Photoshop Friday! Add a Glow to Photo Highlights

Hi there! Welcome to our first Photoshop Friday of 2008! Here’s a cool technique that you can use for subtle or dramatic effect to create a glow around the highlights in a photo. The subtle one is barely noticeable, but just adds a little extra touch of light. In the subtle one, look especially at Rowen’s hair, and the tip of her nose, as well as the flowers. The dramatic one, of course, has a cool artistic effect that will be perfect in certain situations.

Here are all the variations we’ll try:


First, let’s do the default/medium glow, since that’s the place we’ll start for each effect. After the initial glow effect is done, you can either reduce the effect or strengthen it. Let’s get started!

Photo Highlight Glow

1. Open your photo in Photoshop.

2. In the Layers palette, right-click on your photo and choose Duplicate Layer from the flyout menu.

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3. Go to Filter > Distort > Diffuse Glow. The Filter dialog box appears, with Diffuse Glow settings open.

4. In the bottom left corner of the dialog box, pop up the size selector, and choose Fit in View.

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5.  At the far right side of the Diffuse Glow dialog box, you’ll see three sliders for controlling the effects of this filter.

  • Slide the Graininess slider to 0
  • Adjust the Glow Amount to control the strength of the glow in the highlights (higher numbers = more glow)
  • Adjust the Clear Amount to control what parts of your photo will NOT receive a glow effect. Essentially, this lets you restrict the glow effect to only the highlights or lets you carry it over into the midtones as well (higher numbers = less parts of the photo that glow)


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6. Click OK. 

 If you want a medium-strength glow effect, you can stop right here! :D

Or, you can go more subtle for just a lighter touch on the highlights. Or you can go really dramatic. I’ll show you both of these.

Subtle Glow Effect

With your medium-strength glow all finished,  all you need to do to reduce the strength of the effect overall is to reduce the opacity of your glow layer.

1. In the Layers palette, target your photo glow layer, and slide the Opacity slider down until you’re happy with the glow. I set mine at about 60%.

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 Dramatic Glow Effect

Now if you’d like to take your photo in the other direction, you can add drama with a blended, blurred layer.

1. Right-click on your glow layer in the Layers palette and choose Duplicate Layer from the flyout menu.

2. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur. Set the blur amount to 6.0 pixels and click OK.

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3.  Now with your blurred layer targeted, set the blending mode at the top of the Layers palette to Soft Light.

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Have fun adding glows to your photos, and have a super, Phabulous Photoshop Phriday and a great weekend!


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Jessica Sprague22 Comments