Use this Photoshop Tutorial to Freak Out Your Friends with Ghosts

Harry Guinness 17-10-2015

With Halloween on the way, now is the time to start sharing spooky photos on Facebook. I’ve already shown how to add a ghost to your Facebook profile picture Add a Ghost to Your Facebook Profile Picture With Halloween coming up, now is the perfect time to freak out your friends by adding a ghost to your profile picture. Read More and how to make a creepy profile picture with a free template I provided Make a Creepy Facebook Profile Picture with this Free Photoshop Template Halloween is coming up so it's time to change your Facebook profile picture to something spooky. We show you how with a selfie, a skull, and Photoshop. Read More . In this article, I’m going to mix things up and show you how to make a spooky old photo in a graveyard.


The hardest part of making this fake photo is shooting the images you need. The Photoshop work is really simple. Once again, I’m providing all my files for you to use (including the final TIFF file) and a screencast showing the full editing process. You can download the resource pack here.

If you take the time to get the photos right, no matter what your Photoshop ability, you’ll be able to follow along.


If you’re already good with Photoshop, take what I’m doing and improve on it. There are so many ways you can make my work better.


To edit the images, you need a proper image editor like Photoshop. If you don’t have Photoshop, you can modify my process to any other image editor.


If you’re using a PC, Paint.NET is a decent, free alternative Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download We all edit images to some degree. Whether it’s a simple crop or resize, or maybe just adding some text, it’s nice to have an image editor that is reliable, fast, easy to navigate and... Read More while Pixelmator is a great app if you’re on a Mac. Linux has a couple of options The 5 Best Photoshop Alternatives You Can Run on Linux Finding an Adobe Photoshop alternative for Linux isn't that difficult. Here are the best Photoshop alternatives for Linux. Read More though I’m not familiar with any of them.

If you’re using Photoshop, understanding the basics will make it much easier to follow along. You should check out our four part Idiot’s Guide to Photoshop:

I’m also using some of the same techniques as in the previous article, so reading that first is a good idea.

Finally, I use the Pen tool which we’ve covered before How To Use Photoshop Pen Tool Read More so you should have a look at that article before continuing.


Shooting the Photos

The final photo is made up of four separate images: one of the main subject and background, and one for each of the ghosts. You could use more or less images for yours, depending on how many ghosts you want. Head to a spooky location like a graveyard or the woods and bring your camera.

To take the photos, you need the camera to stay as still as possible between each shot. If it doesn’t, lining up the images in Photoshop becomes a lot more difficult. The easiest way to do that is to use a tripod. I used a Gorillapod but any will do. Put the tripod on something solid and frame the shot.


For the same reasons, you want to keep the exposure constant between each photo. The simplest way to do that is to use a camera — or app for your phone — that lets you set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO manually. Set the aperture to between 8 and 11 and the shutter speed and ISO to whatever will give a good exposure Learn & Practice Camera Exposure Settings With CameraSim Understanding camera exposure can often take the joy out of taking pictures. Cameras like the Canon 50D or the Nikon D80 are fairly affordable, but you may not get your money’s worth if you only... Read More . If you’ve got a friend to help, it makes things easier but you can use your camera’s self timer like I did to take the pictures.



You’ll notice that in my image, the leg of one of the ghosts and my shoulder intersect. This requires a bit more work to make look right in Photoshop as you’ll see in the screencast. If you want to make things easier, make sure your ghosts don’t overlap with each other or the main subject.

Shoot a few extra images for safety and when you’re happy with what you’ve got, head home and transfer them to your computer.

The Photoshop Process

If you’ve shot the images properly, the Photoshop process is surprisingly simple. All the photos should match in terms of composition and exposure, so blending between them won’t present any problems. For the full Photoshop process, watch the above screencast. The basic steps are:

  • Import and auto-align all the images.
  • Using Layer Masks, add the ghosts into the background of the main image.
  • If a ghost overlaps with the main subject, use the Pen tool to create a selection around your subject. Paint inside and outside of the selection to get an edge between the two images that looks good.
  • Clean up each ghost using the Spot Healing Brush so that obvious things like clothing logos aren’t visible.
  • Lower the Opacity of all the ghosts until they look suitably spooky.
  • Add a Curves adjustment layer to tweak the brightness and contrast of the whole image.
  • Convert the image to black and white with a Black and White adjustment layer.
  • Add a new layer with the blend mode set to Soft Light then use the Brush to Dodge and Burn the image.
  • Add a new layer with the blend mode set to Overlayand fill it with a solid sepia brown colour. Lower its Opacity until the image looks good; somewhere around 20% normally works.
  • Merge everything to a new layer and then use Add Noise to add Gaussian, Monochromatic noise that emulates film grain.

And with that, you’re done.

Show Us Your Work

Whether you take my files and work through the process yourself or go out and start from scratch, I’d love to see your results. Post them online somewhere and then share a link in the comments below. Also, if you get stuck at any point, feel free to ask any questions you want. I’m happy to help.

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, Halloween, Photoshop Tutorial.

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