Enhancing Christmas Lights Using Photoshop * watch your lights glow

Question from some MCP Actions customers: “How can I make Christmas lights more vibrant?”

Starting with this photo from Heather O’Steen, Timeless and Treasured Photography I will show you how to enhance Christmas lights in your photographs using Photoshop.

This tutorial will teach you how to make holiday lights, Christmas tree lights, and more glow and look more vibrant.

Step 1: Edit your photo as you normally would for exposure and color

Step 2: Select your Lasso Tool. Lasso each light of the same color. You may need to zoom in to do this. So here I am starting with Yellow. You want to lasso the part that glows. It does not have to be a perfect selection. Before selecting the next light, you need to make sure in your top toolbar that your lasso is set to add.

Step 3: Once you are done selecting all similar color lights, go under SELECT – MODIFY – FEATHER. I set my feather low – around 5 – this will depend on the resolution of your photo.

Step 4: Copy the lights onto a new layer. Ctrl (or Command on a Mac) + “J” will put these lights on a new layer. Then in your layers palette, click on the layer styles icon – and in the drop down, select “Outer Glow.”

Step 5: Start by picking a color similar to your light color. Click on the little color swatch and your color picker will open up. Take the dropper and sample the light color are working on. Click OK once you have the light color. This will take you back to the Layer Style dialog box. You will want to increase the spread and size until that light color looks to be glowing. You can see here I am at a spread of 19% and a size of 92px. This will vary based on the resolution of your photo. Once you like the look, click OK.

Step 6: Select the “Background Layer” Repeat Steps 2-5 for each color light you have. After each color, remember to select the “Background Layer” again before selecting the new lights. Also remember to source a new color each time for the outer glow.

Here is the after – the only change being the lights and a sharpen for web:

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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  1. 1


    Jodi, how did you know I needed this tutorial? I just got through photographing some Christmas trees and was wondering how to make the lights glow. Are you a mind reader?

  2. 6


    I’ve been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours Enhancing Christmas Lights Using Photoshop * watch your lights glow MCP Photography Blog. It’s pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.


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