Tutorial: Creating Sparkle Trails Photoshop CS

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 it exactly.

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 like.
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 it’s right.

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 if needed.
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.


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