Quick Tip: Lighting Effects Using the Color Dodge Blending Mode in Adobe Illustrator

Tutorial Details
• Difficulty: Basix
• Estimated Completion Time: 20 minutes

With the help of the Color Dodge Blending Mode you can get very bright and sharp images, this is what this mode is intended for. I wrote a few tutorials on this topic, but I keep being asked the same question, "Why can’t I get the same brightness and contrast as you do?" Today I will answer this question, we will take a look at several examples of creating these effects. Let’s get started!

Introduction

First, let’s dig a little bit into the theory. Color Dodge Blending Mode brightens and sharpens the contrast of all the colors other than black. It’s written in a lot of textbooks that this blending mode does not affect the dark areas – this is not true! They also write that it increases contrast, but in order to create contrast, you need to have at least two colors so that they can create contrast.

Now let’s look at these statements on the images. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create two squares. Fill one with black and one with gray.

Now set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for the upper gray rectangle in the Transparency palette.

Black color of the bottom shape has not changed at the place of overlapping, that means the assertion that this mode does not affect the black color is true. Now let’s change the fill color of the bottom rectangle. I set a very dark shade of red for it (R = 15; G = 0; B = 0), however, it has brightened at the place of shapes overlapping.

In order to create the contrast you do not need to brighten the background color, you just need to brighten the gray shade of the upper object.

That’s it. Many people when trying to increase the contrast increase brightness of the background, it is not right, the images below show some of my students’ works with this typical error.

Now, armed with knowledge, let’s practice.

Step 1

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle filled with black (R = 0; G = 0; B = 0).

Keep the rectangle selected, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog box.

Step 2

With the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A) select a row of central nodes of the gradient mesh and set for them a very (!) dark shade of blue in the Color palette (R = 10; G = 10; B = 30).

Now select two adjacent rows of the mesh and also set them to a darker shade of blue (R = 15; G = 10; B = 20).

Step 3

Create a new rectangle above the background and fill it with vertical linear gradient from black to white and back to black.

Now set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for the upper rectangle in the Transparency palette.

Step 4

Create a new rectangle and fill it with radial gradient from white to black.

Set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for this object in the Transparency palette.

That’s an interesting lighting effect we got in a very simple way.

Step 5

Create the second effect. Create a rectangle filled with a linear gradient containing very dark shades of red, green and blue colors. This time I do not give numerical values of the colors, try mixing on your own in the Color palette.

Step 6

Now create a vertical rectangle and fill it with linear gradient containing shades of gray, as shown in the figure below.

Holding down Option, drag the rectangle to the right.

Click on the shortcut Command + D several times, so that the copies of the rectangles cover the entire background.

Select and group up all the rectangles.

Step 7

Set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for the created group in the Transparency palette.

Here you are, the colors of the bottom gradient are more clearly revealed.

Step 8

Above all the objects create a new rectangle and fill it with linear gradient containing shades of gray color.

It is not difficult to guess that it’s only left to set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for this object.

Step 9

Now for the last experiment. Create a rectangle with a very dark fill.

Create a new rectangle filled with a linear gradient and set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for this object.

Create a new rectangle with a different linear gradient, but still with the Color Dodge Blending Mode.

To create lighting effects, you can use not only objects with gradient fill, but also objects with Gradient Mesh. Let’s create such an object.

Step 10

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle of black color. Now, holding the Option key and with the help of the Selection Tool (V), transform it into an ellipse.

Keep the ellipse selected, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog box. Select the central nodes of the grid with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and recolor them in gray.

Step 11

Keeping the object selected, go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Wrap and set the parameters of the deformation in the dialog box.

Rotate the created object at 90 degrees, place it over the background and set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for it.

Step 12

Now go to Effect > Transform > Distort and Transform and set the offset value and number of copies in the dialog box.

Go to Object > Transform > Reflect, choose the Vertical option and click on Copy in the dialog box.

Conclusion

So, let’s sum it up: to get bright, contrasting light effects, using the Color Dodge Blending Mode, you should create a colored background with very dark shades of colors. To obtain this effect, use objects that contain shades of gray in their fill. This may be a solid or gradient fill, or objects with Gradient Mesh. Adjust the brightness and contrast of the composition, changing the shade of gray color. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tut.

• http://spectrumink.blogspot.com David

I’ve never seen it explained so clearly. This is gonna help a lot. Does this work the same way in Photoshop too?

• naftolimann

Nice! This is like abduzeedo for illustrator!

• David C.

That’s really cool! I’ve always wondered how such an effect could be created like this. I’ve learned alot today!

• http://supertuffe.wordpress.com/ Ulf

Great tutorial!

This is going to be implemented in my designs, so much can be done with this blendingmode!

Best regards
Ulf

Really great exercise! I had an unfinished cartoon of a laser gun shot and this would come in very handy. There’s big potential in this technique. Thanks for sharing!

• John

I would have enjoyed a schematic that defined the overlapping objects for clarity during the tut. Nice work and thanks for educating.

• http://www.eskimisir.net CAGRI

very nice and useful tut, but i think i am doing something wrong, cause my conclusions differ from the ones of tutorial. Could not find why. Anyone can help me?
pls take a look, you will see what i mean. Used Illustrator CS3.

• http://vectorboom.com Iaroslav Lazunov

You don’t have problems! You should subtly to adjust the background color.

• http://humannature84.deviantart.com/ HN84

Well done, great technique!

• Gabriel

Great, thanks
I loved the colored bars

• http://kishkoosh.com Ron

Awesome! Gonna try some. Actually been looking for this kind of tut lately.

wow … this is a very well written and well explained tutorial. I am very new in graphics designing but following this tutorial, I was able to get fairly close results than yours !!!

Thank you very much for writing such a great tutorial!!!

• http://sellinggraphics.com Orson

Hi, nice tutorial!
I described this effect two months ago in my Plasma tutorial here on my blog: http://sellinggraphics.com/58/illustrator-plasma-tutorial

So if you want, you can look at some other results.

• Cheryl

Very cool — I’ll definitely use this!

• Phil

Not sure if it’s something I’m doing wrong or if its something in my settings, but my color dodge blending mode seems to not work properly. Everything ends up being grayscale. Anyone have suggestions?

• http://bucketothought.com/loungekat/blog/ LoungeKat

Hmm, check the colormode of your artboard. RGB is what makes it work.

• TH

hi, I am new here. I get a lot help from here, thanx
I get the same problem as you do. My vesion is chinese one so I had try every blending mode,but non of them work, and I already set the colormode at RGB . It ‘s end bright gray color, I don’t know why I still can’t get the effect as the TUT did.

• Mattia

Nice Experiment!! I have a question. I can’t make your effect in the step 7. I do the same thing, but it doesn’t look like yours. I apply the Color Dodge Blending Mode but it doesn’t work. Can someone help me?? Thanks a lot!!!

• Rita Bali

Hi, this exercise seems really good but I cannot get passed step 3!
“Now set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for the upper rectangle in the Transparency palette.”
When I apply the colour dodge, the white glow in the middle becomes more prominent and the black at the top and bottom become thicker, but I don’t get that lovely blue neon effect you have. PLEASE HELP.

Thanks,

Ritz

• Richard Gerke

I ran into the same problem with Step 3 but found the solution … I think.

Go to File > Document Color Mode.

In Document Color Mode you should see:
CYMK Color
RGB Color

My setting was originally to CYMK Color and it all showed up as grayscale but the moment I switched to RGB Color it lit up.

I hope this helps,
Richard

• TH

thanks, you solve the problem, it’s all work now. :)

• Richard Gerke

For all interested:

I tried this tutorial in Photoshop as well and it works the exact same. You can also use layer effects, glows, etc to create some interesting effects.

Richard

• http://www.flufflepot.com Kim

Thank you! I thought I was going crazy!

• Artur

I had the same problem, thanks for explaining.

• Abdul Mannan Asif

Excellent Tutorial. Tanks Shear With us.

Hi

A very nice and well written tutorial – Thanks!
I want to use the effect on a new logo i make – but as i understand its only working on RGB mode and the logo will have to also print.

Is there a way around it or a similar effect to be use for print?

Thanks!

• http://bucketothought.com/loungekat/blog/ LoungeKat

Not really, the super bright colors will become dull in the printing process.

• Suzette

…it doenst work for me.. don’t understand why :-(

• http://www.pagepast.com/ ĐăngKhoa

I got a problem in step 3 but I resolved it, lets make same Richard Gerke said.
Thanks all

• Jason

Thanks for this nice technique, it was very easy to learn.