Mar 08, 2016

How to Create a Dark Film Look in Photoshop

Input and Output Levels

When using ‘Levels’ Adjustment Layers it is important to note the Differences between input and output levels. Input levels allow you to change black levels, white Levels and mid-tones. This can be used to add Contrast to an image and make the darks darker or Lights lighter.

Output Levels adjust how dark ‘black’ is in an image and how Light ‘white’ is. Using the output levels, it is possible to change the ‘black’ point to grey, giving the image a less contrasted look.

Adjusting Colors using Levels

Levels Adjustment Layers can also be used to Change Color in an image. To Change Colors, click on the Color Channel drop down – by default it will be on RGB. From here the Red, Green and Blue Channels can be adjusted individually.

For instance – to add blue into the Shadows of and image, select the ‘Blue’ Color Channel and slide the dark point to the right on the output levels.

Finishing Touches

To finish the image and give it that ‘Film’ look, a slight Gaussian Blur was applied. This makes the image look like it was taken with a lower quality lens. Next Noise was added to the image to simulate Film Grain.

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  • user image

    Wonderful tutorial! I have had some photos with areas of bright sun and dark shadows on a portion of the photo which were very distracting. With this technique, I am now able to darken the bright areas, lighten the shadow areas, and make the distracting portion of the photo a uniform lightness.

  • user image

    Hi Aaron, nice tutorial as usual!
    I have a question though, could you explain to me why did you choose to use “Apply Image” instead of a “Stamp Visible Layer”?
    Thank you!

  • user image
    Sherry sherman

    Can you do an episode on how to make a glass door look like it is breaking when getting hit by a hammer. Or a wooden door being shattered. Thank you for your time.

  • user image

    Sounds like you’re vacation is a success… Love the result of this tutorial!

  • user image
    Jesse Betsill

    Aaron, I really hope that you can realize your dream of, as I understand it, living on a peaceful
    island and still be able to do your great work as you’ve always done for us. You seem very
    serious as to your ‘dream’. Most people don’t allow themselves to set a dream and go after
    it as opposed to working 9-5 and being semi-unhappy.
    I hope I’m speaking for all of the people who are truly appreciative of all that you give to
    us and never ask for help financially when the teaching that you give to us is worth more than most of us have.
    Thanks so much for all that you do and, again, I sincerely hope you’re able to successfully
    chase your dream, and everything work out as you have already given it much thought. When
    anyone is sincere in what they need in life, nothing is impossible.

  • user image

    Hi Aaron, thanks for your teaching. I have a question on this one, why did you use “Apply Image” instead of “Stamp Visible Layer”? Could you explain this?
    Thanks in advance!

  • user image
    Mark Gruen

    I’s great watching you create art. When I try “art” at home my wife wonders if I have a fever. … she doesn’t get it… I don’t use levels enough, but I’m going to start now. Thanks for everything and I hope you are digging on Mexico … we were there last year for my son’s wedding and LOVED it!

  • user image
    David Olive

    Hola Aaron:
    Welcome to Mexico. I am so glad that you are enjoying your adventure in PV. We are located in La Manzanilla, 250km South on highway 200 – 20 km N of Barra de Navidad and 16 km N of Melaque.
    I do not know how long you expect to be in Mexico; it gets hot and humid after May. If you want to explore after Samanta Santa, you are welcome to stay in our palapa penthouse free for a few days. I give you this a thank you for all of the tutorials that you have given me and really enhanced my knowledge and enjoyment of Photoshop.

    Please check out our website at
    Kind regards

  • user image
    Mark F

    Great video and illustration on what can be done with the levels adjustment. I would like to see more on how where a layer is placed effects the final results. Maybe start with finished photos having nultiple layers and move them around and then explain why things are changing.

  • user image

    How do I give a white streak to someone’s hair (like giving a distinguished [professor] like look)

  • yang_zishan

    Thanks Aaron! It is fun to learn 🙂 my work

    Photoshop Tutorials: How to Create a Dark Film Look in Photoshop