How to Add Special Effects in Photoshop

How to Add Special Effects in Photoshop

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Click Here to Download Practice Images:

Adding Special Effects to images can actually be incredibly simple! All it takes is a little practice with blend modes, adjustment layers, and layer masks. Learn How to Add Special Effects in Photoshop in today’s episode!

To create an awesome final product, we use multiple images from a recent photoshoot. They are available for download in the link above!

The base image comes directly from the photoshoot; we used sparklers to light paint around the model. From there, we can add elements from other photos to enhance the overall effect. Don’t be afraid to keep outtake images, because bits and pieces can often be taken from them and prove quite useful.

Layering using Blend Modes

To start, load all of your files into Photoshop. A quick way to do this is by going to File – Scripts – Load Files into Stack. Then, you can Shift + Click on all of the files and then open them at once. Once your images are loaded, it is really just about playing around!

To eliminate the darks in a layer, change the Blend Mode to Screen. For the image we work on in this episode, the Screen mode is vital to get the look we want. It leaves just the glow of the sparklers as well as other exciting bright elements! We end up adding some blurs that came from outtakes with people moving, as well as small pops of light. You can think of it as making a collage in Photoshop!

You will most likely need to mask out unwanted areas even after the Screen Blend Mode has been selected. You can create a layer mask on the layer, and then paint over it with black (using the brush tool) to hide those unwanted spots.

Transform & Duplicate

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the size and position of your layers. Hold Ctrl/Cmd + T to do this. You can also duplicate any layer by holding Ctrl/Cmd + J, which can add exciting detail when you start to layer images on top of each other.

Levels Adjustment Layer

For an added wow factor, we bring in a galaxy image from Fotolia. It has some light blue haze that we don’t want in the final image, so to fix that we change the Blend Mode to Screen again and then create a Levels Adjustment layer. Hold Ctrl/Cmd + L to do so. Then, drag the black slider in towards the center of the Levels graph. This should eliminate those dark/midtones that were too distracting before. You can use a layer mask once again to include only certain areas.

As you can see, there’s not much to adding special effects! The keys are Blend Modes, Adjustment Layers, and Layer Masks. Remember to keep on experimenting by duplicating and transforming your layers! There is no limit to what you can create in Photoshop.


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50 replies
  1. Andrea Smith
    Andrea Smith says:

    can you buy a Photoshop cc without the creative cloud. I want to own my Photoshop software that I payed for instead of paying a crazy monthly/yearly fee

  2. Thanakorn Klinsrisuk
    Thanakorn Klinsrisuk says:

    Great tutorials and great teaching so far. I wish my university has you as a teacher. And I really hope there’re Adobe Illustrator tutorials in your channel. I will not miss them. Thank you million times for your excellent tips.

  3. Cristian Roman
    Cristian Roman says:

    Hi Aaron. I tried to make this photo with my friends and we failed. We tried different settings but didn’t come close to this. Can you explain, please, how did you do it?

  4. Mark H
    Mark H says:

    Awesome video, but it bugged the hell out of me how you missed the top left corner of the first layer mask when you darkened the edges. There’s an orange line from the middle of her head up to the top of the image and I was anxiously waiting for you to fix it but you never did 🙁

  5. Julia Rockenbach
    Julia Rockenbach says:

    I was searching for a totally different thing but this guy teach really well so I watched the whole video. Good job!

  6. Geo
    Geo says:

    My mind is blown! Your videos constantly open new doors for creativity that I didn’t even think was possible. I will be getting CC after summer exams and can’t wait to try some of these out!!!

    Thank you (:

  7. dacrookedi
    dacrookedi says:

    I got started in Photography and graphic doing it just like this… Taking scraps or bad pic and using it for something else. I call it Photografix LOL… I love your video

  8. Callum Brown
    Callum Brown says:

    thanks very much for this tut. awesome work. its inspired my to try it myself. i was hoping you may be able to point me to a tut on how you used the sparklers with the model. cheers

  9. Jose Angel Hernandez
    Jose Angel Hernandez says:

    I once took a photo at a sunset wedding ceremony and there were lots of trees around. many of the photos came out all weird with shadows from tree branches and/or leaves on people’s faces and bodies/dresses. how can I remove a harsh shadow from a persons face or form clothing? Thanks!

  10. Yovind Chumun
    Yovind Chumun says:

    man this is awesome. thank you very much!! you just give me a brilliant idea doing some fun on one of my picture

  11. Leo Edwardian
    Leo Edwardian says:

    And By the way All videos are very helpful to me
    Loved it AwesOme Work Really 👍
    Aaron Nace U r Superb Master Of Photography 👍❤️

  12. Kelly Lugosi's Dead
    Kelly Lugosi's Dead says:

    FYI, if anyone wants a galaxy/nebula/other spacey image to use without going to fotolia, NASA/JPL images are all public domain!

  13. Dj K-Oz
    Dj K-Oz says:

    I don’t know how to use Photoshop at all but very basic, even that’s being generous. Anyways I’m a DJ & I want to create Serato DJ vinyl for my DJ setup or Slipmats. For those that have no idea what turntables are they are record players. Vinyls LP’s their 12′ perfect circle and the design I wanna create, seems to be rather difficult.

    How do you create custom designs or graphics? Like for instance I wanna have realistic fire all the way around the edge of the record with the top of the flames pointing toward the center of the record in a complete circle. Is this possible? Also can you change the color of the fire? If so can it be a two tone color? Like green fire at the bottom blending into a blue at the top?

  14. Pritam Deshmukh
    Pritam Deshmukh says:

    Dear Sir,
    It really did add a spark to my interest.
    I would like to know how exposure in taking pictures and ISO works and how to blend pictures as per color-wheel.

  15. yaswin rai
    yaswin rai says:

    Something so simple and yet so useful. Thanks learnt a lot. Imagination is the key I guess and recycling old images.

  16. shane vanschalkwyk
    shane vanschalkwyk says:

    Hey man! I am trying to do an edit of a girl holding a forest in her hand and I’m finding it a little bit difficult to do it. will you please do an edit of that? Thanks a lot! love your work

  17. Tariq Hasan Anjan
    Tariq Hasan Anjan says:

    Dear phlearn make any pro/free tutorial on making realistic lightning effect on photoshop in images…………
    the photoshop ones tends not to be realistic enough 🙂 thank u


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