Creating a realistic Photoshop flare (or Solar Flare)

Photoshop solar flare image completed

Level: Intermediate (useful for advanced users)


This is a tutorial on creating a realistic Photoshop lens flare. I have noticed lens flares being used in many designs especially in the recent years. I have figured out how to do one myself. I am not sure if this is the technique that has been used — but I have found it to work quite well for creating this effect. You can use this tutorial for any kind of flare, solar flare or light explosion.

You can use this tutorial to create many kinds of flares or light effects — all you have to do is start out with a different white object (As gone over later).

Photoshop Version: CS2 (Can apply to Earlier versions up to Photoshop 7 or versions of Photoshop with Radial Blur)


The first step is to create a new Photoshop document with a black background. It should be 5 inches by 5 inches at 300 dpi or a dpi that suits your needs.

The reason I suggest using this large of image size is so that you can reuse the flare as you need it. If your computers resources can not easily handle these steps with an image of the size I specified — reduce the DPI to 150 or even 72. I leave this up to you. (As a note though — you will have to slightly change the settings from what is shown below)

Next, create guides that show the center of the image. For an image that is 5 inches by 5 inches put a horizontal guide at 2.5 inches and then a vertical guide at 2.5 inches.

Blank black canvas

Next, create a new layer and using the eliptical marquee tool create a white circle in the center of the document as shown here.

For different flare effects you can make different shapes at this step.
Create a circle for the solar flare

Lock transparent pixels

Click on the layer with the circle you created and click the “Lock Transparent pixels” button which will allow edits only on the filled part of the layer.

The next step is to go to [Filter->Noise->Add Noise] and set the settings as shown here. (Amount: 400, Distribution: Gaussian, Monochromatic: selected)

Add noise to the circle

Next, click the “Lock transparent pixels” button again to unlock the layers transparent pixels.

Next go to [Filter->Blur->Radial Blur] and enter the settings as shown here. If your computer does not have a lot of RAM or is very slow — choose the “Good” option under “Quality”.

Next apply radial blur 10 more times by pressing [Control/Command + “F”] or by going to [Filter->Blur->Radial Blur] and applying the filter that many times.

You will start to get the looks of a flare here. After this there are still a few steps to get to the finish. Any steps from here can be altered to create your own style or color of flare.

Next, create a new layer and create a small circle of white using the elliptical marquee tool.

Then use [Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur] and use the settings as shown here. This is what creates the bright light in the center of the flare.

Next, select the top layer and then at the bottom of the layers palette there is a button called “Create new fill or adjustment layer”. click this and then click “Hue/Saturation”.

This will add a new adjustment layer which will allow you to adjust the color of the flare without permanently affecting it.

Apply the settings as shown here (Hue: 211, Saturation: 52, Lightness: 0).

You can play with the settings to get a desired flare color or brightness.

The final file will look like this.

For the expert: You can put this flare into other images by deleting the background layer and doing a “Merge Visible Layers” which give give you an object to move to different photos.

I suggest you try different shapes at the beginning or try doing this effect with text.

I hope this tutorial is useful. Comment below if this tutorial has been helpful is or if you need additional help.

  Photoshop Solar Flare Layered File (3.3 MiB, 396 hits)