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Create 3 dynamic backdrops from scratch with Lighting effects

Added on Tuesday 22nd of August 2006 06:49 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


There’s bound to come a time when you’ll need an interesting backdrop for your images. This could cause you to waste many fruitless hours surfing around for one on stock art websites and then pay a high fee for the image. But you don’t have to go that route—we’ll show you how you can save your time and money and easily create your own backdrops with some lighting effect tricks.


To create fantastic backdrops for your images with simple lighting effects, we’ll:

     Show you how to create a studio backdrop to add a traditional flair to your work.

     Describe how to design a dramatically lit theater stage to give your message the attention it deserves.

     Illustrate how to create illuminating underwater backdrops to add a mystical style to your piece.


The Lighting Effects filter can create an endless number of backdrops for your imagery. Whether you need a traditional studio background, a lighted stage, or an underwater utopia, you can set the scene in Photoshop without a lot of work. We’ll show you how to create a series of funky backdrops from scratch, so the next time you have a product or image that needs a proper backdrop, you won’t have to worry about finding the right image. You can simply make it yourself!


A studio background

To begin, we’ll create a backlit studio scene, like the one shown in Figure A. Backgrounds such as this have been used for numerous advertisements over the years, as well as for portrait and product shots. First, we’ll create the background, and then we’ll add the flat surface.




To create a studio background:

1.       Create a new 4.5" x 6" 200 ppi RGB document.

2.      Fill the Background with a dark color of your choice. We used a dark blue with R-G-B coordinates of 32-45-99, respectively.

3.      Choose Filter > Render > Lighting Effects to display the Lighting Effects dialog box.

4.      Select Soft Omni from the Style pop-up menu.

5.      Change the Intensity slider to approximately 35 and select a color for your light by clicking on the color swatch in the Light Type area. We used white for our example.

6.      In the Properties area, change the Gloss slider to 35, the Material slider to 5, the Exposure slider to 100, and the Ambience slider to 0.


Note: Different lighting and background colors will react differently, so your settings may vary if you use colors other than the ones we’ve stated.


7.      Center the light in the preview area as shown in Figure B; click OK.




To create a flat surface on which to place an object:

1.       Choose the Rectangle Marquee tool rectangle_marquee from the toolbox.

2.      Select the bottom half of your document.

3.      Copy and paste the selection so it’s on a new layer.

4.      Select the Move tool move from the toolbox, drag the copied image down so only the top half is showing, as shown in Figure C.

At this point, your backdrop is complete. Now all you have to do is place an object on it For additional impact, you can also create a reflection of your object on the surface as we did in Figure A.


Note: For more on creating reflections, follow the steps outlined in the article “Create realistic rippled reflections with a displacement map” in this issue of Inside Photoshop. For a flat surface, simply eliminate the displacement map steps.




A lighted stage

A lighted stage, such as the one shown in Figure D, is a great way to add a dramatic flair and draw attention to your images. First, we’ll show you how to make the curtain, and then we’ll show you how to add the lighting.