How to Create a realistic beam of sunlight in Photoshop


In this tutorial we are going to create a beam of sunlight falling into a forest. We will even add some pollen to make it look a little more magical.

The original is an image I grabbed from Adobe Stock. Get it here

create a beam of sunlight




Make sure you are in 8-bit RGB mode.

Also go to Preferences>Performance and make sure Use Graphics Processor is turned on (It should be on by default).



Right click on the layer name and choose Convert to Smart Object. This is optional, but will give you more flexibility if you want to change it later.


Choose Filter>Render Lighting Effects

From the presets, choose 2 o’clock Spotlight


Zoom out. Drag the dots to resize the ellipses

Drag inside the ellipses to move the light

drag outside the ellipses to rotate the light.



Click on color

Increase the Intensity to .57 This enables us to adjust the overall intensity more.


Make the adjustments as shown here (also on the video you can see easier).

7. Adding dreamy sunlight

Click on colorize

Choose a warm yellow/orange color


Adjust intensity for the new color.

Reduce the metallic all the way down.

Adjust the gloss to get that dreamy haze, a higher number dials up the dreaminess. ?

Click ok to apply and we have a much more romantic looking image. We aren’t done yet, 1 final touch. We are going to add some pollen to sell the effect.

9. Making a pollen / faerie dust brush.

Click on brushes in the tool box (B key)

At the top of the screen choose a soft round brush and set it to 0% hardness and 11 px.


Go to the Brush settings panel (Window>Brush Settings)

Choose scattering.

Click on both Axes and turn the Scatter all the way up

Count jitter 100%


Shape Dynamics

Size jitter 76% or higher


Choose Brush Tip shape

Turn up the spacing quite high. I used 367% here


Create a new layer

Choose White as the foreground color

Paint in a few particles, See how they look like pollen.

You could stop here, or try the next step to enhance them.


Choose fx and select Outer Glow


Choose similar settings to what is shown here. This gives them a slight magical glow.

For fantasy work, choose a different color for the glow.


And here is our final, may I say, a bit more interesting than the original?


This is part 4 of a series I’m making on Lighting effects.

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Check out part 1 here for the basics and using a color channel for texture.

Part 2 is lighting a portrait

See it here

Part 3 is embossing a logo

See it here

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