Light-painting tutorial: how to make video trails using Adobe Premiere

About 18 months ago, we released Signs of Light. It was our first video demonstrating our one-second tube light-painting technique. In that video, there's one scene which I got asked so many times about how to do it. Here's the answer in 10 easy steps. 

  1. Drop your video into your sequence. If your video is very long, break it into smaller sequences so it gets faster to preview and render.

  2. Step to the beginning of the light-painting shape

  3. Add the "Echo" filter on your video

  4. Change the "Echo operator" to "Maximum". That is going to prevent the non-moving parts to burn.

  5. Toggle the animation "on" for the "Number of Echoes" option. That is going to create the first keyframe

  6. Move to the end of the light-painting shape, create a second keyframe

  7. Move one frame right, and create a third keyframe

  8. Get the number of frames between keyframe #1 and keyframe #2 (you can get the number of frames by right-clicking on the time, and switch to "frame" mode). Tip: use the next/previous keyframes arrow to move precisely from one keyframe to the other.

  9. Go to keyframe #2, and change the "Number of Echoes" to that number

  10. Render your video

You're going to need basic Adobe Premiere skills, but each step is quite simple and easy to replicate. 

UPDATE #1 - January 2018

  • In my recent work, I started to add the last frame of the light-painting while transitioning to the rest of the footage:

  • To do this, step to the last frame of the footage with the Echo effect, then export the frame (Ctrl-shift-E), import that frame into the project, and drop it on a sequence on top of the video light-painting. Make it at least 20 frames, then fade it out using the opacity animation.


For a high-end real time version of this (for live shows, performances, etc), check out

Eric Pare