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Photoshop Infrared Conversion Actions

The use of monochrome infrared film can produce very beautiful results with certain subjects. Green foliage takes on an ethereal glow while dark blue skies contrast dramatically with white clouds. Many different Photoshop methods of varying complexity have been described for converting colour images to a pseudo-infrared effect. The most common method is to intensify and blur the green channel, usually through use of a Channel Mixer adjustment. This approach can work well with some images, but can yield unsatisfactory results in images which contain areas of sky, as the blue sky may not rendered as a deep black. More advanced methods of conversion use various combinations of image manipulations to mimic the look of infrared film.

Over the past few years I've developed a number of Photoshop techniques for conversion of colour images to infrared. These methods vary from the simplest Channel Mixer method described above to complex layer blending approaches that allow a greater range of conversion variations to be applied to a base image. I've recorded all of these procedures as a set of Photoshop actions which you can download from the link below.

The varying effects of the six actions are shown below. The IR1 action works predominantly on the image green channel, to highlight foliage. IR2 uses a more complex method with two Channel Mixer adjustments , the first to intensify greens on a diffused image, and the second to reduce blues. The two layered copies of the image combine to give an image with glowing foliage while retaining sky and cloud separation. IR3 uses the same conversion method but includes pauses in the action to allow fine tuning to the default settings.

Actions IR4, IR5 and IR6 use different combinations of the Channel Mixer and the Diffuse Glow filter to achieve the infrared conversion. IR4 is a default action with fixed settings applied directly to the base image, IR5 produces the same effect, but allows the user to alter the default settings for fine tuning. Finally, IR6 applies the conversion to copies of the base image which are layered using different blending modes allowing the choice of one or more layers to be blended together for the final image.

The final action in the set (Make test images) takes a starting image (16 bit or 8 bit) and generates 6 numbered duplicate reduced size images to allow testing of the infrared conversion actions to determine which is best for the image.

 

IR1 action

IR2 action

IR3 action

  IR4 action IR5 action IR6 action  

 

All of the infrared actions are compatible with 16 bit or 8 bit colour single layer images (IR4-6 convert to 8 bit after conversion to monochrome to allow use of the Diffuse Glow filter). Before running the actions on a colour image make basic levels/curves etc. adjustments and if you have used adjustment layers, duplicate the image and flatten it before running the conversion actions. Once you have run the actions follow any instructions given in the final dialogue box to optimise the conversion and then make any final levels/curves etc. adjustments to complete the image.

To download Photoshop actions for these conversion methods click the icon below. Save the file to your desktop, and then launch Photoshop, open the Actions palette and load the actions. You can then play the actions on your own images. See the comments on the technical intro page if you are using a Mac.

Download Infrared Actions

If you find these actions useful, or have any comments you can contact me here.

Technical index