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Thanks to Instagram, we all know how big of a difference a filter can make for a photo. Filters can turn average, color pictures into antique, film prints, high definition landscapes or airbrushed portraits. They’re a great option for when you don’t have a lot of time to spend editing, but still want to make a photo look artistic or unique. Unfortunately, the small handful of filters that Instagram offers – the ones we’ve all see over and over again – can feel boring and overused. 

But with the help of Photoshop and just a few simple steps, you can create your own personalized filter to apply to your images in less than 10 minutes. Creating your own unique filter will not only add an individual touch to your photos, but it will also save you hours when editing big galleries, like portrait shoots and weddings. 

Start by opening your image in Photoshop. Click on the adjustment icon, which looks like a small, half black half white circle, located in the bottom right corner. Select Solid Color at the top of the menu to create a new adjustment layer. Select solid black and then hit OK.

Then, click on the menu box above the layers panel, located next to the opacity setting, and select Soft Light. Change the opacity to about 60 percent. You’ll already see a difference in the shadows and highlights of your image. Don’t worry if your photo looks too dark – the shadows and highlights will even out as you continue to add effects. 

Create another adjustment layer, and this time click Gradient Map at the bottom of the menu. Make sure you select Gradient Map, and not Gradient, which is located at the the top of the menu. Select the solid black and white option in the popup box, and you’ll see your image turn to black and white. Hit OK to exit.

Click the menu box above the layers panel one more time to change the blend option to Soft Light. You’ll notice even deeper tones in your photo at this point.

Make a third adjustment layer and select Levels. Play around with the highlights and shadows until you like the look of your image. For my filter, I chose a more washed out style by bumping up the output level to about 50. This will brighten the shadows and bring more detail into the image.

Make a final adjustment layer and click Curves. Change the color option in the dropdown menu to Blue. Click on the line in the bottom left corner of the graph and drag it slightly up vertically until you like the blue hue of your image. You can play around with this setting to also give your filter a red, yellow or green hue as well. 

Create a new layer by clicking on the icon that looks like a piece of paper with the corner folded up, located in the bottom right corner. Click on the brush tool on the left side of the screen and select a large brush with soft edges. Make the brush white by changing the color of the boxes in the bottom left corner. Here’s where you’ll add a little more detail and a personal touch to the filter. 

Turn down the opacity of the brush to less than 10 percent and click around one or two sections of the image to make it look even more washed out and faded. I decided to focus on the top of my image and leave the shadows dark, to accentuate the contrast of the picture even more.

Click on the small folder icon in the bottom right corner to create a new group. Highlight all of the edits you made in the layers panel, and drag them into the new folder. Once all of the edits are all in one group, you can change the opacity of the entire filter to tweak each photo individually.

With these quick and easy steps, you can create your own personalized collection of photo filters, and you’ll never have to resort to the overused Instagram options again.

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