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How to Fake the Northern Lights in Photoshop


Seeing and photographing the Aurora Borealis is pretty high on many a photographer’s wish list, but if you don’t live in the arctic circle (or don’t have the budget to get there), then capturing this amazing display may have to wait a while. In the meantime, let the folks at Phlearn show you how to fake the Northern Lights using Photoshop.

To be clear this isn’t compositing: you’re not using a source image of the northern lights and dropping it into a photograph of the night sky. Phlearn’s Aaron Nace shows you how to create aurora from scratch.

Over the course of the video you go from this:


To this:


The exact way you choose to blend the aurora into the sky is totally up to you, as is the exact color you chose and, most importantly, the shape you go with. This technique can produce extremely realistic looking results, or super fake ones—it depends on how much time you decide to spend on it.

Of course, nothing compares to actually capturing the real thing, and we’re not implying this tutorial can ever take the place of a trip to Norway. It’s simply a fun technique to play around with while you save up the funds and dream of the day you get to stand beneath the celestial display in real life.