Use Adobe Photoshop to create a neon effect.

In this this simple how-to, graphic artist Erica Larson demonstrates how she lights up an image by adding a neon effect in Adobe Photoshop.

Photo composite of a magenta-colored triangle drawn around a hand in a black and white image

Connect the dots and design your glow—watch our one-minute video overview of this technique and see the steps below.

Before you start.

Use these sample images or practice with your own.    


Step 1: Draw a shape

Using the Pen tool, Larson clicked three points to draw a triangle around the hand. You can draw any shape on your image and, with the new Shape layer selected, click on the Add Layer Style icon from the Layers panel and choose Outer Glow.

Use the Pen tool in Photoshop to add a vector shape, then add an outer glow layer style in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2: Create the glow

Experiment with different colors and settings for the Outer Glow. Larson settled on a vivid magenta. Then she set an Inner Glow, changed the Blend Mode to Multiply, and applied the same magenta color.

Set an inner glow on the shape layer, set blending mode to multiple

Step 3: Convert and mask 

Larson right-clicked on the Shape layer and chose Convert To Smart Object. Then she added a mask to the Shape layer.

Convert shape layer to Smart Object and add Photoshop mask

Step 4: Hide and reveal

Larson wanted to hide the triangle just behind the wrist. To hide parts of your neon shape, set the Brush tool to black, select the mask (the white icon on the layer), and brush to remove those sections. To reverse the effect, simply change the brush color to white and paint on the mask to reveal detail again.

Brush with black to create photoshop mask to hide parts of the shape in front of the wrist and thumb

Shine bright.

From computer screens to movie marquees, neon design is everywhere—now it’s time for you to design your own and shine bright.

Composite image with neon triangle around hand is on the screen of a mobile phone placeholder image

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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