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Design

How to Create a Cool Glitch Photo Effect in Adobe Photoshop

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Photo effects are a great way to practice and harness your Photoshop skills. In this lesson, learn how to create a fun photo glitch effect using Marquee Tools, the Wave Filter, and more!

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used in the production of this tutorial.

Photo Glitch Basics: What You Need to Know

In order to get the best result possible when achieving effects based on real-life scenarios, it helps to do your research. So let's get to know what a glitch is.

The kind of glitch we'll be tackling is common to television or video games. These glitches are software errors or bugs that are often caused by a corrupted signal. The end result leaves your screen incredibly distorted and hard to make out.

For this tutorial, we'll need to keep in mind some key visual characteristics to achieve this look. These are:

  • Jagged lines or waves
  • Frozen or static looking visuals
  • Inverted colors

Do a couple of Google searches to keep some inspiration and references on deck. Refer to them often to experiment with this style for yourself, or enlist the help of a design professional from Envato Studio.

Glitch Photo Effect Alternative Version by Melody Nieves
Alternate version. Gather references to help achieve this look! Stock from Freepik.

If you're having trouble achieving this look, don't forget that you can always bypass this process by downloading one of our incredible Glitch Photo Effects from GraphicRiver and Envato Elements.

1. How to Set Up the Glitch Photo Effect

Step 1

Let's begin! I'll be using this Hipster Stock from PhotoDune for this tutorial. For this particular look, it helps if you choose a stock where the model has edges that you can see clearly because we'll need to extract it from its background. It's also an added bonus if the background is a solid color or not too distracting like these wooden panels.

Hipster Man Stock from PhotoDune
Notice how you can clearly see all the edges of this model. Make sure you choose a stock with a model you can easily extract.

Double-click the Background layer to make it a New Layer. Create a New Layer (Control-Shift-N) positioned underneath your reference. Set the Foreground Color to white, and Fill the layer with white using the Paint Bucket Tool (G).

Setup the Layers for a Glitch Photo Effect

Step 2

Select the Magnetic Lasso Tool (L). This will help us extract the reference by easily snapping to the sides of your model. Use the Magnetic Lasso Tool (L) to create a complete selection around the model. When you're finished, Right-click and select Layer via Copy to create a quick duplicate.

Use the Magnetic Lasso Tool to Extract the Subject
Make sure you keep the original stock. The end result is what the stock would look like on its own layer.

Step 3

Select the original stock. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to bring in the sides of the background to expose some of the white to the left and right.

Squeeze the Sides with the Free Transform Tool

Alternatively, if your stock doesn't have a background, you can just add a rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (U) like this example below.

Alternative Glitch Version with Rectangle Background
Alternatively, if your stock doesn't have a background, add a quick rectangle. Stock from Freepik.

2. How to Desaturate a Photo

Step 1

Moving along, let's Desaturate this photo for a more monochromatic color palette. Select the layer for the model's cutout and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue & Saturation. Lower the Saturation to -95 to remove the majority of the photo's color.

Desaturate with Hue and Saturation

Step 2

You can adjust the main photo even further by using Levels. Select the extracted model's layer again, and go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Adjust the Levels for the RGB Channel with the following settings:

  • Shadow Input Level: 0
  • Midtone Input Level: 0.92
  • Highlight Input Level: 255
  • Output Levels: 17, 255

The end result is subtle, and it lightens the model slightly.

Use Levels to Adjust the Desaturated Photo

3. How to Create a Linear Glitch Distortion

Step 1

The next part of this effect is to recreate the jagged photo distortion that makes it look as if the visuals are out of place. To do this, first select the stock and model layers and Merge them together.

Merge the layers together

Step 2

Now select the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M). Create two skinny selections on the photo layer. First create one at the bottom, and then hold the Shift key to add another selection at the top.

Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to create selection

Press the V key on your keyboard to switch over to the Move Tool. Use the Left Arrow key to move the selections to the left. You may have to hit it several times or hold it down for a while to get the desired result. 

Move the selection to the left for the glitch

Step 3

You can continue this process on a single layer, but eventually there might be open white spaces that don't look quite so good. So to avoid this, Duplicate the Model Layer and use the copy to create the distortion.

Again, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create more selections, moving them in different directions with the Left Arrow and Right Arrow keys. Here I created two more and moved them to the right slightly.

Create more selections for more glitches

Notice that because there's a copy of the photo behind this layer, the resulting look shows the layer behind it instead of the white background.

Step 4

Let's speed this up a bit! Create even more Rectangular Selections, using the Move Tool (V) to move the different sections out of place. Vary the size between skinny selections and thicker ones to make the effect more natural.

It's even a good idea to have a game plan before you tackle this part. Since I like the man's serious expression, I want to make sure the glitches create focus towards the center of the photo.

Continue creating the glitch effect with selections

As you get closer to the face, try not to distort it too much. Do each glitch individually to see what will work. This part is all about experimentation, so if you need to go back a step or two, just hit Control-Z to Undo.

Creating Photo Glitches Around the Face

When you're finished with all your linear glitches, the effect should look something like this:

Final Linear Glitch Effect

4. How to Create a Wavy Glitch Distortion

Step 1

The next part of this distortion effect is to create that wavy glitch. You may have seen these before if you've ventured off into the naughty channels as a kid, but these glitches make the image appear as though it's moving in liquid.

To do this we'll need the Wave Filter. First, Merge the original stock layer together with copy that has all the glitches. Then Control-J to create a duplicate to create the wavy distortion on. 

Merging Layers and Creating Duplicates for the Wavy Distortion

Step 2

With the copy selected, create several more large selections with the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) just like before. Keep in mind that I'm trying to frame the face of the subject, so don't select any parts directly in the center.

Create Selections for the Wavy Glitch

Now go to Filter > Distort > Wave, adjusting the settings as follows to create a wavy effect on only the selections.

Creating a Wavy Glitch with Filter Distort Wave

Step 3

With this particular effect, the settings above may or may not work for your photo. So it's important to experiment and adjust the settings on your own to achieve the look you desire.

Continue this process of making selections first before applying the Wave Filter. You'll need to change the settings each time to vary the effect on the photo.

Continue the Wavy Glitch Process

Here is some more progress after a little experimentation.

Wavy Glitch Photo Effect Progress

Step 4

Finish this effect by concentrating on the top and bottom parts of the photo. First, select the bottom of the image with the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and apply the Wave Filter with the following settings.

Add the Glitch to the Bottom with the Wave Filter

Now for the top portion. Repeat the process, this time changing the settings to the following ones below.

Top Portion Wavy Glitch Effect

Here is the image complete with all the linear and wavy glitches. Let's move on to the finishing touches!

Final Wavy Glitch Effect

5. How to Create a Simple 3D Effect

Step 1

Now for the 3D color effects! Just like before, start by Merging the glitch layers together, leaving the white background out so that there are only two layers left. Then hit Control-J to create two more Duplicates of the merged photo layer.

Duplicate Layers for the Final Effect

Step 2

Hide the Visibility of the top two layers. Then Right-click the first photo layer, "Merged," and go to Blending Options. Uncheck the G, or Green Channel located under Advanced Blending.

Uncheck the Green Channel for 3D Effect

Now Unhide the Visibility of the top layers and repeat the process. This time Uncheck the Red Channel for "Merged Copy," and both the Red and Green Channels for "Merged Copy 2."

Uncheck the Red and Blue Channels for 3D Effect

Step 3

Now we can begin to move each layer to create the insane 3D effect. Select the Move Tool (V) and then select the layer, "Merged Copy," using the Left Arrow key to move the layer to the left. Next, select the top layer, "Merged Copy 2," using the Left Arrow key to move the layer to the left as well.

Here is what the process will look like.

Creating the 3D effect on a glitched photo

Step 4

Almost done! To add the appearance of screen lines to this effect, select the top layer, "Merged Copy 2," and Right-click to go to Blending Options. Add a quick Pattern Overlay using the default Horizontal Line Pattern, and set the rest of the settings as follows:

Creating the Horizontal Pattern with an Overlay

Because the layer is blue and the Blend Mode is set to Soft Light, this will also give your image a nice blue tint.

Result of the Pattern Overlay

Step 5

To complete this cool glitch effect, we just need to carry out one last step. Add a New Layer and set the Layer Blend Mode to Dissolve. In this step, we'll use the Brush Tool (B) to paint red #5e220a towards the bottom of the image in order to create tiny particles as a part of the final glitch effect. Adjust the Opacity of the layer if you need to; here I brought mine down to 8%.

Creating Glitch Particles with Dissolve

That's it! Check out the final result below.

Conclusion

Photo effects are a smart way to practice unique and exciting techniques in Adobe Photoshop. You can have lots of fun achieving real-life scenarios like photo glitches and so much more.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. And be sure to browse our wide range of Glitch Photo Effect Actions available on GraphicRiver and Envato Elements.

Glitch Photo Effect Photoshop Tutorial by Melody Nieves
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