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

Create direct and diffused natural lighting in Photoshop Elements 2019

A woman lays on the ground while using her smartphone

Manan Vatsyayana / Getty Images

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.

    Open your image and select the Expert tab at the top.
  2. Select Layer > New > Layer.

    Select Layer > New > Layer.
  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.

    With the new blank layer selected in the Layers palette, select the Gradient tool from the toolbox.
  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.

    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.
  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.

    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.
  7. Select the Color box, set the color to Black, then select OK.

    Select the Color box, set the color to Black, then select OK.
  8. Select the small box on the far-left underside of the color bar.

    Select the small box on the far-left underside of the color bar.
  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.

    Select OK in the Gradient Editor dialog to close it.
  11. With the blank layer still active and your Gradient tool selected, click-and-drag a diagonal line from the top-right corner of your image to the bottom-left corner.

    With the blank layer still active and your Gradient tool selected, click-and-drag a diagonal line from the top-right corner of your image to the bottom-left corner.
  12. In the Layers palette, select the layer blending drop-down menu and choose Screen.

    In the Layers palette, select the layer blending drop-down menu and choose Screen.
  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.

Set gradient layer's Opacity to around 60%.

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.

    Click-and-drag a diagonal line from the top-center of your image to the bottom-left corner of the image.
  2. Set the gradient layer's Opacity to around 60%

    Set gradient layer's Opacity to around 60%.
  3. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation.

    Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation.
  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.

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