How to Make Sparks in Photoshop CS

Written by y.t. lin
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You can use Adobe Photoshop, the industry standard for manipulating images, to create countless special effects, from snowflakes to rain, from neon lighting to ocean waves. You can use the "Pen" tool and a couple of filters and brushes to create sparks. This effect can decorate gift wrappers, be used as wallpaper or a Web page background, decorate a banner and more.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Launch Photoshop CS. Select a dark colour for the background, excluding black. Use black for the foreground colour. Go to New > File to create a new canvas. Enter the dimensions for the canvas in the dialogue window. Use 72 dpi (dots per inch) for the resolution. Click "OK".

  2. 2

    Go to Filter > Render > Clouds. Because the clouds are random generated by the filter, repeat until a desired pattern is achieved.

  3. 3

    Create a new layer, Layer > New. Name it "Streak 1". Click "OK".

  4. 4

    Pick the "Pen" tool from the tool bar. Choose "Paths" on the options list for the tool. With the "Streak 1" layer now active, left-click once with the pen anywhere on the canvas. A point will appear where the pen landed. This is the start point for the first streak of the spark.

  5. 5

    Left-click on the start point and drag pen away from the start point, and to the right (or to the left) of the start point, while holding down the left mouse key. Release left mouse key. This is the outline and will become the burst streak for the spark.

  6. 6

    Pick a round brush with a soft edge from the "Brush" palette. On the brush dialogue box, set the brush size to 2 pixels, make the "Hardness" to 100 per cent. Adjust to around 180 pixels for the "Fade" option under Shape Dynamics item. Click "OK".

  7. 7

    Pick the "Pen" tool again. Use white for the foreground or any liked colour for the streak, e.g. orange. With the "Streak 1" layer still active, right-click anywhere on the canvas to bring up a selection box. Select Stroke Path > Brush on the pop-up box. This will convert the "Pen" tool to a brush. Click "OK".

  8. 8

    Press ESC (Escape) key on the keyboard twice after the outline is streaked with the chosen colour.

  9. 9

    Repeat Step 3 to Step 8, making additional streaks for the spark. Try to draw streaks close to one another. Enter a different name for each new layer in Step 3, e.g. "Streak 2", "Streak 3", "Streak 4", etc.

  10. 10

    Combine all the layers, Layer > Merge Visible. Put a glow point (the spark) in the centre of the streaks. Go to Filter > Render > Lens Flare. Click "105mm Prime" lens on the pop-up window. Adjust "Brightness" to around 75 per cent. Click "OK". This will create a spark in the centre, and an ambient glow around the streaks. Repeat the directions from Step 3 onward to create additional sparks.

Tips and warnings

  • Experienced users can "paint" directly on canvas and create streaks for the sparks with a small size paintbrush. The pen tool outline is just a useful guide to "unstable" hands. In case of a drawing mistake, only the corresponding layer needs to be deleted.

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