Make Retro Sun Rays in Photoshop

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Make Retro Sun Rays in Photoshop

Retro Sun Rays
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

In this tutorial, I will be making a retro sun rays graphic, which is perfect for projects that require a vintage look and some added background interest. It's a fairly easy graphic to make, which will have me using the pen tool, adding color, duplicating layers, arranging shapes, and adding a gradient. I'll be using Photoshop CS6, but you might be able to follow along with an older version that you're familiar with.

To get started, I will launch Photoshop. You can do the same then continue through each of the steps to follow along.

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Make A New Document

Make A New Document
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

To make a new document I will choose File > New. I'll type in the name, "Sun Rays" and also a width and height of 6 x 6 inches. I'll keep the remaining default settings as they are and click OK.

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Add Guides

Add Guides
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I'll choose View > Rulers. I'll then drag a guide from the top ruler and place it 2 1/4 inches down from the top edge of the canvas. I'll drag another guide from the side ruler and place it 2 1/4 inches in from the left edge of the canvas.

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Make a Triangle

Make a Triangle
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I now want to make a triangle. Usually I would just choose the Polygon tool in the tools panel, indicate 3 for the number of sides in the Options bar at top, then click on the canvas and drag. But, that would make the triangle too uniform, and I want it to be longer than wider. So, I will make my triangle another way.

I will choose View > Zoom In. I'll then select the Pen tool in the Tools panel, click at the point where my two guides intersect, click on the guide where it extends off the canvas, click a little below that, and again click where my guides intersect. This will give me a triangle that looks like a single sun ray.

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Add Color

Add Color
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

In the Options bar, I will click on the small arrow in the corner of the Fill box then on the pastel yellow orange color swatch. This will automatically fill my triangle with that color. I'll then choose View > Zoom out.

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Duplicate Layer

Duplicate Layer
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

To open my Layers panel, I will choose Window > Layers. I'll then right-click on the Shape 1 layer, to the right of its name, and choose Duplicate Layer. A window will appear that allows me to either keep the default name of the duplicated layer or rename it. I'll type in, "Shape 2" to rename it and click OK.

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Flip Shape

Flip Shape
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

With Shape 2 highlighted in the Layers panel, I will choose Edit > Transform Path > Flip Horizontal.

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Move Shape

Move Shape
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I will select the Move tool in the Tools panel, then click and drag the flipped shape to the left until it seems to reflect the other in a mirror-like way.

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Rotate Shape

Rotate Shape
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

In the same way as before, I will duplicate a layer. I'll name this one, "Shape 3" and click OK. Next, I'll choose Edit > Transform Path > Rotate. I'll click and drag outside the bounding box to rotate the shape, then click and drag within the bounding box to position the shape. Once in position I'll press return.

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Space Apart Shapes

Space Apart Shapes
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Just as before, I will duplicate a layer and rotate the shape, then do so again and again until I have enough shapes to fill the canvas with triangles, leaving space in-between them. Since the spacing doesn't have to be perfect, I'll just eyeball each into position.

To be sure that all the triangles are where they should be, I will click on the canvas with Zoom tool, where the two guides intersect. If a triangle is out of place, I can click and drag with the Move tool to reposition the shape. To Zoom back out, I'll choose View > Fit on Screen. I'll also close the Layers panel by choosing Window > Layers.

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Transform Shapes

Because some of my sun rays don't extend off the canvas, I will have to stretch them. To do so, I'll click on a triangle that's too short, choose Edit > Free Transform Path, click and drag the side of the bounding box that is closest to the edge of the canvas until it extends past the edge, then press enter or return. I'll do this for each triangle that needs extending.

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Create a New Layer

Create a New Layer
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Because I no longer need my guides, I will choose View > Clear Guides.

I now need to make a new layer that sits just above the Background layer in the Layers panel, since whatever layer is above another in the Layers panel sits in front of it on the canvas, and the next step will require such an arrangement. So, I will click on the Background layer then on the Create a New Layer button, then double-click on the new layer's name and type in the new name, "color."

Related: Understanding Layers

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Make a Square

Make a Square
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Because the design has too much contrast in value, I will cover the white with a color that is similar to the pastel yellow orange. I will do so by drawing a large square that covers the entire canvas, click on the Rectangle tool in the Tools panel, then click just outside the canvas in the upper left corner and drag to just outside the canvas in the lower right. In the Options bar I'll choose a light yellow orange color for the fill, because it's close in value to the pastel yellow orange.

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Make a Gradient

Make a Gradient
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I want to make a gradient that sits on top of everything else, so fist I need to click on the layer at top in the Layers panel then on the Create New Layer button. I'll also double-click on the name of the layer then type in, "Gradient." Now, to make the gradient, I will use the Rectangle tool to create square that runs off the edges of the canvas, and change the Solid Color fill to a Gradient fill. Next, I'll change the style of the gradient to Radial and rotate it to -135 degrees. I'll click on the Opacity Stop on the far left and change the opacity to 0, which will make it transparent. I'll then click on the Opacity Stop on the far right and change the opacity to 45, to make it semitransparent.

I will choose File > Save, and I'm done! I now have a graphic ready for use in any project that calls for sun rays.

Related:
• Retro Sun Rays in GIMP
Create Comic Book Art with Photoshop
Make a Stylized Graphic in Illustrator