How To Create An X-Ray Image Effect In Photoshop

by Dec 28, 2022Free Tutorials, Resources

Here is a handy tutorial on how to create a cool looking X-Ray Image effect that is also high in quality using Photoshop!

If you want to jump directely to the video tutorial click here: VIDEO TUTORIAL

x-ray image effect photoshop

X-Rays are some seriously high-tech stuff and are very reminiscent of the technological generation.

In the 60s and 70s during the time of the Cold War, the images produced by spy agencies of the time truly defined the aesthetic of x-ray photography, and it is a widely explored medium by photographers even today.

Many large format photographers shoot on X-Ray film to create their images, and the unique properties of X-Ray film give the images a character and vibe that can be created by no other method. 

However, today we are going to explore a method to create a similar looking effect inside photoshop. For this effect to look good, it is important to select an image that will push the effect even further.

Flat images will not sell the effect. Choose images which have elements like light, lens flares, and glass within them. 

For this tutorial, I have used this photograph from Pexels, which has a lot of transparent and translucent elements. When the effect is complete, the transparencies are going to push the realism of the effect by giving it a ghostly character. 

Before we begin, you should already have your image open inside Photoshop. If you would like to learn how to do that, click here.

woman portrait open photoshop

Step 1: Duplicate And Invert The Background Layer

First, we are going to invert the image from positive to negative. This is about 70% of the effect.

In order to do this, go to the bottom right corner of the screen to the Layers Panel and right click on the layer named Background. In the menu that pops up, select Duplicate Layer.

duplicate layer in photoshop

You will now have a second layer called Background Copy.

second background copy

Now, with the duplicate layer still selected, press Ctrl + I [Win] or Cmd + I [Mac]. Your layer should now be inverted.

x ray image effect

Step 2: Convert to Black and White to create the X Ray Effect

The image may be inverted, but it is still in color. To make it look closer to an x-ray, we will have to convert it to black and white. To do this, go to the bottom right corner of the Layers Panel and click on the Adjustments icon.

adjustment icon photoshop

This will bring up the Adjustments menu. In the menu, select Black & White.

Black & White adjustment layer Photoshop

The Black & White adjustments layer will now pop up in the Layers Panel and your image will now look like this.

How To Create An X-Ray Image Effect In Photoshop

X-Ray film has some unique properties. Compared to other films it is less sensitive to blue light and thus any blue areas in the image appear darker on x-rays.

Therefore, go to the Black & White adjustments panel above the Layers Panel and lower the Blues saturation in order to darken the skin tones.

Black & White properties panel photoshop
How To Create An X-Ray Image Effect In Photoshop

At this stage, the image is already really starting to come together. However, it looks more like a film negative than an x-ray. To complete the look we will have to perform some additional steps.

Step 3: Adding a Blur

X-Rays have a ghostly quality to them. To achieve this, we are going to create and overlay a blur, for which we need to create a merged layer. 

While holding the Shift key, click on the Background copy layer and the Black & White 1 adjustment layer to select them both at once.

Layer panel photoshop

Now, press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E [Win] or Cmd + Option + Shift + E [Mac]. This will create a new merged layer from the previously selected layers.

New layer in layer panel adobe photoshop

Now we create the blur. In the menu, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

gaussian blur adobe photoshop

In the Gaussian Blur menu, select a radius of 50 pixels.

gaussian blur option panel photoshop

This is what your image will now look like.

blurry black and white image in Photoshop

Now, back on the Layers Panel, you will find the Blend Modes menu.

By default, it is set to Normal. Click on it and change the blend mode to Overlay. Change the Opacity to around 45%-50%.

overlay blend mode photoshop
layer opacity photoshop

Your image will now look like this.

How To Create An X-Ray Image Effect In Photoshop

Step 4: Adding Noise

Go to the bottom right of the Layers Panel and click on the New Layer icon.

new layer in the layer panel photoshop

Now in the menu, go to Edit > Fill. This will open the Fill menu.

fill option in adobe photoshop

Change the Contents to 50% Gray and click on OK.

50% gray fill option adobe photoshop

You will now have a completely gray image.

50% gray layer photoshop

Now, once again in the menu, go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise.

filter add noise photoshop

In the Add Noise menu, select a value of 10.

add noise panel option photoshop

You will now have a gray image of random noise.

50% gray layer with noise Photoshop

Now we must overlay this onto our image. To do that, go to the Layers Panel, and change the blend mode of the noise layer to Overlay.

overlay blend mode photoshop

In addition, change the layer opacity to somewhere below 50%.

layer opacity option photoshop

Step 5: Finishing Touches

In the Layers Panel, go to the Adjustment Layers menu and select Photo Filter.

photo filter adjustment photoshop

This will create a new adjustment layer.

properties photo filter photoshop

In the Photo Filter menu, change the Filter to Cyan and lower the Density to around 10%-12%. This will create the Cyan tint that is characteristic of X-Ray images.

And voila! We now have a finished X-Ray effect!

How To Create An X-Ray Image Effect In Photoshop final result

BONUS – Video Tutorial

Betchphoto
About the Author Betchphoto

Martin is an amateur photographer and digital marketer who has more than 15 years of experience with Adobe Photoshop. Check his about page here