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How to Make a Matrix Effect in Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In today's tutorial, we will be looking at how to make a Matrix effect in Photoshop, inspired by the ever-inspiring and trans allegory Matrix franchise! We will be taking the classic Matrix effect to the next level by adding depth and light bokeh. You'll also learn how to make a Matrix falling code effect using textures that do all of the heavy lifting. 

Skip the tutorial and head on over to Envato Elements, where you can find many different Photoshop effects, like this Matrix Effect Photoshop action.

Matrix Code CS3+ Photoshop Action

What You Will Learn in This Matrix Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to make a Matrix effect
  • How to make Matrix falling code effect
  • How to remove a background in Photoshop 
  • How to create a color grade in Photoshop
  • How to create an eye effect in Photoshop 

Prefer to learn via video instead of text? You can follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel, where we have this tutorial and many others.

What You'll Need

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

1. How to Create a Matrix Background in Photoshop 

Step 1

Before we look at how to do the matrix effect, we have to set up our background first. 

So we are going to create a green #153100 Color Fill layer, and paint some black on the upper and lower half, creating an almost vignette effect. 

create background

Step 2

Next, we are going to add the Matrix using these Matrix Backgrounds and Overlays. There are several to choose from, including both numbers and characters. 

Let’s use the Matrix 11 texture, dragging and dropping it on our canvas, enlarging the texture significantly.

Don’t worry about pixelation or blurriness—we'll fix it later! 

matrix texture

Step 3

First, let’s bring down the Opacity to around 50% and Right-Click > Convert to Smart Object.

turn Matrix texture into smart object

Step 4

We want these numbers to appear out of focus as they will be in the background of the image. We don’t need them to be sharp—we need them to be blurry. That's why we could enlarge them without worrying. 

Let’s go to Filter > Blur > Field Blur and set the Blur to 34 px, and then hit OK. 

field blur Matrix effect

Step 5

Duplicate the Matrix 11 texture and set it to Lighten at 65% Opacity. 

Let’s move the texture around, shrinking it slightly.

set matric effect layer to lighten

Step 6

Since we made the texture a smart object, we can double-click the Blur Gallery setting and adjust it! 

Let’s change the settings to Blur: 26p x and a Light Bokeh of 38%. Then we can slide  the Light Range toggle to the left, placing it underneath the word “Range.” Hit OK. 

layer matrix textures

Step 7

Let’s repeat that step one more time, duplicating the Matrix 11 texture again, but setting it to Screen at 65% Opacity. 

Shrink it down until it’s roughly the height of our canvas, making it smaller than the other previous textures. 

lower opacity of matrix effect

Step 8

Next, let’s double-click the Blur Gallery settings again, bringing the Blur down to 14 px and removing the Light Bokeh. 

Let’s also add an Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast, setting the Brightness to 75. 

Group the layers, naming the group “Background.”

final matrix effect texture

2. How to Quickly Extract a Subject in Photoshop

Step 1

Let’s drag and drop our subject onto the canvas. 

place subject

Step 2

Select the Object Select tool and click the Select Subject button in the upper Options toolbar. 

Add a Layer Mask to the subject.  If the Subject Select tool missed any areas, then you will want to go in and select and mask them yourself. 

quick selection

Step 3

Double-click the Layer Mask, set the Feather to 0.9 px, and then hit Select and Mask. 

Check the Smart Radius option and set the Radius to 3 px. 

Now we can use the Refine Edge Brush along the edges of the subject. If you select too much, press Alt to deselect. 

Press OK once the mask is slightly better—it still doesn’t need to be perfect! 

refine edge

Step 4

We can finish refining our mask using the Smudge tool set to 25–30% to push in the remaining white edges. Also use this brush to blur any edges that need to be blurred, like the hood and shoulders of the jacket. 

If any spots got masked by mistake, use a white semi-hard round Brush to mask them back in. 

smudge edges

Step 5

Finally, use a large soft round Brush to mask out the lower portion of the subject, removing the edge of the image. 

feather out bottom

3. How to Create a Dark Green Color Grade in Photoshop

Step 1

Now, let’s create a tech-inspired dark green color grade! These layers will be kept on top of all other layers, and I will be listing them starting from bottom to top. 

First, a Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Foggy Night with an Opacity of 26%. 

foggy night

Step 2

Second, a Black to White Gradient Map adjustment layer set to 42% Opacity. 

bw gradient

Step 3

Third, a green #234400 Solid Color fill layer set to Multiply and a 38% Opacity.

green fill layer

Step 4

Fourth, another Color Lookup adjustment layer set to Tension Green at 59% Opacity.

tension green

Step 5

Fifth, one last Color Lookup Layer set to Filmstock at 84% Opacity. 

film stock

Step 6

And finally, a Selective Color adjustment layer affecting just the Neutrals with the settings being +7, -10, +3, and 0. 

Mask out the face of the subject on the Selective Color’s mask, and then group everything together!

selective color and mask

4. How to Create a Matrix Lighting Effect in Photoshop 

Step 1

Now we need to light our subject! Let’s create and clip a Curves adjustment layer into our subject. 

We are going to increase the highlights, and then double-click the layer to open the Layer Style panel. 

Here we can adjust the Blend If settings. Hold Alt to split the leftmost toggles up, moving the right half almost completely to the right and the left half right under the “225”. 

blend if

Step 2

Now, let’s create and clip a second Curves layer into the subject, placing it above the first. 

This time, we are going to bring down the highlights to create dark shadows. 

Hit Control-I to invert the Layer Mask, and mask in shadows underneath the chin and on the jacket. Keep the highlights on the neck and jawline for the most part.


Step 3

Next, we are going to create and clip one final Curves layer, changing it from the RGB channel to Green, and then once again bringing up those highlights about halfway.   

Invert the layer mask, and then mask in green highlights onto the hair, cheeks, jawline, and edges of the neck. 

green curves

Step 4

Let’s finish up the lighting by creating and clipping a new layer set to Screen into the subject, placing it above all other clipped layers. 

Lower the Opacity to around 50% and then paint in some green along the edges of the face, filling in any shadows with a lime green #74ff51 color. A small semi-soft to soft default round brush should work perfectly! 

green rim light

5. How to Create Rim Light in Photoshop 

Step 1

Now, we are going to add some glow and rim lighting to our subject. 

Let’s create two new layers set to Screen, placing both below the subject. 

With a large fluffy round brush, with a Flow of 10% and set to a vivid green #00dc00 color, paint in some glow behind your subject. 

Lower the Opacity of the layers if the glow is too strong. Using two layers instead of one will help you build the light-up slower, as well as giving you more control over the opacity. 

background glow

Step 2

Now for the rim light. Duplicate the subject, bringing it below the original. We are going to add a Color Overlay layer effect, filling it with a light neon green #a1ff63 color. 

Now, we are going to nudge the layer 5-10 pixels upwards so that the green is just barely poking out from the top of the head and shoulders. 

green subject

Step 3

Let’s Right-click > Apply Layer Mask, and then add a new Layer Mask. 

Mask out all of the lower jacket, most of the shoulders, and a small amount of the hood. Also, mask out any areas of the face that don’t need the green rim light. 

Group all of these layers and all of the previous subject layers into a group named “Subject!"

hair rim light

6. How to Create a Matrix Eye Effect in Photoshop 

Step 1

We are getting close to the end, so let’s drag and drop a new Matrix 11 texture onto the canvas. Shrink it down significantly and set it to Screen. 

Make sure the texture is placed over the iris of the subject as we want it to appear as if the numbers are reflecting in his eyes. 

add texture over eye

Step 2

Zoom in on one of the eyes, and using the Elliptical Marquee Tool create a selection the size of the subject’s iris. Once you're happy with the selection, add a Layer Mask. 

To make the numbers appear brighter and more prominent, we can duplicate the texture. 

mask matrix texture into iris

Step 3

Go ahead and repeat the same steps with the second eye as well! 

finish both eyes

Step 4

Copy one of the previous Matrix 11 textures from our background, bringing the layer above all current layers except the color grade group. 

Make it very large, and set the Blur Gallery Blur to at least 35 px and the Light Bokeh to at least 35%. Adjust the Light Range to increase the light bokeh as well if needed. These settings will depend on the size of your texture as well as your personal tastes!

That will finish up how to do the matrix effect.

place face texture

Step 5

Finally, let’s add a Layer Mask to the texture and mask out any numbers that are falling directly over the subject's face.

masks out texture

Step 6

Want to take this Matrix Effect even further? The Anaglyph action will give you the perfect glitchy cherry on top of the Matrix cake! 

Group all of your layers together, Duplicate the group, Merge the group, name the merged layer “Background”, and then hit Play and watch it go. 

The red works really nicely with the green, so I highly recommend it!

 Anaglyph action photoshop glitch effect


And that is the end of this Matrix Photoshop tutorial! All of the charm of the classic Matrix photo effect, but with even more depth and light thanks to us layering the textures one by one and adjusting the blur as we go. Top it off with an Anaglyph action or create a Matrix text effect in Photoshop using the action below!

How to Make a Matrix Effect in Photoshop

Get the Matrix Look Instantly! 

What's the next best thing to a Photoshop Matrix effect tutorial? An action that gives you the same effect in seconds! This Matrix effect Photoshop action can create six different Matrix code styles, and you can even use it to create a Matrix text effect in Photoshop

Matrix Photoshop Action (ATN, PAT)

Matrix Code CS3+ Photoshop Action

Looking to learn even more? Check out some more tutorials below: 

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