Tutorial on Using Neon Colors in Photoshop

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Tutorial on Using Neon Colors in Photoshop
You can use Photoshop to replicate the effect of neon. (NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Photoshop is a versatile program that can be used for a variety of purposes. Many of the filters and other features of Photoshop programs make it easy to create special effects in artwork. A popular look, especially for fonts or logos, is a neon effect. Creating a very vivid, neon colour is easy, and there are many ways to effectively use neon colours.

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Choosing Neon Colors

Neon colours are very bright and saturated, appearing somewhat unnatural. There are several ways to obtain neon colours in Photoshop programs. Click on the foreground colour box (displayed as the front of two boxes in the toolbar). This opens up a colour selector box that can also manually be adjusted. Change the saturation to between 90 and 100 per cent, and choose a colour that is a mid-tone or lighter. The default Photoshop colour swatch also has some very saturated neon colours. You can also open a photograph of a neon sign in Photoshop and use the eyedropper tool to select neon colours.

Painting with Neon

Painting with neon colours is not particularly different than painting with any other colour. However, a few aspects should be noted. The high saturation of a neon colour is what makes it appear so vivid, so blending with other colours will "muddy" the neon and make it less vivid. To avoid this, paint with neon colours on a new layer or add any neon colours at the end of your project. In addition, using a hard brush looks more striking, but a soft brush imitates the look of neon lighting more precisely.

Neon Effects

There are many ways to make words or lines painted in Photoshop look like a neon sign. Create a dark background that will make your work show up well. Draw your object using a neon colour and a hard brush, then duplicate the layer that it is on. Select the original layer, then go to the toolbar and choose "effects," then "blur," then "gaussian blur." Change the radius to between 2 and 4 pixels. Then select the other layer and repeat, but with the radius at 1 pixel. Lighten the colour slightly as well. This is a simple way to make a neon sign effect; experiment to find which techniques achieve the look you want.


Neon colours are very useful for creating glowing effects. Create a new layer. Choose a very soft, large brush with a low opacity and paint a light neon colour around whatever object you want to appear to be glowing, using heavier amounts of colour close to the object and less colour farther from the object. This technique also enhances the look of a painted neon object; create a layer behind the neon object and paint to get the glowing effect.


Typically, white is the colour that is used to create highlights on a photograph or digital painting. For instance, you might use white to make hair or lips appear shinier. Neon colours are also very useful for this. Using a light neon colour changes the mood or the appearance of the lighting in a picture. In addition, the saturation of a neon colour can make a neon highlight even more vivid than pure white.

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