Photoshop Tutorial: Give your photo that infrared look

First published on: Thursday, 8 May 2008

Here’s a quick how-to on converting your photo to an IR (infrared) version.

I obtained the steps from The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers (by Scott Kelby).

Step 1

Open the photo in Photoshop.

I used the following image of Bryce Canyon, Utah, for this tutorial, courtesy of my pal Low Hor Kwai.
Bryce Canyon, Utah by Low Hor Kwai

Step 2

In the Layers panel (the default location of which is the bottom right of your Photoshop screen), click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon, and then click Channel Mixer.

Photoshop -- Create new fill or adjustment layer > Channel Mixer

Step 3

Enter the following base settings (these serve as a starting point) in the Channel Mixer dialog:

  1. Turn on the Monochrome checkbox.

  2. Set the Red channel to -50% (either drag the channel slider or enter the value directly into the box).

  3. Set the Green channel to 200%.

  4. Set the Blue channel to -50%.

Photoshop tutorial for infrared conversion -- enter Channel Mixer values

Step 4

Scott explains that Step 4 results in a photo that mimics what you’d get with a Hoya R72 infrared filter on your lens.

The objective here is to make the sky look almost black, and make the white clouds whiter.

Dragging the sliders around lets you evaluate the effect on the photo.

Enter the following values:

  1. Increase the Red channel back to zero. This makes the clouds whiter.

  2. Lower the Blue channel to -100%. This makes the blue sky darker.

Photoshop infrared conversion tutorial -- Channel Mixer values for whiter clouds and a darker blue sky

Step 3 vs Step 4

Observe the impact different values in the Channel Mixer has on the output. The values input in Step 4 results in a much more dramatic infrared photo.

Step 3
Bryce Canyon, Utah, by Low Hor Kwai.jpeg @ 25% (Channel Mixer 1, Layer Mask/8)

Step 4

Add a Color Infrared effect

If you’d like to give a little color to the B&W infrared photos you got out of Step 3 or 4, continue reading.

I’ll use the output from Step 4 for the remainder of this section of the tutorial.

Step 5

Duplicate the background layer.

In the Layers panel, click on the Background layer, hold and drag to the Create a new layer icon.

Photoshop tutorial -- duplicate the background copy

Step 6

Drag the Background copy layer to the top of the layer stack.

Photoshop tutorial -- drag the duplicate background layer to the top of the layer stack

Step 7

Do the following for the Background copy layer:

  1. Change the layer blend mode to Overlay

  2. Lower the Opacity to 50% (or to taste).

Photoshop color infrared conversion tutorial -- set layer blend mode and opacity

Final Results

Output from Step 4 — B&W IR sample

Photoshop infrared conversion tutorial -- B&W infrared sample

Output from Step 7 — Color IR sample

Photoshop infrared conversion tutorial -- Color infrared sample


Bryce Canyon, Utah by Low Hor Kwai


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