Deke’s Techniques: Creating synthetic lightning in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

It’s time to upgrade your Photoshop weather machine with this week’s free technique from Deke. Back in November, Deke showed you how to create a synthetic rainbow entirely out of Photoshop magic. In this week’s free tutorial, Deke shows you how to intensify your dark and stormy scenes by adding a 100-percent artificial, but no less striking bolt of Photoshop-based lightning.

Start by simply painting in a black lightning-shaped brush stroke. Then, by ingeniously selecting parts of your bolt, you’ll apply the Difference Clouds filter to randomize the edges, and an unusual Levels command setting to convert that blobby line into a tendril of light. Then, with some carefully applied Blend modes, some Gradient masks, and a hint of brushed-in contact spots for eerie glow, you’ll finish up your truly believable lightning effect.

Creating lightning in Photoshop

The entire procedure takes some concentration and diligence, but in the end you’ll be rewarded with a flash of creative control, and ready to illuminate any scene with this high-impact effect.

And if that doesn’t satisfy your desire to control the elements, Deke’s got an exclusive members-only movie this week called Creating a driving rain effect in Photoshop, in which he, you guessed it, shows you how to create driving rain.

Photoshop weather at your fingertips, all courtesy of your benevolent meteorologist Deke.

See you back next week with another free technique from Deke!


Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection on (updated weekly)
• Courses by Deke McClelland on
• All Photoshop courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
• Photoshop for Designers: Layer Effects
Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals

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3 Responses to “Deke’s Techniques: Creating synthetic lightning in Photoshop”

  1. This was a GREAT tutorial, very easy to follow and simple!!

  2. chakatiim says:

    That was over kill! Just use feathers and Adjust contrast and brightness after brushing a line. Soften the line by Select Inverse.

    • Chelsea Adams, managing editor says:

      That’s the beauty of the complexity and power of Photoshop, Chakatiim— there’s always more than one way to approach a challenge.

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