Making Retro Sunbeams in Photoshop

In this tutorial, we’ll create retro sunburst images, which are perfect for projects that require a vintage look and some extra background interest. These are pretty simple images that let me use the pen tool, add color, duplicate layers, position shapes, and add a gradient. We’re using Photoshop CS6, but you can use an older version that you’re familiar with.

First, let’s launch Photoshop. You can do the same and then continue with each of the steps to follow.

  1. Create a new document
  2. Add guides
  3. Make a triangle
  4. Add color
  5. Double layer
  6. Flip shape
  7. Move form
  8. rotate shape
  9. Shape space apart
  10. Transform shapes
  11. Create a new layer
  12. Make a square
  13. Create a gradient

Create a new document

To create a new document, select File > New † enter your name Sun rays , and a width and height of 6 x 6 inches. Keep the other default settings and select Okay

Add guides

Select View > Rulers † Then drag a guide from the top ruler and position it 2 1/4 inches from the top edge of the canvas. Drag another guideline from the side ruler and position it 2 1/4 inches from the left edge of the canvas.

Make a triangle

You can simply select the Polygon tool from the toolbox, specify 3 for the number of sides in the options bar at the top, then click and drag on the canvas. But that would make the triangle too uniform and we want it to be longer instead of wider. So we will make our triangle different.

Select View > Zoom † Then choose a tool Resilience on the panel instruments , select the point where the two guides intersect, select the guide that extends beyond the canvas, select a little lower, and select again where the guides intersect. This will give you a triangle that looks like a single ray of sunshine.

Add color

In the options bar, select the small arrow in the corner of the field To fill and then on a pastel yellow-orange color swatch. This will automatically fill the triangle with that color. Then select View > Scale

Double layer

To open the Layers panel, select Window > Layers † Then right click on the layer Form 1 to the right of his name, and select Double layer † A window will appear where you can keep or rename the duplicate layer’s default name. Enter Shape 2 to rename it and select Okay

Flip shape

To mark Shape 2 on the panel layers select Edit > Transform Path > Flip Horizontal

Move shape

Choose a resource Movement on the panel instruments then select and drag the mirrored shape to the left until it mirrors the other one.

rotate shape

Duplicate the layer as before. call that name Shape 3 and select Okay † Then select Edit > Transform Path > Rotate † Select and drag outside the bounding box to rotate the shape, then select and drag inside the bounding box to position the shape. Once in position, press Return.

Shape space apart

As before, duplicate the layer and rotate the shape, then do this over and over until you have enough shapes to fill the canvas with triangles, with space in between. Since the distance doesn’t have to be perfect, just an eyeball, each in its place.

To make sure all the triangles are where they should be, select the canvas with the Scale where these two guides intersect. If the triangle is out of place, select and drag it with the tool Movement to move the shape. To zoom out, select View > Fit to screen † Close the Layers panel by selecting Window > Layers

Transform shapes

Since some rays of the sun do not go beyond the canvas, you need to stretch them. To do this, select a triangle that is too short, select Edit > “Free Transform Path” click and drag the side of the bounding box closest to the edge of the canvas until it is past the edge, then click enter or yield † Do this for each triangle to be expanded.

Create a new layer

Because you no longer need your guides, choose View > Clear Guides

Now you need to create a new layer that is just above the background layer in the Layers panel, because each layer is placed above another in the Layers panel before it on the canvas, and the next step requires that position. So choose a layer Background and then click the button Create a new layer then double click on the name of the new layer and enter a new name, color

Make a square

Since the design has too much contrast in value, cover with white, which resembles a pastel yellow-orange. Do this by drawing a large square that covers the entire canvas, select the tool Rectangle on the panel instruments , then select Outside the canvas in the top left corner and drag to Just outside the canvas in the bottom right corner. On panel parameters: choose a light yellow-orange fill color as it is close to pastel yellow-orange.

Create a gradient

To create a gradient on top of everything else, you need to select the layer at the top of the panel layers and then the button Create a new layer † Also double click on the name of the layer and type course † Now use the tool to create a gradient Rectangle to create a square that extends beyond the edges of the canvas and change the fill solid color on the gradient to fill. Then change the gradient style to radial and put it on -135 degrees † Select Stop Coverage far left and change the opacity to 0 to make it transparent. Then select Stop Coverage in the far right corner and change the opacity to 45 to make it semi-transparent.

Select File > Save and you’re done. You now have an image ready to use on any project that requires sunburst.

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