Electrify your portraits using Photoshop Elements

Our final image

Some Photoshop effects can look a little generic, particularly if, like filters, they’re simply slapped on top of an image. One way to make effects stand out from the crowd is to have them interact with the figures or objects in your image, like these fantastic glowing lines.

Our starting image

Curved lines aren’t the easiest of shapes to make. Unfortunately Elements lacks the Pen tool found in its bigger brother Photoshop CC, so to get the curling, tapered line we’ll need to use a combination of tools and filters, then to make the line glow we’ll add a Layer Style effect. For simplicity, we’ll make the lines against a plain background. Once we have a couple of different lines, we can begin adding them to our portrait. We won’t need to make every line from scratch, as we can build up the effect by copying the same line again and again, then use Transform controls to skew them into a variety of shapes that wrap around our dancing figure.

01 Make a tapered line

Open black.jpg (or simply make a plain black image). Grab the Line tool from the Tools Panel, then go to the Tool options and set Colour white, Width 10px, Arrow Head: At the End, W 100% L 5000%. Drag a line from left to right, then go to Layer>Simplify Layer.


02 Curl and copy

Go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates, set Rectangular to Polar and hit OK. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy, grab the Move tool and check ‘Show Bounding Box’. Click the box, right-click and pick Flip Layer Vertical, then Flip Layer Horizontal. Drag it down so the two lines meet. Hit Enter.


03 Add a glow

Use the Eraser tool to erase the half of the line you don’t need. Highlight the layer below and do the same. Highlight the top layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl+E to merge down. Go to Layer>Layer Style> Style Settings. Check Glow, then Outer Glow. Pick a blue colour and set Size 13, Opacity 100. Hit OK.

04 Copy and skew

Make two more lines, then open glow_portrait.jpg. Use the Move tool to drag the lines onto the portrait. Position the first line. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate it. Rotate and resize the second line so that it looks different to the first. Drag the corner points while holding Cmd/Ctrl to skew its shape.

05 Build it up

Continue building up the effect by duplicating the lines and transforming them in different ways, making the lines wrap around the dancer’s arms and body. To make a glow more intense, duplicate the layer then go to the Layers Panel and change the Blend Mode to Linear Light.

06 Wrap around the arm

Once you have a series of lines that appear to wrap around the arm, highlight them all and hit Cmd/Ctrl+E to merge together. To make it wrap around the arm, simply switch to the eraser and remove part of the line. To vary the colours of the lines, hit Cmd/Ctrl+U and adjust the Hue slider

Our final image

Top Tip! Colour the Background

You can make a colourful background like this with filter and brush effects. First make a new Layer and paint a few large blobs of colour with a soft-edged circular brush, then drop the Layer Opacity to 30%. Make a second new Layer, hit D and choose Filter>Render>Clouds. Go to Filter Blur>Gaussian Blur to blur the clouds by about 20px, then change the Blend Mode to Overlay and drop the Layer opacity to suit.


Sharpen photos the smart way: demystifying Photoshop’s image sharpening tools
10 common camera mistakes every photographer makes
101 Photoshop tips you really have to know
Adobe Camera Raw: 8 tools that will save your raw files
Raw Images: 10 tips every photographer must know before ditching JPEG