Step 1: Open A New Photoshop Document
As I mentioned, we'll be creating our sparkle trail using a custom made Photoshop "sparkle" brush, and the first thing we need to do is create our brush. To begin, go up to the File menu at the top of the screen and choose New, which brings up Photoshop's New Document dialog box. You can also access the New Document dialog box using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+N (Win) / Command+N. Enter 200 pixels for the Width and 200 pixels for the Height, and make sure the Background Contents option near the bottom is set to White so our new document has a white background, then click OK:
Photoshop Sparkles: Create a new Photoshop document that's 200 pixels wide by 200 pixels high, with white as the background color.
Photoshop opens a new 200x200 document with a solid white background:
Photoshop Sparkles: The new Photoshop document.
Step 2: Select The Brush Tool
With our new document created, select the Brush Tool from the Tools palette, or simply press the letter B on your keyboard to access it with the shortcut:
Photoshop Sparkles: Select Photoshop's Brush Tool.
Step 3: Set Your Foreground Color To Black
We need black as our Foreground color, which is the color Photoshop uses to paint with when we have the Brush Tool selected, so if black is not currently your Foreground color, press the letter D on your keyboard to quickly reset your Foreground and Background colors, which sets black as your Foreground color (white becomes your Background color). We can see our current Foreground and Background colors in the color swatches near the bottom of the Tools palette (the swatch in the upper left is the Foreground color and the one in the bottom right is the Background color):
Step 4: Select the "Star 70 Pixels" Brush
The "sparkle" brush we're creating is really just a combination of several other brushes that ship with Photoshop, and you can experiment on your own if you like with different brush combinations to create your own unique "sparkle" brush, since there's several brushes that would work well for this effect.
I'm going to start with the Star 70 pixels brush, so switch over to your Brushes palette, click on words Brush Presets in the top left corner to see a list of preset brushes on the right, then scroll down the list until you get to the "Star 70 pixels" brush.
Click on it to select it:
Photoshop Sparkles: Click on the words "Brush Presets" in the top left corner of Photoshop's Brushes palette, then scroll down the list of preset brushes on the right and select the "Star 70 pixels" brush.
Step 5: Click In A Few Random Spots Inside The Document With The Brush
With the "Star 70 pixels" brush selected, click in a few random spots inside the document to add our first few "sparkles". Three or four clicks should do the trick:
Photoshop Sparkles: Click in three or four random spots inside the document with the brush to create the first few "sparkles".
Step 6: Select the "Airbrush Soft Round 17" Brush
After you've added the first few sparkles, switch back to the Brushes palette and scroll up the list of preset brushes until you come to the Airbrush Soft Round 17 brush. Click on it to select it:
Photoshop Sparkles: Scroll up to the "Airbrush Soft Round 17" brush in the Brushes palette and click on it to select it.
Step 7: Click In A Few Random Spots Inside The Document With The New Brush
Just as we did with the previous brush a moment ago, click in three or four random spots inside the document with the new brush. This adds more "sparkles", as well as a little variety to them:
Photoshop Sparkles: With the new brush selected, click once again in three or four random spots inside the document.
Step 8: Select The "Assorted Brushes"
Switch back to the Brushes palette once again, and this time, click on the small right-pointing arrow at the top of the palette to access the drop-down menu and select Assorted Brushes from the list of additional brushes at the bottom:
Photoshop Sparkles: Select "Assorted Brushes" from the list of additional brushes in the Brushes palette drop-down menu.
Photoshop will pop up a message asking if you want to replace the existing brushes with the new brushes. Click the Append option to have Photoshop simply add the new brushes in with the existing brushes rather than replacing them:
Photoshop Sparkles: Select the "Append" option to add the new brushes to the bottom of the list of available brushes.
Step 9: Select the "Starburst - Small" Brush
With the Assorted Brushes added in the Brushes palette, scroll down the list until you come to the Starbust - Small brush and click on it to select it:
Photoshop Sparkles: Scroll down the list of preset brushes until you come to the "Starburst - Small" brush. Click on it to select it.
Step 10: Click In Three Or Four Random Spots Inside The Document
With the "Starburst - Small" brush selected, click in another three or four random spots inside the document to add the rest of our sparkles:
Photoshop Sparkles: Add the remaining sparkles by clicking in a few random spots with the "Starburst - Small" brush.
Step 11: Define A New Brush Preset
We've added all of our sparkles. All we need to do now is save them as a brush. To do that, go up to the Edit menu at the top of the screen and choose Define Brush Preset. Photoshop will pop up a dialog box asking you to name the brush. I'm going to name mine "Sparkle Brush":
Photoshop Sparkles: Type in a name for your new brush. I've named mine "Sparkle Brush".
Click OK after you've entered in a name and your new brush is created! You can close out of the brush document at this point, since we no longer need to have it open. No need to save it when Photoshop asks, since the brush is already created.
Step 12: Open A Photo And Add A New Blank Layer
With our "sparkle brush" now created, we can add our sparkle trail to a photo, so go ahead and open the photo you want to use if it isn't open already. Then click on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add a new blank layer above the Background layer, which is the layer that contains our image. Photoshop will automatically name the new layer "Layer 1". Double-click directly on the name and rename it to "Sparkles":
Photoshop Sparkles: Add a new blank layer to the photo document and rename the layer "Sparkles".
Step 13: Select The Brush Tool Once Again
We need to select the "Sparkle Brush" we just created, but in order to select it, we first need to have the Brush Tool selected, so go ahead and either select it from the Tools palette or press B on your keyboard:
Photoshop Sparkles: Select the Brush Tool once again.
Step 14: Set Your Foreground Color To White
Our sparkle trail wouldn't look very impressive it we created it in black, so we need to set our Foreground color to white. To do that, simply press X on our keyboard to swap your current Foreground and Background colors, which will set white as your Foreground color (black becomes your Background color). Again, we can see this in the color swatches near the bottom of the Tools palette:
Photoshop Sparkles: Set your Foreground color to white.
Step 21: Drag Out Your Sparkle Trail
Our "Sparkle Brush" has been created and the options have been set in the Brushes palette, so with white as our Foreground color, we can go ahead and add our sparkle trail! To do that, click either or or just beside the object that's creating the sparkle trail (the girl's magic wand in my image) and then drag out a brush stroke in the direction you want the sparkle trail to be coming from. You'll probably need to resize your brush first, and the easiest way to do that is by using the left and right bracket keys on your keyboard. The left bracket key makes the brush smaller and the right bracket key makes it larger.
I'm going to click just to the left of the girl's magic wand and then drag my brush over her head and down the right side, as if the sparkle trail was created by her waving the wand. Notice how Photoshop fades the size of the brush as the brush stroke gets further and further from the starting point, until the brush eventually fades to nothing, thanks to the options we set in the Brushes palette:
Photoshop Sparkles: Click on or near the object creating the sparkle trail, then drag in one continuous motion in the direction the sparkle trail is coming from.
Step 22: Duplicate The Sparkles Layer
With the "Sparkles" layer selected in the Layers palette, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) to duplicate the layer. A copy of the layer will appear above the original in the Layers palette:
Photoshop Sparkles: Photoshop's Layers palette showing the copy of the "Sparkles" layer above the original.
Step 23: Apply The "Gaussian Blur" Filter
We're going to add a bit of a glow to our sparkles, and we'll do that by adding a slight blurring effect to the duplicate layer we just created. Go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Blur, and then choose Gaussian Blur. When the Gaussian Blur dialog box appears, enter a Radius value of about 4 pixels:
Photoshop Sparkles: Apply the Gaussian Blur filter to the copy of the Sparkles layer.
You may want to go a bit higher if you're using a high resolution image. The idea is simply to add enough of a blur that the sparkles appear to have a faint glow around them:
Photoshop Sparkles: The sparkles now appear to have a faint glow after applying the Gaussian Blur filter.
Step 24: Duplicate The "Sparkles Copy" Layer
To increase the brightness of our sparkles, with the "Sparkles copy" layer selected, once again use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) to create a duplicate of it, which appears at the top of the Layers palette:
Photoshop Sparkles: Duplicate the "Sparkles copy" layer to increase the brightness of the sparkle trail.
Step 25: Add An "Outer Glow" Layer Style
To complete the effect, let's add a bit of color to the glow around the sparkles. To do that, with the top layer selected in the Layers palette, click on the Layer Styles icon at the bottom of the Layers palette (the icon that looks like the letter "f") and select Outer Glow from the list:
Photoshop Sparkles: Click on the "Layer Styles" icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and select "Outer Glow".
This brings up the Layer Style dialog box with the Outer Glow options in the middle column. Choose a color for your glow by clicking on the color swatch directly below the word "Noise" and choosing a color from Photoshop's Color Picker. I'm going to choose a pinkish-red color for mine. Then decrease the intensity of the color by lowering the Opacity of the glow. I'm going to lower mine to about 60%:
Photoshop Sparkles: Choose a color for the Outer Glow by clicking on the color swatch and choosing a new color from the Color Picker, then lower the Opacity of the glow to reduce the intensity of the color if needed.
Click OK to exit out of the Layer Style dialog box, and you're done!
Here, once again, is my original image:
Photoshop Sparkles: The original image.
And here, after adding some color to the glow around the sparkles, is my final result:
Photoshop Sparkles: The final result.
And there we have it!