Add a Golden Sunlight Effect in Photoshop Elements Without Plug-Ins

Create direct and diffused natural lighting in Photoshop Elements 2019

You don’t need any plug-ins to create a sunlight effect in Photoshop Elements. It's possible to achieve direct and diffused natural lighting effects by using gradients and layer blending.

Instructions in this article apply to Photoshop Elements 2019, but they should work with any version that includes gradient mapping.

How to Create Diffused Sunlight in Photoshop Elements

To add a soft, diffused sunlight effect to an image using Photoshop Elements:

  1. Open your image and select the Expert tab at the top of the workspace.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the Expert tab highlighted
  2. Select Layer > New > Layer.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the New Layer command highlighted
  3. Select OK to create a blank layer.

    Select OK to create a blank layer.
  4. With the new blank layer selected in the Layers palette, select the Gradient tool from the toolbox.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the Gradient tool highlighted
  5. In the tool options panel, make sure the box beside Reverse is not checked, select the Diamond gradient, then select Edit under the color box.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the Gradient settings box highlighted
  6. Select Foreground to Background (the first swatch in the top-left corner), then select the small box on the far-right underside of the color bar, which allows you to change the color for that end of the gradient.

    A screenshot of the Gradient Editor in Photoshop Elements with the Foreground to Background option highlighted
  7. Select the Color box, set the color to Black, then select OK.

    A screenshot of the Color Picker in Photoshop Elements with the OK button highlighted
  8. Select the small box on the far-left underside of the color bar.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the box in the Gradient Editor highlighted
  9. Select the Color box and set the color to Orange, then select OK.

    The exact color is not important as you can change it later by adjusting the hue/saturation.

    Select the Color box and set the color to Orange, then select OK.
  10. Select OK in the Gradient Editor dialog to close it.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the OK button in the Gradient Editor highlighted
  11. With the blank layer still active and your Gradient tool selected, drag a diagonal line from the top-right corner of your image to the bottom-left corner.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with an arrow indicating dragging the Gradient Tool
  12. In the Layers palette, select the layer blending drop-down menu and choose Screen.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the Screen blending mode highlighted
  13. Set the gradient layer's Opacity to around 60%

If the effect does not reach as far across the photo as you'd like, select the Move tool and resize the gradient layer until it looks right.

A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the opacity slider highlighted

Once satisfied with the effect, save your photo as a PSD file or in your preferred image format.

How to Create Direct Sunlight in Photoshop Elements

For a stronger, golden sunlight effect, set up your gradient the same way by following steps 1-10 above, then:

  1. With the blank layer still active and your Gradient tool selected, click-and-drag a diagonal line from the top-center of your image to the bottom-right corner of the image.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with an arrow indicating dragging the Gradient tool
  2. Set the gradient layer's Opacity to around 60%

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the opacity slider highlighted
  3. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation.

    A screenshot of Photoshop Elements with the Hue/Saturation Layer command highlighted
  4. Select OK.

    Select OK.
  5. Increase the Saturation and Lightness until you have a photo drenched in sunlight.

Experiment with different hues, layer blending styles, and other settings to achieve the perfect lighting effect.

A screenshot of Photoshop Elements' Hue/Saturation window with the Saturation and Lightness sliders highlighted