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

27 Responses to “High-Key B&W Portrait Effect”

  1. Abby says:

    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

  2. Ort says:

    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:))

  3. spiker26 says:

    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.

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

  5. irone says:

    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.


  6. photoshop-user says:

    Very good tutorial! I like that soft yet detailed look


  7. giv says:

    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.

  8. jahmasta says:

    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

  9. SelimAzad says:

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

  10. kamote kid says:

    nice one…………

  11. rahshia says:

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

  12. noskill1343 says:

    nice tutorial 😀

  13. Nine says:

    Thanks …nice..easy..:)

  14. prakash says:

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

  15. Sathar says:

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

  16. Kathy says:

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

  17. Kathy says:

    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

  18. Edgar says:

    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.

  19. rhod says:

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

  20. Vicky says:

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


  21. Paul says:

    its cool I like it

  22. Al Kamal Md. Razib says:

    Nice color effecting tutorial. Thanks.

  23. Fotostudija says:

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


  24. Mark the Spark says:

    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.

  25. Free Photoshop Tuturials says:

    nice tut 🙂

  26. Munsel says:

    Cool thanks for posting gonna try it out

  27. Munsel says:

    Cool gonna try it out, thanks for posting

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