How to Achieve 5 Common Looks in Photoshop

How do I achieve this look? That’s the question that gets asked all the time. In this post, you’ll learn 5 common effects and how to create them in easy steps. Believe me – they’re incredibly easy and do not require a bunch of layers.

Matte/Faded/Raised Blacks


This simple effect with many names is used to make photos look deep and emotional. You’ll see it used a lot on Instagram. It’s also mistakenly called crushed blacks but that’s not the proper term – in fact, crushed blacks is the opposite effect of raised blacks (See the next part).

How to Create the matte look in Photoshop:

  1. Add a Curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves).
  2. Drag the bottom-left node upwards until you get your desired black levels. Add two nodes and create an s-curve. This will add some contrast to an otherwise flat-looking photo.

Crushed Blacks


Not to be confused with the literal meaning of crushing, crushed blacks is a technique that compresses the black tones of your photo for an emo-style look.

How to Create the crushed blacks look in Photoshop:

  1. Add a Curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves).
  2. Drag the bottom-left node towards the right until you get the desired crushed look. Add a node in the middle to brighten the image back up.
  3. Optional: Change the blending mode of the layer to Luminosity.

Clean, Bright and Washed Out Look


The clean and bright look is another frequently asked look that has been trending. A good example of this timmy727 on Instagram. People are often curious to how they get the whites in their photos to look pure white. The secret behind white walls is the Vibrance adjustment which can fully desaturate white areas without desaturating everything else. The Vibrance adjustment is based on the same principle as the Adaptive Saturation technique we introduced in 2006.

How to create the clean bright look in Photoshop:

  1. Add a Vibrance adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance). Lower the vibrance until you get the desired results. You can also increase the saturation back up which will restore the saturation.
  2. Add a Curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves). Drag the bottom-left node towards the top-right. Drag the top-left node towards the left. Add a node in the middle to create an arch which will brighten the image.



The pastel effect is one of the most simple effects to create in Photoshop. Using just one layer, you can fade the tones and tint the highlights and shadows. What makes this effect look good is the complementary colors in the shadows and highlights. For example, if you tint the shadows blue, the highlights will be the opposite color which is yellow. This creates a balance in color.

How to add the pastel effect in Photoshop

  1. Create a solid color fill layer (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color). Pick any color you like (ex. blue).
  2. Change the blending mode to Exclusion then lower the opacity to around 5-20%.

Film Tones


Film emulations are the most popular effects but to be honest, you’re better off experimenting with the vast variety of products out there that do this. There’s a free version of Matte Films made by SparkleStock and it simulates films very well. If you prefer to learn how to do it yourself, there’s a great film effects video tutorial. But if you just want the quick gist of it, follow the steps below.

How to add film tones in Photoshop

  1. Add a Curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves). Add two nodes and position them to create an s-curve. You can also raise the blacks (bottom-left node) or drop the whites (top-right node) if you like.

  2. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Go into the individual color channels then, located on the bottom of the panel, expand the range selector. For example, I expanded the yellows to include the greens. Adjust the hue/saturation/lightness setting. Repeat this process for any other colors that you want to adjust.

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Members Area Tutorial: Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to use Photoshop filters to create an underwater background that you can use for your own artwork. Photoshop Star Premium Members can login now for full access to this tutorial. Premium Members get access to exclusive tutorials for Photoshop and Illustrator. Also access to dozens of tutorial source […]

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Create an Abstract Portrait in Photoshop

On this tutorial we will create abstract photo artwork of a girl portrait with disintegration effect on it. We will learn to create disintegration effect in a handy and practical technique, adorn the photo with stunning lighning and then complete it with color adjustment. Throughout the tutorial, we will have fun to learn simple and handy tricks to create photo artwork in photoshop.

What you’ll be creating

On this tutorial we will create an abstract scene of a girl with disintegration effect on face and body. We will use some essential techniques in doing photo manipulation. We will work with paths, brush tool, some filter, color adjustments and textures all through the steps in this tutorial.This tutorial is done with photoshop CS 3. Don’t forget a glass of coffee and optionally a pack of cigarette for your companion. Ready..?

final result

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Well, start by opening the girl image in photoshop. Grab magic warn tool (W) located in tool panel on the left side of the photoshop. Set the value of tolerance to 32.


Click the white background of the girl image to make selection on it indicated by blinking small dots around the white background.


Let’s inverse the selection by hitting Shift+Ctrl+I. Now hit Ctrl+ J to duplicate the girl. Hide the original image by clicking the eye icon beside it.



Step 2

We will alter the tone of the girl’s skin by giving it some new layer adjustments. Firstly, while being active on the layer 1 (the extracted girl image), go to layer > new adjustment layers > brightness/contrast. Set this adjustment layer to these values:


Give more two others adjustment layers: curves and selective color.



Given the tree adjustment layers, the look of the image should like the one in the screenshot below. Select the layer 1 and the tree adjustment layers, hit Ctrl+E to merge them into a new single layer. Name this layer, say, girl.


Step 3

Now let’s start create the main canvas for the scene we are going to create. Hit Ctrl+N to create it. Set the canvas/document to the size given below:


Next, open the girl image to the main document and convert it into smart object layer by going to layer > smart objects > convert into smart object. Take free transform tool (Ctrl+T) and scale down the size of the image to fit the size of the new canvas. Here is the position and size of the girl for your reference:


Step 4

From this step on, we will create texture to which we are going to clip the girl image to make disintegration effect on it. We will just create many dot lines as the texture. To create it, we will use pen tool (P) to make random paths and stroke them with brush (B). Well, start by setting the brush stroke first. Grab the brush tool (B), choose hard round brush. Set the tip of the brush in the brush preset (F5) as below:


Create a new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N). Take the pen tool (P) and create random path. Below are examples of the path:


On the new layer, stroke the path and choose the brush as the tool of stroking with black color.



Duplicate the layer as many as needed to create tangled random dot lines. Vary the size of the dot lines to create desired texture. Select all the duplicate layers and merge them (Ctrl+E) into a new single layer. Name this layer, say, texture. Here is sample of the texture we can create:



Here is the position of the given texture when placed above the girl layer in the layer panel.




Step 5

Before creating the disintegration effect, we will create a new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N) below the girl and texture layer. Fill (Shift+F5) this new layer with black color. Name this layer, say, black. Then, go to filter > noise > add noise to give this layer some noise.


So this is the result so far when the texture layer is positioned above the girl layer.


Step 6

Now we can simply creating the disintegration effect on the girl by positioning the girl layer above the texture layer in the layer panel. When the girl layer is above the texture layer, give it a clipping mask (Ctrl+Alt+G). It is really handy. Given the texture, the result should like this one:



Step 7

Now we will add some color to the girl. Create new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N) with a clipping mask. Set this layer to color blending.


Take a very soft round brush (B) with 0% hardness and opacity of about 10-15%. On this layer, paint any soft color we prefer around the eyes and neck of the model. The color used below is cyan and the layer is set in normal blending at 100% opacity.


We can duplicate this color layer and play around the opacity to get the desired result. Here is the result.


Step 8

We need to give the lips reddish tone. To do this, create a new layer with a clipping mask above the color layers. Set this new layer to color dodge. Paint soft orange color around the lips.


Step 9

Now we will blur some part around the girl image. Select the girl layer and go to filter > blur > Gaussian blur to give it some blur filter. Set the value below:


Select the filter mask thumbnail to be active on it and with a very soft round brush, mask the blur effect on areas around the face and body as indicated by red highlight.


Here is the result. Select all the girl layers and hit Ctrl+G to group them into a folder. Name this folder, say, girl.


Step 10

Create a gain a new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N) below the girl folder. Take the pen tool (P) and create paths as below. Set the brush tip as the ones in the previous step 4.


On this new layer, stroke the path. Use color #0afbfe. We can reduce the opacity of this layer if we feel the stroke of the dots is too much.


Step 11

On another new layer, create some new paths like the example below:


Then stroke the paths. To vary the stroke, we can check Simulate Pressure to get narrow pointed dot lines. We may try any different color we prefer to get desired result.


Here is the result with red color.


Step 12

Still with the same ways, we can add more dot lines on areas around the eyes of the model.


Here is the result so far…..


Step 13

In this step we will add some highlight around the girl. Create a new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N) above all the other layers. Fill (Shif+F5) this layer with black. Set its blending to color dodge and name it, say, highlight. Take a very soft round brush with opacity of about 4-5%. On this layer, paint soft white color around the shoulder, neck and other parts of the girl where needed. Here is the layer in normal blending.


And here is the result in color dodge blending.


Step 14

To adorn the scene, we may add some blinks around the girl. Create another new layer above the highlight layer. Fill this layer with black and set to color dodge blending. Name this layer, say, light. With the same way as in the previous step 13, paint combination of white and yellow color on areas around the head and the other parts needed.



Step 15

We will do some color adjustment to the scene. Go to layer > new fill layer > solid color.


Set this color fill layer to exclusion blending at about 47-50% opacity.


Now go to layer > new adjustment layer > photo filter.



Set this photo filter layer to normal at 60% opacity.


Finally, select all visible layers and hit Shift+Ctrl+Alt+A to merge them into a new single layer. Name this layer, say, final. Go to filter > others > high pass


Set this layer blending option to overlay at 100%.


It’s Done !

final result

Final Results

final result

Download the PSD

Download | 32.4 MB

Tutorial by Dek Wid

profileThank you for following this tutorial. Hope this tutorial will be a help for you in learning photo manipulation. Happy photoshopping.

– Dek wid

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