Creating Lightning in an Image using Photoshop

Above, I have an image of the Portland Headlight that I already turned black and white in Photoshop. I think lightning shots look more dramatic in black and white.

The first thing I do is drop the image into Photoshop. Next I go to the brush icon on the tools palette:

Then I go to the top of the screen to the options bar. Click on the arrow that’s pointing down to open the brush menu:

Here’s the open menu box:

Next I’ll pick a lightning brush that I’ll give away at the end of this tutorial. The number of the brush is 445.

Make sure that the color picker box is set to white in the foreground, so that the lighting will be white:

The next thing you’ll need to do is to make a new layer. Just click on the layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette, and rename layer 1 to “Lightning” by clicking on the word “Layer 1”:

The next step is to apply the brush. Hover the brush over the image without clicking. See where you want to put it. It will most likely start out to small. Make the brush larger using the [ ] bracket keys on your keyboard. When you’ve decided where to put the lightning, click once. Don’t move the mouse in case you’d like to give the brush a second click to make the lightning streaks a little stronger. I had to use it twice with two clicks of the mouse:

Now that the lightning is on its own layer, you have the option to move the lightning. You might decide to move a little to the left or right, or even up and down. If you just used the lightning brush on the image without having it on its own layer you wouldn’t have the option of moving it around.

Now that that lightning is on its own layer you can you can even transform the scale of the lightning. Let’s say you like the lightning the way it is, but you wish it was just a little longer or a little wider. It’s easy. Go to Edit, Transform, Scale:

You’ll see the transform box appear around the lightning. Just grab the little square boxes and drag the mouse slowly to see how the lightning fits into your image:

Then click the check to apply the transform:

Here’s the finished image:

Have fun trying this on your own and don’t forget to download the lightning brush here.

9 thoughts on “Creating Lightning in an Image using Photoshop”

  1. Good Evening,

    I was very interesting in the free download of the lighting but I am new to photoshop, so can you give me the steps once you download the lightning brush to start using it in photoshop??


  2. Hi, Jay.

    After you download the brush, you’ll need to “unzip” the brush file from the zip file. Most computers recognize zip files these days, so you’ll probably just need to double-click the zip file to get to the brush file within it (the name of the actual brush file is lightning445.abr).

    Then, copy lightning445.abr into the folder where the Photoshop brushes are stored. On my computer, it’s C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS3\Presets\Brushes. If you use a different version of Photoshop, or use Photoshop on the Mac, it may be slightly different, but would be similar.

    Then, after you run Photoshop, you’ll need to select the Load Brushes option from the Brushes palette menu. Select the lightning brush from the list of files in that folder I mentioned above, and select the option to append it to your brushes. Then you should see the brush at the bottom of your list of brushes in your Brushes palette after that.

  3. Thank you so much, that worked perfectly!! I am a true amateur but completely enticed with photo editing. Do you think it would be beneficial becoming a member of the Association of Photoshop users?

  4. Hi, Jay.

    I definitely recommend joining the NAPP. I’ve been a member for years, and I’ve learned so much from their site, between their tutorials and the help desk they have. Also, their magazine is great. Just click the link on my home page to join.

    Keep in touch and let me know how you like it.


  5. Thanks for the brush and steps on how to use them! Your generosity is so…appreciated!!!

  6. That was awesome! That’s the first time i’ve seen a lightning brush tip.

  7. I have used your lightning brush it really is amassing the effect it gives the right image. Many Thanks Lorri.

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