Photoshop Technique: Cookie Lighting

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: March 16, 2011

Category: General

Ok so before I show you this ‘Cookie Lighting’ tutorial, I want to just let you know that this is a technique that I learned from Photoshop Hall of Famer, Teacher and incredible Photographer Eddie Tapp when I sat in on one of his classes at the amazing Photoshop World, Las Vegas.

Now, this is a very subtle technique that I tend to use quite a bit on images that I would normally consider adding a slight vignette to because of a) the way it focuses the viewers eyes and b) the way it can compliment the original lighting.

Like alot of Photoshop techniques, this one too is really simple (only 2 steps), very effective on the right image and what’s more takes just a minute or two to work through…

Step 1: Add a Curves Adjustment Layer
The first part of the technique involves adding a Curves Adjustment Layer and then simply dragging down the top right point of the diagonal line (the curve) to roughly half way into the 2nd square…

Step 2: Paint on the Layer Mask
All you need to do now is to select a Black soft edged Brush, make sure the Layer Mask is active and then selectively paint over the image to reveal parts of the original (brighter image) in the layer below…

I tend to vary the size and opacity of the brush as I do this to get more of a random look to the light and when I paint on the layer mask it’s actually more of a ‘dab’ with the brush as opposed to a stroke. Incidentally it’s this ‘dabbing’ and the pattern that it leaves on the Layer Mask that gives the technique it’s name … ‘Cookie Lighting’.

So there you have it, a subtle technique that takes just a couple of steps to work through and one that I really like for the way it can add a little more interest to an image; but being subtle with this technique is definitely the ‘key’.

As usual if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to make use of the comments section below, but in the mean time,
Enjoy 🙂

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  1. DaveT

    Hi Glyn,

    Ah ha! Just tried it and its blindingly quick and effective. What a time saver. Till now, I have been making selections and adjusting each one with a tone curve to raise or lower the brightness.

    Thanks for supplying me with another tool to add to the Photoshop technique arsenal.


  2. DaveT

    BTW Glyn, Do you use a tablet or mouse for your PS work?


    • Glyn

      Hey Dave, glad you like the technique mate…simple huh 🙂

      Oh and by the way, most definitely use a wacom pen tablet; wouldn’t be without it 🙂



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