Create a realistic lightning in Photoshop

Today we have a small lesson that will help “charge” your photos with a zipper drawn in Photoshop. In the lesson we will add lightning to this eerie cemetery. We will create it ourselves without tricks using ready-made photos.

This is a popular method for creating lightning. I have seen many lessons that promise to teach something, but in the end they boil down to a simple use of the finished image. Personally, this approach disappoints me. As with most of the lessons from PhotoshopCAFE, I will teach you how to create everything yourself. Each discharge of lightning will be unique and personal! I have a written lesson and video. Video tutorials are good to see how everything is done. Bookmark this page and then be able to return to it quickly. I shot a lot of step-by-step video tutorials for PhotoshopCAFE, simplifying learning. Even if you watched the video, scroll down to the end of the lesson. There are usually published alternative ways to create an effect, ideas or tips for its implementation.

When Halloween is coming, everyone wants to make their images darker. This cemetery photo is scary in itself, but the realistic lighting perfectly completes the scene. In today’s lesson we will learn how to create lightning from scratch.

Step 1

Open the desired photo, create a new layer. Add a black and white gradient, place it diagonally, with the direction from the top left to the bottom right.

Step 2

Go to menu Filter> Rendering> Overlay Clouds (Filters> Render> Difference Clouds).

It should get something like this.

Step 3

Now invert the clouds by clicking Ctrl + I.

You can already see some semblance of lightning.

Step 4

Adjust the levels by highlighting the lightning. To open the window Levels (Levels) use Ctrl + L. Move the left slider to the right, approximately to the middle of the histogram. Move the middle slider to the right edge of the histogram.

Step 5

Select a black brush and clean the zipper by filling in unwanted areas.
Note: it is better to work with a brush on a separate layer.

Step 6

Change the layer’s overlay mode to Screen (Screen). This will allow the image below it to shine through.

Also activate Free transform (Free Transform) by clicking Ctrl + T. Scale, rotate and move the layer with the lightning so that the lightning bolt hits one of the objects in the photo.

Step 7

Repeat steps 1-6, creating several forms of lightning.

Duplicate the layers and scale them by building smaller branches of lightning. Reuse each layer as much as possible, this will help to save maximum time. Reflection and rotation allows you to use each piece several times. Do not be afraid to apply layer masks, separating the desired pieces and giving the finished category a more natural look.

At the moment you should have something like this:

Step 8

Merge all layers with zippers. To do this, select them, and then click Ctrl + E. Be careful not to touch the background. After all lightnings have become one layer, it may again be necessary to change the layer blending mode to Screen (Screen).

Step 9

Now add some color (optional). Double click on the zipper layer to open the window Layer style (Layer Style). Select item Color overlay (Color Overlay).

Choose bluish / magenta color.

Change the blending mode to Chromaticity (Color).

Step 10

You will notice that the color covers a significant part of the layer, and we need it to affect only the lightning.

At the top of the window Layer styles (Layer Style) click on item Overlay options: default (Blending Options: Custom). This will open an additional menu.

The trick here is to tick Overlaying internal effects as a group (Blend Interior Effects as a group).

Notice now the color applies only to the zipper.

Step 11

Make some final color and opacity adjustments to better blend the zipper with the background photo.


Additional materials

If you want to experiment more, choose one of the lightning colors with a pipette. Create a new layer and fill it with this color.

Change the blending mode to Chromaticity (Color) and get this effect.

You can add a gradient mask layer so that the color applies only to the top if you want more realism.

That’s all. This is my attempt to create a zipper that used the techniques mentioned 13 years ago in my original lesson.

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