Sunday, July 21

CoffeeShop Adding Rays of Light UnWrapped Tutorial and Action: Part 1!

If you follow my blog (and I hope you do!), you might have noticed I have been obsessed with light in my photography lately.  I love capturing it in-camera, but it is also so much fun to add during post-processing.

I mentioned I would show you how to grab and enhance rays of light in your images when I posted the Mellow Yellow Sunlight action.   Today in Part 1 of the Rays of Light tutorial, I will show you one way I enhance the light in my images in the post-processing step.  This tutorial will not work in PSE, but I will post the free action that does work in both programs in my next post.  :-)

For this enhancement you must have an image with some light peeking through something. You want to add rays that would be possible in that situation but were not captured in-camera.

CoffeeShop Rays of Light Tutorial (Photoshop only, PSE/Photoshop Action):

1. Select an image that would be enhanced by sun rays.  Your image should have sun peeking through either trees, mountains, buildings, etc.  This image already has some in-camera light rays and I will add more.

Note that I always overdo my edits in my tutorials so you can see the differences in the before/afters on these small web images.  When you do your own edit you will probably want to make this enhancement more natural/subtle.

2.  Photoshop Users Only!  Click on the Channels tab in your editing pane and then click on the little circle on the bottom (see screenshot above).  This allows Photoshop to select your highlights, which is the bright light in this image.

3.  Click back on the Layers tab and then Ctrl-J to put the highlights in their own layer.

4.  Put Layer 1 in Screen blending mode.  So far you won't see a difference, but don't worry!

5.  Go to Filter, Blur, Radial Blur (settings: 100 Amount, Zoom, Good).  I  drag the center of my blur to the brightest area on my image.  As you can see I had to eyeball the placement.  (Note: You can also use Motion Blur.)

6.  Click OK and you will see lovely sun rays.

7.  You can Ctrl-J this layer to make the effect more pronounced.

8.  When you are happy with the amount of light, merge the light ray layers.

9.  If you want to soften the effect and make the rays look more realistic, Gaussian blur the light.  You can also adjust the opacity of the layer to make them more subtle.

10. I usually like to add some color and warmth to the light rays.  Group a Color Fill adjustment layer set in Color Mode to the light ray layer and adjust the color and opacity to taste.  I used a golden yellow for this edit.

I also usually add a levels adjustment layer just over the background to adjust the color and contrast of the rest of the image.

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial. Tomorrow in Part 2 of this tutorial I will post the free action that does all of the work for you and runs in both Photoshop AND PSE!  

Do you want to download my favorite CoffeeShop Actions or Design Elements in one convenient zipped file AND help support this blog? Just click here for my action pack or here for a download of some of my most popular design elements, storyboards, and textures.


  1. Thanks so much for the step by step tutorial and for the action. The results look fantastic!

  2. My name is Deanna, and CS6 is less than a week old for me. So, Adding Rays of Light Unwrapped tutorial was my very first preset I have ever accomplished so far. After I had to Google where (as well as what) the Channel tab was on my CS6(told you I was new at this!) I found that this tutorial step by step action is as much fun as it is easy to do! Thank you so much for sharing this! Outstanding results indeed!


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