Creating a heatmap with Photoshop (for NodeXL)

Hi everybody,

i spent the past hours searching for a nice way to create a heatmap for NodeXL. The aim was to provide something like this for any given NodeXL network. By the way, this technique presented here is not limited to Node XL networks. You can create a heatmap for almost everything using Photoshop (just skip step 1). If you don’t want to go through the whole process, you can download the PSD-file used here.

Edit: At the moment, all the heatmap-ish look has to be applied manually. If you have a good idea how to copy-paste a network and get to the same results, please comment.

1st step: Exporting your networks

In NodeXL, export your image as png. Preferably, you take a black background with white node and edge color. By then, you should have something like this:

2nd step: Preparing Photoshop

Open the image in Photoshop, and create 2 more layers. One background-layer and one to paint on later. You can fill the background with any violet-blue color. In this case it’s RGB 77/4/120.

3rd step:  Applying layer style effects on layer 2

In step 4 i want to paint the heatmap on layer 2. Therefore some layer style effects are needed. Select layer 2, click on the layer-style button (“fx”) and activate “Outer glow”. Set

  • “Blend mode” to “negative multiply”
  • opacity to 90%
  • spread to 10%
  • size to 20 px
  • range to 100%
  • and the rest to 0.

Next, we need that rainbow gradient. Just set the colors like shown beneath. It’s:

  • white, red (255/0/0), yellow (255/253/0), green (30/255/0) and blue (10/0/178)
  • important: set the upper stops to the following opacity values: black=100%, darkgrey= 80%, light grey = 55%)

4th step: Adjusting the brush

Select a brush and do some settings. In this case, i activated shape dynamics and smoothing. Set the opacity of the brush to 1% (as color, choose the background color), and to a size which seems appropriate for your needs (here: 5pxls). Go back to your layer 2 and now paint over your network. You should get something like this:

Or without the network-layer 1:


The method presented here shows how to manually create a heatmap of any given NodeXL network with Photoshop. Since this is not an automated process, you can actually create a heatmap out of everything (if you have enough time and creativity). For example an “infrared-image” of a human person:

If you have any suggestions how to simplify this process to make it more scaleable, please write a comment! Have fun.

    • Frank
    • March 30th, 2011

    Thanks a lot. Great work.

    • Jim
    • July 22nd, 2011

    Can you re-post the link to download the PSD. Its not working. 🙂

  1. Hey I tried it but there are some problems which I faced
    I am using PS CS5
    there is no “negative multiply” in blend mode in CS5
    you mentioned Next, “we need that rainbow gradient. Just set the colors like shown beneath”
    but the beneath shown figure does not show any numerical manipulation for Red blue green

    thanking you in anticipation.


      • Nam
      • June 10th, 2012

      Hey I also have CS5 – with the negtive multiply I just picked multiply. For the rainbow gradient, I just estimated and set the opacity for each one, worked fine.

    • Nam
    • June 10th, 2012


    • andres
    • January 19th, 2013

    thank you very much good work!

  2. What’s up Dear, are you genuinely visiting this website regularly, if so afterward you will absolutely obtain fastidious knowledge.

  3. Really great! Thanks for the tutorial

  4. Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thank you so much, However I am encountering problems
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  1. February 28th, 2013

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