Below are step by step instructions to create the Light Rays action seen in this tutorial. You can download the finished action on the tutorial page, but building it by hand can definitely be a valuable exercise in expanding and customizing your toolkit in Adobe Photoshop.
Tips for experimenting and customizing the action:
-Try adjusting the layer opacity in Step 6. A higher opacity will build up the brightness of the light rays faster.
-Try adjusting the white output level in Step 7. A lower white output value will make the light fall off faster.
-Replace the Radial Blur with a Gaussian Blur in Step 8 to create a softer “blooming” light.
For your reference, here’s a video that runs through the steps below… not much production value, but it should help if you need clarification on any of the steps!
The setup: Any Photoshop document set to 16 Bit (Image→Mode→16 Bits/Channel).
1) Select Window→Actions to show the Actions tab.
2) Click the New Action Icon (plus symbol), name it “Long Light Rays – use at 16 Bit” and press Record.
3) Make a Merged Copy using Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E (Windows) or Shift+Command+Option+E (Mac OS).
4) Double click on the new layer’s name in the Layer’s tab to rename it “Lightrays”. *This step may seem unnecessary, but the action does need to rename this layer in order to work properly.
5) Set the layer’s Blending Mode to Screen in the Layers tab.
6) Set the layer’s Opacity to 12%.
7) Select Image→Adjustments→Levels and set the white output value (at the very bottom right) to 243.
8) Select Filter→Blur→Radial Blur and set the Amount to 15, the Blur Method to Zoom, and the Quality to Good.
9) Select Edit→Transform→Scale and set the Width and Height values to 105%.
10) Create a copy of the layer using the shortcut Ctrl+J (Windows) or Command+J (Mac OS).
11) Press the stop button in the Actions tab to stop recording.
12) In the recorded action, select the “Levels” command then shift-select the “Layer Via Copy” for a total of four selected commands. Drag those commands onto the New Action button (plus symbol) to duplicate those four commands.
13) Repeat the prior step six times so the action will repeat “Levels, Radial Blur, Transform current layer, and Layer Via Copy” a total of eight times in a row.
14) Delete both of the layers you’ve created so far.
15) Select your “Long Light Rays” Action and press the play button.
16) In your layers tab, you should now have a layer named “Lightrays” and seven copies above it named “Lightrays copy” through “Lightrays copy 8”.
17) In your Actions tab, select the very last command in the Long Light Rays Action, “Layer Via Copy”, and press the record button.
18) Select the layer named “Lightrays copy 7”, then shift select the layer named “Lightrays” for a total of seven selected layers”.
19) Use the shortcut Ctrl+E (Windows) or Command+E (Mac OS) to merge the layers.
20) Set the layer’s Blending Mode to Screen.
21) Use Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac OS) to select all.
22) Press the Create Layer Mask button on the Layers tab to create a layer mask.
23) Right click on the mask and select Apply Layer Mask to crop any imagery outside of the canvas.
24) Double click on the layer’s name and rename it “Lightrays”.
25) Select the layer “Lightrays copy 8”.
26) Use Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac OS) to select all.
27) Press the Create Layer Mask button on the Layers tab to create a layer mask.
28) Right click on the mask and select Apply Layer Mask to crop any imagery outside of the canvas.
29) Press the stop button in the Actions tab to stop recording.
30) At the top of your “Long Light Rays” Action, select the second command, “Set current layer”.
31) Scroll to the very end of your Action and shift select the last command, “Delete current channel”, so that you’ve selected every command except the first one.
32) Drag all of these commands onto the New Action button a total of five times.
33) Delete both of the layers you’ve created so far.
34) Select your “Long Light Rays” Action and press the play button.
35) Select the very last layer in your Action, “Delete current channel” and press the record button.
36) Press Backspace (Windows) or Delete (Mac OS) to delete the “Lightrays copy 8” layer.
37) Double click the current layer (“Lighrays”) and rename it “Long Light Rays”. *Changing the name prevents the layer from being effected if you use the action again in the same document.
38) Use Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac OS) to select all.
39) Use Select→Modify→Contract and set it to 20px.
40) Use Select→Modify→Feather and set it to 4px.
41) Use Filter→Radial Blur, the same settings should be active (15, Zoom, Good).
42) Use Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac OS) to deselect.
43) Press the stop button in the Actions tab.
44) Your Action is ready to use!!