Creating a matte look in Photoshop Elements is an easy edit that can change the tone of your photo dramatically.
First step? Start with a clean base edit. Next, add contrast and saturation – perhaps more than you normally would. Otherwise, this effect might leave your photo looking dull.
This before and after shows you the basic matte effect I describe below, including the base edits.
Starting with a good, clean edit is important before adding any creative enhancement to a photo – the quality of the edit depends on the quality of the photo you start with. The Before image above needed increased exposure and contrast – I added these tweaks with 2 Levels adjustment layers.
I created the Contrast & Light layer that you see in the screen shot below and moved blacks to the right. This increases contrast and saturation. Moving midtones to the left increases exposure. My other layer, Contrast and Pop, was simply a Levels layer changed to the Soft Light blend mode with opacity reduced to 25%. I didn’t change any of the Levels sliders for this layer. This technique increases contrast and saturation.
On the Contrast & Pop layer, I masked out the darkest part of her hair to prevent it from darkening so much that the shadows became blocked.
After correcting contrast and exposure, I added a Hue/Saturation layer to deepen the colors. I increased Saturation to 25 and used a 50% opacity black brush on the mask over her skin to make sure the skin didn’t become overly saturated.
Now that the photo has a good base edit, we’re ready to get creative. Matte looks produce their soft and hazy look by reducing an image’s contrast. Even though I used the Contrast & Light Levels layer to add contrast, I’m going to take some away now with another Levels layer.
The Matte layer you see in the screen shot above works its magic by moving the black Output Levels slider in towards the right. Note that Output Levels is the bottom bar – the sliders that we don’t usually use in Levels. On many images, I move the white Output Levels sliders towards the left as well as the black one. It wasn’t necessary on this photo, however.
The last tweak that I added to this layer was to move the top blacks slider in to 38 – this added back a bit of contrast and saturation. Just like on the Contrast & Pop layer, I masked out the darkest part of her hair. This is the final step in creating a basic matte look.
But, if you want to take this creative touch even further, there is plenty more you can do. You can tint the hazy matte by tweaking the individual color channels of the Levels Matte layer:
Want even more haze? Add a Color Fill layer. Change it’s blend mode to Soft Light and reduce the layer’s opacity. And play with the color of this layer to see how it changes the look of your photo.
Finally, add this last tip to your bag of tricks. Reducing contrast can sometimes be a good tweak for an image that you’d like to be softer without going all the way to matte or haziness. The green cheesecloth wrapped around the baby in this photo was detracting from his sweet face. I added a very light matte to the blanket to tone it down without desaturating it.
(Does this tutorial look familiar? You’re right! I published it on another blog earlier this year and revised it for you to read here.)
Creating a matte effect in Photoshop Elements is easy. Do you have any questions about the technique above? Feel free to post them in the comments.