How to create a ghost effect in Photoshop.

Add some spook to your photos with these editing tips.

With a command of some simple Adobe Photoshop features, you can use photo effects to turn a regular picture into a haunting, mysterious, ghostly one. Simply blur some edges, adjust colors and saturation, and soon you’ve got an unearthly image. Get started with these spooky ghost Photoshop tools.

Ghost-ify your photo with these tools.

First create a duplicate layer (Ctrl/Cmd J or, in the main menu, Layer > Duplicate Layer). Then create a Smart Object, which gives you a way to make non-destructive and editable changes to your image. With the duplicate layer on top and selected, choose Layer > Smart Object > Convert to Smart Object. This will allow you to play with some of these “ghostly” features:

  1. Motion Blur. The Motion Blur filter is the best ghosting tool in your toolbox. It applies a blurred effect to your whole image. You can find Motion Blur in the main menu (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur). Adjust the angle to match the direction of your subject’s motion and adjust the Distance slider to control the amount of blur.
  2. Mask. Provide enough structure to your motion-blurred image to make it realistic by adding a mask to the blurred layer. Click the Mask button in the Layers panel (or Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal all). Then click the Mask thumbnail to the right of the image thumbnail in the layer panel. Select the Brush tool and choose a brush, set your painting color to black, and paint over the areas you want to see from the original non-blurred image. This creates a nice juxtaposition of detail and blur.
  3. Diffuse Glow. Select Layer 0 again and use the Diffuse Glow filter to create a glowing, ethereal effect. In the main menu, navigate to Filter > Filter Gallery, open the Distort folder, and click on Diffuse Glow. Within this filter, you can adjust Graininess (which adds a static-y effect), Glow Amount (which controls the glow intensity), and Clear Amount (which does the opposite). Play around with these three adjustments to see what you like best.
  4. Hue. To change color, you can use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. From the main menu, select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and click OK. (Or, from the Adjustments panel, click on the Hue/Saturation Adjustments icon). From there, you can make adjustments in the Properties panel. Choose either the master or specific color and move the sliders for Hue, Saturation, and Lightness. (Or click on Colorize and choose the color with the sliders.) A blue-green color can work well for a ghostly image, but experiment to find your spookiest shade.

Otherworldly editing potential.

Get more out-of-this-world photography and editing tips, and learn more about how you can use Photoshop to transform your photos into creative canvases. Whether you’re turning your portraits to ghosts, your landscapes to galaxies, or your dogs to dinosaurs, the possibilities are endless.