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Design

How to Make a Pastel Effect in Photoshop (Aesthetic Edit Action)

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Do you like aesthetic edits with soft pastel colors and a faded look? In this pastel effect Photoshop tutorial, you'll not only learn how to make aesthetic edits but also how to create vaporwave Photoshop effects with a cool-looking interface inspired by Windows 95.

Tutorial Assets

Before learning how to edit aesthetic photos in Photoshop, you'll need the following resource in order to complete this tutorial:

What You Will Learn in This Aesthetic Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to start recording a Photoshop action
  • How to make a vaporwave edit Photoshop action
  • How to create text layers for an aesthetic effect Photoshop action
  • How to create a soft pastel effect in Photoshop
  • How to edit aesthetic photos in Photoshop using Smart Objects

If you want to learn these techniques via video, check out our lesson on the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

You can also check out my Vaporwave Aesthetic Photo Template, which creates a similar effect as this pastel effect Photoshop tutorial, but gives you many premade vaporwave gradient Photoshop presets.

Vaporwave Aesthetic Photoshop Template Promo Image

1. How to Start Recording the Photoshop Action

Step 1

First of all, press Alt-F9, or go to Windows > Actions to open the Actions panel.

opening the actions panel in Photoshop

Step 2

Hit the New Group button to create a new group of actions and name it "Aesthetic Edits". Then hit the New Action button and name it "Vaporwave Photoshop Action", and finally hit Record. Now our action will start recording.

recording the photoshop action

2. How to Make a Vaporwave Edit Photoshop Action

Step 1

The next step of this vaporwave Photoshop tutorial is creating a new layer by pressing Control-N using the following settings: 2000 x 2000 px; 300 dpi.

creating a new document

Step 2

After that, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Color Fill and create a new layer called "Background Color". Set the Photoshop pastel swatches to #331762.

creating a color fill layer

Step 3

Hit Shift-Control-N to create a new layer, and name it Noise. Once you've created this layer, press Shift-F5 and fill the layer with black.

Creating a black layer

Step 4

Now, let's add a noise filter to our black layer. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and use the following settings:

  • Amount: 8%
  • Distribution: Gaussian
  • Monochromatic: Off
Creating a noise effect

Step 5

After that, Right Click on the Noise layer and select Create a Clipping Mask.

Creating a clipping mask

Step 6

Change the Blending Mode of the Noise layer to Screen.

Changing the blending mode of the layer

Step 7

Now let's create the first element of our stripe. Hit U to create a Rectangle Shape. Make sure the Stroke setting is off and create a shape with the following size: 

  • Width: 1714
  • Height: 1272
Creating a rectangle

Step 8

Hit Control-T and use the following settings:

  • X: 1000 px
  • Y: 983 px
transforming the shape

Step 9

After that, Double Click on the rectangle layer in the Layers panel and add a Stroke effect with the following settings: 

  • Size: 2 px
  • Position: Inside
  • Blend Mode: Inside
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Colors: Black

Once you've added the stroke, press the Make Default button.

adding a stroke to the rectangle

Step 10

Add a Color Overlay style with the following settings:

  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Color: #c4c7cc
  • Opacity: 100%

Press the Make Default button.

adding a color overlay to the layer

Step 11

Hit Control-J to create a duplicate of the layer, and then press Control-T and use the following settings:

  • X: 1000 px
  • Y: 371 px
  • Height: 3.77%
creating a duplicate of the layer

Step 12

Another important step of this vaporwave Photoshop tutorial is creating the layer styles. Remove the Color Overlay style and add a Gradient Overlay style with the following settings and Photoshop pastel swatches: 

  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Gradient Colors: from #8a018f to #7200d3
  • Style: Linear
  • Angle: 0
  • Scale: 100%
adding a gradient overlay style

Step 13

Create a duplicate of the layer, and then press Control-T and use the following settings:

  • X: 1000 px
  • Y: 351.5 px
  • Height: 18.89%
Creating a duplicate of t he layer

Step 14

Add default Stroke and Color Overlay styles and remove the Gradient Overlay.

Adding the layer styles to the shape

Step 15

Now, let's make our first button. Make another copy of the layer, and then press Control-T and set the following parameters:

  • X: 1835 px
  • Y: 374.5 px
  • Width: 2.57%
  • Height: 478.83%
changing the size of the duplicated layer

Step 16

Add a Bevel & Emboss style with the following settings:

  • Style: Inner Bevel
  • Technique: Smooth
  • Depth: 100%
  • Direction: Up
  • Size: 8
  • Soften: 0
  • Angle: 135
  • Attitude: 75
  • Highlight Mode: Screen with white color
  • Shadow Mode: Multiply with black color
adding a layer styles to the button shape

Step 17

Duplicate the button layer by pressing Control-J and then move it, while holding Shift, 44 px to the left.

moving the duplicate of the button

Step 18

Now we'll use a custom shape. Open the Custom Shape Picker, and select the arrow.

selecting the custom shape

Step 19

Create an arrow shape with 17 by 17 px size.

creating a button icon

Step 20

Hit Control-T and then change the X to 1791.50 px and Y to 374.5 px.

transforming the button icon

Step 21

Add a Color Overlay layer style with Black Color, and then create a duplicate of this shape.

adding a color overlay to the shapes icon

Step 22

Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal and move the layer 43 px to the right.

flipping and moving the shape

Step 23

Select the top stripe layer, create a duplicate of it, and then press Control-T and use the following settings:

  • X: 1000 px
  • Y: 414.5 px
  • Width: 99.18%
  • Height: 478.83%
creating a duplicate of the layer

Step 24

Put this layer on top of all other layers, and then add a default Stroke style and Color Overlay with the following color code: #e7e8ea.

adding the layer styles to the top menu

Step 25

Create a duplicate of the layer and then transform it with the following settings:

  • X: 167.5 px
  • Y: 371.5 px
  • Width: 2.88%
  • Height: 111.63%
creating the close button shape

Step 26

Add default Stroke and Color Overlay styles to the layer.

adding the layer styles to the button shape

Step 27

Create a copy of this layer, and then let's transform this layer:

  • X: 171 px
  • Y: 375 px
  • Width: 85.71%
  • Height: 85.71%
creating the second element of the button

Step 28

Create another duplicate of the layer and transform it with the following settings:

  • X: 170.5 px
  • Y: 374.5 px
  • Width: 64.30%
  • Height: 11.90%
creating the last element of the close button

Step 29

Add a Stroke with 1 px size and black color.

creating a stroke effect on the close button element

Step 30

Add a Drop Shadow effect and use the following settings:

  • Blend Mode: Multiply
  • Color: Black
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Angle: 135
  • Distance: 1 px
  • Spread: 15
  • Size: 3 px
adding the drop shadow effect

Step 31

Now we need to select the first shape we've created, create a duplicate of it, and put it above the white menu layer. After that, press Control-T and use the following settings:

  • X: 978.5 px
  • Y: 999.5 px
  • Width: 96.67%
  • Height: 89.23%
setting up the placeholder shape

Step 32

Make the layer style effects of this layer Invisible, and then Right Click > Convert to Smart Object.

converting shape to the smart object

Step 33

Select the white menu shape again, duplicate it, and then move it to the top of the layers. After that, transform it with the following settings:

  • X: 1828.5 px
  • Y: 1002.5 px
  • Width: 2.53%
  • Height: 2834.8%
creating a right menu shape

Step 34

Add the default Stroke and Color Overlay layer styles, and then create a duplicate of the layer. Transform the copy to the following settings:

  • X: 1000.0 px
  • Y: 1589.5 px
  • Width: 3953.5%
  • Height: 3.69%
creating the bottom menu

Step 35

Select the button layers (both button and icon) and press Create a Group of Layers. Then create a duplicate of this group.

creating a group of layers

Step 36

Move the duplicate of the group to the top of all layers, and then transform the layer using the following settings:

  • X: 1828.5 px
  • Y: 456.0 px
  • Width: 100%
  • Height: 100%
  • Angle: -90
moving the button

Step 37

Create another duplicate of the group, and then transform the group to:

  • X: 1828.5 px
  • Y: 1547.0 px
  • Width: -100%
  • Height: -100%
creating the button shape

Step 38

Create one more duplicate of the group, and then press Control-T and set the following settings:

  • X: 1787.0 px
  • Y: 1589.5 px
  • Width: 100%
  • Height: 100%
  • Angle: -90
creating the bottom menu button

Step 39

Create the last duplicate of the group, and transform it to:

  • X: 172.0 px
  • Y: 1589.5 px
  • Width: 100%
  • Height: 100%
  • Angle: -90
Creating the last button

Step 40

We almost are done with the interface. Now let's select the Smart Object and add a default Stroke Layer Style.

adding the layer style to the smart object

This is what our interface should look like now:

how the image should look like after

3. How to Create Text Layers for an Aesthetic Effect Photoshop Action

Step 1

Another step of this tutorial on how to make a picture aesthetic in Photoshop is creating text layers. Select the Horizontal Type Tool and set the following settings: 

  • Font: VCR OSD Mono
  • Size: 6.61
  • Color Black
setting up the text

Step 2

Create a new layer on top of all layers using Shift-Control-N, and type "Load".

creating a first text layer

Step 3

Press Control-T and use the following settings:

  • X: 208.4 px
  • Y: 413.25 px
transforming the first text layer

Step 4

Create another layer and type "Save", and then transform it to:

  • X: 312.4 px
  • Y: 413.2 px
creating the second text layer

Step 5

Create one more layer and type "Edit", and use the following transform settings:

  • X: 417.4 px
  • Y: 413.2 px
creating the third text layer

Step 6

Create a layer and type "Filters", and then transform it to:

  • X: 534.4 px
  • Y: 413.2 px
creating the fourth text layer

Step 7

Create another layer and type "Options", and press Control-T and use the following settings:

  • X: 697.4 px
  • Y: 413.2 px
creating the last menu text layer

Step 8

Create the last layer and type "aesthetics.jpg", and transform it to:

  • X: 999.4 px
  • Y: 373.2 px
creating the last text layer

Step 9

Add a Color Overlay layer style with white color.

adding a color overlay to the text layer

4. How to Create a Soft Pastel Effect in Photoshop

Step 1

Now we're ready to create the pastel gradient Photoshop effect. Let's start with the Smart Object, select it, and then go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and use the following settings:

  • Amount: 8%
  • Distribution: Gaussian
  • Monochromatic: Off
Creating a noise effect for smart object

Step 2

Right-Click on the Smart Object and select Edit Contents.

opening the smart object layer

Step 3

Now we need to put the Place function inside our action. You could place any image inside the Smart Object, not just the one you create a link to. To do it, in the Actions panel, hit the icon in the top-right corner and select Insert Menu Item.

inserting the menu item

Step 4

Once you've pressed Insert Menu Item, you need to go to File > Place (in the latest version of Photoshop: Place Linked or Place Embedded. There is no critical difference in these options—the first one places just a link to your image, while the second puts the image inside your PSD, so it might take up more space on your computer.)

putting the insert function

Step 5

Now you need to stop the action. After that, go to File > Place and put the image you want to use inside the document.

stopping the action

Step 6

Once your image is placed, hit the Record button again.

starting the recording of the action

Step 7

Now Close and Save the smart object layer.

saving the placeholder layer

Step 8

Now let's add pastel gradient Photoshop filters. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layers > Gradient Map and create a pastel pink gradient map with soft yellow and green colors:

  • #a6e6c3 color with the location at 0%
  • #a198fe color with the location at 25%
  • #e9e6bb color with the location at 75%
  • #cb7abf color with the location at 100%
creating the first gradient map

Step 9

After that, set the Blending Mode to Lighten and the Opacity to 18%.

changing the blending mode and opacity

Step 10

Now let's make our image look faded. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Exposure and set the Offset to +0.0500.

creating the exposure layer

Step 11

Now let's create a pastel pink gradient fill. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient fill and use the following settings and pastel color code Photoshop settings:

  • Style: Linear
  • Angle: 90
  • Scale: 100%
  • #de38ed color with the location at 0%
  • #91f5f6 color with the location at 100% (don't forget to change the Opacity of this point to 100%)
creating a pastel pink gradient fill

Step 12

Change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 70%.

changing the blending mode of gradient fill

Step 13

Now go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Channel Mixer and use the following settings:

  • Output channel: Red, Red: 0%, Blue: 100%.
  • Output channel: Blue, Blue: 0%, Red: +100%.
setting up the channel mixer

Step 14

Change the Opacity to 25%.

changing the opacity of the layer

Step 15

Let's go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast and use the following settings: 

  • Brightness: 0
  • Contrast: 30
creating a brightness and contrast layer

Step 16

And for the last adjustment layer, we need to create a pastel Gradient Map with the following pastel color code Photoshop settings:

  • #cb7abf color with the location at 0%
  • #89aaff color with the location at 50%
  • #a6e6c3 color with the location at 100%
creating a gradient map overlay

Step 17

Change the Blending Mode to Lighten and the Opacity to 15%.

changing the blending mode and opacity of the gradient map

Step 18

And now for the last step of this tutorial on how to make aesthetic edits in Photoshop. Select all the adjustment layers while holding Shift and then Right Click > Create a Clipping Mask.

Creating a clipping a mask for adjustment layers

This is what our image should look like now:

Image preview

5. How to Create a Pastel Effect in Photoshop Using a Smart Object

Step 1

To create other aesthetic edits with a vaporwave filter Photoshop action, we can just close our image and start the action again. Or, even easier, just Right Click > Edit Content on the smart object and then place any other image you want to use.

replacing the content of the smart object

Step 2

Don't forget that you could change the color of the background just by Double-Clicking on the "Background Color" layer. Let's change the pastel gradient background to #e5b1e4 color.

changing the color of the background

Step 3

And finally, let's make the Gradient Map 1 and Gradient Map 2 layers invisible to make the vaporwave gradient Photoshop effect look a bit different with our new picture. You could also easily change this layer to a pastel gradient background using the gradient fill layer if you want the background not to be painted in just one color.

making the layers invisible

This is what our second image will look like with the changes listed above:

second image preview

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

Today we've learned not only how to create a pastel effect in Photoshop, but also how to create a vaporwave Photoshop action with Windows 95 inspired interface elements. By now, you should know how to create and transform shapes, how to make photos with a pastel Photoshop effect by using adjustment layers, and how to make pastel gradient Photoshop filters.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial, and feel free to contact me for any help. If you want to know how to make a picture aesthetic in Photoshop in a few clicks, you can also check my Vaporwave Aesthetic Effect Photoshop Template, which creates a similar effect and gives you a wide selection of vaporwave filter Photoshop presets, in my portfolio on GraphicRiver.

Vaporwave Aesthetic Photoshop Template Promo Image

Do you want to learn not only how to make aesthetic edits in a Photoshop action, but some more related stuff? Check out these awesome tutorials:


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