How to Make Your Own Cool Photo Effects

Written by gail cohen
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How to Make Your Own Cool Photo Effects
Use the Liquify Filter to create your version of Munch's "The Scream." (le cri image by rachid amrous-spleen from

Once upon a time, the word "filter" meant paper cups used to trap coffee grounds when percolators turned water and beans into liquid pleasure. If you're a creative soul and work with any of the popular photo manipulation programs---Adobe Photoshop is the most commonly-used software---you know that filters can morph an ordinary photo or line art into a masterpiece. Artists apply filters to obtain gorgeous special effects, so use the following tips only as starting points.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Image manipulation software (IM)
  • Drawing software
  • Photos or line art

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  1. 1

    Create a glow effect. Import any photo image---jpeg, tiff, pict or other format---into an IM software document. Select the image. Choose the filter marked "Render" and click on "Lightening Effects." Experiment with different settings by changing the default to "Light," "Omni" or other available options. Save and print a copy of your filter-embellished image once you've achieved the desired intensity.

  2. 2

    Experiment with the Liquefy filter to achieve cool distortions that can turn a ho-hum image into art replicating Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Bring the photo or drawing into your IM software document. Access the Liquefy command from the Filters pull-down menu. Use the circular cursor hovering over the image to play with the distortion until you're satisfied with the look of the effect. Click "OK" to save or output your work.

  3. 3

    Distort a portrait, landscape or still life to resemble a stained glass masterpiece by importing the image into your IM program. Locate the "Texture" command on the Filters pull-down menu and click on the "Stained Glass" sub-command. Choose from a variety of options to boost or reduce the light intensity, cell size (how large the chunks of "glass" in your mosaic appear) and border thickness, the effect that determines the size of the borders outlining each section of your stained glass composition.

  4. 4

    Turn an already cool photo image into a sensuous composition of undulating lines by creating a rippling effect with the "Distort" and "Zigzag" commands located in the Filters drop down menu. Import your photo or rendering into an IM document. Access Distort followed by Zigzag. Play with the "Amount," "Ridges" and "Style" commands until you've achieved the desired degree of rippling. Save the cool transformation to your desktop.

  5. 5

    Become the master of the 3D image and morph plain text into words and letters that pop from the page by creating original vector art in a drawing program (e.g., Adobe Illustrator) and moving it to your IM program to add effects. Open Illustrator. Choose a font. Key a word, sentence or name. Enlarge the text to 400 points. Increase both the horizontal and vertical scale to 150 per cent. Select the copy and apply the "Effect," "Extrude" and "Bevel" filters. Save the art and import it into your IM program. Experiment with different Filters to create an extraordinary piece of word art.

Tips and warnings

  • Don't limit yourself. A world of graphic design surprises awaits you when you sample the amazing effects you can achieve by mixing and matching different commands and tools.

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