Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CoffeeShop Photoshop/PSE Action-UnWrapped Tutorial: Adding Creamy, Hazy Light to Your Images.

So I finally decided to get a new tablet for my Mac (I haven't had one since I dumped the old, sick PC), and I purchased the Wacom Intuos small tablet with the amazing eraser.  I have had to deal with carpal tunnel syndrome the last years (even though it is greatly improved since I went gluten-free), so I wanted to be able to rotate between a mouse and a tablet to save my wrist. So far so good, after just a few days I don't think I could use Photoshop without my little tablet!  I can even handwrite on my screenshots. And yes, my handwriting is that bad in real life.

Today I wanted to post a tutorial on one way you can get that hazy, creamy light effect on your photos. Every photo will need slightly different settings than the ones I am posting here, but I wanted to give you a starting point.  Even if you don't really care for this look, you should read the tutorial because you might pick up some new editing tips. Here is the Photoshop/PSE action.

CoffeeShop Creamy Haze Lighting Tutorial for Photoshop/PSE:

I am using this stunning image (perfect as-is) from Vanilla Tree Photography (website) in this tutorial.  This image does not need to be edited, but I wanted to have a version that was a bit more dreamlike.

First thing, I select the highlights of the image.  If you have Photoshop you can do this on your own, if you have PSE you will have to use my Boost action to "unlock" that effect in PSE.

Select Highlights Photoshop Users:  Click on Channels, and then click on the highlight button on the bottom (see screenshot above).  This selects the highlights of the image.  Click back on Layers and then click on the Background and Ctrl-J to put the highlights in their own layer in Normal blending mode.

Select Highlights PSE Users:  Use the CoffeeShop Boost action to select the highlights. Put this new layer in Normal blending mode (it is set to be in Screen blending mode).

I then use Surface Blur on the highlights layer to soften the highlights (this can really soften and brighten the skin of light to medium-toned portraits).  I usually put the radius around 11 and the threshold around 25.  You can also use Gaussian blur if you are using an older version of PSE.

I usually want to lighten this highlight layer.  I add a Levels adjustment layer and move up the middle (gamma) slider and the highlight slider and then group it with the highlights layer.  This just brightens the softened highlights.  I prefer doing it this way because it allows me to have more control of the final effect.

To further lighten/haze up the image, I add a color fill layer with hex#fffef0.  You can use any light creamy or orange-yellow color for this layer.

I put the Color Fill adjustment layer in Soft Light blending mode at 40% opacity.

Now I want to add some sunny haze coming from the top of the image.  I selected the same light creamy color I used in the Color Fill adjustment layer above and selected my Gradient tool and made the gradient the light haze color to transparent.

I added a new layer and started at the top and applied the gradient from the top to the bottom.  I think this is too much haze on her face and body, but there is an easy fix.

Ctrl-T to free transform the haze layer and pull up the bottom until you are happy with the placement.  You can also adjust the opacity of this layer, but I wanted a lot of haze on top of my image.

Finally, I added a slight Matte Effect.  Add a Levels adjustment layer and bring down the shadows to 20 or so and then move the Output Levels to 50 or so.  Play around with the settings until you have the perfect Matte.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, it was really fun to write.  Here is the free action.  I am also working on some new actions/LR presets, so it should be a fun couple of weeks!

Do you want to download my favorite CoffeeShop Actions or Design Elements in one convenient zipped file AND help support this blog? Just click here for my action pack or here for a download of some of my most popular design elements, storyboards, and textures. 


  1. Oh, can the kids pleeeeasssee go to bed soon so that I can try this???? :) Thank you!

  2. As always, Rita, you inspire me to grab an image and give it a go. Thanks for the haze tutorial. I ALWAYS learn so much from your blog and THATS why you're in my favorites!