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3 Trendy Ways to Create Artistic Photo Effects With Photoshop Actions

This post is part of a series called Photoshop Portraits.
10 Best Photoshop Actions With Cool Art Effects for Portraits
How to Create a Fantasy, Sci-Fi Portrait Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

If someone had the solution to fast design, would you take it? Well, Photoshop Actions are here to save the day! With a simple press of the play button, actions allow you to apply impressive effects to your photos in seconds. Use these effects to create stunning backgrounds for any design project.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create three exceptional abstract photo effects using Photoshop Actions from Envato Elements. Browse their incredible selection to find more amazing assets for your creative needs.

What You'll Need

The following assets were used to produce the final results of this tutorial:

1. How to Create a Low Poly Effect on a Photograph

A "low poly" image comes to us from computer graphics. A computer can simplify an image into a collection of polygons (or dots, or whatever shape you like) and, if those shapes are small enough, still produce an image that looks realistic. If you go bellow a certain low threshold, however, you get an image that looks a bit odd and distorted, like it's been broken up into organized shards off glass. It's a neat style.

Low poly images are also neat because, while they look complicated, they are actually just smartly simplified pictures. This means they tend to work well at small sizes (perfect for thumbnail images) and take up less memory than the photos they're based on.

Step 1

Before we can create the effect, we must install the action. So open up Adobe Photoshop and go to Window > Actions to access the Actions panel. From the panel, select the drop-down option to Load Actions, and load the Low Poly Photoshop Action.

Load the action into the actions panel

Step 2

Photoshop actions will often require a few essential steps in order for them to work effectively. For this action in particular, you'll also need to install the brush pack and patterns included with the download.

To do this, go to Window > Brush Presets. Select Replace Brushes from the drop-down options to load the new brush pack.

Replace with new brushes

Then access the Preset Manager from the same panel, switching the Preset Type to Patterns before loading the new set. Here is how the patterns will display once you're finished.

Preset Manager with loaded patterns

Step 3

Now for the action. Open your image into Photoshop, making sure that your image is set as the Locked background layer. Here I'll be using this Woman Stock from Pixabay at 1920x1280 pixels.

Woman Stock from Pixabay
Woman Stock

Create a New Layer and name it "area." Select the Brush Tool (B) and use a Soft Round Brush to paint red over the area where you would like to apply the effect. Then select the action and press Play.

Mask the area for the action

With this action, you will also be prompted to brush over the areas where you would like more defined details. I chose to focus on the woman's eyes and mouth for this part. Press Play again to finish the action.

Mask the areas for defined details

Give the action a few seconds to play out. Here is the initial low poly result. Let's tweak the image even further using the Adjustment Layers created in the new action groups.

Initial poly action result

Under the 10 Color FX Group, apply the fourth Curves Adjustment Layer by unhiding the visibility of layer "Col 4." This will give the image a beautiful warm tone.

Continue experimenting with the remaining Adjustment Layers. Add more polygonal lines to the portrait or dial down the effect to your liking. In order to conserve the details in the woman's face, I Duplicated the original layer and used a Layer Mask to mask out the rest of her body. Leave only her face and hand visible for more impact.

Add more face details

Make sure the duplicated layer is also positioned within the More Details Layers Group for an effective result.

Here's the final effect.

Low Poly Photo Effect

2. How to Create a Duotone Image

A monotone image is a picture that uses one tone: black (and white). A duotone image is a picture that uses two tones, with one or both of those tones including a colour tint. Duotones are as old as photography itself but have seen a rise in popularity lately, possibly because they're pretty easy to do and look nice. They're a quick way to give a picture a little extra something without changing it too much.

Step 1

Duotone effects create gorgeous color combinations you can incorporate into your designs. Here I'll be using this Duotone Photoshop Action Bundle for a super easy effect. First, go to Window > Actions and load the action into the Actions panel. The action I'll be using comes from the first set of 25 Micromove Duotone Actions.

Load the duotone action

Step 2

Now open your image. I'll be using this beautiful City Stock at 1920x1082 pixels.

City Stock From Pixabay
City Stock

Step 3

The next step is pretty simple. Just select the duotone action for the colors you would like to apply (Gold Black in this instance) and press Play. In no more than five seconds you'll get this lovely result.

Intiial duotone result

Step 3

I love moody color schemes, but this effect could use a little bump in contrast and overall intensity. So go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer and apply two New Adjustment Layers for Curves and Exposure with the following settings:

Curves and Exposure Adjustment Layers

Here is the final effect when you're through. Now you can hang this image in your home or use it as a stunning background for your designs.

Final duotone result

3. How to Create a False Lighting Effect

False lighting effects give your image the appearance of lighting that didn't actually exist in the scene. These can be subtle and gently or they can be heavy and aggressive, depending on how you use them. Both can work!

Step 1

For this last effect, we'll be creating the look of gorgeous light and bokeh using this Lightum Photoshop Action. Just as with our previous effects, start by loading the action into the Actions panel.

Load the light effects action

Step 2

This action requires you to use images between 1000–4000 pixels in size, so I'll be using this lovely Child Stock at 1920x1280 pixels.

Child Stock from Pixabay
Child Stock

Step 3

Now create a New Layer and name it "mask." Select the Brush Tool (B) and use a Soft Round Brush to paint red over the area where you would like to apply the light effect. In this instance I only want the child to be affected.

Then select the action according to the appropriate version of your Photoshop software and press Play.

Mask out the child

Here is the initial effect once the action plays out. Let's adjust it even further using the Adjustment Layers already included in the new action groups.

Initial lightum action result

Step 4

First I'll adjust the bokeh effect. Duplicate (Control-J) the Bokeh Group several times and position each new set of lights to fill in behind the child. This will add more beautiful bokeh to the scene.

Add more bokeh

Then play with the contrast and color. Experimenting with the Gradient Fill, Brightness/Contrast, Vibrance, and Photo Filter Adjustment Layers, I landed on this beautiful blue and purple color scheme.

The result will vary according to your color preferences and images, so experiment often! Enjoy a stunning result without all the extra hassle of creating these effects from scratch.

Here is the final result. Wasn't that easy?

Final lightum and bokeh action photo effect


Save countless work hours with premium Photoshop Actions. Explore more from Envato Elements to see what photo effects you can come up with!

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below. And for more tutorials on photo effects, check out the following links:

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