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How to Add Glorious Sparkles to a Photo (With a Photoshop Action)


Sparkles can be a fun thing to add to your images when you want to do something a little different. Whether it's personalising your own greetings cards, making images of your kids more magical, or whether you just like sparkles, we'll show you a fun and quick way to put the shimmer in your snapshots.

Getting Started

If you'd like to follow the tutorial using the same images, you can download them for free, here:

In this tutorial, I'll be demonstrating Sparkle Photoshop Action by Sevenstyles, which you can find as part of Envato Elements.

It's always wise to read the help document that comes with any action, but the key points you'll need to remember in order for the action to work properly are:

  • Make sure your image is in 8-bit RGB mode
  • Create a layer named 'brush' in lowercase, to brush over

If you're new to actions, you'll first need to load the actions into Photoshop. Go to the Actions Panel in Photoshop. If it’s not visible, select Window > Actions to display it. To install an action, download the .ATN file, open the Actions Panel in Photoshop and select Load Actions from the dropdown. Navigate to the .ATN file and select Load. The actions will then be available for you to use.

The Super Simple Way

Let's take it easy to start. Here's our first example starting image:

Bird image I'll use as our first example

When you've created your brush layer, brush over where you’d like the sparkles to appear. The colours you choose will be the colour of the glitter (plus white) so I’ve chosen colours from the bird’s plumage to compliment it.

brush over
Brush on your image in the colours you want the glitter to be

I’ve included a couple of low opacity patches behind the bird, so the glitter doesn’t just end with the bird’s tail. Now we run the action.

after action
After the action has finished running, you'll see glitter where your brush marks were

The 'Give it More Effort' Way

Now let's make something a bit more sophisticated. Here's our starter:

This image of three dancers in black and white is an interesting one to try

This time I’m going to try it on a black and white image because I think the colours will pop better. If you use a black and white photograph, you still need to make sure the image mode is set to RGB and not Greyscale

Select colours that are darker than you want the glitter to be—pastels may look nice but they’ll turn out mostly white.

brush on
I've brushed on three colours which should look nice together

Run the Action

action layers
The action is made up of many layers

You can see that the action is made up of many layers, those then grouped together appropriately. By changing these, we can better control the effect of the action.

Make Adjustments

Reduce the smaller white speckles by reducing the opacity of Sparkles_Set 2, this will make it a little softer.

Reduce the glitter
Reduce some of the particle options

Next, reduce the opacity of the Wide Glow layer. This will tone down the colours so that they’re not quite so garish.

wide glow
Tone down the glow

You can reduce Blur Base ’too, it’ll take some of the white glow out of the sparkles.

Finish Up

Finally, you’ll notice there’s a Black Tint layer. It’s set to 0% opacity but you can increase that to take some of the white glow from around the edges. It’ll depend on the image you’re using as to whether you want to do that.

black tint
Increase Black Tint to darken edges

Make some contrast and brightness adjustments across your whole image, and you're done!

finished image
Finished Image

 Try Making Your Own Sparkles

If you like the idea of making your own glitter/sparkle effect, then check out this great tutorial from  How to Create a Sparkling Action in Adobe Photoshop.

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