Quick, Easy, Professional Photoshop CS(X) Digital InfraRed Tutorial

May 14, 2007 1:48 am

Infrared photography (also referred to as just IR) has been around for many years, but now with digital photography and Photoshop, creating the effect digitally is on the top of a lot of people's photography effects wish lists. There are some third-party plug-ins you can buy that will give you pretty decent IR effects, but you don't have to go that route. You can create some amazing infrared effects, both black and white and color, from right within Photoshop using the Channel Mixer (which is what we're going to do in this tutorial).

Before digital, you'd have to use special infrared film (Kodak made a popular brand of black-and-white infrared slide film) which had extended sensitivity to red colors that fall beyond what the naked eye (or traditional color film) could see. This IR film made blue skies look almost black, but it would keep the clouds looking white. It made green trees and grass look almost white, and if you used it on portraits, skin tones (eyes and teeth) took on an otherworldly feel, as well.

So, here is a very simple way with very high end professional results to achieve IR effects in Photoshop that people would swear were done with real IR film (which, by the way, is still made by a number of classic film manufacturers, including Kodak, who makes a High-Speed Infrared Black-and-White film, along with Ilford's SFX 200 IR film, and Maco's IR 820c film).

Please follow the steps carefully and watch for the RED ARROWS in my Screen Shots.

(Note: Click on the images for a larger view)

Step 001:

Choose and open the landscape photograph you want to convert into IR. We will be working this time with the Channel Mixer tool.

The infrared look is often used with landscape photography (although you see it on portraits in some cases), so we're using a landscape photo here. So lets first duplicate our background by pressing (CTRL+J). See example pic and look for the red arrow.

Step 002:

You'll use the Channel Mixer to create your infrared effect, so please choose it from the Image Menu > Adjustments > Channel Mixer as shown at right in the screen shot.

Step 003:

When the Channel Mixer Dialog appears on your screen, by default the Output Channel should be set to red. Just make sure that you are working on the red channel.

So we are going to leave the RED at +100%, Reduce the BLUE to -200%, And increase the GREEN to +200%. Make sure to check the Monochrome box at the lower-left corner of the dialog (as shown here) to convert the photo to black and white.

If the whites in your image are blown out (they were in this image), lower the Constant slider until the whites aren't so blown out (I had to lower it to -22%). You can now click OK, and you've got a black-and-white infrared effect.


Almost done... Now duplicate the layer we just turned into IR effect, set upper one (first layer) blend mode to Screen and the lower one to Linear Burn. Of course we leave the background as is (original colour shot).

Now you are done! How fast and easy was that? Ain't this tutorial fun and easier then real IR photography? I thought it will be nice to share this quick tutorial for those who don't have IR filters or cameras, also for those who always loved the IR photography from our many awesome members, (especially our two professional IR photograpers KORT and MaydaMason)

And now here is my final result! You can add, blend, manipulate more objects, layers and have more fun! So hope you enjoyed it, and also hope it was easy to understand. And be ready for my next one...

Thank you and regards,

Love You All...


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"Yaguar Khamedov (JOE) was born in Dubai in 1970, grew up in Riga - Latvia (Use to be USSR). He graduated from Riga's Aviation University in Latvia & The American College Of Dubai with a Master degree in Civil Mechanical Engineering (Micro-Chip Programmers), and also a Bachelors degree in Computer Science. He never used his majors for work. Instead, he learned how to play with the turntables back in 1985 and he liked the music and entertainment field. He launched his earlier career as a Club DJ, and by the time he started his own company, XOOM STUDIOS PRODUCTIONS Inc., added Audio/Video, Commercial Photography and Graphic Design to his fields. Joe now Lives in Michigan, USA with his two little cats and a deep dark forest and lake behind his home".

May 14, 2007

Article Comments

MaydaMason ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 15 May 2007

i was sure that this may be an infrared photography! thanks for the very helpful and interesting tutorial!

TwoPynts ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 17 May 2007

LOL Joe -- you tricked us! I was sure this was IR too. I should have noted the cloud and sky transition a bit closer. Great tutorial, very similar to my personal conversion method. Thanks for sharing this!

girsempa ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 17 May 2007

I tried this on six different landscape images... it didn't work on any of them (and they were all high-res images). Whole parts of the image went all blurry and fuzzy with these settings... so the resulting images are simply not usable.

xeniaghost ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 18 May 2007

Cool, this is something i've always wanted to try and it worked fine for me on a portrait with no loss of detail or sharpness (although she does look slighty scary! lol) Thanks for a great tutorial!

IO4 ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 18 May 2007

Nice simple tutorial - thanks:)

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