How To Create That Fine Art Matte Look

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Creating that fine art matte look is incredibly easy in photoshop. In fact it only takes a single adjustment layer. So let’s get started, but promise me you won’t tell anyone our secret. :-)

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To start off we need to add a Exposure Adjustment Layer to our image. This adjustment layer is comprised of 3 sliders and of course the familiar eyedropper tools.

So before we start, let’s go over each slider, what it does, and how each one works.

Exposure Slider

The Exposure slider is probably the most straightforwardly named of the control sliders and unsurprisingly it allows you to adjust the exposure of your photo. Dragging to the right will lighten an image, while dragging to the left darkens it. As you do so, you’ll see the EV steps value change and you can also choose to type a value directly into this box.

You should notice that any adjustments that you make with this slider have a greater effect on the lighter tones of an image, than the darks. While each of the three sliders do affect the overall tones of an image, each one has a greater influence over specific tonal ranges.

Offset Slider

The Offset slider isn’t exactly clear as it is named, but this control has greatest influence over the dark tones of photos. Sliding it to the right will lighten shadow areas, but you should take care as you’ll quickly see that images can start to look washed out as this is adjusted in this direction. Sliding to the left will darken your shadow areas and if you overdo this, you will start to see some unnatural color shifts occurring.

Because this control can be particularly sensitive, it’s worth noting that sliders in Photoshop work in two ways. You can click directly on the adjuster and drag it. However, you can make more fine grained scrubby adjustment by hovering your cursor on the text above the slider. You should now see the cursor change to a pointing hand with a left and right facing arrow. When this cursor is visible, you can click and drag and you will see that you can now make much finer adjustments than dragging the slider directly.

Gamma Slider

The Gamma slider has greatest effect over the mid tone range of your images, though, the direction that you adjust the slider is actually counter intuitive. To darken the image, you need to slide it to the right and vice-versa to lighten it.

Eye Droppers

Like other adjustment layers in photoshop, it offers white, gray, and black eye dropper controls. Now personally, I recommend you stay completely away for these as they are extremely heavy handed. Using the eye droppers you can make one click Exposure adjustments by using the eyedropper controls and clicking directly on the image to select values.

If you use these eye droppers, you’ll see that the white and gray droppers each adjust only the Exposure slider value, while the black dropper adjusts just the Offset slider.

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Steps To Create The Fine Art Matte Look

  • Add a Exposure Adjustment Layer

  • Adjust the Offset Slider to crush the blacks and fade the image.

  • Adjust the Gamma Correction Slider to adjust your midtones to your liking.

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Last Step is to put the final touches on the image.

  • Select the Mask of the Exposure Adjustment layer (By Click on the White)

  • Now select a soft paint brush, and set the flow to 30 %

  • Now painting with black, carefully paint the areas of the picture that you wish to soften or remove the effect.

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Here you can see that I painted her hair, eyes, and lips to bring back detail to those areas.

And there we are. The final image!

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Happy Shooting!

Here’s a couple more examples down below.

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As you can see, this technique works well on all types of photographs. So get out and shoot! and most of all have fun!