Creating Energy Beams by dperceful -

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Creating Energy Beams by dperceful

By Adam Thur     June 09, 2004

Application: Photoshop CS
Any version should work, layouts are going to look a little different depending on your version. The theory of this tutorial can be applied in your app of choice.
Level: Intermediate

Let me quickly start with an opening statement. For most of my effects I use a similar if not the same technique as I'm about to go over in this tutorial. Notice I said similar, yes sometimes I use the same method, but usually I stray from the technique here or there and try a few different things to get the final product. This is meant to be a base, as always EXPERIMENT, and have fun.

Ready, lets go.

For my example I am using some Capcom artwork of Cyclops I found off the net. With Cyclops I think of raw power, uncontrollable energy held behind ruby glasses, and intensity. Your beam is going to be reflective of how you think it should look....Welshcat's vision of Iron Man's repulsor blast will likely be different than mine. I love I really like to go over the top with them.

COLOR DODGE: Looks at the colour information in each channel and brightens the base colour to reflect the blend colour. Blending with black produces no change.

I start off with a dark grey/blue background. As noted in the definition of color dodge, black will not cause any change, hence the subtle grey/blue color. We will be using a lot of the dodges (color and linear dodge) so remember that when your attempt this effect.

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On a new layer I take a soft white brush (size 60 in this example) and create a soft white ball. I will now refer to this layer as the "Ray Layer."

I then grab the smudge tool, select a hard brush, set it to varying degrees of strength and pull out the rays that you see pictured here. Notice some rays are thicker than others, vary your brush size. Raw energy is not symmetrical, it's wild and unpredictable...for Cyclops' power this is key for me.

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Double click on the Ray Layer, this will bring up the layer style window. Click on the Outer Glow checkbox, and it will bring up the options for Outer Glow...this is what we will use the create the effect. First you will change the blend mode to Color Dodge, and in this case I will change the color to a shade of red. I then jump the opacity up to 100%, this can vary for you....but for this example I keep it at 100%. Under the Elements section the Spread and Size sliders will be used to create the glow....for this example my Spread is 0%, Size is 5. Play around with the sliders and see what you can create, don't go want it to look tight and concentrated for Cyke. When your done click on "OK."

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Okay this is the part of the tutorial where your probably going to go why did he do that. When you applied the effect it attached itself to the Ray Layer you applied the effect to. We are now going to separate the effect. Right click on the Outer Glow effect you just applied to the layer (in the layers palette below your layer name it will say outer glow, this is what you will be right clicking on) and click on create layer. You have now separated the layer style from it's layer, and it has names itself Ray Layer's Outer Glow. I'm now going to do a few things at once, so follow close. I'm changing the Blending mode of Ray Layer to Color Dodge. I moved the Ray Layer Outer Glow above the Ray Layer. Why did I do all of this? Because the dodges work off each other by layering them I have created a more vibrant effect.

Now for the beam.

Again, for Cyclops I think raw I'm going with a rougher beam. The last brush of the default brushes for Photoshop is called Airbrush Dual Brush....and it fits my needs perfectly. The brush will create some rougher edges on the sides and when charged up with the glow, the beam will crackle on those edges. On a new layer above the Ray Layer I stroke the beam line. Notice my line is perfectcly straight, to achieve this I hold down the shift key while stoking the line. .From now on I will call this layer the Beam Layer.

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Guess what, I'm going to apply the Outer Glow effect to the Beam Layer, this time with a slightly lighter color and different Size and Spread settings.

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I then make a copy of the Beam Layer and it's attached glow. Why? I want to have different shades of color in the copied beam layer. I need to go into the Outer Glow options for the copied Beam Layer and change it to a darker red, or whatever color. To do that I just double click the Outer Glow effect in the Layer's Pallete and make the necessary color change.

Anyone who I've given a review knows I'm not a fan of the lens flares. However, I'm going to use them for this tutorial. I create a new layer above all of my other layers and fill it with black. On this black layer I slap down a lens flare. I then take the eraser tool and erase out most of the black and the light spots created by the flare. That part is optional, but I find it makes for a cleaner effect. I now change the blending mode of the lens flare layer to Linear Dodge (if your version does not have linear dodge, color dodge or screen will do). Now we are going to shrink the flare. By going to Edit>Transform>Scale. I basically squish the lens flare vertically by dragging the handles in. Then I place the squished flare into place via the move tool.

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That's basically it. With a little more work you can end up with stuff like this.

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And it doesn't always have to be a blast effect. Varied Outer Glow and Dodge settings can produce other effects, just play around with it and have fun.

That's it. If you have questions, comments, or need help with a manip feel free to email me at

Thanks for taking time out of your day to go through this tutorial. Please take time to look or try out all of the lessons in the Art School to increase your artistic horizons.


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