How to Add a Realistic Lightning to Your Photo

About: Hi, I am John and I love digital art. I like to create all kind of graphic design resources (https://www.photoshopsupply.com), tutorials and other cool stuff for free :)

In this quick tutorial for beginners I will show you how to add a lightning to your photo using Lightning Overlays in Photoshop.

Step 1: Images Used in This Tutorial

For this tutorial I will use these resources:

Step 2: Add Your Photo

Add your photo in a new layer.

Step 3: Turn Day Photo to Night

Lightning effect is more visible on a night sky. So let's turn this daytime photo to night photo. Read also the Turn Day to Night in Photoshop tutorial.

Add a Gradient Map using a night sky gradient. Use these colors for the gradient: #000000 and #276591.

Download the sky gradients for Photoshop here.

Step 4: Increase Photo Contrast

To increase the contrast of the photo let's add a Levels adjustment layer.

Step 5: Add a Layer Mask

Add a Layer Mask to the Levels adjustment.

Step 6: Apply Image

Make sure you are in the layer mask of the Levels adjustment. Go to Image menu and choose Apply Image


Step 7: Add Contrast to the Channel Mask

Again make sure the layer mask is selected and not the layer. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and increase the contrast of the channel mask to your liking.

Step 8: Duplicate the Levels Adjustment

Duplicate the Levels adjustment and modify the channel mask to increase the contrast on the highlights.

Step 9: Add the Lightning Overlay

In a new layer add one of these Lightning Overlays and set the blend mode to Screen.

Step 10: Add Color to the Lightning Overlay

The Lightning Overlays are in black and white. To colorize the lightning, add a Gradient Map. The colors for the gradient are: #000000 (location 13%), #038fdf (location 55%) and #ffffff (location 97%). You can choose any color tones you like for the gradient.

Right click on the Gradient Map and choose Create Clipping Mask.

Step 11: Final Result | Lightning Effect in Photoshop

Now you know how to add lightning to a photo in Photoshop. These lightning overlays are really useful and easy to use and customize.

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