How to Create a Spotlight in Photoshop

by Tony Smith
Photo by: Walter A. Smith

Adobe Photoshop provides a great way to adjust photos by creating lighting effects. You can make subtle lighting changes, or add a bright spotlight for a more dramatic look. You can add digital lighting in six easy steps, but there are infinite variations you can create by experimenting with the program. This tutorial will give you the basis for creating all sorts of natural looking lighting.

Step 1

Open your photo in Adobe Photoshop.

Step 2

Go to the "Window" menu and select "Layers" to bring up the layers palette. Create a new layer.

Step 3

Switch the foreground and background colors.

Step 4

Select the "Gradient" tool. Click the button at the top of the screen for "Radial Gradient."

Step 5

Pick the spot, in the new layer, where you want your brightest area then click and drag across the screen to your darkest area. Drag longer for more evenly spread out lighting, shorter for more dramatic lighting.

Set your new layer to "Soft Light" for a more subtle change. Choose "Hard Light" for a brighter spotlight.


  • With the "Hard Light" setting, change the "Opacity" slider so that the lighting isn't quite as harsh.


  • Change the white to different colors for more specialized effects like night lighting.
  • Create light from different angles by repeating these steps on different layers.

Photo Credits

  • Photo by: Walter A. Smith

About the Author

Tony Smith has published articles, tutorials, comic book stories, poetry and fiction in both electronic and print media. He works days as the Prepress Manager/IT Coordinator for a printing company and has over 20 years of computer experience with both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

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