How to Create a Realistic Spotlight Effect in Photoshop

How to create a realistic spotlight in Photoshop

A spotlight is an effective way to draw the attention of the viewers to a subject. Spotlights are widely used in concerts, theaters, and different kinds of TV shows. In this tutorial, we will show how to create a realistic spotlight effect in Photoshop using FIlters.

Step 1: Create a Solid Color Layer and Select Black

Solid Color Layer

Open the image that you want to create a spotlight on in Photoshop.

From the new fill or adjustment layer create a solid color layer and select black from the color picker.

Select Black

Step 2: Decrease the Opacity of the Layer and Create a Selection

From the layers panel, decrease the opacity of the solid color layer.

Decrease Layer Opacity

Next, create a selection with the elliptical marquee tool.

Create a selection

Now select the foreground color as black from the toolbar.

Foreground Color

Also, select the mask from the layers panel and press “Alt + Del” to fill the mask with black.

Fill the mask

Step 3: Reverse the Opacity Back to 100% and Apply Gaussian Blur

Reverse Opacity

From the layers panel, reverse the opacity back to 100%. Now you can apply the filter to soften the blur. Go to the Filter>Blur> Gaussian Blur from the top menu bar to apply Gaussian Blur.

Apply Gaussian Blur

Gaussian Blur

Or better if you are using Photoshop CS6 or higher, you can apply Feather from the properties panel. Double-clicking on the layer mask icon will open up the properties panel. You can drag the slider to choose a feather amount. This is the best method as the settings can be changed at any time.

Step 4: Adjust the layer Mask With Free Transform

Unlink the layer mask by clicking the icon in the middle.

unlink layer mask


Select layer mask from the layers panel by clicking on the icon. Then either press Ctrl + T on the keyboard or go to Edit> Free Transform.

select layer mask

Right-click on the free transform box to apply distort.

apply distort

Now adjust the spotlight in the direction of the light source by clicking and dragging on the box.

Adjust the perspective

Step 5: Select the Brush Tool to Paint on the Mask

Right now the spotlight effect should be looking pretty good. However, it is possible to remove the spotlight from the areas where the shadow is expected.

Paint to darken the area

To remove the spotlight from some areas and apply a shade opposite to light source, you can do the following-

(a) select the brush tool from the toolbar
(b) set the foreground color to White
(c)change the opacity to a lower level
(d) paint and adjust around the areas where you do not want highlights to be visible

Step 6: Got the Spotlight!

Final Result

And, finally, we have got our desired result, a soft spotlight around the women. You can compare this with the initial image to see the effect.

Again, if you want to tone down the effects a little, you can reduce the opacity of the adjustment layer. This technique can be applied to any kind of photo including people and other objects.

Video Tutorial

YouTube video

You may also read: How to create mist in Photoshop:  step by step tutorial


We have shared a simple way how to create a realistic spotlight effect in Photoshop. There are many different ways to do so. We have picked out the less complicated one so that it gets easier for you to understand. Hope you enjoyed the tutorial. Happy learning!