40 Cool Photoshop Effects Tutorials (Part 1)

Photoshop offers unlimited potential to photographers for editing and retouching photos. However, the downside to Photoshop is that its wealth of tools and functions can make it quite challenging to master. Even if you have been using Photoshop for years and have access to many cool photoshop effects, there are almost certainly things you can still learn.

Fortunately, there are a lot of websites and blogs that publish helpful tutorials, demonstrating how to create certain effects or do specific edits in Photoshop. These tutorials can be handy for solving a single problem or getting inspiration for a new set of photos.

Whether you’re new to Photoshop or a seasoned expert, we highly recommend reading Scott Kelby’s book called The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers. Scott is a best-selling Photoshop author, and you can get his resource on paperback or Kindle.

photoshop cc

Here are a few other Photoshop-related books worth looking at, too:
The Adobe Photoshop CS6 Book for Digital Photographers
Adobe Photoshop CS6 For Photographers
Photoshop CC and Lightroom

If you’re short on time, you can also use free Photoshop actions or, for Lightroom users, free Lightroom presets. These actions and presets can give you good results with minimal effort.

Keep in mind, though, that if you rely on actions and presets alone, you’ll always be dependent on other photographers and companies to get the style you want. For true creative freedom, it’s best to get to know the software yourself.

To help you build your knowledge, here are 40 free tutorials about Photoshop effects. We’ve organized them into 9 categories, so you can quickly find what you’re looking for.

Part 2 in this series covers post-processing and photo editing tutorials, especially for landscape and portrait photography. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, be sure to check out Part 2!

Color & Lighting Effects

Lighting is the foundation of good photography, and color isn’t far behind. A photo can have a striking composition, yet still fall short of success if it has bland colors or poor lighting. Fortunately, you can adjust both in Photoshop. You can either use color and lighting effects like these, or make specific edits like those covered in Part 2.

Apply a Color Effect to a Photo
couple having picnic

Control Tonality with the Black & White filter
Control Tonality Photoshop's Black & White filter

Match Tone and Color
Match tone and colour in Photoshop

Create a Warm Golden Sunset Effect
Warm Sunset Effect with Photoshop

Make a DAWN, SUNRISE from a Midday Photo
How to Make a DAWN, SUNRISE from a Midday Photo

Create a Glowing Lights Effect
Glowing Lights Effect

Effects Using the Curves Adjustment

The Curves Adjustment tool in Photoshop can be intimidating the first time you use it, but it’s worth learning. It’s a powerful tool for creating soft, matte effects that look especially great with portraits, landscapes, and travel photos.

Create a High Fashion Effect
High Fashion Photo Effect

Create a Soft Haze Effect
How to Create a Soft Haze Effectp

Faded Effect
How to Create a Beautiful Faded Effect

Create a Matte Effect
How to Create a Beautiful Matte Effect in Photoshop

Tilt-Shift Photography / Depth of Field Effects

There are two ways to experiment with tilt-shift photography. You can either get a special lens for creating tilt-shift photos, or you can take regular photos and adjust them in Photoshop.

Both ways work. Though using Photoshop may feel less “authentic”, it’s still effective. (And it’s cheaper than buying a new lens.)

But even if you’re not interested in tilt-shift photography, you may still want to learn how to adjust your images’ depth of field. These tutorials are invaluable for that, too.

Use the Lens Blur Filter to Create Depth of Field
Depth of Field Using the Lens Blur Filter

Tilt Shift Tutorial: How to Make Fake Miniature Scenes
How to Make Fake Miniature Scenes

How to Digitally Add Shallow Depth of Field
ow to Digitally Add Shallow Depth of Field

Cinematic Effects

Movies have a wide range of cool styles and ‘looks’ that you can imitate in Photoshop. You can download bundles of cinematic Photoshop actions, but why not learn how to create your own? Then, you can get the exact tone and atmosphere you want.

Another way to give your photos a cinematic feel is to create a cinemagraph. With a cinemagraph, you turn a still photo into short video clip or GIF by making one element move repeatedly. For example, you could make raindrops fall or coffee pour from a pot, while everything else remains still.

This combination of photo and video has a surreal beauty that can rivet the viewer’s attention. You don’t need a special lens or high-tech camera to create a cinemagraph, either. All you need is a tripod, a video camera, and Photoshop.

Give Your Photo a Cinematic Feel
movie-like effect Photoshop

Use Color Grading to Create Cinematic Photos
Cinematic Color Grading in Photoshop

Create a Dark, Cinematic Effect
Dark, Cinematic Effect in Photoshop

Create a Movie-Style Photo Effect
Movie Style Photo Effect in Photoshop

Create a Gritty, High-Contrast and Desaturated Look
Creating the Gritty, Trendy, High-Contrast and Desaturated Look

How To Make A Cinemagraph for Photoshop Newbies
Cinemagraph for Photoshop Newbies

Vintage / Black & White Effects

‘Vintage’ is a broad term that includes all kinds of photos and styles. Some effects are specific, imitating a certain camera from a certain year. Others use film photography only as inspiration. Whether you’re going for a nostalgic vibe or a specific look, these tutorials can help you create the exact effects you want.

Vintage Black & White Effect
How to Create a Vintage Black & White Effect in Photoshop

Authentic Grainy Effect for Black and White Photos
Grainy Photo Effect

Recreating the Lith Printing Look for Black & White Photos
Recreating the Lith Printing Look for Black & White Photos

Old Film Effect
How to Create an Old Film Effect in Photoshop

Film Edge Burns
Film Edge Burns

Trendy Retro Photo Effect in 3 Easy Steps
Trendy Retro Photo Effect

Light Leaks and Lomo Effects
Light Leaks and Lomo Effects

Make Your Digital Photo Look Like Film

Grunge and Dirty Retro Photo Effect

HDR / Digital Blending Effects

HDR can provoke strong opinions among photographers. Some love it because it allows them to capture a high-contrast scene without losing any vibrance or color. The photo shows exactly what they saw with their eyes.

Other photographers hate HDR because they think it looks fake. The greens are too bright, the pixels are too soft, and there’s too much noise.

Wherever you stand on this debate, it’s worth learning the concept of digital blending or HDR photography. Even if you never become a diehard HDR photographer, you’ll at least know the process behind it.

Create HDR Effects
Creating HDR Effects in Photoshop

Create a Dynamic Cityscape with 5 Exposures and Digital Blending
How to Create a Dynamic Cityscape with 5 Exposures and Digital Blending in Photoshop

Learn How to Blend Exposures
Exposure Blending Tutorial

Instagram Hacks

If you’re an Instagram user, you might have a favorite filter you use for your Instagram photos. These filters are similar to Photoshop actions, which give you good results but don’t teach you how to create the effects yourself. Though fast and easy, the filters limit your creativity and style. Your photos can end up looking like everyone else’s.

When you learn how to create your favorite effects, you also learn more about yourself and your style. You can tweak the effects and think beyond what Instagram offers. Your photos will not only look more unique. They’ll also be yours, something you created on your own.

How to Make Instagram Filters
Instagram Filters in Photoshop

Recreate The Instagram Nashville Effect
Instagram Nashville Effect in Photoshop

3 Different Ways to Create a Vignette Effect
Vignette Effect in Photoshop

Fun Effects for Inspiration

Some effects are meant to make your photos look more beautiful or have a certain vibe. Others are just plain fun. These fun effects can push your Photoshop skills to the next level and give you new ideas to play with.

Create a Circle Polyorama
Photoshop Effect Tutorials

Create a Funky Perspective of a Model Riding Digital Volume
Model Riding Digital Volume

Create a Painted Portrait Effect Using the Bristle Brush

Quick and Simple Worn Out Psychedelic Poster

Add a Grungy and Scratched Frame to a Photo
Grungy and Scratched Frame

Create a Smoke Effect

There are many, many more Photoshop tutorials than what’s listed here. For more ideas, check out the photo editing tutorials in Part 2!