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How to Make Great Fireworks in Photoshop

This tutorial will show you how to make some really great fireworks using Photoshop. It’s a great technique to use on celebration cards and posters, as well as graphics pertaining to holidays such as New Years and Independence Day.

You may have seen this effect a few days ago in Tutorial9′s New Year’s Announcement.

Fireworks Happy New Year

In this tutorial, I’ll be demonstrating how to create this effect.

Step 1 – The Background

Go ahead and create a new document, and select the Paint Bucket Tool.

Unless you plan on tweaking your fireworks color with Color Balance Layers (or by some other means) later on, the fireworks color will largely depend on what you choose your background color to be. We want a background color that is sort of dark, but also has some color value to it. I’ll be using a dark purple (#1c1727).

Fill your background layer with your chosen color.

Background Color

Step 2 -The Burst (Stroke Paths)

If’ you’ve ever used Photoshop’s Stroke Path option before, this ought to be a cinch for you. For everyone else, we’ve got an easy guide to get you going.

Create a New Layer.

You’re going to need to select the Pen Tool from the tool bar, and in the options bar, you need to make sure that you’re working with Paths instead of Shape Layers.

Paths using the Pen Tool

If you’re new to the pen tool, you might need some time getting used to it. We’ve prepared a separate Pen Tool Basics Tutorial if you’d like to learn more about it!

On your document, left click somewhere near the center of the canvas to create a point with the pen tool.

Create a Single Point with the Pen Tool

Left click again up and to the right of this point to create a new point. This time, hold down the mouse button, and drag towards the bottom right to Curve your path.

Curved Path

This will become the path which we will use to streak a beam of light across to make the “Burst Effect”.

Select the Brush Tool. Select a Foreground Color of White. Set the Size of the brush to 3px (Hardness 100%).

Under Shape Dynamics for your brush, set up a fade of around 200px.

Set up the Brush Fade

Go back to the Pen Tool. Right Click anywhere on the Canvas, and select Stroke Path. From the Box that pops up, make sure you select the Brush as the tool. This will tell Photoshop to use that brush you just set up to stroke the path you drew with the pen tool.

Stroke Path

Stroke Path with Brush

Once you have stroked your path, hit Esc Twice to make the Path line disappear.

Stroked Path

Repeat this step several times until you have a few similar lines. Remember to always start your path from the outside going in, as the fade will begin from the first point.


Step 3 – Burst Blending Options

We need to touch up our burst effect a bit by adding some blending options to our burst layer. Right Click the Layer, and select Blending Options. Add the following Drop Shadow, and Outer Glow.

Burst Drop ShadowBurst Outer Glow

This will add a slight glowing effect to your burst streaks.

Burst with Effects

Step 4 – Ambiance Effects

Create a new Layer, and place it underneath your burst streaks layer.

Select the Brush Tool, select a default round brush (to override your earlier modifications to the brush tool), and then set the hardness to 0% and the size to somewhere around 200px. Set the Foreground Color to white. Click once to near the center of your streaks.

Set this layers Blending Mode to Overlay.

Outer Ambience

Create a new Layer above the streaks now. Using a smaller brush (50-100px, hardness still at 0%, or very soft), create a small circle at the center of the streaks again, where they all start to converge. Set this layers Blending Mode to Overlay. Repeat this a few times (you should end up with 3-4 layers).

Completed Ambience

Step 5 – Adding the Sparks

Select the Brush Tool once more, and set it up as follows (We are setting up a “Glitter”, “Sparkle”, “Fairy Dust” brush, so you may already have the idea on how to set this up).

Brush Tip ShapeBrush Shape DynamicsBrush ScatteringOther Dynamics

Now that you have your brush set up (which you may want to save for later use), Create a new Layer on top of all your previous layers, and brush in some sparks for your firework. Try to concentrate mostly around the center area, easing up on the sparks as you go outwards.

Sparks without glow

I usually like to add an Outer Glow at this point in the Blending options of this new layer. It lets me add some spark ambiance, as well as add some extra color to the firework.

Sparks with Glow

Your firework should look pretty good by now!

Final Remarks

The fireworks in this tutorial hardly aim to replicate the look of a real world firework, but from an illustration perspective, they capture the elements of fireworks in a fun, creative manner.

To go a step further, you may want to add some Color Balance layers to add some colorful effects to your fireworks. You could also play with depth of field effects to give more depth to larger scenes.

Feel free to download our Fireworks Example PSD to see how we went about doing things!

Final Fireworks Example

And don’t forget to take a look at some of the other Photoshop Tutorials we have to offer here!


  1. Add point Subtract point
    Yumiko (1 Point) May 2, 2011 at 4:04 am

    Best fireworks tutorial I’ve seen so far!
    Thanks a lot, all fireworks came out straight-out beautiful. ♥

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Daniel Liwonde (0 Points) March 9, 2011 at 4:48 am

    This is amazing! its a wonderful tutorial I like it.You are really can explain excellently.Thanks

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  3. Add point Subtract point
    violaskywalker (3 Points) December 26, 2010 at 8:10 am

    hello, I’m thankful of your help. but can you please tell me how to create colors for the fireworks and where could I find the depth of field effect? thank you

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    Puneet Sahalot (0 Points) October 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Thanks a ton… this helped me a lot :)

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  5. Add point Subtract point

    There is little defect..i think..
    but its also looking great…

    the lines must be thicker in start(source)… and thinner at end..
    … what you think..
    neway.. good tutorial…

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    Ant Gray (1 Point) July 18, 2010 at 1:23 am

    You may also work in 32bit/channel to create effect better.

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  7. Add point Subtract point

    Hey I want to ask how to do the Stroke Paths I Stuck At There

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    kavyasudah34 (1 Point) April 6, 2010 at 4:11 am

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing!! congratulations!! post to webmaster “legitimate work at home jobs”

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  9. Add point Subtract point
    Pawan (1 Point) April 3, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Hi, Can u tell me how I make rays (like sun rays in trees).


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  10. Add point Subtract point
    ฟังเพลง (1 Point) February 2, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    wow thanks so much.163

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (1 Point) February 2, 2010 at 1:29 am

    wow thanks so much.150

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 2:46 am

    wow thanks so much.145

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    ดาวน์โหลดเพลง (1 Point) January 30, 2010 at 11:01 am

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing.

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  14. Add point Subtract point
    this is retarded (1 Point) December 31, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Yeah, I posted twice. That’s how bad this tutorial is.

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    this is retarded (1 Point) December 31, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Completely terrible. I cannot believe you tied the fireworks to the background and then went for adjustment layers. That is probably the dumbest method I’ve ever seen.

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    this is retarded (-1 Points) December 31, 2009 at 5:46 am

    Extremely poor. Tying fireworks to the background color is purely idiotic.

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    falenone (0 Points) December 5, 2009 at 9:17 am

    WHERE IS Shape Dynamics????????????????????????????????

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    Emandi Vijay (0 Points) November 27, 2009 at 4:45 am

    I am realy happy to visit your site. It is marvelous site. It can brings to any one to the edge of profession.

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    Chichi Nianochi “Pusay” Lee (0 Points) November 18, 2009 at 11:38 am

    gary yamamoto is my favorite baseball player :)

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    Guaniani Leeanne Chestoyah (1 Point) November 18, 2009 at 11:36 am


    este programa de “photoshop” es muy bien. pero, la informacion no es completamente correcto. Dimelo la informacion correcto por favor.


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  21. Add point Subtract point

    Great Tutorial! I am in a class for photoshop at my school and I suggested this tutorial to my teacher! He said it would be used.

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  22. Add point Subtract point

    Its Very use full Thank youuuuuuuuuuuu

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    Dalmation (1 Point) October 15, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Great tuts and great site. I learned a lot from here, thank you very much ^^
    And your instruction is very detailed and easy to follow, hope you’ll write more !

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    James Hemphill (1 Point) October 14, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Nice simple techniques to get to grips with the pen tool and basic brush settings… Happy New Year!

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  25. Add point Subtract point

    omg when i use the blending options to add the glow to the bursts it doesn’t work…it stays the same, can anyone tell me y?

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  26. Add point Subtract point

    I love your site; it is very well done =)
    One of the best sites so far I have seen that offer tutorials. I often forget some things I have learned, so your page is a great refresher, and offers some really neat techs.

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  27. Add point Subtract point

    Hey i like this tutorial but i was wondering if there is a way to make like a fireworks display that will show a message, if you do not understand what i mean i am sorry i cannot think of another way to explain it, but if any one does and they have an idea of how to do it please reply to this.


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  28. Add point Subtract point
    Xuan (1 Point) May 14, 2009 at 4:43 am


    I am from Vietnam, I love Photoshop but I have no more free time to learn it. I find that your web is so great. I can see each step of doing in Photoshop and I can learn myself, although it is so low. But I am happy to get so.

    Thanks for this

    Best regards,


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  29. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (1 Point) May 8, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Wow its really sparkling, hehehe

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    Pradeep CD (1 Point) April 27, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Great work..nice tut..

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    I don’t get it! I get stuck after “Once you have stroked your path, hit Esc Twice to make the Path line disappear.” I just see the normal lines that the pen did. I’m on Photoshop CS3 v. 10

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    myWORLDisUNKNOWN (1 Point) November 24, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    another nice tutz….

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  33. Add point Subtract point


    Thank you, very easy tutorial to follow for a newbie at Photoshop!! :D

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  34. Add point Subtract point
    Katherine (1 Point) October 14, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    some of the issues with selecting “stroke path” is that you might have accidently used the pen tool in the “Shape Layers” mode vs the “Path” mode. It can sneakily switch back sometimes. Another issue is possibly forgetting to set the correct color for the Brush so it appears correctly. Just an FYI.

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    William (1 Point) October 14, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Wow! This really added something to my art I was missing. Thanks for this wonderful tutorial.

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  36. Add point Subtract point

    Hi! When I apply the blending options to the burst layer, nothing seems to happen… Any idea where I go wrong? I have a background with the color used in the tut, and a burst layer copied from the background.

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  37. Add point Subtract point

    why i didnt get the same fade when i click twice (esp) for the path lines?

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  38. Add point Subtract point

    Hey I can’t get the stroke fade to work. Even when I use the pen tool the stroke fades out really quickly. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  39. Add point Subtract point

    i’m having some problems: sometimes when i make the path and specify the brush fade length and stuff and try to stroke path, it won’t let me do it. :S

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    RandomDude449 (1 Point) August 1, 2008 at 5:34 am

    Excellent design! This technique has helped me a lot in taking my Photoshop effects to the next level. I never knew about the brush dynamics or paths. Keep it up.

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  41. Add point Subtract point
    Deathwinger (1 Point) July 8, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    For the stroke path, right click anywhere on the window except by the curve you created. I was having the same problem myself.

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  42. Add point Subtract point
    punk15_boy (1 Point) July 2, 2008 at 5:41 am

    hi, do you know why i can’t stroke path? i did just like you said but when i cliked right and in that box it was stroke path but i can’t click on it cause it dosent let me. plese help

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  43. Add point Subtract point

    @ Dybcio –

    I’ll see to adding a more prominent link to it somewhere on the site ;) Glad you’re interested in participating in our discussions here!

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  44. Add point Subtract point
    Dybcio (1 Point) June 10, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I did it now just like you wrote David and it works :) Earlier I tried to [b]CTRL[/b] + Click on [u]Layer Set[/u] but all I got was Warning: No pixels were selected. I have not thought about clicking on each layer from the set. Well, now I know how to do this thanks to you :)

    PS. Where can I find RSS feed for comments? Or maybe you don’t have it here? I would like to see one here, please :)

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  45. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks everyone =) Hope you’ll make some good use from this tutorial with the upcoming Independence day (If you’re from the USA that is) :P

    @ Dybcio & Zack – That’s a great solution to Zacks problem Dybcio ;) An alternative way would be to Ctrl + Shift + Click each of the individual layer preview thumbnails (in the layers palette), which would in effect create a selection of all the individual layer contents. At that point, applying a New Adjustment Layer would use that selection as a mask, only effecting the layer contents you selected.

    Again, thanks for all the feedback folks! I really appreciate your support!

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  46. Add point Subtract point
    Dybcio (1 Point) June 10, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Zack – I just wanted to second your question when I was struck by a ligtning (or was it a firework ;) ) and finally figure it out. This is what I did:
    - using round marquee tool select area that you want to change color
    - feather the selection
    - Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Color Balance

    That’s it :) Doh! It is so simple now – but it took me ~15minutes to figure out.

    David, keep up the good work! Your tuts are great! They actually make me think not only repeat step by step. These are most instructive tutorials I have ever seen!

    Tank you David :)

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  47. Add point Subtract point
    Zack (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hey great work =) one thing just how did you do that color balance thing? i’m bit of a beginner and i looked at the Fireworks Example PSD but couldn’t figure out how you did it. was wondering if you know if theres a tutorial anywhwere or theres a chance anyone can tell how its done? =O

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  48. Add point Subtract point
    snipes (1 Point) May 26, 2008 at 6:44 am

    superb. Can’t wait to try it out.

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  49. Add point Subtract point
    STVProductions (1 Point) May 10, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Wow, this is nice. It´s simple, yet effective. For cases like party sites, this is tha sh*t xD

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  50. Add point Subtract point

    Oh sorry, I meant the settings in step 3.

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  51. Add point Subtract point

    Ey david, I dunno if it’s a problem with my version of photoshop(CS2) but I don’t seem to get that glowing effect in step 5. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any difference after I apply those settings. Help?

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  52. Add point Subtract point

    that was great one and look very much real u guies done great job

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  53. Add point Subtract point

    I love fireworks. It’s a great trick!

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  54. Add point Subtract point

    It looks pretty cool but its sad that the lines are so visible, you should make it more realistic! But great work!

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  55. Add point Subtract point
    tyler durden (1 Point) January 8, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    wow nice tut im definitly going to use this cant wait for the forums to open up
    keep up the good work

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