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Creating Electric Rings and Arcs
How to create a simple but effective electric arc using Adobe Photoshop.
By Ryan Foss

This tutorial explores the methods to make quick and easy electric rings.

This image was created in under 15 minutes, and once you understand the process, you can achieve entirely different and unique electric arcs and rings in minutes.

seamless camo sample

The design of this tutorial is for explanation and flexibility. The format of the resulting Photoshop file should be easily adjusted to create various effects. Thus, because of its flexibility, the "tweaking" can happen near the end of the design. So if you feel like rushing to get the idea, I've got nothing against it. I recommend it!

Let’s start out with a new RGB image 512 by 512 pixels. Leaving the background layer alone, create a new layer. Making sure the foreground/background colors are black and white (Shift-D), apply the Clouds filter (Filter > Render > Clouds) to the new layer.

black/white photoshop colors +
Filter > Render > Clouds
= photoshop render clouds

I want some detail to the arcs so lets use the Difference Clouds filter a few times.

photoshop render clouds + black/white photoshop colors +
Filter > Render > Difference Clouds
(applied 5 times)
= difference clouds

Since I'm going for an electric arc ring, I'm going to use the Gradient Tool (G) to create a simple gradient drop. On a new layer, use the Gradient Tool set to Radial Gradient and paint the gradient, going from the middle of the image to the edge. Alternatively, you can use just about any shape or style you want to define your electric design, including text or brushed shapes. A big benefit of desiring the file with layers the way I explain, is that this layer can be adjusted or changed later.

+ +
black/white photoshop colors

Adjust the gradient drop image so its opacity is 60% (or so).


Now using an Adjustment Layer, we are going to adjust the levels of the image to define the background electric arc. With the top layer selected, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels... First we will use this to define the inside of the arc. (Note, this step could be skipped and jump right to the following Curves setup with different adjustment, but I've found that this makes tweaking a little tougher. I like using levels here because it simplifies making the foreground arc and background glow.)


Now we get rid of the white with an additional Adjustment Layer, this time using Curves. Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves... The adjustment I setup keeps a healthy amount of trail off grays. Note, certain effects can be achieved using various settings in the levels above. The effect here will be as if the arc is traveling inward, leaving a glowing trail behind it.


This image should show you very closely what your final product will look like. You can stop here if you like and adjust the various levels to more design the shape and effect of the arc. I'll continue on to help add some color and enhance the glow.

First off, put these four layers into a layer set (Layer > New > Layer Set...) then duplicate it (Layer > Duplicate Layer Set). Name the bottom set Glow and the top Arc. Set the blend mode of Arc to Screen then hide it (change visibility to off, the eye on the left of the layer).

This is where modifications become difficult because
changes may need to be maintained across sets.

First off, duplicate the Glow layer set again and turn off the original. Flatten the set copy so it is just an image (Layer > Merge Layer Set, Ctrl-E). Since we want the glow layer to act as a glowing, spirited part of the arc, we need to blur it. The only way (that I'm aware of) to maintain what we've done to flatten it. The original Glow is maintained just in case.

With the flattened image layer selected, lets blur it some. I did so with a Gausian Blur of 2.0. Next, modify the color by using an Adjustment Layer, Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels... This time adjust the individual color channels to bring out the color you want. In my case, I brought the middle adjustments left in the Blue channel, left in Green, right in Red and lightly right in the overall RGB. Since its an Adjustment Layer, it can be modified more later.


Now we'll focus on the white arc itself. Select the Arc layer set and make it visible again. (Be sure the layer set blending is set to Screen.) Expand the layer set if it isn't already and adjust the Curves layer so that the trail off grays are removed.


There you have it. Hope this tutorial was useful.

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