Photoshop 5.x Lighting Effects Tutorial

Photoshop's Lighting Effects filter can create many unique and custimizable effects. It is extremely powerful, and offers many different styles and effects. This tutorial will demonstrate a smooth beveling effect far superior to the cheesy predictable look of Alien Skin's Eye Candy Inner Bevel.

Step 1- Creating the Shape

First, make a new image, 500x500 pixels and fill the background with a dark color. Next, use the text tool to create any typographic character. Resize your character to fill most of the image, and fill it with a lighter shade of your background color.

Step 2- Creating the Texture Channel

To light the object, the filter refers to a 'texture channel', which describes the form of your object. Lighter pixels represent high areas, and darker pixels are lower.

Select the layer with your shape on it and in the menu, go:
Select > Load Selection....
Press OK, and it will select the outline of your character.

Then, on the Channels window* press the "Save selection as channel" button. []

* to show the channels window you may have to go into Window menu and select: Show Channels. This Photoshop stuff is pretty tricky, isn't it?.
Without purging your selection, click on the new channel it created with the selection.
Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur... 9 pixels

Blur it again, only 6 pixels.
Blur it again, only 3 pixels.
Blur it again, only 1 pixel.

Now, to get rid of the jaggies around the edge of the selection invert your selection (Ctrl+Shift+I), clear (Del) and deselect (Ctrl+D).
Now zoom in and take a look at this beautiful complexion you have created.

Mmmmmmm, smooth.

Let's move on.

Step 3- Lighting the Shape

Go back to the Layers window and select the layer with your character on it. If it has a big T icon inside it , right click on the T and select "Render Layer"

Now, in the menu go:
Filter > Render > Lighting Effects...
In the Texture Channel select box, pick the channel which you were working in Step 2, most likely named Alpha 1
Now, this is where your own artistic skills come into play. You may position as many lights around your shape as you wish.

There are 3 types of lights:

Spotlight- This type of light has 2 points and a radius. One point is where the light is coming from, the other point is where it is pointing towards.

Omni- This light is like an open light bulb. It shines in all directions from one point, with a radius.
Directional- This light has 2 points and no radius. It shines in the angle you position it, and the closer the two points are, the stronger the light will shine.

To add a new light drag the light icon [ ] on the bottom of the Lighting Effects window onto the point that you want the light. The selected light's properties will editable on the right side panel. To kill a light, drag it onto the trash icon [ ].

When you are done customizing your lighting, hit OK.

Click for a larger version
Most of the modifiers are fairly self-explanitory. For my demonstration I"ll use the following values:

Gloss: -37
Material: 22
Exposure: 0
Ambience: 26
Height: 100%

Click for a larger version
There is a large white spotlight on the top-left shining into the center, and a small omni on the bottom right.
If the final product appears rough, follow these instructions:
On the layers window, select "Preserve Transparency" and Gaussian Blur the layer a few pixels. That will make it look nice and smooth. Mmmmmmmm, smooth.

Step 4- Added Effects
For added effect, go in the menu:
Layer > Effects > Drop Shadow

The drop shadow will offer your shape contrast from the background.

Click for final version
You can get a nice effect by selecting the background layer and using the same light setting from your character, light effects it without a texture channel.

Grids and scan lines also look nice on the background.

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