Articles, Blog

Star Filter Photoshop Tutorial

September 5, 2019

(light, upbeat music) – [Narrator] Hello, and
welcome to the second episode of Denny’s Tips. Today, I’ll be teaching
you how to use Photoshop to simulate these star filters
that you place in front of your lens when taking a photo. Star filters are a great way to make your night photos more interesting, but if you don’t have any, you can easily do it in Photoshop. In this tutorial, you’ll
learn an efficient way to simulate various types of star filters using only non-destructive
editing techniques. You will also learn some great
tips on using Smart Objects, and how they can save you a ton of time. So if you’re interested, keep watching and I’ll show you how. Start by duplicating the layer. You can do this by pressing
Control + J on Windows or Command + J on Macs. We’re going to try to isolate the layer, so that only the light
sources, like the light bulbs and taillights are visible. To do this, we’re going to use
the Levels Adjustment Layer. Go to the Adjustments
Panel, then click on the Levels Adjustment Layer. If you don’t see this
panel, you can find it by going to Window, Adjustments,
in the Levels Adjustment drag the black input slider
towards the right, like this: This adjustment will make it
so only the brightest areas of your photo are visible. What we’re looking at now is the blueprint for the star effect. The star will radiate out
from the bright areas, such as these street lights here and the taillights here. We have some areas that we
don’t want it to appear in, such as the clouds over here. So to remove this as a light source, we’re simply going to
paint over it with black. In your Layers Panel, click
on the New Layer button to add a new layer. Select the Brush tool, then set your foreground color to black. You can do this quickly by
pressing D on your keyboard and what that does is
it basically resets your foreground and background
colors to the default color. Now, select the Brush tool,
then look in the Options bar to ensure that the mode is set to normal and the opacity set to 100 percent. Right click anywhere on the document, then pick a soft, round
brush like this one. I like to keep the hardness
set to between zero and 50. Adjust the size of your brush,
then paint over the areas that you don’t want
these stars to appear in. You don’t need to be overly precise, because it won’t make a
big difference in the end. I’m done painting, and the next
step is to merge the layers and add a motion blur. Most people merge layers by
pressing Control or Command + E but when you do this, you can’t go back and make changes to it at a later time. A better way of doing this is
to merge them into something called a Smart Object. To do this, select the three layers. By the way, you can select multiple layers by holding the Control or Command Key. Right click on the layers, then choose Convert to Smart Object. Your layers are now merged,
but the awesome thing about Smart Objects is that you
can double click on the layer and make any edits you want. For example, I can double
click on this layer Photoshop will open it as a new document, and now I can make changes to
layers inside of this layer. And when I’m done, I’m just
going to save and close. The layer will now be updated, and you don’t need to undo a
bunch of steps or start over. So next time you need
to merge your layers, try converting them into
a Smart Object instead. There is also another good
reason to use Smart Objects, and you’ll see why soon. First, let’s add a
motion blur to this layer by going to Filter, Blur, Motion Blur. Adjust the distance to control how large you want your star to be. I’m going to set mine to about this size. Next, adjust the angle. I typically like to start at 45 degrees which will make it blur
diagonally, like this. If you want your star filter
to look slightly tilted and more natural, you can
add a couple degrees to it. Such as using 47 degrees
instead of 45 degrees. When you’re done, click the
OK button to apply the filter. You now have one part of the star, but the flares have quite a square edge. To improve the results, we can apply a motion blur two more times. You can do this by going
to the Filter menu and selecting the first option, or you can press Control or Command + F. Do this twice and you’ll
get a sharper flare. We’re going to add the
second part of the star. Duplicate the layer by pressing
Control or Command + J. We need the motion blur
to go the opposite way, but because this layer is a
Smart Object, you will see that there are filters applied
to it in the Layers Panel. This is the other benefit
to using Smart Objects. When you apply filters to Smart Objects, you get what is called Smart Filters. With Smart Filters, you
can simply double click on the filter to change the settings. So double click on the
Smart Filter to edit it. To make the flare blur
the opposite direction, simply make the angle a negative by adding a minus sign in
front of it, like this: We have three Smart
Filters, so do this again for the other two Smart Filters. Double click on the Smart Filter, then add a minus sign to the angle. Repeat this for the third Smart Filter. We’re done. Now we can change the
blending mode to screen and it will blend with the layer below to create a four point star. This is the simplest star you can get. If you want something more advanced, like the six or eight point star, you can do it by creating more layers. For a six point star,
you need three layers. So you can do it by just
simply duplicating the layer again and changing the blur settings. For a eight point star,
you’ll need four layers so you’ll need to
duplicate the layer twice and change the settings on two layers. For this tutorial, I’m going to create a six point star filter. So I’ll duplicate the layer once by pressing Control or Command + J. Now I have three layers, and I can edit the motion blur filter of the new layer. For horizontal flare, we
can set the angle to zero. But since I’m tilting my star filter, I’m going to add a couple degrees to it and make it two degrees instead. Repeat this for the rest
of the motion blur filters. And just like that, we
now have a six point star. Select the bottom star layer, then change the Blend Mode to Screen. It’s now blended into the photo but it’s faint and unnoticeable. To improve it, we can add
a Levels Adjustment Layer. Go to the Adjustments Panel
and add a Levels Adjustment. In the Layers Panel, make sure that this Adjustment
Layer is the top layer. If it’s not, drag it to the top. We can make the flares
more visible by dragging the white input slider
towards the left, like this: But when we do it, it’s
affecting the entire image. To make it so that it affects
only one layer at a time click on this button here: With this option, you’ll
see that there is an arrow in the Layers Panel
indicating that it is only affecting the layer below it. We have another problem. The layer is only affecting
one of the star layers. So we can solve this in two ways. The first is to duplicate the layers and add them to the other
star layers, like this: Or, you can do what I
prefer more and that is to merge the star layers into
a single Smart Object. To do this, select the three
star layers then right click and choose convert to Smart Object. Change the Blending Mode back
to screen and you’re done. I’m gonna go back to the Levels Adjustment and refine the settings so that the stars are even more visible. But you’ll see that when I do this, the middle of the image
here becomes way too bright. You can fix this by
painting the area black in the layer mass, like this: But if we do this, it will cut off the star flare and remove it. Although it looks fine on this image, it might not work so well on other images. So here is a better way to do it. Remember how we merged the
layers into a Smart Object? Well, this is where it
comes in really handy because you can double click
on the layer like this, and now you can edit
the layers inside of it. I’m going to go deeper
by double clicking on the other Smart Object
in this Smart Object. Now we can go all the way back
and edit the light source. To dim certain areas,
select the Brush Tool then set your Brush Opacity to 50 percent. Look in the Layers Panel and make sure that you’re editing the top layer. Paint over the areas that
you want to dim, like this: When you’re done, save
and close the document. And just like that, your
stars have been updated. Also, you don’t need to
repeat this with the other two layers, because
those layers are the same Smart Object and they get
updated automatically. So that’s why you should use
Smart Objects whenever you can, it’s just a huge time saver. We’re done with the Smart Object too, so save and close the document and now you have your
awesome star filter effect. Just one more tip before
we end this video, if you want to make star
flares even more visible, simply go into your Adjustments Panel and add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment. Position this Adjustment
Layer below your star layer and then dim the brightness like this: We’re done. Here’s how the image looks like before and after. Hey guys, thanks for watching. I hope you like this video, and if you did, hit the
subscribe button below. I also made for you some
free Photoshop actions. You can find the download
link in the video description. Basically what these
actions do is they let you recreate the star filter
effect in just one click. Really, all you do is
you hit the Play button and everything will be done for you. Anyways, let me know what
you think in the comments, download the actions, give it a try and I hope you have a terrific day.


  • Reply Joanie Thatcher October 3, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Denny, I love your style

  • Reply Steven Brener January 24, 2017 at 6:17 pm


  • Reply Denny's Tips March 28, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Update: The "Repeat Previous Filter" hotkey (Ctrl/Cmd+F) has been changed in Photoshop CC. The new hotkey is Ctrl+Alt+F on Windows and Cmd+Opt+F on Macs.

  • Reply spwisc October 24, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    I use Photoshop 15 and really would like to try the star filter effect. Is there a work around that you know of for the different program?

  • Reply Rick M. January 29, 2018 at 12:52 am

    A great tutorial, just like the tone chart!

  • Reply TheSoPhar June 5, 2018 at 4:24 am

    Nice tutorial, Easy to learn even i'm not native english . thank you so much.

  • Reply Samoht December 30, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    Hey man. Great tutorial. I just have a slight problem on my end. Any idea how I can get rid of all the red around the areas with the star filter?

  • Reply Stickapot March 25, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    thank u!

  • Reply peeteecruizer April 15, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Excellent tutorial!

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