How-To Geek

How to Create a Lightsaber in Photoshop

0preview

With Rogue One coming out this weekend, the internet is in full on Star Wars fever (well, more than usual). Why not use this for a little Photoshop fun? Let’s have a look at how to add a lightsaber special effect to a photo.

I’m going to keep everything as simple as possible, though to follow along, you will need to understand layers, layer masks, and adjustment layers. If you aren’t familiar with these subjects, check out our guides to layers and masks and adjustment layers before continuing.

Getting a Photo Ready to Use

While you can use this technique to add a lightsaber to anything, it’s a lot easier if the person in the picture is holding something you can use as a base. You can go full cosplay and get a proper costume and prop lightsaber, or do what I did and put on a dressing gown and wave a broom handle around. Whether you’re dressed like Darth Vader or Darth Just-Out-of-Bed, the technique is the same.

 

1startingpoint

Open the photo you want to use in Photoshop and do any basic edits you think it needs. Adding special effects like lightsabers should always be one of the last steps in your workflow. I cleaned up some small blemishes, but otherwise, my photo was ready to go.

Step One: Create the Lightsaber Base Shape

Create a new layer by either clicking on the New Layer button or using the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+N (Command+Shift+N if you’re on a Mac).

2addnewlayerbutton

Call the new layer “lightsaber” or something similar and click OK.

3newlayer

We have a few options for selecting out the blade. If you’re familiar with how to use it, the Pen tool is one of the best methods. However, it’s quite complicated, and we can use a simpler tool to get the same effect.

Select the Polygonal Lasso tool from the Tool menu. You can also find it under the Lasso tool or by pressing the keyboard shortcut Shift+L until you get it.

4polyganallasso

Zoom in to your fake lightsaber (or to where you want it to be) and click on one of its bottom corners.

5polyganallassoinuse

Next, click on one of its top corners. This will connect the two points.

6polyganalinusetop

Keep clicking around the fake lightsaber until you reach the point where you started.

7polyganalfinishing

Click on the first point again to finish making the selection.

8polyganalselection

The Polygonal Lasso is great for making straight edged selections, but terrible for selecting curves. We want the lightsaber to have a rounded tip so we’re going to use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to do it.

Select the Elliptical Marquee tool from the Tool menu or cycle to it with the keyboard shortcut Shift+M.

9elypticalmarqueeselection

Zoom into the top of the lightsaber. We want to add to our selection, so hold down the Shift key and then click and drag to start drawing an ellipse.

10ellipticalmarquee

The Elliptical Marquee tool can be a little tricky to get right first time so the best thing to do is draw an ellipse away from your selection, then still holding down your click, press the Spacebar to move it into position.

11ellipseinposition

Release the mouse and you’ll have a nice selection around the top of the lightsaber.

12lightsaberselection

Go to Edit > Fill, select White, then click OK.

13fillwhite

Now the model should look like they’re holding a solid white lightsaber. Press Control+D or Command+D to deselect the lightsaber.

14filledwhite

Step Two: Create a Blur Layer

Next, go to Layer > Duplicate Layer or use the keyboard shortcut Control+J (Command+J on a Mac) to create a copy of the lightsaber layer. Drag it beneath the original lightsaber layer and rename it “lightsaber blur”.

15lightsaberglow

Step Three: Add the Lightsaber Effect

Select the lightsaber layer and go to Layer > Layer Style > Outer Glow. Dial in the following values:

  • Blend Mode: Normal.
  • Opacity: 80%.
  • Size: 120px for a high-res file, 60px for a low-res file.

You can play with these values to see what works best in your photo.

16outerglowvalues

Then click on the white color swatch to pick the color of your lightsaber. Set the S and B values to 100.

  • If you want a red lightsaber, leave the H value set to 0.
  • If you want a blue lightsaber, set the H value to 190.
  • If you want a green lightsaber, set the H value to 100.

Click OK when you’re finished.

17lightsabercolor

Next, select Inner Glow from the options on the left side.

18innerglow

Enter the following values:

  • Blend Mode: Normal.
  • Opacity: 40%.
  • Color: The same as the previous step.
  • Size: 60px for a high-res file, 30px for a low-res file.

19lightsabereffects

Click OK and the lightsaber should look like it’s beginning to take shape.

20lightsabertakingshape

Step Four: Add a Blur Effect

Hold down the Control or Command key and click on the lightsaber blur Layer Thumbnail. This will select the contents of the layer.

21commandclickonblur

Go to Edit > Fill and for Contents, select Color…

22fillwithcolor

Dial in your lightsaber color from earlier.

23dialinginlightsabercolor

Press Control+D or Command+D to deselect the lightsaber blur layer’s contents, then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a value of 240px for a high-res file, 120px for a low-res file and press OK.

24gaussianblur

Now the lightsaber should really be starting to look the part. We just have a few finishing touches left to bring it all together.

25comingtogether

Step Five: Put On the Finishing Touches

Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and call it Color Toning. Set the Mode to Soft Light at an Opacity of 20%.

26filllayer

Dial in your lightsaber color and click OK.

27colortoning

Create a new layer and call it Vignette. Set it’s Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 30%.

28vignettelayer

Grab the Elliptical Marquee tool and draw an ellipse around the centre of your image.

29ellipse

Go to Select > Inverse followed by Edit Fill. For the Contents, select Black and click OK.

30vignettefill

Press Control-D or Command-D and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Dial in a value that gives you a nice soft vignette (I’m using 400px) and press OK.

31vignetteblur

That’s it—you are finished, young padawan.

32final

Harry Guinness writes occasionally when he’s not busy skiing, sailing, partying, lifting weights, or otherwise dodging responsibility. His main areas of interest are himself, gin, and crazy people with interesting stories to tell. When people won’t pay him to write ill-thought-out opinion pieces, he covers photography, technology, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • Published 12/15/16

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