High-Key B&W Portrait Effect

Our tutorial this time will show you how you can achieve high-key effect in a Black and White portrait with only 4 easy steps in photoshop.

Here are our before and after portraits..

high key technique

Step 1.) Desaturate your portrait with image>adjustment>desaturate or simply by pressing shift+ctrl+u

high key technique

Step 2.) Apply image adjustment curve to your portrait

high key technique

Step 3.) Duplicate the layer, and add gaussian blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur), change the layer blend mode to overlay

high key technique

Step 4.) Add layer mask, Set your foreground color to black, and start brushing over the eyes, nose, and lips. You might want to use the burn tool to burn the background layer around the eyes, nose, and lips.

high key technique

Originally posted: 02/10/06

See also: Photoshop Tutorials

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Comment by Abby
2006-06-13 23:35:32

I would like to no what program it is to change the color of your picture so if you could email my soon as posibale that would be great thank

Comment by Ort
2006-11-25 07:00:16

No way. Something is not right in this tutorial… I tried with my picture, and effect is completely different. So I tried with the picture above, I did what You wrote, but the effect wasn’t the same. Something is wrong. It may be blending, You didnt write anything about it… (Sorry for my english:))

Comment by spiker26 Subscribed to comments via email
2007-09-30 14:30:43

Sorry folks, it is not working for me either. Entered the same values and tried to change opacity etc. but could not make it work. More and better detail steps required in future tutuorials.

Comment by Dphotojournal com
2007-09-30 16:55:38

Hey guys.. after you apply the gaussian blur, don’t forget to change the layer blend mode to ‘overlay’..

Comment by irone Subscribed to comments via email
2007-10-01 12:47:32

thank’s for this tutorial, this time work for me and very helpful, i always want to make photo like your. love it. And after i follow this tutorial, i still can ajust bright & contrast without losing skin tone.


Comment by photoshop-user
2007-10-01 22:54:48

Very good tutorial! I like that soft yet detailed look


Comment by giv
2008-05-02 09:49:12

your tutorial is ok but how about when you print it? I work in an offset printing environment and based on your work I noticed that the picture has K:0% meaning when you print it there are portion that are black cuz there is no tone.

Comment by jahmasta
2008-07-08 17:30:18

You can find a little explanation (in french) of the lighting in studio for a high key shooting at this url
High Key from the lighting to the final picture. You can download a lightroom preset to make your own High Key Pictures. I hope this post can help visitors to create good high key pictures. Good Luck

Comment by SelimAzad
2008-11-22 12:30:49

Worked fine for me. Chk out the image at my flickr.

Comment by kamote kid
2008-12-14 21:55:22

nice one…………

Comment by rahshia
2009-01-27 10:47:39

Very nice, the is a style i use quite a bit. http://www.linendoll.com/2009/01/bw-portraits/

Comment by noskill1343
2009-03-07 01:06:38

nice tutorial :D

Comment by Nine
2009-05-21 02:17:25

Thanks …nice..easy..:)

Comment by prakash
2009-05-28 00:41:42

hi…….. the tutorial is working perfectly. Nice job. And it’s very easy, thank you.

Comment by Sathar Subscribed to comments via email
2009-06-14 07:50:57

I like it this tutorial. this is very easy and good job.. thanks

Comment by Kathy Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-13 23:36:17

What do you do after you add the mask..How do I complete it? Sorry, not very good at photoshop…thank you, Kathy

Comment by Kathy Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-13 23:39:05

What do you do after the last step? Sorry, I’ve had photoshop for years but never use it….This is the reason why..I never know what to do next…thank you, Kathy

Comment by Edgar
2009-07-24 09:31:42

Something doesnt work right for me, IS the layer mask set separate from the layer with the blur?,
what setting for the layer? Hide all?.
A bit confusing for beginners.

Comment by rhod Subscribed to comments via email
2009-08-11 21:15:43

umm… what should the burn tool’s setting?? should it be set to shadow, midtones or highlights??

Comment by Vicky
2010-04-18 15:19:22

I tried this out and the effect is amazing! Had long been looking for a way to do this.


Comment by Paul
2010-04-26 09:25:25

its cool I like it

Comment by Al Kamal Md. Razib
2010-06-12 05:47:27

Nice color effecting tutorial. Thanks.

Comment by Fotostudija
2010-07-02 08:08:38

High-key image from body art photosession. Photoshop CS5 post production.


Comment by Mark the Spark Subscribed to comments via email
2010-10-21 08:53:07

I tried this with very good results. This is fast and easy and the results are quite amazing. Thanks for this great B/W tip.

Comment by Free Photoshop Tuturials
2011-08-28 22:03:55

nice tut :)

Comment by Munsel Subscribed to comments via email
2012-02-19 12:39:55

Cool thanks for posting gonna try it out

Comment by Munsel Subscribed to comments via email
2012-02-19 12:40:27

Cool gonna try it out, thanks for posting


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