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How to Fake a Ghost Photo in Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today, we will be learning how to make fake ghost photos in Photoshop! We'll be combining a handful of layer modes to create a creepy see-through ghost Photoshop effect, and then finishing off the whole image with a gritty haunted house Photoshop color grade. 

Looking to create something creepy quickly? Check out one of the dozens of ghost effect Photoshop actions found on Envato Elements!  

You can create realistic ghost sightings in just a few seconds with this ghost effect Photoshop action. You can create realistic ghost sightings in just a few seconds with this ghost effect Photoshop action. You can create realistic ghost sightings in just a few seconds with this ghost effect Photoshop action.
You can create realistic ghost sightings in just a few seconds with this ghost effect Photoshop action.

What You'll Learn in This Ghost Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to Photoshop a ghost into a picture
  • How to fake a ghost photo
  • How to create fire effects in Photoshop 
  • How to create a dark color grade in Photoshop 
  • How to add noise to a photo in Photoshop 

Do you prefer to watch a video on how to Photoshop a ghost into a picture? Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Need

To complete this project, you will need the following resources:

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Create a Ghost Photoshop Color Grade 

Step 1

We are going to start things off with a pretty intense color grade consisting of six adjustment layers.

We want to make sure all of these adjustment layers stay at the top of our layer stack. So I suggest placing them all in a Group that you can easily toggle on and off or lock if you need to.

First, we have a Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Horror Blue, Multiply, and 50% Opacity.

Horror BlueHorror BlueHorror Blue

Step 2

Second, a Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Filmstock_50, Normal, and 20% Opacity.

Filmstock_50Filmstock_50Filmstock_50

Step 3

Third, a Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Kodak 5218 Kodak 2383, Normal, and 48% Opacity.

Kodak 5218 Kodak 2383Kodak 5218 Kodak 2383Kodak 5218 Kodak 2383

Step 4

Fourth, a Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Tension Green, Multiply, and 30% Opacity.

Tension GreenTension GreenTension Green

Step 5

Next, a Selective Color adjustment layer:

Selective ColorSelective ColorSelective Color

Step 6

And finally, a Gradient Map adjustment layer set to a Black to White gradient and a 30% Opacity. This will give us a deep and dark fall-inspired color grade.

Black to WhiteBlack to WhiteBlack to White

2. How to Photoshop a Ghost Into a Picture

Step 1

Now, on to our ghost! First, extract your subject using your preferred method. I like the Pen Tool personally, but do whatever works best.

Once your subject is extracted, select the layer and Right-Click > Convert to Smart Object. Now, we can go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and set it to Brightness -41. Since we set the layer to a Smart Object beforehand, we can always return and adjust this setting if needed.

Finish up by setting the subject to 75% Opacity.

place subject ghost Photoshopplace subject ghost Photoshopplace subject ghost Photoshop

Step 2

Duplicate the subject, bring the new layer above the original, and then set the layer mode to Hard Light. Keep the Opacity at 75%.

Double-click the Hard Light duplicate and uncheck the R channel found under Advanced Blending.

Nudge the layer over a few pixels to create a chroma effect.

add chroma effect  ghost Photoshopadd chroma effect  ghost Photoshopadd chroma effect  ghost Photoshop

Step 3

Add a Layer Mask to the Hard Light duplicate and fill it with Black.

Mask back in the edges of the subject, as well as any defining features—in this case, the folds in the sheet.

You can come back and adjust this layer mask as needed. You'll likely have to adjust all of your future layer masks as we add more layers. So don't worry too much about masking at this stage.

mask chroma effect  ghost Photoshopmask chroma effect  ghost Photoshopmask chroma effect  ghost Photoshop

Step 4

Duplicate the original subject layer again, bring the new layer below the subject, and then set the layer to Lighten and 100% Opacity.

layer set to lighten layer set to lighten layer set to lighten

Step 5

We're going to go back to the original subject, add a layer mask, and then mask out any areas of the ghost we want to be see-through. In this case, we're going to mask everything but the pumpkin and feet/grass area.

mask subject layer mask subject layer mask subject layer

Step 6

Next, let's duplicate the Lighten layer and bring it below its original.

Set the duplicate to Pin Light at 25% Opacity. You won't notice any differences yet.

We're going to go back to our Lighten layer, add a Layer Mask, fill it with Black, and then mask back in portions of the ghost. We don't want to mask things entirely back in, just enough to where we can see them. The lower Pin Light layer will help retain significant highlights.

mask lighten layer mask lighten layer mask lighten layer

Step 7

Once we're happy with our Lighten layer's masking, we can Duplicate the Pin Light layer, bringing it below its original, and then setting it to 100% Opacity.

We're going to Flip the duplicate Pin Light layer Horizontally and place that layer directly over the original ghost, making sure they align. This will add more form to the ghost, as well as creating a distorted effect.

duplicate and flip layer duplicate and flip layer duplicate and flip layer

Step 8

Add a layer mask to the duplicate Pin Light layer and then mask out any unnecessary or redundant details—in this case, the pumpkin and the overly repetitive cloth folds.

mask layer for ghost effect mask layer for ghost effect mask layer for ghost effect

Step 9

Finish up by creating a New Layer above all your current ghost layers. Then we can paint in some dripping black paint using either a default round Brush or a grungy textured brush.

pain in dripping face pain in dripping face pain in dripping face

3. How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern in Photoshop 

Step 1

Let's add some extra detail to the pumpkin our ghost is holding by adding some fire.

Take a burning coal texture and shrink it over the pumpkin, setting that layer to either Screen or Lighten. Try out both and see which one works best. I preferred Lighten for this texture.

Use Image > Adjust > Brightness/Contrast to adjust how bright the fire texture looks. In this case, I brought the Brightness down to -77.

place fire texture place fire texture place fire texture

Step 2

Add a Layer Mask and mask out any parts of the texture you don't want to show, focusing the fire on the jack-o-lantern's face.

mask flames mask flames mask flames

Step 3

Repeat those same steps to add in some fire embers coming off or out of the pumpkin. Again, experiment with both the Screen and Lighten layer modes. For the embers, I used Screen. Also, Duplicating a texture will cause it to appear brighter and more vivid.

ad ember fire effect ad ember fire effect ad ember fire effect

Step 4

Create a New Layer set to Overlay and an Opacity of 80%.

Paint in an Orange #ff4200 glow coming off the pumpkin. Adjust the Blend If settings so that the glow only affects the subject's highlights, not the shadows.

blend if settings blend if settings blend if settings
orange glow orange glow orange glow

4. How to Create Falling Leaves in Photoshop 

Step 1

To add some falling leaves, we will be using these 3D assets from Envato Elements!

Download a couple of different angles, and then place them all around the image. Place them both behind and in front of the subject and in varying different sizes. The leaves closer to the foreground should be larger than the background leaves.

add falling leaves add falling leaves add falling leaves

Step 2

Next, use Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur to add different depths to the leaves.

Again, the leaves closer to the foreground should have more blur, while the leaves closer to the subject should have less. I like to add a small amount of blur to most leaf layers, as even the in-focus leaves would have a slight amount of motion blur.

depth of field depth of field depth of field

Step 3

We can then use Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast to adjust some of the leaf layer's lighting.

Not all the layers will need to be adjusted. Focus on darkening the leaves in the shadows, and then adding some brightness to any of the leaves being hit by the sunlight.

adjust lighting adjust lighting adjust lighting

Step 4

Finish up the leaves with some slight color adjusting using Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation.

Adjust the Hue, just slightly, as needed. Some leaves will need to lean redder, while others might need to lean more green. This step may not end up being necessary, depending on how and where you placed your leaves.

adjust color adjust color adjust color

5. How to Use Smart Objects in Photoshop 

Step 1

To finish things up, we're going to create two Curve layers right below our Color Grade group: one bringing up the highlights and the second bringing down the shadows.

For the "shadows" curve, you'll also want to adjust the Blend If settings to not affect the highlights of the image. Fill both Curves Layer Masks with Black. 

curve layer settings curve layer settings curve layer settings
blend if settings blend if settings blend if settings

Step 2

Now, use both of these Curve layers to mask in some general lighting and shadowing.

Bring light onto the subject to draw more attention to them, making sure they are the focus of the image. And then increase the shadows on the outer parts of the image, creating an almost vignette effect.

mask curve layers for lighting effect mask curve layers for lighting effect mask curve layers for lighting effect

Step 3

Select all of your layers and then Right-Click > Convert to Smart Object. This will turn the whole image into one big Smart Object.

Once our image is a Smart Object, let's go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. Add a 35 Grain and a -20 Vignetting. Both of these settings are found under the Effects tab.

add photo grain add photo grain add photo grain

Step 4

Next, let's bring out that grain even more by adding a Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. Set the Smart Sharpen to 110% Amount and 0.3 Radius.

sharpen photo grain effect sharpen photo grain effect sharpen photo grain effect

Step 5

We will finish off the image by adding a square crop using the Crop tool.

You're Done! You've Learned How to Fake a Ghost Photo

That's how to fake a ghost photo! You can also try experimenting with different layer modes, mixing and matching and see what spooky ghost effect you can come up with. Then finish everything off with a gritty and dark color grade to sell the haunted photo effect!   

And remember, we turned our whole image into a Smart Object, so we can just double-click the Smart Object, adjust our layers, save, and that Smart Object will update. No need to add the grain effect again!

How to Fake a Ghost Photo in PhotoshopHow to Fake a Ghost Photo in PhotoshopHow to Fake a Ghost Photo in Photoshop

Top 5 Ghost and Haunted House Photoshop Actions 

Wondering how to make fake ghost photos fast? Try one of the top five ghost effect Photoshop actions!

1. Ghost Photo Creator (ATN, PAT)

Ghost Photo CreatorGhost Photo CreatorGhost Photo Creator

This ghost effect Photoshop action creates an instant haunted photo in just a few clicks! So you can create something similar to the above Photoshop ghost tutorial, but much faster. 

2. Glitch Ghost Photo Effect (PSD)

Glitch Ghost Photo EffectGlitch Ghost Photo EffectGlitch Ghost Photo Effect

Glitch effects and Photoshop ghost tutorials go hand in hand, so this Glitch Ghost Photo Effect action makes total sense! It's super trendy but still spooky—just drag and drop your image and the effect will be instantly applied. 

3. Vanquish Photoshop Action (ATN)

Vanquish Photoshop ActionVanquish Photoshop ActionVanquish Photoshop Action

The Vanquish Photoshop Action creates a more cinematic ghost-inspired effect. Create haunting fantasy creatures and villains like you might see in the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings universes! 

4. RGB / Glitch Photo FX (PSD)

RGB / Glitch Photo FXRGB / Glitch Photo FXRGB / Glitch Photo FX

Add heavy RGB glitch details to push your Photoshop mannequin effect to the next level. The template is easy to use, creates multiple different RGB styles, and comes with its own video tutorial!

5. Haunted Photoshop Actions (ATN)

Haunted Photoshop ActionsHaunted Photoshop ActionsHaunted Photoshop Actions

This haunted actions pack creates a mannequin effect in Photoshop! It includes a spooky glowing eye effect and a film grain effect that will give your photo a horror movie vibe. 

Discover More Cool Photoshop Tutorials

Now you've got the knowledge and resources to create a ghost effect in Photoshop. I hope you've enjoyed this Photoshop ghost tutorial and that you create incredible designs. We also shared some top ghost Photoshop add-ons that can save you some time! If you liked this scary Photoshop tutorial, you can always discover more cool resources from Envato Tuts+, like these:

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