Glow Effects – The When And The How

Back in the old days the canonical example of an over-used effect was the HTML <blink> tag. One of the top candidates today has to be the ‘glow effect’. Having said that, if used judisciously, it can be a very effective effect. So, when should you use it and how can you implement it?

When to Use a Glow

The short answer to this is rarely. There are some very specific instances when an obvious, in your face glow is appropriate. Scenes that naturally include a source of illumination are the obvious use case. Examples include space scenes, aurorae, fires and flames, bio-luminescence, glass objects, neon signs, sunlight through windows, water and ice.

More common, and often over-done, are glow effects in logos and lettering.

Perhaps the most common ‘correct’ usage would be in user interface elements such as glowing buttons etc.

Finally, glows are often employed to produce more abstract images.

How to Create a Glow in Photoshop

There are a thousand variations on a theme here but this should be enough of a recipe to get you started on the path to discovery.

  • Create a new layer and select it.
  • Use the Paint Bucket to fill it with black (#000000)
  • Select white as foreground color.
  • Select the Brush tool. Right-click anywhere on the image and set Master Diameter to 3px and Hardness to 100%.
  • Create a smooth curved path using the pen tool.
  • Right click the image, tick Simulate Pressure and select Stroke Path
  • Open the Paths window and click below the work path to deselect it.
  • Right click the layer and select Blending Options.
  • Tick Outer Glow and select it. Set an appropriate colour.

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