Create an infrared image in 6 simple steps

    Create an infrared image in 6 simple steps

    In this tutorial, we show you how to use a combination of Adjustment Layers and filters to make a fuss-free infrared image.

    If you want to capture true infrared on your digital camera then there are two common solutions – some pretty invasive surgery that will change your camera forever or a specialist IR filter that attaches to your lens. Both of these methods filter out visual light resulting in just the infrared light being captured by the sensor. Although the second solution leaves the integrity of your camera intact, it’s still a hassle, especially when an equally convincing infrared effect can be quickly applied in Photoshop.

    Our after image

    Our after image

    The technique we’re going to use will reflect a true infrared image with lightened foliage, darkened skies, false colour, grain and a slight vignette. Working with Adjustment Layers and Smart Filters will give us complete flexibility over the look, meaning that we can accurately pinpoint tone and colour, firstly by inverting and blending the original image and then using the colour channels to fine-tune the infrared look. Once the colours and tones are set, we’ll then look at adding realistic grain and vignette.

    Our before image

    Our before image

    As infrared exposure times are usually far longer than standard colour images, we’ll also take a look at adding motion blur to the clouds. This additional blur will again reinforce the illusion of true infrared. Finally, to add impact, a little dodging and burning can be applied to help boost the grassy foreground and highlight the clouds against the darkened sky. So, with a colour image ready, here’s how to get the infrared look.

    6 Simple Steps for Creating an Infrared Image in Photoshop


    Open your colour image in Photoshop. Duplicate the Background layer using Cmd/Ctrl+J, and invert the colours via Cmd/Ctrl+I, to create a negative. Switch Blend Mode to Color. This instantly transforms the look of the image. We now need to look at the colour of the grass which should be dark blue/purple.


    Create a New Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.  For our image, we set Hue to 100 and Saturation to -30. For the sky, we selected Yellow from the Channel drop-down and set Hue to 60, Saturation to 30 and Lightness to -50. Selecting Cyan, we reduced the Hue to -100 and the Saturation to -100 to remove the colour from the rocks.


    Depending on the image, the values here will change but these should act as a good starting point for any shot with plenty of green and blue. You’re looking for the grass to change to red and the sky to darken. To boost tone and contrast, create a new Curves Adjustment Layer and make a subtle S-curve.


    Select all of the layers and then use Cmd/Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to merge those layers into a new layer. From the Filters drop-down, select Convert For Smart Filters then Filter>Blur>Radial Blur and select an Amount of 22, click Zoom and Best then click OK. Add a Layer Mask and select a black soft-edged brush.


    Paint into the Layer Mask to reveal the foreground and carefully paint up into the sky to help blend it. Create a new blank layer and fill with 50% grey then go to Filter> Noise>Add Noise. Increase the Amount to 12.5. Select Gaussian and Monochromatic and click OK. Now swap the Blend Mode to Overlay.


    Create a new blank layer and fill with white, then go to Filter>Lens Distortion. Click on the Custom tab and set the Vignette amount to -100. Switch the Blend Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 40%. Finally, use the Dodge and Burn tools to add contrast to the grass and darken the sky to make the clouds stand out.

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 at 11:25 am and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.


    | Tutorials | 09/04/2013 11:25am
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