Photoshop tutorial: Put a cutting edge spin on the lens flare effect

Get ready to become reacquainted with one of digital imaging software's strongest effects
  • Fabio Sasso (Digital Arts Magazine)
  • 15 September, 2010 13:20

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Photoshop’s Lens Flare filter is an effect that’s been so over used over the years, it’s become something of a cliché in digital illustration. Which is a shame, since in the right situation, it can provide a powerful lighting enhancement to a piece. Luckily, Fabio Sasso has provided us with a tutorial that shows you that if you have a strong idea and unique execution, it doesn’t matter if you tap an effect that’s been long over-exposed to achieve the result you want. You’ll learn how to present exciting variations on an old theme through changing the position of the lens flares and creative use of the blending modes, brush tools and colour. So get ready to become reacquainted with one of digital imaging software’s strongest effects. Just stay away from those default settings...

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Step 1 Open Photoshop and create a new document. Add a new layer and fill it with any colour. Label this layer as ‘Blue gradient’, then go to Layer > Layer Style > Gradient Overlay. For the gradient colours, use #0c0c36 for the dark blue and #25245e for the light purple.

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Step 2 Add a new layer and fill it with black. Next, go to Filter > Render > Lens Flare and select the 105mm Prime Lens Type with 100% Brightness. Then select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use 30 pixels for the Radius. The last thing to do with this layer is to change its blending mode to Color Dodge.

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Step 3 Add another layer and again, fill it with black. Then go to Filter > Render > Lens Flare and choose the 50-300mm Zoom Lens Type with 100% Brightness. Repeat the same processes for the Gaussian Blur and blending mode as in Step 2.

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Step 4 With the Rectangle tool (U), add a white rectangle the width of the page and place it in the centre. Select this layer and go to Layer > Group Layers. The rectangle layer will be inside a folder. Change the blending mode of the folder to Color Dodge.

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Step 5 Select the rectangle layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use 20 pixels for the Radius. As this layer is inside a folder with Color Dodge, the blurry edges will create a really interesting lighting effect.

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Step 6 Add a new layer inside the folder with the rectangle. Select the Brush tool (B) with a very soft brush and, using white for the colour, paint a second light source.

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Step 7 Repeat the same process with the Rectangle tool (U) and the Brush tool (B) to add more elements to your design. For the light in the centre, create a few vertical lines and then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Use 90º for the Angle and set the Distance to 90. This will create a stylish reflection effect.

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Step 8 Now go to Window > Brush. Select a basic rounded brush and set the Hardness to 0% and the Spacing to 80%. Then add another layer inside the folder with the other light effects. Click on an area close to the centre and, holding the Shift key, click on the bottom left to create a line of dots. If the effect is too strong, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and soften it a little bit. Change the Opacity to 70%.

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Step 9 Add another layer and paint a few light spots with the Brush tool (B) using white for the colour near the big lens flare. Next, go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Use 15 for the Amount, Zoom for the Blur Method and Best for the Quality.

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Step 10Add a layer on top of the others and then, using the Brush tool (B) with a big soft brush, paint a large pink spot and 2 large blue spots. Change the blending mode to Hard Light and the Opacity to 50%.

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Step 11 With the Ellipse tool (U) add a white ellipse. Go to Layer > Layer Styles > Blending Options. Change the Fill Opacity to 0, then select Inner Shadow. Use Pink for the colour and Linear Dodge for the blending mode. Set the Angle to 90º, the Distance to 0, the Choke to 14% and the Size to 250 pixels.

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Step 12 Group this layer into another folder and make it invisible (Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All). Select the Brush tool (B) and with a medium-sized rounded brush, paint with white over the layer mask just so a little bit of the left and right areas of the ellipse are visible. Repeat the same technique to create another lens reflection, but this time smaller.

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Step 13Now we’re going to put a yellow filter effect over the whole thing. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter. Select Yellow for the Filter and 90% for the Density.

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Step 14 Select all layers and duplicate them, then merge all the duplicated layers into a single layer. You can also do this using a keyboard shortcut (Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E). Next, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Move this layer so it will be beneath the Photo Filter layer, then change the blending mode to Screen with the Opacity set to 50%.