A popular effect, you don’t need any fancy
filters or plugins to achieve it. This tutorial gives you total
control of the shape, color, size, and placement of you sparkles!
To make this really fast, download a premade star brush, or follow
the whole tutorial to make your own.
These screen shots are from Photoshop CS, but
are almost identical in lower versions.
In this tutorial we’ll learn to use the Brushes Palette,
Layer Styles, Stroke, Blur Filters, and make a custom brush.
1. Open a new document, at least 200 dpi for good
printing, and make a new layer. Fill the background with a daker
color so you will see the sparkles.
2. Open a second new document, 1”x1”. We will make
a custom brush for the sparkles, and this size canvas gives you
roughly a size 200 brush, but you can adjust the size later depending
on the size you want for your layout. There are many star brushes
available for download, so you can find and use one of those instead
and skip to step 3.
a. In the small document, use your Line Tool in the Rectangle
Tool submenu, and make a cross shape. While holding the mouse
to draw the line, press the space bar to move the line and position
b. Filter>Gaussian Blur about 3, depending
on your preference and resolution. You’ll likely have to
undo and repeat these steps several times to get something you
c. Filter>Radial Blur>Zoom, Amount 100, and run several
times. Make sure your canvas is large enough that this blur doesn’t
make you star go off the edges.
d. Adjust Levels to increase contrast.
e. Use a small round brush, color black, to darken the star center.
You’ll want a nice, bright center for your brush.
f. Edit>Brush preset. Name your brush, and try it out in white
on your dark background canvas. If it’s not right, go back
and adjust Levels again or run another Zoom filter on it until
g. To quickly erase brushes you don’t like,
Alt-click on the brush in the flyout brush menu (you’ll
see scissors when you hold Alt)
3. When your brush is the way you like it, or you have found some
to download, paint a white star trail on your dark canvas. Here
are the default settings, and it doesn’t look very good!
4. To customize, open the Brushes Palette with
your star brush selected.
5. Click on Brush Tip Shape and increase spacing to about 100,
or whatever you prefer.
6. Click on the words Shape Dynamics (don’t just check the
box, highlight the words). Adjust Size Jitter and Angle Jitter
to about 50 or 60%. Adjust Scatter to about 50%. (These settings
are really personal preference, you can change the Roundness Jitter
and Controls to Fade if you want. You can also adjust the other
settings later, like color and opacity jitters. Experiment!)
7. Open the Brushes Menu again and click the small square to make
a Preset from the settings you just entered. Here is a comparison
of the default brush settings and the custom settings.
8. Paint a star trail on Layer 1 with zig-zagging
motions. Name this layer Stars. You can stop here, or continue
to add some effects.
9. Make a new layer under the Stars layer and name it Glow.
10. Using a large soft airbrush on low opacity and flow, with
pastel colors, paint on a glow under the trail.
11. Filter>Gaussian Blur to the Glow layer,
about 100 or however you like. Lower the opacity of this layer
12. To give the stars extra glow, on the Star layer, go to Edit>Stroke,
1 px, bright yellow color, 20% opacity.
13. Add Layer Style>Outer Glow, orange color
or choose a colored gradient you like by clicking on the bar and
choosing a preset, low opacity and mid-range size. Go back and
change these settings if they’re too subtle or too strong.
14. You’re done! Use this technique on your
layouts, or remove the dark background and drop the linked star
layers onto your layout.