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Rays of Light

Moving On...

Poor, uncool picture.

I often get asked how I get those little beams of light in many of my pictures. Here's a little tutorial on how to quickly get pretty convincing sun or moonbeams. This tutorial was created for photoshop, but if you are using another program (with layers) you may still have some luck with it.

I have this warrior character standing against a moonlit sky. However, the moon isn't very convincing, even with the light it casts upon the sky. It's time to add some rays of light!

Grab the lasso tool.

To create a beam of light, You are going to use something called the "polygonal lasso tool". This tool is located in the toolbar. It will allow you to create shapes that have straigt edges (such as a triangular moon or sun ray)

Feather out the pixels.

After clicking the lasso tool, you'll want to toggle the options. If you're using a later version of photoshop, the options will appear horizontally along the top bar. If you are using an older version, you will have an options window, much like you have a layers window. By default, it will be set to give you a very hard, crisp edge. Since rays of light are less then substantial, you'll want to "feather" (fade) the edges. I usually use a setting somewhere between 10-20 pixels. The larger the feather, the more blurred the rays will be.

Create a new layer.

I'm going to create a layer specifically for the moonbeams. This is important because you're going to want to erase into them later without having to worry about changing the rest of your image.

Make some more ;-)

I create triangular looking shapes radiating out from the moon. Since I have the "feather" option on, my selection will look smaller and more rounded then the actual clicks that I made; however, my selection is still large, even if the selection area appears to be small.

Start painting.

By holding down "shift" while I use the lasso, I am able to continue to add more beams. Try not to get the beams to large, or they will not be believable.

Grab the gradient tool.

I then select the gradient tool. I selected a light blue for my color, and I have the gradient set to fade from my foreground color (the light blue) to nothing. This will allow the rays to be brighter near their source (the moon) and fade off into nothingness. I also set the gradient to be a radial (circular) one instead of a linear one due to the fact that the moon is round, and it's light will radiate around it.


I drag the gradient from the moon outward. The rays have now been painted. You may deselect them.


I then go in with an airbrush eraser and start softening the rays by gently removing a good deal of the color. Soft rays are more believable then in-your-face light rays; Beams of light will only be REALLY brignt in extreme lighting conditions, such as spells, or blasts of some sort. Your rays are now complete!

Yay, now the warrior is awesome. Lucky for her that I know photoshop.

To bring the whole image together, clouds and a background helped to make the image look finished.

Moving On...

All content © J "NeonDragon" Peffer.