Burnt Edge Effect with
Photoshop Elements

There are lots of ways to add a burnt edge to your photos with Photoshop Elements. I like this technique because you use an Adjustment Layer and a Layer Mask.

Doing it this way gives you many options for adjusting the effect. You can even save it as a Layered file and open it later to make adjustments.

Follow these easy steps to add a dramatic edge to your photos.

Open an Image you want to Add a Burnt Edge to

Photoshop Elements Tutorials - Burnt Edge Effect

Create a New Solid Color Fill Layer

To prepare for this step press the letter D on your keyboard. That will ensure that the Foreground and Background colors (represented by two overlapping squares at the bottom of the Toolbox) are set to their default colors of black and white.

Go to your Layers panel and click on the half gray/half white circle. From the drop down menu that appears choose Solid Color…

Photoshop Elements Tutorials - Burnt Edge Effect

A dialog box will appear prompting you to choose a color for the Solid Color Fill Layer. Since you already set your Foreground color to Black it will default to that so all you need to do is click OK.

A new Fill layer will appear in the Layers panel. It will be completely filled with black and it will have a Layer Mask (the white thumbnail to the right of the black thumbnail on your new Layer. We will take advantage of that Layer Mask.

Inside the Work area your photo will go completely black. Don't freak out. That's because you just added a black Layer over your Background Layer and it's hiding the Background.

A Digression Into How Layer Masks Work:
(If you already understand Layer Masks go to Step 3)

It's just like if you had your photo laying on a table and then you put a black piece of paper over it. You would no longer see the photo, just the black paper. But the photo is still there under the black layer.

And our Layer Mask will allow us to make a hole in the black Layer so we can see the photo below it.

With Layer Masks the mantra is "black conceals, white reveals". Now the important part to remember is that the conceals and reveals part refers to to concealing or revealing the Layer that it's a part of. It doesn't mean reveal or conceal the image below it.

Forgive me if I'm over-explaining this but I remember how hard it was for me to understand this at first. But once you do understand how it works it opens many more options to you in Photoshop Elements.

So with our black Layer, the white Layer Mask is revealing all of the black of its Layer. If we add some black to the Layer Mask it will conceal that part of the black Layer and we can see our photo show through from underneath.

Going back to our photo on table analogy, if you cut a hole out of the center of the black paper and laid it back over your photograph, you would see the photo show through where you cut the hole out. Our Layer Mask will allow us to cut a hole in our black Layer so we can see part of the photo underneath.

OK, there's a summary of how Layer Masks work, let's move on.

Make a Selection to Define the Burnt Edge Effect

Click on the eyeball icon to the left of the Color Fill layer in the Layers panel to hide it and show your photo from the Background layer.

Choose the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Toolbox. Drag a selection on your photo of about where you want your Burnt Edge to be.

Photoshop Elements Tutorials - Burnt Edge Effect

Now click on the empty square where the eyeball icon was to the left of the Color Fill layer in the Layers panel to bring back the eyeball icon and show the black Color Fill layer.

Click on your Layer Mask in the Layers palette to make sure it's the active Layer. To conceal the black of that area you need to fill it with black?! I know it sounds confusing, but remember your filling the Layer Mask with black at this point, not the Layer itself.

To fill it with black just press Alt-Backspace(Mac:Option-Delete). Now press Control-D (Mac:Cmd-D) to Deselect. See, you just made a hole in your Layer so you can see the photo show through it.

Photoshop Elements Tutorials - Burnt Edge Effect

Blur the Edge

Go up to the Filter menu and choose Blur>Gaussian Blur…

Drag the Radius Slider to the right in the Dialog box until you get the amount of Blur that you want. Click OK.

Photoshop Elements Tutorials - Burnt Edge Effect

If your happy with that you're done! If you want to try adjusting the effect read on.

Adjust the Layer Mask

Press Control-T (Mac:Cmd-T). That's the keyboard shortcut for Free Transform. A box will appear around your photo with eight handles on it.

Pull any of the handles in toward the center to make your edge wider. Play around with the handles for awhile to get a feel for how they work. If you want to escape at any time from the transform mode press the ESC key and it will go back to its original state.

Photoshop Elements Tutorials - Burnt Edge Effect

When you like how it looks click on the green check or press the Enter key to apply the Transform.

Here's a look at the before and after:

Photoshop Elements Tutorials - Burnt Edge Effect

That wraps up this Photoshop Elements tutorial on how to create a burnt edge. Click on the following link for lots more tutorials. Photoshop Elements Tutorials .

Until next time,

Go from Burnt Edge to Photoshop Elements-Homepage

Go from Burnt Edge to Photoshop Elements Tutorials page

Share this page:
Was this page helpful? Here's another way you can share it...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Search This Site:

Teacher Top 5 Award

Online video lessons by Essential Photoshop Elements

Sign up for my newsletter
BECAUSE… You get

  • 4 Step-By-Step Videos showing Tips being used 
  • One-Page Printable Cheat Sheets of Tips
  • Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription.

    Get My Photoshop Elements Books for just $3.99 from Amazon

    More Content… follow me:


    "Just a note to say I LOVE your site! There seem to be a few PS Elements tutorials sites, but yours is by far the clearest and easiest to understand. Thanks!" - Ellie

    "Watching your tutorials even about things that I think I know I ALWAYS learn something new. A big thank you!" - Douglas

    "I am thrilled to find such useful and easy-to-understand information for using Photoshop Elements. I can't wait to use your tutorials (especially with my scrapbooking obsession)" - Judy in MS

    Good day Rick, "I very appreciate ALL, ALL of your tutos. Very very clear and useful tips, tricks and techniques of how-to in PSE9. A great great work!" - Hoan

    "Love your tutorials on YouTube. Very clear and helpful. Thanks a bunch." - Rich

    "I love your videos! They have been such a BIG help. I bought the Dummies book, and it's OK, but I do better by watching instead of reading. Kudos to you!" - Cheers, Kathy

    "Thank you for this site! I found it through one of your videos on YouTube. Again, thank you so much!" - Vanessa

    "This is really a truly generous and very admirable website!" - Cheers, Jonas

    Hi Rick! First I've got to say thank you for all the information you share. I can't wait to see the "tips and tricks" you are working on because it sounds like those will help things all come together. I've gone thru several of your tutorials and learn so much. I can't praise you enough for your time and patience. - Vicki.

    "Your website is a great service and I thank you!" - Kind Regards, April

    "A big thanks to you and your website, and the information and help I get from it, its much appreciated." - Rob

    Rick - "Many thanks for your advice, that I will take. A big thank you as well for you outstandingly good tutorials. You do seem to have an amazing knack of making quite complicated tasks seem easy and straightforward. I am a fan!" - With Best Wishes, Tony

    Much more helpful than PS Elements 9 for Dummies book.... Thanks so much for your site..truly easy to follow. - Karin

    Hi Rick. Just wanted to say a big thank you for all of the great information contained in your tutorials. I've stumbled around PS9 for quite a few weeks now and can't believe quite how easily you explain the different aspects. It's way, way more powerful than I imagined and now, for me, usable too. A big, big thank you from the UK. - Guy