Create a "Photo Glow" Using the Gradient Tool and the Brush Tool

with 24 Comments

Barb BrookbankI love “photo glows.” There is something mystical and energetic about a bright white light coming from behind a photo. I’ve also seen photo glows blended right into photos or mixed in with other elements to enhance backgrounds.

Now I’m seeing layouts with glows of different colors. Some are golden and some are even green!

I decided enough was enough! If I can’t buy all the glows I want, I’m going to have to make my own.

In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to quickly and easily create a “photo glow” using the Gradient tool and the Brush tool. After you know how to do it, the sky’s the limit!

I like to start with a large document so that none of the glow runs off the edge of the page. If it does run off, you will end up with square edges—definitely not what you want.

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Step One: Prepare the Workspace

  • Create a new document (File > New > Blank File) that is 12in by 12in at 300ppi with a white background. (Photoshop: Choose File > New.)
  • Press the letter D to reset the Color Chips to the default of black and white.

Step Two: Create a Radial Gradient and Some Diamond Gradients

  • Get the Gradient tool.
  • In the Tool Options, click on the down facing arrow to open the Gradient Picker and choose Foreground to Transparent.
  • Set the Mode to Normal and the Opacity to 100%. Click on the Radial Gradient icon.
  • In the Layers Panel, click on the Create a New Layer icon.
  • On the document click and drag 3 inches out from the center of the page to create a circle that is about 6 inches in diameter.
  • In the Tool Options, click on the Diamond Gradient.
  • Click and drag out about 10 tiny diamond gradients of varying sizes around the radial gradient. I placed mine to create a pattern that flows from the top left to the bottom right.

Step Three: Add a Starburst

  • Get the Brush tool.
  • In the Tool Options, click on the down facing arrow to open the Brush Preset Picker and choose Assorted Brushes.
  • Choose Brush #49 Starburst – Large and set the Size to 1500 px.
  • On the document, click on the upper left edge of the radial gradient to create a starburst.
This is just an example of what you can do. Use your imagination. Play around with it and see what you can come up with. Here is my finished photo glow after I added another radial gradient and used Brush #50 Starburst-Small.

Step Four: Use The Photo Glow on a Layout

  • In the Layers panel, click on the photo glow layer and drag it onto your scrapbook page.
  • Using the Move tool, position the glow behind a photo.
  • Press the letter X to set the Foreground Color Chip to white.
  • Press Alt Shift Backspace (Mac: Opt Shift Delete) to fill the photo glow with white.
  • Adjust the size and position as desired using the Transform options.
  • To intensify the effect, press Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) to duplicate the glow.

Digi Scrap Tutorial: Create a “Photo Glow” Using the Gradient Tool and the Brush Tool by Barb Brookbank
Photo Masks Volume I by Susie Roberts
Background Papers: Christmas Past by Susan Bartolini, Sugar and Spice by Digital Scrapper Designs

Tag, Ric Rac: Christmas Past by Susan Bartolini
Flower (recolored): At Home by Paislee Press
Photo: Tere

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

24 Responses

  1. Jessica Trotter
    | Reply

    I’m fairly new at scrapbooking and was having trouble in Step 4. When I did the “alt+shift+backspace”, it turned my whole photoglow layer white. I’m guessing that’s because when I created the photoglow the background was white. Please help….this is a cool effect that I would like to utilize!

    Jessie 🙂

    • PeggyNC
      | Reply

      Jessie, press “ctrl+z” to undo the “alt+shift+backspace”. You can press “ctrl+z” repeatedly until you get the photoglow back to a step that you feel sure is correct. Then resume the tutorial from that point and try again. I hope this helps.

  2. Tina Wilson
    | Reply

    Thank you for the great tutorial. I will use this one a lot!

  3. PeggyNC
    | Reply

    Thanks Barb for this terrific tutorial! I know I will use this one a lot.

  4. Nannette
    | Reply

    Oh I love this….photo glows are so fun and now I can make my own. Thanks Barb!

  5. Barb
    | Reply

    Hi Jessie, yes I’m quite sure that’s why your glow ‘disappeared’. If you drag your original photo glow while it is still black onto your scrapbook page, it will show up against whatever background paper you are using. Then turn it white after you have re-sized and re-positioned it.

  6. Londa Coy
    | Reply

    Good morning,

    I am not getting something right….I get the first gradient to show as a white area in the middle of black background and then none of the steps work after that…help

  7. Londa Coy
    | Reply

    I figured it out, sorry….I had the reverse box checked in the gradient mode….thanks.

    • Barb Brookbank
      | Reply

      That’s great, Londa! Thanks for letting us know – I’m sure there are others who may have done that too! 🙂

  8. Maria
    | Reply

    Oh I had the exact same problem. Thanks for sorting it out Londa.
    Thanks for another great tutorial Barb, and a happy New Year to all!

  9. Jessica Trotter
    | Reply

    Thanks everyone for the help. I see what I did wrong. I didn’t drag the “photoglow” LAYER I dragged the “photoglow” FILE (that I had saved….with the white background)! Got it now….too cool!!!!!!

    Thanks, Jessie 🙂

  10. Joan Robillard
    | Reply

    I was looking for away to do this just last week. I was doing a card for someone. So happy to have this technique in my playbook. Thanks Barb

  11. lozzie
    | Reply

    Thanks for this great tutorial looking forward to this one …

  12. Dela Wurl
    | Reply

    Maybe someone can help me….was I supposed to put a scrapbook page on here at some step? After following instructions, the only page I have is the white 12×12 with the black starbursts. I can’t drag that layer onto itself…when I set up a page to draw it onto, it is a black starburst…Help!

  13. Dela Wurl
    | Reply

    drag, sorry.

  14. Dela Wurl
    | Reply

    ok, don’t know what I did, but I achieved the goal…Yeah!

    • Barb
      | Reply

      Yay! Glad to hear that, Dela!

  15. Renee
    | Reply

    Great tutorial – thanks so much Barb! This is another awesome technique I’m going to have fun with. And you showed me more PSE buttons that I had not used before….WooHOO!!!
    I tried a few different colors and can see where this is going to look wonderful on some layouts.

  16. Deborah Blodgett-West
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for this! I love photo glows, I can think of lots of things I could do with this. One thing I might suggest, though, is to put the different gradients on different layers ’til you’re sure you like it, then merge them. I decided I didn’t like where I put some of them after I was done and it would have been easier to fix if they’d been in separate layers. Thanks again!

    • Barb Brookbank
      | Reply

      Deborah, that is an excellent suggestion!

  17. Lois
    | Reply

    I have the main large “radial” gradient on a layer and it has a white background – not transparent as I thought it would be.

    How do I make this layer transparent with just the radial gradient showing?

    • Barb
      | Reply

      Hi Lois, so sorry I’ve taken so long to get back to you. You must first create a new layer in the Layers panel, before making the gradient. Then that layer will automatically be transparent. To check this out, in the Layers panel, simply click on the (white) Background layer to hide it, and you will see that your gradient is on a transparent layer. In the tutorial, I put all the gradients on one layer, but if you want to, you can create each gradient, or starburst on it’s own new separate layer, then you would be able to work with each one separately; change them, move them around, etc. I hope this has answered your question – if not – let me know and I will get right back to you!

  18. Becky
    | Reply

    Love this tutorial. I already used it to make 2 layouts tonight. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  19. Barb
    | Reply

    That is wonderful, Becky!

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