How to add a glitch effect in Photoshop

December 29

13 min. to read

Sometimes even a great shot needs post-processing. Today there are hundreds of ways to make your shots more original to stand out from other photographers. Today we will tell you how to make a glitch effect in Photoshop very fast and easily, even for beginners.

Post-processing is a great way to practice and use your skills. We've specially created a simple tutorial for you to learn how to create an interesting post-processing result. If you have seen creative images before but needed to read how to achieve a similar result and how to add a glitch effect to photos, then you will be extremely interested in this material.

At first, such interference was perceived as a common defect and was simply removed from the trash, but over time, digital artists have turned this feature into a real art form. From then on, photographers, artists, and designers began to deliberately use such filters for post-processing. Perhaps you have long wanted to learn how to create a unique glitch effect to photos, then this is your moment.

What do you need to know about it?

So, let's find out what kind of phenomenon it is. Now we are talking about particularly trendy recent phenomena of broken or blown-out pictures, TV noise, and geometric distortions. In reality, such noise in photos and videos appears due to errors during uploading or downloading a file. It is also particularly noticeable in older media such as tapes. 

This phenomenon can also be explained a little differently. The glitch picture effect relates to television or video games. This feature imitates software errors or the cause of a bad signal. It is characterized by the following visual features:

  • Uneven lines or wavy distortion.

  • Frozen or static visual scenes.

  • Flipped colors.

Today, this style is actively used not only in creativity but also in branding and even can be a text effect, because its bold character attracts attention and is well remembered.

Why is it used in photography?

Originally, this appeared on images with broken data: jagged lines, desaturated pixels, distorted colors, and a frozen image. You are probably familiar with what this looks like, but you may not have imagined that it could be turned into art.

Unlike digital errors, the glitch effect in Photoshop is controllable. Its varieties are limited only by the photographer's imagination. They can be pixel compositions, picture or inscription splitting, a lighted film effect, image compression or stretching, or neon colors (the more creative, the better). So, experts attribute the popularity of the genre to several factors:

  • A challenge to everything familiar and traditional.

  • A reflection of the reverse side of the digital age: the fragility and imperfection of technology.

  • Another opportunity to emphasize the individuality and stand out.  

What does all this mean for the photographer? Photoshop glitch effect will suit those whose photography style coincides with the traits of this trend: provocation, boldness, and rebellion.

Variety of post-processing options

The most striking example of the shortcomings of retro technology is the sweep lines of an old TV. The barely noticeable background inaccuracies of the old screens create a particular mood. Old televisions and displays had colorization features and blending errors that made images look cracked, with separated colors. You can also simulate angular errors by selecting sections of a photograph. It's all up to your imagination here. 

There are several ways to create the desired effect. Right now you will learn how to make glitch art and open up a whole new area for your creativity.

What settings should be used?

Open a photo editor, and select an image. Almost any will do, but if you are a beginner, it is best to pay attention to options where the main element can be easily separated from the background. Don't forget to use a smart object. Another added bonus for easy Photoshop glitches is a monochrome background that isn't too distracting. Next, you need to do the following steps:

  • Double-click on the photo to unlock it. Then create a new layer and place it below the photo. Set the foreground color to white and fill the bottom layer with it using the fill tool.

  • Select the magnetic lasso tool. It will be convenient to separate the main object from the background. Circle the magnetic lasso around the edges of the object to select it. When you're done, right-click on the photo and choose a copy to a new layer.

  • Navigate to the original photo. Use the free transform command to reduce the background on the left and right. You should have a white fill on both sides.

Alternatively, if your image has a white background, just add a rectangle using the appropriate tool.

Detailed instructions for working

How to make a glitch effect? We wrote as much detail as possible so that you don't have any more questions and you can try to do it yourself in practice.

Decolor the image

Now let's bleach the photo so that the colors become monochromatic. Make sure that you are on the topmost layer and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue & Saturation. For the Photoshop glitch, set the saturation to -95.

Continue adjusting the photo. Now apply the Levels correction to it. Make a few adjustments for the RGB channel:

  • Shadow Input Level: 0

  • Midtone Input Level: 0.92

  • Highlight Input Level: 255

  • Output Levels: 17, 255.

As a result, the shades in the photo became lighter and lighter.

Creating linear distortion

For the glitch in Photoshop, select two photo layers and merge them. Switch to the Rectangular Area tool. Create two rectangular selections as thin lines at the top and bottom of the photo. Remember to hold down Shift to create the second line.

Press the V on your keyboard to switch to the Move tool. Use the left arrow on your keyboard to move the lines to the left. You can hold down the left arrow for a few seconds or move it with a single click. Then selecting the layer, you can keep creating distortions, but it's not convenient and you might end up with less-than-desirable results. So duplicate the photo and continue working with the copy to create a glitch filter in Photoshop.

Again, take the Rectangular Area tool and create lines of different lengths and widths, moving them now to the left or right. Note, since we are working on a fully editable copy, below is the original, so the result is that when you move the lines instead of the white background at the bottom is the original photo.

Let's speed up the process a bit. We are going to add more lines as selections and, using the Move tool, move them in different directions. To make this effect look more realistic, create lines of different sizes. Don't be afraid to experiment, if you don't like something, you can always go back a step to undo the action.

Creating wavy distortions

Continuing our work with glitch overlay in Photoshop, in this part, we will create wavy distortions. To create them we will apply the Wave filter. But first, merge two layers: the original photo and its copy, where all the lines are located. Then duplicate the resulting layer. On this copy, we're going to create a wavy distortion.

Make sure that you are on the copy, using the Rectangular Area tool again to create lines wider than the previous ones and away from the face area. To add a glitch effect to a picture, go to Filter > Distort > Wave and adjust the settings so that the wavy distortion only appears on the lines we created. Continue creating lines and apply the Wave filter.

Adding simple 3D

How to make a glitch effect? Of course, here we have to use Blend Mode. First, merge all the photo layers. In the Layers panel, you should have two layers left: the photo and the background. After that, duplicate the photo twice. Hide the visibility of the top two layers. Then click on the lowest Merged photo layer and choose the Blending Options command. Remove the check mark near the letter G.

Make the top two glitch layers visible again and repeat the above steps. Only this time, uncheck the R checkbox for the Merged copy layer and uncheck the R and G checkboxes for the Merged copy 2 layer.

Now we will move the contents of each of the layers in order to create the 3D glitching effect. Take the Move tool, go to the Merged copy layer, and use the arrow on your keyboard to move the contents of that layer to the left. Then go to Merged copy 2 and move it to the left the same way.

The glitch photo effect in Photoshop is almost done! It gives your photos a phenomenal look. To add more clutter, select the top layer and apply the Pattern Overlay style (with horizontal lines). We have to add small particles, you can draw them with a brush, adjusting the transparency.

To sum it up

Now you know how to make the glitch effect in Photoshop, but you can explore other photo editors too. For example, Luminar Neo is also useful in this way. This modern photo editor with a simple interface and professional set of tools helps you create photo glitch effects much faster and the result will be even better than in Photoshop. Be sure to try it!