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Create Light in Photoshop

How to Add a Warm Glow to Windows in a Dark House

Page updated January 2018: Apologies for the quality of images and perhaps the video resolution on this page. This "create light in Photoshop" tutorial was made a decade ago, before high resolution images and videos were accepted on the web. Hopefully you will still get the gist of the post and try it out yourself : )

Sometimes, you see a great image that you just know would look good, if only...

Images of dark buildings in romantic settings can look great but there may be something missing. More often than not, that could be the warm, inviting glow from the windows. Light that gives the impression that in amongst all that darkness, there are people in the house.

How to create light in Photoshop

Take this photo from one of our members Alan Platt as an example:

Create Light in Photoshop 1

A great photo taken in the Surrey area during our January snowfall but how do you add light in Photoshop to give the impression that people are in the house? How do you make the house look more inviting?

Either watch the video below or skip past for the text/image tutorial.

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Well, we start with the pen tool and select the paths feature:

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Create Light in Photoshop

Next, make a selection of all the window areas that you wish to add the glow to. Make sure you close each selection by hovering over the final point and when you see a circle, click to finish.

Create Light in Photoshop

Once you have done all the windows, with the pen tool still selected, right click and hit "make selection". This will bring up a new dialogue box. Leave everything as is but select a feather radius.

Pixel width

For low resolution images, anything between 1 and 10 pixels should do. For larger resolution images, try between 10 and 30 pixels. Adjust until you get the desired result. Click "ok" and you get the running ants around each selection.

Create Light in Photoshop

Select the brush with a hardness of 0 for a softer look and a size that will cover each window as you work. Now we need to select a colour for the window light. For this tutorial, I used:

RED: 196, GREEN: 166, BLUE: 2 or # c4a6020

Create Light in Photoshop

Brush Settings

If the brush flow is too harsh, this won't work so I used the following:

Opacity: 30%, Flow: 30% and Mode: Overlay

The overlay mode for the paint brush will allow the colour to paint in whilst leaving the detail in the window behind. It won't replace what is in your selection but simply add colour to it. Slowly paint over each window building up the colour to suit your needs and preference.

Create Light in Photoshop

Once you have done that, zoom out to check. Make any necessary adjustments and when happy, get rid of the running ants. Ensure the image looks good.

Layers

Please note that this method is using the original image. So, to be safe...either make a copy and work on that or simply create a layer to do all this work. Do this by going to:

  • check
    Layer
  • check
    Duplicate layer

...and naming it "lights" or something.

If you do use a layer, it is easier to make adjustments as you can simply adjust the opacity and strength of your layered lights.

Finally, remember to think of how light works and make any small tweaks to account for light falling onto snow as it this example. Think about reflections and water and add the light where it would normally be.

At the end of all that, you should end up with a realistic looking image!

Create Light in Photoshop

Of course, you can also add the light in the reflection of the water which we totally-on-purpose forgot to do here : )

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