One of the most useful types of effects that you can create in Photoshop is the matte effect. Matte effects are highly versatile and will look great with a large selection of photos, and they’re also pretty easy to accomplish.
Here we’ll go through the process of how to create a matte effect in Photoshop from scratch. The effect we’ll be creating is the same as the one used in our “Strong Matte” action that is a part of our set of Matte Photoshop Actions. Of course, you can follow along with this tutorial to apply the effect to your own photos, or simply use the action if you’d like to save a little time.
Here is the before version of the sample photo that we’ll be using:
And here is the after version:
It’s a fairly subtle effect, but it can still have a nice impact on your photos. Let’s get started.
How to Create a Matte Effect in Photoshop
First, add a curves adjustment layer. Apply an RGB curve similar to the one shown below. The tone curve is the base of the matte effect.
Depending on your particular photo you may want to raise the left end (blacks) a little more or less, which will impact the strength of the effect. Raise it higher for a stronger matte effect, and lower for a softer matte effect. If the left end point of the tone curve is lifted up just a little, the effect may not be immediately noticeable (which may be what you’re going for). Different strengths of matte effect will look better on different types of photos.
Next, add a brightness/contrast adjustment layer and set the contrast to 12. You can adjust the brightness if needed based on the photo you’re working with, but in this case, we’re leaving it at 0.
The last step is to add a hue/saturation adjustment layer and set the saturation to -5. By slightly reducing the saturation, we’re taking a small amount of color out of the photo and giving it a slightly faded look.
And now we have the final matte effect, created with just a few steps in Photoshop.
Final Thoughts on Matte Effects in Photoshop
While it’s not difficult to create, the matte effect produces a classic look that is used by many photographers.
If you like this effect please check out our set of 25 Matte Photoshop Actions, which will help you to quickly and easily create a variety of different matte effects that you can use on your own photos.