Photography • How-To How to Make a Split Color Photo in Adobe Photoshop

 

Create a color glitch in a black and white photo.

Kendall Plant isolates color channels in a black and white image to create a color glitch. See how Plant uses layer styles and the Liquify filter to create this effect in Adobe Photoshop.

Headshot of Kendall Plant

Kendall Plant is a designer, content creator, and art director whose unique creations incorporate nature, street photography, and even skulls. She works at Adobe as an associate creative director.

1-minute video shows converting image to black & white and using Layer Styles and the Liquify filter to create a color split

Take a one-minute look at Plant’s technique; the steps are written out below.

Before You Start

Use this sample image if you’d like, or practice with your own.

Step 1: Make It Black and White

To prepare the image, Plant made sure the image mode was set to RGB (Image > Mode > RGB Color), then converted it to black and white (Image > Adjustments > Black & White).

Side-by-side versions, color and black and white, of model leaning against a wall

Step 2: Take Two

Plant dragged the Model layer to the New Layer icon to duplicate it.

Black and white photo of model with Photoshop Layers panel showing two layers – ‘model’ and ‘model copy’

Step 3: Change the Channel

She double-clicked the new layer and turned off the Green and Blue channels in the Layer Style dialog.

Black and white photo of model with Layer Styles dialog open showing the Green and Blue color channels turned off

Step 4: Prepare the Image

To prep the image so she could distort it in the next step, she selected the Liquify filter (Filter > Liquify) and brushed over the model’s face with the Freeze Mask tool to protect it from warping as she liquified the rest of the photo.

In the Properties panel, she checked Pin Edges to prevent pulling in too much of the edge of the image when she used the Warp brush. Finally, she clicked Show Backdrop to preview the distortion before committing to any changes she made.

Photo shows in the Liquify workspace, a red mask covers her face, the Pin Edges and Show Backdrop settings are checked

Step 5: Distort the View

Plant used the Forward Warp tool to offset areas of the photo. She used the [  ] keys on her keyboard to adjust the size of the brush as she worked—primarily using a large brush. When she was happy with the results, she clicked OK to exit Liquify.

The Photoshop Warp tool appears in the top left of the photo, portions of the photo are offset from the layer below it

Step 6: Customize Contrast

Next, Plant wanted to adjust the highlights and shadows to enhance contrast. To do this, she chose Curves from the Adjustment Layer icon, then moved the points along the curve until she got the balance right.

Cyan and red appear around the model and scene where the warp tool distorted the top layer, the Curves panel shows 4 points

Step 7: Make Some Noise

Plant added grain to blend the effect, then used Shift+click to select all of the layers, right-clicked, and chose Convert to Smart Object. She used Filter > Noise > Add Noise to adjust the Amount and checked Monochromatic to get the look she wanted.

Photo zoomed in on model’s face, Layers panel shows Curves adjustment layer, and Add Noise dialog shows amount set to 10%

Create Modern Retro

Separate color channels and distort layers to create stylized chromatic effects.

Image of model with color split effect is placed in a fashion magazine placeholder

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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