Creating a Soft Glow – Photoshop Friday

*Que infomercial dramatization*

Have you ever wanted to add a little more oomph to your photos but were unsure how? A little glow of a sunset here, a little pop of sunrise there?

Well look no further! Tea, Wine, and Cheese, Please! has all you need to evoke a sense of wonder and magic through your photographs.

With just a few simple steps, you can have the Photoshop power of making everything glow.

Now is your chance to turn this:


Into this:


*End scene*

The process of creating a soft glow for your images may look daunting, but I promise you it’s really not. You only need a two tools for this tutorial: the Gradient Tool (G), and a Gradient Map. After just a few clicks of your mouse, you’re finished!

First things first:

You’ll want to make sure your image has the light source behind your subject. This step is vital in making the finished product look natural.

Step 1: Open your image in Photoshop

Step 2: Create a new layer

Step 3: Click on the Gradient Tool or hit G on your keyboard

Step 4: With the Gradient Tool selected, click on the Radial Gradient option in the upper left-hand corner of the window and check the “Reverse” box (see image 1)

Image 1: Gradient Bar and Radial Selection

Step 5: Click on the gradient bar in the upper left-hand corner to open the Gradient Editor window (see image 1)

Step 6: Select the Black and White preset and in the “Gradient Type” box, move the top

Image 2: Gradient Type transparency bar

black slider to the right to add more transparency to the darkest part of the gradient and click “OK” (see image 2)


Step 7: On the same side of the image as the light source, drag your cursor onto the image and release the cursor to apply the gradient. Note: It’s supposed to look bad right now.

Step 8: In your layers panel, with your Gradient layer selected, go to your blending mode drop-down box and choose “Screen” (see image 3)

Image 3: Blending modes

Step 9: From the top menu bar, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map and click “OK”

Step 10: Click the white bar in the properties menu to edit the gradient

Step 11: Select “Foreground to Transparent” preset

Step 12: In the “Gradient Type” box, click a spot on the bottom of the bar and choose a color in the “Stops” box. Do this until you have the colors of your gradient (see image 4). Click “OK

Image 4: Gradient Map colors

Step 13: Right click on your Gradient Map layer and select “Create Clipping Mask


Step 14: Right click on your Gradient Map layer again and select “Duplicate Layer

Step 15: Right click on the duplicate layer and select “Release Clipping Mask.” This step will bring the same colors from your gradient into the highlights and low lights of your image to make your image appear more seamless. 

Step 16: In your layers panel, with your duplicate Gradient Map layer selected, go to your blending mode drop-down box and choose “Soft Light” (see image 3)

Step 17: Adjust the opacity on your gradient layers until you have reached your desired look (I have my Gradient set at 35% and my Gradient Map set at 55%)


And done! See, that wasn’t so bad!

Yeah, you can often buy these filters to overlay on your images. But that costs money. And who wants to spend money on something that takes less than ten minutes to create yourself. Not me, that’s for sure.

And then if your create an action for your soft glow, the process becomes even faster. Stay tuned for next week’s Photoshop Friday on Actions!

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