The Cinematic Matte Effect in Photoshop


Have you ever seen a portrait that immediately evokes a mood in you?  Maybe it feels nostalgic or warm, but you can’t quite put your finger on why it feels that way.  It is probably because the artist used a Cinematic Matte Effect.

Hop onto any stock website and type the word “portrait.”  You will see this cinematic effect on 7 out of 10 portrait images per page scroll.  The Matte Effect makes the blacks look on the gray side and leaves the rest of the tones intact.  The result is a wonderfully nostalgic look, free of dark contrast.

A quick image search of portraits on


The process is pretty simple and can be accomplished with a very simple move on the Curves Adjustment Layer.   All you have to do is lift the lower corner of the curve up and make some anchor points on your mid-tones and highlights.  You can get pretty creative with it though.  You can go into the Red, Green, and Blue channels and add some color to the darks to add a subliminal color that the viewer will feel but may not be able to spot without you pointing it out.  This is an excellent way to evoke some emotions in the viewer that they may not have felt if you showed them the image straight out of the camera.

The process can work for Portraits and Landscapes alike.  I use it all the time in subtle doses, often dropping the Opacity of the effect below 50%.  It is kind of like a vignette.  It is highly effective, but best used in subliminal ways.

Watch the tutorial today and enjoy some Actions that do some of the heavy lifting for you!

Download the Actions


Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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