How to Create a Natural Pastel Photo Effect in Photoshop

How to Create a Pastel Photo Effect in Photoshop.

A pastel is defined as “a soft and delicate shade of color”.  Pastels aren’t overly intense or elaborate. They don’t detract from the rest of an image or design. They simply add a clean and subtle look.

That probably explains why pastel styles are so popular in photo editing. One of my favorite photography blogs, The Black Workshop, is full of images that take from this style.

how to create a pastel photo effect in Photoshop

With the right shades, you can add so much to the depth of an image and still keep it looking natural.

This tutorial will walk you through creating your very own pastel photo effect in Photoshop. Pin It!

Want a fast and easy way to get pastel photo effects and natural tones in Photoshop? Our FilmTone Photoshop Actions include 25 unique looks for your photos. Plus, you’ll get a handy kit of real film grain to overlay on your images. Purchase FilmTone Now.


Step 1. Open your desired photo in Photoshop.

I’m going to be using this lovely photo from Splitshire. Pro tip – use an image with a lot of natural light and exposure. Pastels work on any image, but look best with bright airy colors.


Step 2. Create a Solid Color Adjustment Layer.

In the bottom of the layers panel click the circle icon to and create a “Solid Color” adjustment layer. This will allow us to add a color overlay to our entire image.


Step 3. Choose your pastel color.

Then when the color picker appears, change your color to a nice pastel shade. For this tutorial I decided to go with a soft pink, hex code #f2c1de. After finding the perfect color, click OK.


Step 4. Change the layer blend mode to Hue.

Double click the “Solid Color” layer and change the blend mode to Hue. This will overlay it appropriately with the other hues in the image. Then lower your opacity to around 20%. I’ve found this to be the best amount for slight coloring without overdoing it.


Step 5. Create a second Solid Color Adjustment Layer.

This time choose a slightly darker shade of your desired color to create a contrast with the previous adjustment. I went with the hex code #f3acdd.


Step 6. Change the layer blend mode to Difference.

For this solid color, you’ll want to set the blend mode to difference and the opacity anywhere between 8%-12%. These are the best settings to make it blend naturally.

At this point, we have a great looking pastel image effect. To add some additional depth, I suggest playing with the curves and vibrance adjustment layers.

Here is a final before and after of the image!

Easy pastel photo effect in Photoshop. Perfect for bloggers, photographers, and creative people.

Want to catch up on this tutorial later? Pin this post to read later!

Don’t want to do all these steps yourself? Purchase FilmTone Photoshop Actions and have your pastel photo effects created for you in seconds. Plus, you get real film grain textures to work with, and all effects are 100% customizable and non-destructive. Purchase FilmTone Now.

NEW: How to Create a Retro Grainy Film Effect in Photoshop

13 Replies to “How to Create a Natural Pastel Photo Effect in Photoshop”

  1. Emil Kadlic says:

    The tutorial shared here is very useful. I’ve been learning Photoshop photo editing and glad to know some amazing details to add natural pastel photo effect in photos. I really enjoyed studying the overall information. And looking forward to check out FilmTone as well. Thanks for a nice contribution.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks Emil! Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. joanna says:

    Wow! This is cool ? i really really want to know how to do this pastel color editing.. ?

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks Joanna! This tutorial should help a lot, we also have some time saving Photoshop Actions for this effect here:

  3. Nanda says:

    Thanks Mike. This help me so much. Been looking simple tutorials like this

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks Nanda, really glad we could help!

  4. Thank you so much. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Mike says:

      Glad we could help, thanks for the support Dogum.

  5. iwan says:

    Thanks Mike. nice simple tutorials . . .

    1. Mike says:

      Really glad to hear that Iwan and thanks for the support! If there is any other topic for Photoshop, Lightroom, or other editing programs you’d like us to cover on the blog, let me know. You can also find more tutorials and walkthroughs on our Youtube here:

  6. Bee says:

    great tutorial! well instructed and written. I love learning new things about photoshop everyday!

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words Bee. Pinning some of your posts, you have a great blog!

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