Though many will disagree with me, the lightsaber effect in The Phantom Menace was distinctively different from the effects used in the other films. True, George Lucas could have vastly changed the appearance of the lightsabers for his new prequel, but there were some changes that most people find unnoticeable. First and foremost the lightsabers were no longer painted on one frame at a time by hand. A software program was used to automatically put in the sabers. Because of this, the unavoidable "human error" was eliminated causing the sabers to be a little more perfect. Unfortunately, too many fans disappointment, this also removed the pulsating that the classic trilogy sabers had. The glow of the sabers also seemed to taper off, or fade out a bit more. This tutorial will teach you how to reproduce the perfect lightsabers seen in The Phantom Menace.
Materials Needed for this Tutorial:
-Adobe Photoshop & basic knowledge of the program
-Digital Camera or any camera as long as you have a scanner
-A Hasbro toy lightsaber or something to represent the saber (I use a dowel rod)
Step 1: Open your image in Adobe Photoshop. Create a new layer set to Screen Mode. Make sure to check the "fill with neutral color" box.
Step 2: Create "pure" white line over your dowel rod, or whatever you're using for a lightsaber. Make sure to give it a rounded tip. NOTE: Leave it so you can see a little bit of the dowel rod around the edges. Our saber effect will expand to cover this later. You can use the line tool, but I prefer to use the polygonal lasso tool because you have more control.
Step 3: Go to Filter-Blur-and apply a slight Gaussian blur to your saber layer. Not too much, just enough to soften the edges a little. Then go to Image-Adjust-Levels and use a value of 2 in the first input box and a value of 55 in the last input box. Apply another Gaussian blur, again just enough to soften the edges and make it appear as though it is fading outward.
Step 4: Now duplicate your blade layer 4 times. I've labeled my layers to make the following steps easier to follow. Copy layer 4 = Bright Glow, Copy layer 3 = Tight Glow, Copy Layer 2 = Loose Glow and Copy layer 1 = Falloff.
Step 5: On the Bright Glow layer, apply a Gaussian blur that is about half your line width.
Step 6: On your Tight Glow layer, apply a Gaussian blur that is equal your line width.
Step 7: For the Loose Glow layer, apply a Gaussian blur that is double your line width.
Step 8: Apply a Gaussian blur that is triple your line width on the Falloff layer.
Step 9: Now merge the Tight Glow, Loose Glow, Falloff and your original Blade layers. HINT: Select the Tight Glow layer and use CTRL E to merge the layers down faster.
Ste 10: With your merged layer selected, go to Image-Adjust-Color Balance. Set the Midtone value for the color you want your saber to be to 100%. Set the Highlights to a value of somewhere between 55-80% of the color you want. NOTE: This value differs based on the brightness of the photo's background. HINT: If you are making a blue saber glow, then you need to take an additional step here and set the Cyan level to a value of about 45%. For the Shadows, set a value between 50-60% of your saber color. Now for the special touch, for the shadows set an opposing color somewhere between 40-50%. For instance, if your saber color is green, then set the yellow slider to 50%, if your saber color is red, set the magenta slider to 50%. HINT: Again if your are making a blue saber you should set both the Blue and Cyan levels to about 30% each.
Step 11: Ok, now just merge all of your layers together and your set! We did not merge the Bright Glow layer earlier because we did not want to change its color from white. By leaving this layer pure white, we've created a much brighter glow than we would have had if we had merged it with the rest earlier. If you so desire, your can also add a lens flare at the base of your lightsaber now, but I don't think it's necessary.
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