Deke’s Techniques 110: Making Synthetic Lightning in Photoshop

110 Making synthetic lightning in Photoshop

Welcome to what is easily the most challenging Deke’s Techniques so far. In just 11 minutes and 47 seconds, I show you how to convert the blobbiest of all possible brush tool drawings into a wicked cool synthetic lightning effect, all by way of an elaborate smart object that turns Photoshop into a kind of lightning bolt-generation factory.

Here’s the official description from

It’s time to upgrade your Photoshop weather machine with this week’s free Deke’s Technique. Back in November of last year, Deke showed you how to create a synthetic rainbow entirely out of Photoshop magic. In this week’s free movie, Deke shows you how to intensify your dark and stormy scenes by adding a 1 percent artificial but no-less-striking-than-the-real-thing bolt of Photoshop-based lightning.

You’ll start by simply painting in a black lightning-shaped brushstroke. Then, by ingeniously selecting parts of your bolt, applying the Difference Clouds filter to randomize the edges, and applying an unusual Levels command setting, you’ll convert that blobby brushstroke to a tendril of light. With some carefully applied blend modes and some gradient masks, plus brushing in some contact spots of eerie glow, you’ll eventually turn those strokes into believable lightning.

Blobby brushstrokes transform into synthetic lightning in Photoshop

The entire procedure takes some concentration and diligence, but in the end you’ll be rewarded with this flash of creative control, 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 in which he shows you how to create driving rain. Photoshop weather, at your fingertips, courtesy of your benevolent meteorologist Deke.

And don’t forget, Deke will be back next week with another free technique.

It’s a challenge, gang! Let me know how it works out.

And keep an eye trained on this site next week. Some very big news awaits.

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  • the wrong file format downloads with your book

    Hi Deke,

    Just FYI, I bought your book Adobe Photoshop CS5. The “Dekekeys” that downloads from O’Reilly for CS5 are not for Photoshop. They are a Premiere Pro File and when double-clicked, they open up Premiere Pro. Just thought you should know.