Create your own Instagram filter in Photoshop

Jürgen Heiss

Hipster-analog photography has virtually exploded in popularity over the last couple of years, moving from something that only nerdy photography students did with a Holga to the digitalized filter-based Instagramming everyone does today.

This style of photography can be useful in all sorts of graphic design, but you’ve got to know how to transform the photo first. Here’s how to create that Instagram filter in Adobe Photoshop in just 5 minutes.

The original


image by Bob Denelzen from

Start off by selecting a photo you want to manipulate and opening it in Photoshop. If you’re using this for a project on 99designs make sure you understand the full licensing of each image you use and declare it!

1. Add a fill layer

Create an adjustment layer by using Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color, or by clicking on the black and white circle icon in the layers pallet and choosing Solid Color.

In the dialog that pops up, choose a light orange color. You don’t need to use exactly the same values as I do, so feel free to play around with them a bit. When you’re done, change the Layer Blend Mode from Normal to Multiply. The result you get should look similar to the image above.

2. Adjust the curves

Select the layer with the image and press Ctrl+M (CMD+M on Mac ) or choose Image > Adjustments > Curves from the menu. Change the Channel to blue, then click on the small blue dot in the left bottom corner from the graph and drag it up till you get an Output value of around 150.

When this is done, change the Channel to green, and give it an Output value of around 45. Finally, switch to the red channel and change the Output value to around 15. The result should look somewhat like the image below:

We’ve already produced a pretty cool photo effect, but there is another a small tweak we want to use to make the photo look even better.

3. Make it more vibrant

Select the layer with the image and press CTRL+J (CMD+J on Mac) to create a duplicate layer:

Apply a Gaussian Blur filter which you can find under Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. You can play around with the values, but a radius around 4 pixels should be just fine. Once you’ve applied the filter, you will end with something like the image above.

Since we don’t want our Photo to look blurry, we’ll change the Layer blend mode to Overlay and lower the Opacity to around 50% to end up with something like this:

And that’s it! Easy, right? Take a look at the animation below to compare the original and edited photo:

4. Additional ideas

There is no reason to stop at this point, so feel free to experiment and play around with the image and give it your own touch. For example, you could use a gradient and blend the layer via soft light. Or you could give the photo a vignette. Even adding just a little bit of color changes the look already dramatically, as you can see above in my use of yellow and black.

5. Create templates

Once you’ve found your favorite look, you can create an Action or use Smart Objects to apply the effect to any of your other photos. Our tutorials on how to do this are here:

Any other photo effects you want to learn? Let us know in the comments!

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