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Colorful abstract Photoshop tutorial

Fly High – Light Effects Tutorial + Video

In this tutorial I will show you how to create a beautiful abstract artwork using light effects, a few fractal images, a custom brush and some cool post editing techniques. Enjoy.

Final result preview


Download details

  • HTML tutorial
  • Video walkthrough included
  • Original PSD file
  • Stock images: model only

Step 1

Open the woman stock image in Photoshop and resize the height to 4000 px and lock the aspect ratio to keep the proportions. I decided than in this case it’s not necessary to use the Pen Tool (P) and separate the woman from the background because in this particular case the background looks very good: well lit, it has texture and the color is OK. If you have a slow computer you can use a smaller size canvas.

Step 2

Right away I started painting the first light effects. These will work as a base to develop the rest of the effects and to establish a direction and get a stronger composition. Use a big soft brush and Color Dodge blend mode for these first light effects. See image below.

Step 3

Now you can add the first fractals. I used some great stock images I found on deviantART but you can use your own if you have or search for others. You can also include 3D renders if you like.

The blend mode that I used for the fractal images was Screen but Color Dodge also works well. If the fractals need more contrast when using the Screen mode, use Levels of Curves to increase the blacks. You can change the color of the fractals using Hue/Saturation and change the Hue. Place the fractals as shown in the image below.

Step 4

Keep adding light effects using the Brush Tool and the Color Dodge blend mode. The original idea was to create a sort of explosion of light bursting out of the woman’s chest but in the end I went for something easier. With the help of those fractal bubbles I wanted to achieve a sort of an abstract effect of the soul getting out of the woman.

To make the effect stronger I added 2 more light effects (Orange and Green) above the woman’s chest. I also added more lights on the lower part of the image using Purple and Turquoise (ocean green). See image below.

Step 5 – Shatter effect

Now I will show you how I made the shatter effect on the woman’s legs. I found some cool 3D render stock images from and I used those. I selected one of the renders and pasted it over my image.

3D render - Fly High Tutorial by

Next, I created a layer mask for the 3D render and I used a splatter brush to create smaller pieces and also to create some holes and let see the woman’s body through. It looks good without the layer mask too, so it’s up to you.

Once I had the 3D render ready, I duplicated the layer of the jumping woman and I placed it as a clipping mask over the 3D render and moved it around until it looked good. I also added another light here over the shatter and grouped all layers.

If you want more shatters, just duplicate the group and place it as you like. Next I added another stock image of a water trail

Step 6

I traced a path with the Pen Tool (P) and then I converted the path into a selection and using a big soft brush I painted a few lines along the outer edge of the selection to get those faded white lines.

Once you painted as shown above, change the blend mode of the layer to Overlay. I duplicated the shape, flipped it and placed it on another position. Try adding a bit of drop shadow to one of the shapes you just created and see how it looks.

Step 7

Adding the square bits is quite simple. All you need to do is select the default square brush and tweak the settings a bit. Increase the Shape Dynamics to almost 100%, set Angle Jitter to about 60%. Activate Scatter and set Count to 1 and Scatter to 1000% Both Axes. If the separation of the squares is still not enough increase Spacing to about 400%. Once your brush is set, try with different diameters and paint a few lines with white as in the image below. The blend mode used is Overlay.

Step 8

I added a few colored butterflies. Each butterfly has it’s own outer glow effect because I wanted to have even more light effects. The Blend Mode of the Outer Glow effect is Color Dodge.

Step 9

To finish I created some vector-like lines using the Polygonal Lasso tool and the Shift key in order to draw at 45º angle. Then I applied Motion Blur again at 45º angle and created those fading lines. Then I changed the blend mode to Overlay and duplicated the shape a few times.

Step 10

Now let’s go with the “post production”. In this step I took the final image (selected the entire canvas with CTRL+A and then Copy Merged from Edit>Copy Merged or with the shortcut Shift+Ctrl+C) and pasted it on a new document.

The purpose of this step is to give the image a final punch and create contrast between lights and shadows and also between the colors themselves.

After pasting the merged image on a new layer I turned it into a Smart Object (it’s optional) and then I applied my favorite light filter: Lighting Effects from Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. I used the following settings.

Last but not least I added a Gradient Map adjustment layer with Opacity 35% and Soft Light. This will affect the colors. I used the settings shown below.

And if there are people that still wonder why I did step 10 the answer is on the preview below. Hover your mouse over the image below to see before and after step 10.

This is all for now. If you have any questions post a comment and I’ll try to help you. Also feel free to subscribe to my RSS or follow me via Twitter of Facebook. You can share this article as you like (not copy it to another website).


  • Hey cool effect, but one of your links doesn’t work (the one for the 3D render and water render).

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