How to make animated neon lights in photoshop

Written by xandra lynn
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How to make animated neon lights in photoshop
Using such layer effects as Outer Glow to create the neon sign look. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Creating animated neon lights in Photoshop can be a complex task, but once you are familiar with the workflow, you will be able to adapt this technique easily. Most neon in the real world appears in the form of signs, so with this in mind, you will be creating words that glow, as if glowing in a neon sign. To do this you will mostly use the glow effect; however, making the neon animate requires additional steps and results in an animated gif file, viewable only in a web browser.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Digital Background Image
  • Type Font (Neon or Round Style)

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Instructions

    Creating Neon Light

  1. 1

    Open Photoshop and create a new file.

  2. 2

    Create a text layer, and using the Type tool, enter the words you want displayed in your neon sign. Choose a font suitable for a neon sign. Typically these are rounded fonts such as Ariel Rounded or variations of Neon Type Font.

  3. 3

    Apply a Layer Style Effect to your text layer. To do this, go under "Layer" then choose "Layer Style" then "Outer Glow."

  4. 4

    Apply an "Outer Glow" to your text layer using the Layer Styles palette. Depending on the colours of your neon sign, this will vary. For instance, creating a red, orange coloured sign, choose dark orange for the colour of the outer glow. Adjust the size and spread of the outer glow, the numbers will vary based on your image resolution. Move the sliders to the right until a thick, fuzzy glow, that resembles a neon glow appears.

  5. 5

    Apply an "Inner Glow" also using the Layer Style palette. The inner glow should outline your text layers, but not fill in the entire text block. Adjust the colour of the Inner Glow to be lighter than your outer glow. For a red-orange sign, your neon letter outline should be a very light orange or yellow tone. The size should be minimal, just enough to outline the letters, but adjust the "Choke" in order to make the outline more fuzzy and neon-glow like.

  6. 6

    Apply a cover overlay effect to your text layer. Ideally this colour should be very similar to the colour used for the outer glow of your neon layers, giving the illusion that the letters are hollow outlines of the lighter neon and blending in with the background glow.

  7. 7

    Place your Neon text over a digital image of your choice. For example, the exterior photograph of a cafe with a sign reading "OPEN" to give context to your neon sign.

    Setting up Animation

  1. 1

    Make three (or more) duplicate copies of your Text layer which has the effects applied to it. Do this by going to the Layer Palette and clicking the small arrow in the upper right corner, and selecting "Duplicate Layer." Label each one so you can distinguish between them, Frame 1, Frame 2 , etc.

  2. 2

    Open the Animation window inside of Photoshop. Do this by going to the menu: "Window" then selecting "Animation." The animation window will appear in the bottom of your screen.

  3. 3

    Create four frames in the animation window. Do this by clicking on the new frame icon four times, displayed next to the garbage can icon in the bottom of the animaion window.

  4. 4

    Turn off all four layers of the duplicate text neon effect layers. Click the eyeball icon in the layer palette to turn them off.

  5. 5

    Set your animation frames to each text layer. Start this process by first clicking on the first frame of your animation window, to highlight it with a black outline. While on this frame, turn on your first layer of the text layer. Next click on the second frame, turn off the first text layer and turn on your second text layer. Click on your third frame to highlight and turn off the second text layer, turning on the third text layer. Continue doing this for all additional frames of your animation. Your animation can be many frames. The key is to have only one specific layer displaying in the layer palette per animation frame.

    Animating Visual Effects

  1. 1

    Change the characteristics of each frame. Highlight frame one in your animation, click on the corresponding layer displayed in your animation window. Click on the layer style effect palette for that specific layer and alter the size of your neon glows (inner and outer glow effects), taking note of the corresponding numbers displayed on your glows. Change the number of the glow very slightly to be different than the other layers.

  2. 2

    Repeat Step 1 for all four of your animation frame layers (or more). The goal is that each layer frame of your animation has a slightly different size neon glow effect so that once it is animated together, the glow of the neon light will animate.

  3. 3

    Set the time of each frame in the animation window. Experiment with using two seconds, three seconds or five seconds depending on the speed desired. The shorter the time between each frame the smoother your animation will look.

  4. 4

    Save and export your animation from Photoshop. Do this by going to the menu: "File" to "Save for Web & Devices." Select GIF as a file format, if it is not already selected and adjust your other options as needed for file size. Give it a name and click "Save." Your animation will be viewable only in a web browser.

  5. 5

    Test your animation by opening a web browser and opening the newly saved GIF animation file.

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure to turn off each layer that is displayed on each animation frame until there is only one frame viewable per animation frame.
  • Adjust your layer effects on each frame until the animation is smooth.
  • While your work is in progress, save your file also as a .PSD Photoshop file, so that you may later edit your animation.

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