How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

In this tutorial you will learn how to create an amazing magic dust effect. I will try to explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

The effect shown on the left is the one I will show you how to create here in this tutorial. If you would like to create the effect shown on the right quickly and easily, then check out my MagicDust Photoshop Action:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

What You’ll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following photo:

1. Let’s Get Started

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be between 1500–4000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be theBackground layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

2. Create the Base

Step 1

Now we need to create the base that determines where the magic dust effect will be created. To do that, go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Base.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, adjust the size of the brush, and brush over the areas where you want to create the magic dust effect. You can use any color—it doesn’t matter.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

3. Create the Background Dust

Step 1

Now we are going to create some background dust to go behind the sparkles. First hide theBase layer by clicking on the eye icon next to its thumbnail. Then select theBackground layer and go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Background Dust.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

Control-click on the Base layer thumbnail to make a selection of that layer, go to Select > Modify > Expand and after that Select > Modify > Feather, and choose the settings below:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

We are going to use this selection now to create a layer mask for theBackground Dust layer. So go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Select the layer mask of Background Dust layer, Right-click on it, choose Select and Mask, and enter the settings below:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

Now we are going to add some style to this layer. Right-click on the layer in the Layers panel and choose Blending Options. Check the Gradient Overlay and choose the settings below:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 7

Select the layer mask of theBackground Dust layer, Right-click on it, and choose Apply Layer Mask. Change the blending mode of this layer to Color Dodge and drop the opacity to about 31%.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

4. Create the Glowing Particles

Step 1

Now we are going to create glowing particles. Control-click on the Base layer thumbnail to make a selection of that layer. Select theBackground Dust layer and go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and leave the default name Layer 1.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches, go to Edit > Fill, and select the following settings:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

Now press Control-D on your keyboard to deselect. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint and set the type to Coarse Dots. Alt-click onthe Layer 1eye icon next to its thumbnail, to hide all other layers.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Go to Select > Color Range and using the Eyedropper Tool, select the white color by clicking on some of the white particles in your photo, and set the Fuzziness to 200. Then go to Select > Select and Mask and choose the following settings:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Now Right-click on theLayer 1 layer name and choose Delete Layer. Select theBackground layer, click on the eye icon to make it visible, and go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

To make the particles glow, go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy to duplicate the current layer. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and choose the settings below.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 7

Now repeat the previous step twice using the settings below in the order they are shown. So the top screenshot is for the first repeated step, and the bottom screenshot is for the second repeated step.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 8

Go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy two times, so you duplicate Layer 2 copy 3 twice. Now go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and select the settings below. After that, go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy twice again.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 9

Shift-click onLayer 2 to select all the particles layers, Right-click on any of the selected layers, and choose Merge Layers. Then repeat Step 6 twice using the settings below in the order they are shown. So the top screenshot is for the first repeated step, and the bottom screenshot is for the second repeated step.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 10

Shift-click onLayer 2 copy 7 to select all the particles layers, Right-click on any of the selected layers, and choose Merge Layers. Go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy twice, so you duplicate this layer twice. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and choose the settings below.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 11

Now go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy to duplicate theLayer 2 copy 11 layer. Shift-click onLayer 2 copy 9 to select all the particles layers, Right-click on any of the selected layers, and choose Merge Layers. Change the blending mode of this layer to Linear Dodge, and then double click on this layer name and type Particles_1.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 12

To create more particles, we are going to repeat the process we have used for creating theParticles_1 layer. So if you want more particles, repeat all the steps from Step 1 to Step 11. Repeat these steps as many times as you want, depending on how many particles you would like to create. I have repeated it four more times.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 13

Now select theBackground Dust layer and click on its eye icon to make it make it visible. Then drag the layer to the bottom of the Layers panel between theBackground and the last particles layer (theParticles_5 layer in my case).

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 14

If you would like to transform any of the particles layers, pick the Lasso Tool (L), right click anywhere inside the canvas, and choose Free Transform. Then make the transformations that you want—you can scale particles, rotate etc. You can also use Control to select multiple layers and make multiple transformations at once, as I have done below:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

5. Make Adjustments

Step 1

Now we are going to add some contrast. Select theParticles_1 layer and reset the swatches by pressing D on your keyboard. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall Contrast.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Change the blending mode to Overlay and drop the opacity to about 22%.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

Now we are going to add saturation. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation to create a new hue/saturation adjustment layer and name it Overall Saturation.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Double click on theOverall Saturation layer thumbnail and enter the following settings:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Now we are going to make some brightness adjustments. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels to create a new levels adjustment layer and name it Overall Brightness.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

Double click on theOverall Levels layer thumbnail and choose the following settings:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 7

Now we will add some sharpening to our photo. Press Control-Alt-Shift-Eon your keyboard to make a snapshot. Go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the radius to 2px.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 8

Double click on this layer name to rename it and type Overall Sharpening. Change the blending mode to Linear Light and drop the Opacity to about 90%.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

6. Create the Color Look

Step 1

Now we are going to add a nice color look to our photo. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color Look.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Double click on theColor Look layer thumbnail and enter the following settings:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Awesome Work!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! Here is our final result:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

Customize Your Results

You can now customize the final effect; I will give you a few tips:

  • You can repeat the process in section 4, Create the Glowing Particles, to create a lot more glowing particles. Also, don’t forget you can transform the particles as in Step 14 in this section.
  • Select the layer Overall Contrast and change its opacity to adjust the contrast.
  • Select the layer Overall Saturation, double-click on its thumbnail, and inside the Properties panel play with theSaturation value to create different results.
  • Select the layer Overall Brightness, double-click on its thumbnail, and change the settings to adjust the brightness.
  • Select the layer Overall Sharpening and change its opacity to adjust the amount of sharpening.
  • Select theColor Look layer, double-click on its thumbnail, and inside theProperties panel change the settings for a different color look.

Here is what I got:

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

If you would like to create an even more advanced magic dust effect as shown below, using a single click in just a few minutes, then check out my MagicDust Photoshop Action.

How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop

The action works so that you just brush where you want to create magic dust, play the action, and the action will do everything for you in a few minutes, giving you fully layered and customizable results. The action will also create 33 preset color looks for you. It comes with a detailed video tutorial that demonstrates how to use and customize the look of your action to get the most out of the effect.