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How to Simulate X-Ray Photography in Photoshop


Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Welcome to How to Simulate X-Ray Photography in Photoshop! In this tutorial, you will learn the step-by-step process of how to create cool X-ray Photoshop effects. 

X-ray cameras can create very interesting and striking images. However, unless you’re a radiology technician, finding an X-ray camera and using it to create images can be very difficult, not to mention the potential danger in using such equipment due to the radiation.

Luckily for us, we can use Adobe Photoshop to recreate these photo effects using Photoshop actions, Photoshop filters, and more!

What You’ll Need

You’ll need the following resources in order to complete this project:

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Set Up a New Project File

Step 1

Let’s get started by setting up a New Document in Adobe Photoshop (File > New or Control-N). For this tutorial, we will use the settings below:

  • Width: 1920 px
  • Height: 1080 px
  • Resolution: 72
  • Color Mode: RGB Color
Set up a new Adobe Photoshop document

Step 2

You will need to use two separate images for this effect to work correctly: one for the object you wish to use, and another one for the skeleton of the object. For this tutorial example, we will use a human hand for our first image and the hand skeleton for the second image. 

If you do not have your own images, feel free to browse through the image library on Envato Elements to find something suitable. 

Use an existing photo or download a stock image

Step 3

For the second image we will use the picture below, showing the bones of the hand. Once you have your two images, we’ll work on the next steps to combine them to create a cool X-ray effect Photoshop action.

Use a photo or download an image of corresponding bones

Step 4

Import both images into your Photoshop document and resize them accordingly by going to Edit > Free Transform (Control-T), making sure that they are roughly the same size as each other.

Resize both images using the transform tool

2. Cut Out the Images

Step 1

Hide the second image so that we are focusing on only one image at a time. Select the Polygon Lasso Tool (L) from the menu bar on the left and begin to trace around your base image.

Once you have carefully gone around the edges, press Control-X to cut out your selection from the original image. Then press Control-V to paste it back into the document on its own layer.

You can then delete the original layer as we won’t be needing it anymore, leaving only the hand selection on its own.

Use the Lasso tool to cut out the shapes

Step 2

Use the Lasso Tool (L) and cut out the shape of the bones for your hands as well. Repeat the same step as above to make sure that you have a clean shape.

We can then click on the Eye Icon next to it to hide this layer for now as we won’t be needing it for the next few steps.

Use the Lasso tool to cut out the bones

Step 3

Create a new layer at the very bottom for the background. Use the Paint Bucket Tool and fill it with a dark blue color. For this tutorial, we will use the color code #010F18.

Use the paint bucket tool to fill in a background

3. How to Create a Photoshop Action for the Base Image

Step 1

Now we are going to create the X-ray effect Photoshop action. Creating an action for the base hand image in Photoshop will allow you to automate the steps quickly and easily. 

Navigate to the Actions panel or go to Window > Actions. Click on the Create New Action button in the Actions panel. 

Click on the create new action button

Step 2

Once you’ve clicked on the Create New Action button, you’ll be prompted to fill in a few options first. These settings can be useful when creating your new Photoshop action and can help you identify it more quickly.

  • Name: Choose a suitable name for the action. For this example, we’ll name the action “Xray”.
  • Action Set: Choose default.
  • Function Key: This allows you to map an action to a keyboard key so that when you press that button it will perform the action (for example F3).
  • Color: You can assign a color to the action to help you identify it more quickly.
Create a new Photoshop Action

Step 3

Once you are happy with the initial action settings, you can click on the Record button. By clicking on this button, everything that you do in Photoshop will be recorded as part of the action. The small button on the Actions panel will also change to a red dot to let you know that you are recording.

Click on the record button to start recording the action

Step 4

Now that we are recording, it’s time to start editing our image for the X-ray effect Photoshop action. Let’s start by right-clicking on our Hand Layer and selecting Blending Options.

Select blending options

Step 5

Select Inner Shadow from the list. Now we will need to adjust the Inner Shadow Structure settings.

  • Blend Mode: Normal (set color to pure white)
  • Opacity: 50%
  • Angle: 90 Degrees (leave Global Light unchecked)
  • Distance: 3 px
  • Choke: 1%
  • Size: 46 px

For the Quality settings, adjust the settings to the following:

  • Contour: Linear
  • Noises: 0%
Adjust inner shadow from blending options

Step 6

The next step that we are going to record for the Photoshop action is selecting Inner Glow. Adjust the Inner Glow Structure settings to the following:

  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Opacity: 32%
  • Noises: 0%
  • Color: Pure White

Now adjust the Elements settings to the following:

  • Techniques: Softer
  • Sources: Edge
  • Choke: 0%
  • Sizes: 20 px

For the Quality settings, adjust the settings to the following:

  • Contour: Linear
  • Range: 50%
  • Jitter: 0%
Adjust inner glow from blending options

Step 7

Select Color Overlay and choose a pure black color. Adjust the settings to the following:

  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Opacity: 100%

Adjust color overlay from blending options

Step 8

For the final action step for our X-ray effect, we want to choose Outer Glow. Now change the Structure settings to the following:

  • Blend Mode: Screen
  • Opacity: 28%
  • Noise: 0%
  • Color: Pure White

Change the Elements settings to the following:

  • Technique: Softer
  • Spread: 0%
  • Size: 1 px

Change the Quality settings to the following:

  • Contour: Linear
  • Range: 50%
  • Jitter: 0%
Adjust outer glow from blending options

Step 9

Now that we have finished recording our X-ray effect Photoshop action, click on the Stop Playing/Recording button. The action is now saved and can be found in the list of actions in the Actions panel.

Click on the stop playingrecording button to save

Step 10

Excellent! Now we have both an X-ray prepared hand image layer and an X-ray effect Photoshop action. 

You can test that the action works on another image by opening up a different image. Select the X Ray action from the Actions panel and then click on the small grey Play Button at the bottom. 

This will repeat the X-ray effect on any shape that you create!

Use the x ray effect on your object

4. How to Add the Bones 

Step 1

Select the bones layer and click on the Eye Icon next to it to make it visible again if it was hidden.

With the bones layer still selected, we can now set the Blending Mode for the layer by clicking on the top left Drop Down Menu. Select the Screen Blending Mode for the bones layer.

Select the screen blending mode for the bones layer

Step 2

Selecting Screen will help combine the two images together, giving it the X-ray effect that we are looking for. Use the Move Tool to position the layers on top of each other as accurately as possible, making sure that the bones layer is above the hand layer.

Move the bones layer above the hand image

Step 3

With the bones layer still selected, go to Edit > Transform > Warp. Now click and drag any intersection between the lines to warp the image so that the bones fit inside the shape of the hand. You can also click and drag the Handles and Anchor Points outside the border to adjust the shape of the image further. 

Repeat until the bones fit inside the shape of the hand.

Use the warp tool to adjust the bones to the shape of the hand

Step 4

Use the soft round brush tool and select pure white. On a new layer, create some subtle bright spots. In the example below, I created a large bright spot on the top of the image and used the Move Tool to move the bright spot further above the image.

Make the bright spot subtle by reducing the opacity. In the image below, I reduced the Opacity to 25%.

Create a bright spot using a soft round brush

5. How to Add a Grunge Layer Effect

Use a grunge texture you have created or download a grunge texture. Import it into Photoshop and create a new layer from the image. 

If you do not have your own images, feel free to browse through the image library on Envato Elements to find something suitable. 

Make sure the grunge texture layer is above the other layers and set its Blending Mode to Screen with an Opacity setting of 20%.

Add a grunge layer on top of the image

6. How to Adjust the Colors

Step 1

We can create a new action to adjust the colors of our X-ray Photoshop effect. This will be the second action to be applied to an image once the bones have been completed.

Navigate to the Actions panel or go to Window > Actions. Click on the Create New Action button in the Actions panel. 

When asked to name the action, name it something similar to ‘x ray color adjustment’.

Create a new Photoshop action

Step 2

When you are ready to record, click on the Record Button at the bottom, as you did before. 

Name the Photoshop action and click on the record button

Step 3

Now create a new layer and use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill it with the color code #0d8d9b.

Use the paint bucket to fill a new layer with color

Step 4

Place the new layer above all the other layers and set the Blending Mode to Overlay.

Set the color layer blending mode to overlay

Step 5

Create a new Adjustment Layer by clicking on the Create new fill or adjustment layer button which is located on the bottom menu bar below the Layers panel.

Choose Curves to create a curves adjustment layer.

Create a new curves adjustment layer

Step 6

In the Properties panel, select the green channel from the dropdown menu. Click and drag the green line on the graph and adjust the middle of the line down the Y-axis as shown in the image below.

Adjust the green curve graph

Step 7

Select the blue channel from the dropdown menu. Click the blue line on the graph in the middle of the line and drag it down to create a point. Next, click and drag the bottom left point and move it up the Y-axis slightly, as shown in the image below.

Adjust the blue curve graph

Step 8

Select the RGB channel from the dropdown menu. Click and drag the white line on the graph to create a point about a third of the way up, and drag it down the Y-axis. Create another point near the top of the line about a third of the way down, and drag it up the Y-axis slightly. Follow the graph below for an example.

Adjust the RGB curve graph

Step 9

Make sure that the adjustment layer is above all the other layers. With the adjustment layer successfully applied, your image should start to have more color and contrast, as shown in the image below.

Move adjustment layer on top of the image

7. How to Adjust the Brightness and Contrast

Step 1

Create a new Adjustment Layer by clicking on the Create new fill or adjustment layer button, which is located on the bottom menu bar, below the Layers panel.

Choose Brightness/Contrast to create a brightness/contrast adjustment layer.

Create a new brightnesscontrast adjustment layer

Step 2

In the Properties panel, change the values to the following:

  • Brightness: 40
  • Contrast: 75

Adjust the brightness and contrast settings

Step 3

Make sure that both adjustment layers are above all the other layers. This will give your X-ray Photoshop effect a brighter look. 

Make sure the adjustment layers are on top of the image

Step 4

Now we are ready to save our action. Click on the Stop Playing/Recording button. The action is now saved and can be found in the list of actions in the Actions panel, along with the first action that we created.

Click on the stop playingrecording button in the actions panel

8. How to Add Dark Spots

Step 1

To add some final touches to the image, use the Soft Round Brush and change the color to black. Set the opacity to a low percentage (something like 40%) and use the brush tool to apply one or two dark spots within the image. 

Use a soft round brush with a black color applied

Step 2

In the example below, I used a couple of subtle dark spots near the bottom of the image.

Create a dark spot using the soft round brush with a low opacity

Awesome! You’re Finished!

Congratulations! You have successfully completed this tutorial. Feel free to share your own creations below! The great thing about actions is that you can use them to repeat the effect on another image. These can be used for cartoon action Photoshop effects or other objects that you want to apply these effects to.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and that you’ve learned many new tips and tricks that you can use for your future illustrations. See you next time!

Learn More Photoshop Actions & Photo Manipulation!

If you liked this and are looking to learn some Photoshop actions or Photo manipulation skills, check out the tutorials below! Expand your expertise by going through these in-depth guides. Happy designing!



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