Category Archives: Free Actions

Create a Dark, Cinematic Effect in Photoshop

Today’s before & after Photoshop tutorial comes to us from Marc Andre.  He will be showing us how to create a dark, cinematic effect.  Near the end of the tutorial, he provides the link to a free action you can download in order to apply this effect to your photos!

photoshop before and after

Photoshop allows you to create all kinds of different effects for your photos, and in this tutorial we’ll go through the process of creating a dark, cinema-inspired look. If you’re looking to add a dramatic touch to a photo, this approach can work quite well. We’ll use this photo as the starting point:


And here is a preview of how the photo will look at the end of this tutorial:



We’ll go through the process of creating this effect step-by-step. The specifics of some steps may vary depending on the photo that you are using as a starting point, so if you’re working with your own photo feel free to experiment a little and don’t feel like you need to stick to the exact details of each step. In each step we’ll create an adjustment layer. If you’re not familiar with adjustment layers in Photoshop they allow you to make non-destructive adjustments, meaning that your original photo layer will be untouched. To create an adjustment layer all you need to do is click on the circular icon at the bottom of the layers palette.


When you click on that icon it will open a list of the different types of adjustment layers that you can add.

Step 1: Create a Black & White Adjustment Layer

Click on the icon to create a new adjustment layer and select “Black & White” from the list. Select the black & white adjustment layer in the layer’s palette and adjust the opacity to 60%.


This adjustment will tone down the colors of the photo, but not to the point of making it black & white.

Step 2: Create a Curves Adjustment Layer

Next, we’ll make some adjustmes to the red, green, and blue curves, as well as the RGB curve. Click on the icon to create a new adjustment layer and select “curves”. The images below shows each of the curve adjustments that you will need to make. Use the dropdown to select RGB, red, green, or blue, and then make the adjustment to the curve.



After the curves adjustment the photo looks like this:

Step 3: Create Another Curves Adjustment Layer

Next, we’ll create a second curves adjustment layer, but this time we’re only going to edit the RGB curve, which will impact all colors in the photo. Drop the middle down a little bit and it will darken the mid tones of the photo.


After this adjustment the photo looks like this:

Step 4: Exposure Adjustment

Click the icon to create a new adjustment layer and select Exposure. We’ll adjust the exposure to +0.33. This step may or may not be neccesary depending on the photo that you are working with.

Step 5: Saturation Adjustment

Next, click the icon to create a new adjustment layer and select “vibrance”. You’ll now be able to adjust vibrance and saturation. We’ll actually leave the vibrance setting untouched, but change the saturation to “-15”.

Step 6: Contrast Adjustment

Now, for the last step. Click the icon to create a new adjustment layer and select “brightness/contrast”. We’ll leave the brightness setting untouched and change the contrast to “8”, giving it a slight contrast boost.

Final Results

Here is a look at the before and after images:


If you’re interested in adding the cinema-inspired effect to your photos without the need to go through all of these steps, a free Photoshop action is available that will complete the steps for you with one click.

About the Author:

Marc Andre is the editor of, a website that offers downloadable products like Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, photo overlays, textures, and print templates.

Happy Accident – A FREE Action

Photoshop Before and After


If you’re part of Polished Picture’s Facebook community, you probably saw me post about My Happy Accident.  :)  I was editing a recent session, and I came to an image I was going to turn black and white using the Gradient Map technique.  Well, by default Photoshop used the last color from my color picker instead of black, and I ended up with an unexpected but interesting effect.  Hence, a Happy Accident!  I thought I’d do a quick tutorial if you wanted to experiment as well.  There’s also a FREE action at the end as well as the video tutorial.


Here is my Before image:

Photoshop Before Image

1.  Create a new Gradient Map layer as in this tutorial.  Instead of using black and white, use hex color #816768 and white.

Photoshop Gradient Editor


2.  Simply duplicate the Gradient Map layer and change the blending mode.  Then play with the opacity of your duplicated Gradient Map layer.  I put mine on Multiply mode to darken it a bit and then reduced the opacity to 30%.

Photoshop Layers Palette


Voila!  Super easy.  Here’s the After:

Photoshop After


Play around with different colors, blending modes, and opacities.  This color was actually from his shirt!  I’d love to see what you come up with.


Here’s the effect on a few more images from that session:

Photoshop After

Photoshop After

Photoshop After


If you’re interested, you can download Polished Picture’s FREE Happy Accident action here!


Here is the video tutorial as well if you learn better that way.  :)

Thanks for stopping by, Happy Editing!!

Creamy Light – Adding Creamy Brightness in Photoshop {Plus a FREE Action!}


Ever since I read Tony Kuyper’s wonderful in-depth tutorials on luminosity masks, I’ve been intrigued by the concept.  Luminosity masks in Photoshop allow you to target a specific tonal range for adjustments – just the highlights or just the shadows, for instance (or any tonal range for that matter).  Click around his site and blog, and look at the rollovers of his landscapes!  It’s so amazing what you can do with these masks!  Anyways, I just wanted to give you a little history if you are interested in further reading like my nerdy-self is.  :)


My free Kick it Up action/tutorial uses a luminosity mask to apply the adjustment to just the shadows while leaving the highlights alone.


For the style in this tutorial, I wanted to create a light, creamy look without losing too much contrast.  To accomplish this, we are going to use a luminosity mask to make the brights brighter with a Solid Color layer applied to just the highlights.  Then we are going to add a bit of depth to just the shadows.  Finally we will punch up the color a bit.  Here we go!!


Here is our Before:


1.  Create a luminosity selection – Select the highlights of the image by going to the Channels palette and clicking the dotted circle.  Alternately, you can use the shortcut Cmd/ctrl + alt + shift + 2 (some versions use the tilde (~) instead of a 2).



Your image will have the highlights selected, indicated by marching ants:



2.  With the highlights selected, create a new Solid Color adjustment layer.


3.  Choose a color.  For this example, I chose #FFF4E5 (a bright, creamy color).


Because we had the highlights selected, Photoshop will automatically create a mask based on our luminosity selection for us.  Here is what the mask looks like up close – remember with masking: white reveals, black conceals.  So the solid color we chose will only show through the brighter areas of our mask:


This is what our Layers palette looks like:



4.  I then reduced the opacity of the Solid Color layer to 70%.  Here is what the image looks like now.  You can see because of the mask, the adjustment affected mostly the skin and background and left the darker areas mostly unchanged:

5.  Next we are going to select the shadows so we can add some depth.  Create a luminosity selection again as in Step 1 (Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + Shift + 2).  This will select the highlights.  To select the shadows, we need the inverse.  So now hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + i for the inverse.

6.  With the shadows selected, we are going to add some depth with a Soft Light layer.  Create a new adjustment layer (I chose Curves, but the type of adjustment layer is irrelevant since we are only using it to change the blending mode), and change the blending mode to Soft Light.  I reduced the opacity of the layer to 50% for this image.  We’ve punched up the darks a tad!

Now faces look a little scary when I do this, but I want to show you what we’ve done!  Here is a close-up of the mask that was created when we just selected the shadows.  Using this mask, we are able to target only the darker tones in the image (hair, eyelashes, etc.) in order to add some depth with our Soft Light layer.

Here’s what the Layers palette looks like:

7.  Next, we are going to add back in some of the color that the Solid Color layer took away.  Simply create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and increase the saturation.  For this image, I set the Saturation to +25.

Here is my final image (rollover for before):

That’s it!!  Play around with the opacity and color of the Solid Color layer and with the settings of the Soft Light and Hue/Saturation layer.

I’ve made these steps into an action (at the bottom of this tutorial), and I’ve included several different color options for the Solid Color layer.  I’ve named them Creamy (the color from this tutorial), Clean (white), Blushed (a light pink), and Peachy (you guessed it – light peach!). But play with the colors as you wish, those are just there to give you a starting point!

When the action runs, by default the Creamy layer is selected for color.  But you can turn the eyeball on or off for each solid color layer – choose one color or combine them at different opacities.  Increase the opacity of the Depth layer, or turn it off entirely.  It’s your choice!  The layers are all completely adjustable.

Here are some other plays with this action…

With only the ‘Clean’ layer turned on for color:

With just the ‘Blushed’ layer turned on for color:

With Peachy at 56%, Clean at 21%, and Depth turned up to 100%:

The link to Polished Picture’s free Creamy Light action is here.  I would love love love to see your plays with this method!  If you feel so inclined, please post them on the Facebook page!  Thanks for coming by!