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Making Christmas Lights

By Wendy Williams  ·  December 5th, 2008

Here’s another Christmas-themed tutorial that’s easy to do and a lot of fun: a set of Christmas lights that have the appearance of being lit. Once you have made the lights you will then be able to add them into your images or scrapbook pages. Also you will be able to adapt the technique to light up any sort of light. I do hope that you enjoy the tutorial.

1. First create a new file. File>New>Blank File, 1000 pixels by 1000 pixels, resolution 300, RGB with a white background.

2. To make it easier to see on the Web page I filled the background with a colour. If you wish to follow along with me then the colour I used is ‘elfefd,’ so just choose that as your foreground colour and then do Edit>Fill Selection.

3. Create a new layer above the background (choosing Layer>New Layer) and call it “Bulb Start.”

4. Select the Elliptical Marquee and make a selection similar to the one in the image below:

5. Choose black as the foreground colour and fill the selection. Edit>Fill Selection.

6. Next we need to distort this to make it into a bulb shape so just do Image>Transform>Distort and when the bounding box come up grab the corner handles and move each of them until it looks something like this.

7. Deselect. Select>Deselect. Then go to the layers palette, Control click (Mac: Command Click) on the “Bulb Start” Layer thumbnail to regain the selection and then turn off the eyeball next to this layer.

8. Create a new layer above the “Bulb Start” layer and call it “Bulb.” Make sure that this is the current active layer and then choose Edit>Stroke Selection, set to 20 pixels, Inside, with black as the stoke colour.

9. The bottom of the bulb has become a little blurred, so let’s correct that. Select the Eraser with the block setting and erase away the blur, then duplicate the layer Layer>Duplicate Layer and merge the two layers (Layer>Merge Down).

10. This looks a lot better, but don’t worry about any slight imperfections as they won’t be seen in our final image.

11. Our next stage is to make the bulb holder. So create a new layer above the “Bulb” Layer and call it “Holder.”

12. Then select the Rectangular Marquee and make a selection something like the one in my next image.

13. Fill this selection with black (Edit>Fill Selection), then deselect and merge the two layers (Layer>Merge Down).

14. We now need to add a gradient to this layer. So go to the Layers palette and click on the transparent box next to the word Lock. This means that any transparent areas will be locked on this layer—anything we do will only affect our bulb.

15. Set your foreground colour to ‘147516’ and your background colour to ‘054409.’ These two shades of green will colour the bulb outline.

16. Select the Gradient Tool, set to a Linear gradient type, Foreground to Background and drag the Gradient out from Point A to Point B (shown below).

17. By now, your bulb will look something like the image below. Save a copy of this file as a bulb template to use later.

18. Now for our main image. Create a new file: File>New>Blank File 3000 pixels by 3000 pixels, resolution 300, RGB with a white background. I filled this with ‘elfefd’ just to make it easier to see here on the Web page.

19. Create a new layer (Layer>New Layer) and call it “Wire” then change your foreground colour to the darkest of our green shades (‘054409’) and with a hard 60-pixel brush draw a line across the page.

Don’t forget that you can simply click once at one side of the page and then hold down the Shift key and click once at the other side of the page. Elements will fill in the straight line for you.

20. Go back to your Bulb Image and drag and drop the bulb into our new image and flip the bulb vertically by choosing Image>Rotate>Flip Layer Vertical.

21. The bulb is too large, so we’ll need to resize it. Select the Move tool and click on the “Bulb” layer, a bounding box will then appear around the bulb.

22. Click on one of the corners of the bounding box and then look at Options Bar at the top of the screen. In the Width box change the figure to 60% and make sure that you have Constrain Proportions box checked to ensure that the height also changes to 60%.

Once you have done that just move the bulb into position on the wire.

23. I am now going to zoom in on the bulb so that you can see what I am doing.

Create a new layer (Layer>New Layer) and call it “Colour.” Go to the Layers palette and drag this layer below the “Bulb” Layer.

Now make a selection something like mine below. The selection doesn’t have to be perfect as the edges will be hidden by the bulb outline.

24. Change your foreground to red (‘fd0303’) and fill the selection with Edit>Fill Selection.

25. Link these two layers together. Make sure that they are both selected and then duplicate them both (Layer>Duplicate Layers) and move the new layers into place on the wire.

Repeat this process until you have a row of lights like mine.

26. We now need to light the bulbs; we will do that in two stages.

The first stage is the bright glow of the bulb itself. To do that you need to create a new layer at the top of the Layers palette. Choose Layer>New Layer and call it “Inner Glow.” Go to the Layers palette and make sure that it is at the top; if it isn’t, then click and drag it into place.

27. Change your foreground colour to white and then select a 250-pixel soft brush and use it to click just once at the top of each bulb. Your image should now look something like this:

28. Next, we need to create the red glow from the bulb. To do that you need to create a new layer below the “Inner Glow” layer. Choose Layer>New Layer and call it “Glow.” Go to the Layers palette and make sure that it is in the correct position and if not then drag it into place below the “Inner Glow” layer.

29. Change your foreground colour back to red (‘fd0303’) and increase your brush size to 600 pixels. Then click once over each bulb to get an effect something like this the one shown below.

30. That finishes off the lights and hopefully your image will now look something like mine. When you come to use the lights in one of your images you can adjust the opacity of the “Glow” layer to get an effect that works for your situation.

In the tutorial I made the bulbs large and all one colour just to make it simpler and easier to follow but I would suggest that if you want to use the lights in your images then start with a smaller bulb size and try out different coloured bulbs too. You can use the bulb template that you made earlier and simply make it smaller when you transform it.

I also curved my wire to use in one of my scrapbook pages (shown below).

Hope that you enjoyed the tutorial and once again have fun but—most of all—do remember to experiment and enjoy.


2 Replies to Making Christmas Lights:

  1. Robert

    September 22, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    This was a well-written tut that tested my ability to follow directions. I learn a lot by doing WW’s tutorials.

  2. Delores

    October 19, 2011 at 12:27 pm


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