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How to create a neon sign in Photoshop?

Neon signs are cool, period. They’re a guaranteed head-turner, have dazzling colours; just all-around awesome. Unfortunately. they’re also expensive.

Luckily for us, we have a tool called Photoshop. Now, it won’t give you an actual neon sign, but with a little bit of clever play, you can create some pretty compelling virtual ones.

The most important thing about neon signs, they look the best in dark. So we’re going to have to pick a dark background, or at least, make whatever background we have, darker.

Note that a plain black won’t work as well. While technically it makes no change whatsoever, but the shadow and glow of a neon sign make up for a huge part of its charm. 

Also read: How to sharpen low-resolution images in Photoshop?

Creating a dark background

We’ll suggest using an image of a brick wall as your background, but feel free to experiment. 

Step 1: Load up your background image in Photoshop.  Now we’re going to make this image look like it was taken in the dark, at night. For that, go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter.

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

Step 2: A new window will open up. In this window, we’re going to drop the Exposure, Contrast and the Saturation. You can also go into the effects panel on the Camera Raw window and apply a vignette if you want. 

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

Click OK when you’re done. 

Step 3: Now that our background is sorted, we’re going to need the sign that we’re going to make neon. This can be a pre-existing graphic, simple text or just about anything. 

For the purpose of this tutorial, we made a retro version of our logo. Nothing too fancy, literally just some text on top of our image watermark. Here’s how it looks

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

 It’s time to start colouring things up. This is the interesting bit.

Before we dive into making the whole image a neon sign, we recommend you use at least two colours for a neon sign. A one colour tone may or may not look good on your design. 

In this design, we’re going to make the text and the logo two different colours. We do this by first creating our glow, and then copying it to the other element.

Also read: Photoshop 101: Changing colours in an image

Creating the neon glow

Select the layer you want to work with first. In this case, we’re going to work on the text first. 

Step 4: Double-click on the text layer to open Blending Options

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

Step 5: Click on the Inner Glow option. There are three main things that we have to do here

  • Structure: Select the Blend Mode to Normal, the opacity to 100% and select the colour that you want. 
  • Elements: Make sure the Source setting is set to Edge. Set the Choke and Size according to the design and size of your text. 
  • Quality: Same drill. Set the Range according to the look you’re going for and the size and font of your text. 
How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

Also, make sure you copy or note down the hex code for the colour you used in this step. We’re going to use exactly the same colour in the next step.

Step 6: Now, select the Outer Glow option. Just like the previous step, we’re going to make some changes to the settings to get our desired look. 

  • Structure: Set the Blend Mode to Normal. Make sure the opacity is at 100% and select the same colour as you did in the last step. 
  • Elements: Set the Spread and Size according to the type of look you want. 
  • Quality: Set the Range slider according to the type of look you’re going for.
How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

As you’ll see, we already are getting kind of a neon look on our sign. If you’d like to stop here, that’s completely fine. However, we’re going a step further.

Step 7: Click on the Drop Shadow option right under the Outer Glow. We only need to make changes to the Structure section here.

  • Blend Mode: Set this to Color Dodge. This setting better affects the background behind the image, making that realistic colour shadow. 
  • Opacity: Set this to 100%
  • Distance: This needs to be zero.
  • Spread/Size: You can play with these two settings to get the look you want.
How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology
Notice the reflections on the background

Now that our glow is done. Hit OK to save your changes. 

Replicating the glow to other layers

Step 8: Once you’re done with the look. You can copy the same glow to other layers in your sign by just holding down the Alt key and dragging the effect to other layers. 

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology
Simply dragging the effect over to the other layers does the trick

Step 9: Now we need to group the layers that need to have the same colours together. To do so, select the layers, and press Alt+G to group them. 

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology
As you can see, I’ve separated the layers into individual groups.  

Step 10: A single colour isn’t quite cutting it on our sign, let’s spice things up a bit. Click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer button and make a Hue/Saturation layer

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

Step 11: Make sure you place this layer above the group you plan to change the colours of. Here’s what we’re going to do: 

  • Check the Colorize checkbox
  • Make sure to enable layer clipping
  • Adjust the hue, saturation and lightness to achieve the look you desire. 
How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

This is how the end result looks inside of Photoshop. Of course, you can go in and further fine-tune settings to get the look dialled in just right. 

How to create a neon sign in Photoshop? | Candid.Technology

And that’s how you make a neon sign in Photoshop.

Also read: How to change the hair colour in Photoshop?

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