Light effects.




Hello everyone! This is Inma R. and today I would like to show you how to apply nice light effects to your illustrations. Let's begin!

1) Layer modes.

Layer blending modes are the most important aspect to take into account when creating light effects. You will find all possible layer blending modes in a tab on the layer menu.

As you can see, there are many options, but I will focus on the two that I use most for lights, which are SCREEN and ADD (GLOW).


When we use a layer in SCREEN mode, everything we paint on that layer will lighten the colors of the layers underneath. In the example below, the circles are on a different layer from the dark pink background. See what happens when I change the layer mode to SCREEN.

All colors lighten the red pink background while sharing part of their color value (blue + pink becomes purplish, for example). The only color that disappears completely is black, because black is the only color that cannot lighten anything.


If we change the layer blending mode to ADD (GLOW) instead, it will also lighten the colors, but the result is a lot brighter (more saturated). This is because ADD (GLOW) burns the colors a bit.

Let's see how this translates to an actual illustration.


To paint the hair, I used dark pink for the base and orange for the highlights (you can see the actual colors on the circles next to her head). Here the highlight layer is set to NORMAL.

Here I set the highlight layer to SCREEN.

And here I set the highlight layer to ADD (GLOW).

As you can see, ADD (GLOW) burns the colors and gives us more vivid colors, while SCREEN is more subtle.

2) Techniques.

What I do most of the time is to mix the two layer modes to get a balanced effect. I will leave the highlight layer in SCREEN mode and I will create a layer on top that I will turn to ADD (GLOW) mode. Using a soft airbrush, I will brighten some parts on the ADD (GLOW) layer.

*When applying lights with the airbrush on the ADD (GLOW) layer, make sure not to press too hard with your pen so that colors aren't too burned.

This is the result of pressing too hard:

While it might not look too bad, it drags the attention way too much towards the top of the head, leaving the illustration very unbalanced. If you want to use this effect though, you can still do so by applying it to other parts as well.

It all depends on the style and the result you want!


Another technique I apply with the airbrush is adding blueish lights to some parts of the illustration (this will work over warm tones).


I create a new layer on SCREEN mode and I select a not too bright blue color. Using the soft airbrush, I will apply some blue lights to certain edges and some parts that were in shadows.

3) Other tools.

We've seen how using the airbrush we can get very nice light effects, but there are also some very nice brushes we can download from Assets for light decoration. Here are some of my favourite.


*You will see the color used for each on the upper right corner.


Get super beautiful sparkly particles withキラキラ(ふわり):

Layer mode: ADD (GLOW). *As opposed to most sparkly brushes, this one will make use of both primary and secondary color.

Create dreamy atmospheres with BOKEブラシ:

Layer mode: ADD (GLOW).

Create light textures with 光ぼやけブラシ:

Layer mode: ADD (GLOW):

Get a light-through-leaves feel with 木漏れ日ブラシ:

Layer mode: MULTIPLY with a reddish gray (check the upper right corner). I used the brush to erase parts of that MULTIPLY layer (select the transparent color to erase).

4) Light post-effects.

There is a way to make colors stand out and glow after we're done coloring our illustration. Let's see how!


Step 1: right-click on the top visible layer of your illustration and click on "Merge visible to new layer" to create a new layer that contains your merged illustration.

Step 2: in the Edit menu, go to Tonal Correction, then click on Level Correction. This will open the Level Correction window, which will look like this.

Step 3: move the pointer on the left to the right until your drawing looks really dark and burned as in the image below:

Step 4: in the Filter menu, go to Blur, then Gaussian blur and input a high value like 30.

Step 5: set the layer blending mode of that layer to SCREEN. Dark colors will almost make no difference, but lighter ones will have a little glow around them, like the face.

Step 6: lower the opacity of the layer a bit (50~70) if you feel the image is too glowy. Apply some extra light effects with the brushes we downloaded from Assets and we're done!

About the artist.

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Thank you for your time!



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