Reader Tutorial: Fake Desaturated HDR in 5 minutes


We have accepted some tutorials from readers and we think it's really good to open the blog, so anyone can share their skills with the community. Because of that and this tutorial is part of our Reader Tutorial series. If you have or want to write a tutorial and publish it here on Abduzeedo, just send it via email to us.

This will teach you how to give a kinda of hdr desaturated look to your photos, it's really simple and easy, it only takes 5 minutes and will give a totally different look to your photo, so try it out.

This is something you can try on your photos to see if the result is positive, it's quick and give an extra style to your work if you like.

To begin with I got a photo from sxc stock


Now our first step is to duplicate the background layer twice, so we will have 3 layers with the same image.


On the top layer (background copy 2) I will apply Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur just enough to get the image a little blur, in this case I used the Radius 3.0


Now I will change the layer mode to Soft Light, this is what I got so far.


I'm done with this layer, lets work on the middle layer (background copy). First we are going to Image > Adjustments > Desaturated that will take most of the color away now this is very important, a lot of times when you do that, the image comes out too dark, so to solve that problem we are going to Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight ( amount of shadow 50% | highlight 0% ) as you see, the image is not that dark anymore.


To give some of the color back to the image I will set the layer fill to 70%, and after that I got to the point I want to so I will Layer > Flatten Image.


Now that I only have one layer again, I will duplicate this layer, and on the top layer I will apply Image > Adjustment > Threshold that is not a exactly number to apply, this will vary depending on your image, try to get to a point that you have good lines and details, as you see here:


Here is the tricky part that will give a twist on the final look, go to Image > Adjustments > Invert , that will invert the colors that you have, after that just go Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur ( or just Ctrf + F ) and apply the same amount of blur you did last time.


Change the layer mode to Soft Light, and you will see part of the result already there. Now a very important part to give the final touch to your image, go to Image > Adjustment > Brightness/Contrast and set the Brightness to +25 and the Contrast to -50 ( you can play around with this to get a better result for your image)

And here is the final result:


The most important thing is to understand what you doing so you can adapt the steps to the photo that you working with to get a better result.

Hope everybody liked it, and if you try please post your results, and make sure you leave your comments.

Written by

Fabio Sasso

I'm a Brazilian product designer based in Oakland, California currently working for Google as a Staff Designer. I am also the founder of Abduzeedo, an award-winning digital publication about design and a personal project that has become the source of inspiration for millions of designers and enthusiasts.