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How to Use Photo Effects to Make Scary Halloween Pictures in Photoshop

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With Halloween approaching, it's fun to turn to creative projects with a spooky edge. If you're a photographer, there are some great Adobe Photoshop actions that can help you achieve a really cool, eerie effect, quickly and easily. 

Here are three of our favourites from Envato Elements, where you can download unlimited resources for a monthly subscription. In this tutorial, we cover:


All three actions require some simple setup and preparation:

  • Install the action
  • Make sure your image is in RGB color mode and 8 Bit
  • Your image should be the only layer and marked as 'Background'

1. Make a Paranormal Portrait With Haunted Photoshop Actions

Fans of paranormal, spooky imagery like The Ring and The Grudge, will love the Haunted Photoshop Actions.

Getting Started

This is the image I'm working on.

example imageexample imageexample image
example image

Open your image and hit play on the action. You'll get a series of instructions guiding you to paint over parts of your photograph.

painted over eyes and mouthpainted over eyes and mouthpainted over eyes and mouth
paint over the eyes and mouth when instructed

After the Action has Finished Running

It’s hard to know what the author meant by ‘outer eye’, which was in one of the instructions. Is the white of the eye or is it the eye surround? Try both! I went with the white of the eye here.

finished actionfinished actionfinished action
The finished result

This is how it comes out. It’s a little different to the preview images, but you can make adjustments to turn off the lines, reduce the blur and add a green hue.

The action has a lot of layers you can work on to get different results

Make Adjustments

I’ve reduced some of the strong effects and added the green filter. Creepy!

my finished imagemy finished imagemy finished image
Finished image after adjustments

 2. Add a Spectral Figure With Ghost Photo Creator

Ghost Photo Creator makes a ghost image out of a single frame by selecting the subject and isolating it from a (repaired) background.

Getting Started

As well as the action, this effect also requires you to install a pattern

There’s a video included with the download to help walk you through everything, but here are the highlights so you can see how it works.

Here's the image I'm working on. Try and choose one where you'll be able to select your subject relatively easily: clean, hard lines help.

example imageexample imageexample image
example image

Run Action and Follow Instructions

Run the first action and it will tell you to paint over your intended ghost.

paint overpaint overpaint over
Paint over your subject, try to be neat

Try to be quite neat about this one. When you’re finished, hit play on action number 2 and it’ll ask you to start repairing your background.

repair your backgroundrepair your backgroundrepair your background

The action does a pretty good guess job of this, but it will most likely need touching up. Make good use of the healing tools and clone stamp.

When it looks right, press play on number 3 and after running for a short while, a dialogue box will ask you to choose your blending mode in the History Panel.

If your History Panel isn't visible, go to Window > History.

Here, you’re basically going back some steps to choose your blend mode, which is a bit of a messy way of doing it.

choose blend optionschoose blend optionschoose blend options
choose blend options

Hit step 4 to add effects and once again you’ll be asked to use the history panel.

add effectsadd effectsadd effects
Choose the effect you'd like to add

This is honestly the strangest way I’ve ever seen an action work, using the History Panel rather than creating folders you can cycle through, but it does work. Even though the options are History rather than in layers, this time it does create snapshots rather than just the history list, so you can flip back and try different effects to suit.

There are quite a lot of effects to choose from and I think the black and white 3D effect works well for this one.

Finished Result

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Finished Image

There aren't many adjustments to be made because of the lack of folder/layer options, so here's another image I used the action on, so you can see a different result.

another exampleanother exampleanother example
The small subject and patterned background made this image perfect to use.

3. Halloween is In The Air With The Smoke Photoshop Action

Smoke Photoshop ActionSmoke Photoshop ActionSmoke Photoshop Action
Smoke Photoshop Action

Add atmospheric smoke to your images for an instant spooky effect with the Smoke Photoshop Action.

Getting Started

This action requires you to install a brush, too.

Try to make it easier on yourself by picking a photograph where the subject is clearly defined from the background. Here's the image I'll be working on:

example imageexample imageexample image
Example image

 Create a new layer and call it 'brush'. Paint over your subject on this layer.

painted over imagepainted over imagepainted over image
Painted over image

Run the Action and Make Adjustments

The action will stop and ask you to paint over where you want the smoke to fade out. Pick a suitable spot, like feet to knees (or the bottom part of the legs in this case) and roughly paint over it and hit play again.

after the action has runafter the action has runafter the action has run
After the action has run you'll see it broken down into many layers

This action does take a while to run, but that's because it breaks down into lots of useful layers, so you can make adjustments to get totally different results every time. Make adjustments to suit. 

Finished Image

I’ve brushed some of the detail back in and reduced some of the smoke effects so you can see the cat’s face better. You can also select from different colour options, but I think the blue-white works well.

 Finished Image Finished Image Finished Image
Finished Image

Here's another preview from the creator of the action, this time with people as the main subject.

 More Frighteningly Fun Halloween Resources

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