When it comes to photo editing, there are countless techniques and effects that can be applied to enhance the overall look and feel of an image. One such effect that has stood the test of time is the matte effect. Synonymous with elegance and timelessness, matte effects can transform an ordinary photo into a stunning and captivating work of art.

In this tutorial, we will explore the art of matte effects and how you can create them using Adobe Photoshop. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced photo editor, these techniques will enable you to add a touch of sophistication to your photos and elevate them to a whole new level.

What is a Matte Effect?

A matte effect refers to the process of desaturating and softening the colors in an image, giving it a muted and powdery look. This effect mimics the appearance of traditional matte photographs, which were popular in the film era.

Matte effects are characterized by their subtle sophistication and timeless appeal. By reducing the saturation and adding a slight haze to the image, the colors become more muted and the details are softened. This effect can be applied to various types of photos, including portraits, landscapes, and still life.

Creating a Matte Effect in Photoshop

Now that we’ve defined what a matte effect is, let’s delve into the steps to create this effect using Adobe Photoshop.

Step 1: Open your Image

The first step is to open your desired image in Photoshop. You can either drag and drop the image into the workspace or go to ‘File’ -> ‘Open’ and select the image from your computer.

Step 2: Duplicate the Background Layer

To preserve the original image, it’s always a good practice to work on a duplicate layer. Right-click on the background layer in the Layers panel and select ‘Duplicate Layer’. This will create a new layer named ‘Layer 1’.

Step 3: Desaturate the Image

To achieve the muted look of a matte effect, we need to desaturate the image. With ‘Layer 1’ selected, go to ‘Image’ -> ‘Adjustments’ -> ‘Desaturate’. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut ‘Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + U’.

Step 4: Add a Levels Adjustment Layer

Next, we’ll enhance the tonal range of the image using a Levels adjustment layer. Click on the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select ‘Levels’. In the Levels properties panel, move the black slider towards the right to deepen the shadows and move the white slider towards the left to brighten the highlights. This will give the image more contrast and depth.

Step 5: Apply a Gaussian Blur

To soften the details and create a subtle haze, we’ll apply a Gaussian Blur. With ‘Layer 1’ selected, go to ‘Filter’ -> ‘Blur’ -> ‘Gaussian Blur’. Adjust the radius to your desired level of blurriness. The goal is to maintain the overall softness without losing too much detail.

Step 6: Fine-tune the Matte Effect

At this point, you can further refine the matte effect to suit your preferences. Experiment with the opacity of ‘Layer 1’ to control the intensity of the effect. You can also try adding a color cast by applying a Gradient Map adjustment layer or a selective color adjustment layer.

Step 7: Save and Export

Once you’re satisfied with the matte effect, save your image in a high-resolution format such as JPEG or TIFF, retaining the layers if you wish to make further adjustments in the future.


The art of matte effects in Photoshop allows us to transform our photos into timeless works of art. By applying these simple techniques, you can add an air of elegance and sophistication to your images, creating a powerful visual impact. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur enthusiast, mastering the art of matte effects is a valuable skill that can take your photo editing to the next level.

So, why not give it a try? Grab your favorite image, open Photoshop, and experiment with the steps outlined in this tutorial. Remember, practice makes perfect, and with each edit, you’ll refine your skills and develop your unique style.

What are you waiting for? Start creating your own stunning matte effects and unleash your creativity!