can play around with to get the effect you like. I set mine to 185px.


6. Click OK. So now we have a bit of a glow coming from the word Super.


7. To make it look like the individual letters have a light effect applied to them we need to add a little more glow. Create a new layer and name it “Extra Glow”. Drag that layer underneath the Super text layer.

Apply a layer style again – choose Outer Glow – leave all the settings the same as before EXCEPT the Size. This needs to be smaller – in my case I set it to 51px. Then click OK. You won’t see any change yet because there is nothing on that layer yet – that’s our next step.


8. Select a very soft round brush and set the opacity of the brush to about 20%.


Start to paint around each of the letters in the word super. This will produce a nice, more authentic looking glow.


9. The next light effect I wanted to add was a bright orange glow around Superman. Create a new layer and name it “Spiral Glow”.

Use the pen tool to draw a spiral shape across superman’s body. When you’re happy with the spiral, set your paint brush to a hard, round, size 9 brush. Then on the Paths panel, click on the Stroke path with Brush.


10. This produces a nice clean spiral in front of superman. However we want to give the impression that the line is wrapping around Superman rather than just appearing in front of him. Select the eraser tool and erase alternate sections of the line so that the line appears to go behind Superman as well as in front.


11. Now add a glow to the Spiral layer in the same way you did in step in Step 5. Instead of adding a red glow, I’ve added a yellow glow but all of the other settings for the outer glow layer style are the same.

12. Create another layer called Extra Spiral glow and use the same settings as in Step 7. Now once again with a very soft, round brush set to about 20% opacity – draw on the spiral. This will give the glow some extra ummph.


That completes the light effects tutorial. Let me know if you find it useful.



  1. paul savage says:

    great tutorial Jennifer ! Now I need to get off my bum and try this, especially after you have gone to the trouble of explaining it so detailed. Also I do like that font, it’s , well SUPER 😉

  2. Jennifer Farley says:

    Cheers Paul.

    You never know when you might need to draw some bright streaks of light around yourself!

  3. martin pedersen says:

    great tutorial – but actually i’ve got a question, i’m having some trouble with the pen tool – it keeps on creating a vector shape – not just the line as in your tutorial – any idea why??

  4. Jennifer Farley says:

    Hi Martin,
    Thanks. Regarding the pen tool, when you select it from the toolbox you need to check the options in the toolbar options at the top of the screen. When you pick the pen tool, you will see three icons at the top left – the first is shape layers, which I think you had selected, the middle icon is for paths and the third icon is for pixels. You need to choose the middle icon so that you are drawing just the path. Hope this helps!

  5. Denise Testa says:

    This was interesting and fun…. I am going to practice it more. And good choice in characters…Superman… that is why I decided to try this one out!

  6. Filleraol says:

    was looking for a tutorial to make those kinda spirals around people/characters, and this was perfect !

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  9. Kenia says:

    ok, thanks!
    i really want to get CS4!
    im only 15
    and the only photoshop program i have
    is the really old
    adobe photoshop LE 6.0
    do you think i would be able to do this too?

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  11. Bert Florence says:

    Hello,thanks for this useful blogg, i really find many interesting things on it and i really loved the design of the blogg. I found it on google. I also want to wish you a happy new year.

  12. Jennifer Farley says:

    Hi Brii
    I *think* you should be able to create this effect in elements. You might need to so a little workaround but most of the steps will be similar.

  13. Abhishek Gohel says:

    Hey Jennifer, Thank You for the simple steps to create the Light effect / Neon Lights …. the problem with me is that I am very bad when it comes to use the pen tool …. can u tell me the other way to create this object ???….. Do Reply!!!!

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