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How to Create a Spooky Photo Effect Action in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to turn your ordinary photos into amazing, spooky photos.

I will explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.

The effect shown above is the one I will show you how to create here in this tutorial. If you would like to create more advanced and creepy photo effects, as shown
below, just using a single click and in just a few minutes, then check
out my Halloween Photoshop Action.

Action final results

What You’ll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following photo:

1. How to Get Started

Step 1

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2000–4000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
Checking image size and mode

Step 2

Now we need to expand the canvas a little bit on the top so we have more space around the subject on this side. Go to Image > Canvas Size and use the settings below:

Expanding canvas

Step 3

We are going to do the same thing for the right side of the canvas. Go to Image > Canvas Size and use the settings below:

Expanding canvas

2. How to Select the Subject

Step 1

In this section we are going to make a selection of our subject and then copy the subject to a separate layer. Choose the Quick Selection Tool (W), and select the background of the photo. Use the Shift-Alt buttons on your keyboard to add or subtract some areas from the selection. After you make a perfect selection, press Control-Shift-I on your keyboard to invert the selection.

Making a selection of the subject

Step 2

Now go to Select > Modify > Contract, set the Contract By to 2 px, and then go to Select > Modify > Feather and set the Feather Radius to 2 px as shown below:

Modifying selection

Step 3

Press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection, and name this new layer Subject.

Creating a new layer using selection

3. How to Create the Background and Textures

Step 1

In this section we are going to create the background and also some textures. Select the Background layer, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color to create a new solid color fill layer, name it Background Color, and choose the color #000000 as shown below:

Creating new solid color fill layer

Step 2

Now go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Background Texture.

Creating a new layer

Step 3

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Adding clouds filter

Step 4

Now press Control-T on your keyboard to transform this layer and set the Width and Height to 200% as shown below:

Transforming the layer

Step 5

Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter the settings below:

Adjusting levels

Step 6

Now set the Opacity of this layer to 45%.

Changing the opacity

Step 7

Select the Subject layer, go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Foreground Texture.

Creating a new layer

Step 8

Now press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and go to Filter > Render > Clouds.

Adding clouds filter

Step 9

Press Control-T on your keyboard to transform this layer and set the Width and Height to 150% as shown below:

Transforming the layer

Step 10

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Screen and set the Opacity to 42%.

Changing the blending mode and opacity

4. How to Blend the Subject

Step 1

In this section we are going to make the subject blend well with the background. Select the Subject layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation to create a new hue/saturation adjustment layer, and name it Subject_Saturation.

Creating huesaturation adjustment layer

Step 2

Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, set the Saturation to -80 as shown below:

Adjusting saturation

Step 3

Now press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask. Then select the Subject layer, Control-click on its thumbnail to make a selection of this layer, and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection to add a layer mask that reveals the selected area of the layer.

Adding layer mask

Step 4

While this layer mask is selected, press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and then X to exchange them. After that, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, and start brushing over the edges of the subject that are not blended well with the background.

Brushing into layer mask

Step 5

Now Control-click on the Subject_Saturation layer to get both layers selected at the same time, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from the selected layers, and name it Main Subject.

Creating a new group from layers

Step 6

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a blank layer mask to this layer. Then press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches and then X to exchange them. After that, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, and brush over the bottom part of the subject to make it fade into a texture.

Brushing into layer mask

Step 7

Now set the Opacity of the Brush Tool (B) to 26% and brush over the edge of the area you brushed previously to smooth the transition between the subject and the texture.

Brushing into layer mask

5. How to Create the Lighting

Step 1

In this section we are going to work on the lighting. Select the Foreground Texture layer, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient to create a new gradient fill layer, name it Light Source, set the Style to Radial, and use the other settings shown below:

Creating new gradient fill layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail, choose the Move Tool (V) and click and drag anywhere inside the canvas to position the light source as below, and choose OK.

Positioning light source

Step 3

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Screen and set the Opacity to 17%.

Changing the blending mode and opacity

Step 4

Now select the Foreground Texture layer, go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and name it Darken Background.

Creating a new layer

Step 5

Go to Edit > Fill and set the Contents to Foreground Color, the Mode to Normal, and the Opacity to 100% as shown below:

Filling layer with foreground color

Step 6

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light, and then select the Light Source layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate it.

Changing the blending mode

Step 7

Right-click on this layer and choose Rasterize Layer to rasterize it. Then Control-click on this layer thumbnail to make a selection of it, select the Darken Background layer, and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection to add a layer mask that hides the selected area of the layer. After that, Right-click on the Light Source copy layer and choose Delete Layer to delete it.

Adding layer mask

Step 8

Now go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Darken Edges.

Creating a new layer

Step 9

Go to Edit > Fill and set the Contents to Foreground Color, the Mode to Normal, and the Opacity to 100%, as shown below:

Filling layer with foreground color

Step 10

Now press Control-A on your keyboard to make a selection of the canvas and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection to add a layer mask that hides the selected area of the layer. Then click on the link icon between the layer thumbnail and mask to unlink them, press Control-T to transform the layer mask, and set the Width and Height to 85% as shown below:

Adding and transforming layer mask

Step 11

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 200 px as shown below:

Adding gaussian blur filter

6. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section we are going to make final adjustments to our effect. Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer, and name it Overall Contrast.

Creating gradient map adjustment layer

Step 2

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and set the Opacity to 39%.

Changing the blending mode and opacity

Step 3

Now go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color Look.

Creating new curves adjustment layer

Step 4

Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, use the settings below:

Adjusting curves

Step 5

Now press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a snapshot, and then press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer. After that, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 2 px as shown below:

Adding high pass filter

Step 6

Name this layer Overall Sharpening and change the Blending Mode to Hard Light.

Changing the name and blending mode

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! Here is our final result:

Final result

If you would like to create more advanced and creepy photo effects as shown below, just using a single click and in just a few minutes, then check out my Halloween Photoshop Action.

Action final results