Ghost Trail Effect

I added Ghost Trail to the Photoshop Elements Tutorials after a visitor submitted a question on how to do the effect. It's relatively easy to do. Just follow the steps below.

Basically you create a trail of your subject that fades into the background. This Ghost Trail might appear creepy with certain photos. Maybe that's the look your after. But I used a dog that appears to be approaching to greet you so the feeling is happier.

You can also build your understanding of layers, opacity and free transform by following the steps in this tutorial for creating a Ghost Trail.

Let's get started.

STEP 1-Open Your Photo In Elements
Open an image you want to try the effect on. I found this fella running down the road at istock photo. One thing you should consider when choosing your photo is if there's enough room in the picture either behind or to the side of the subject to add the trail.

photoshop elements tutorials-ghost trail

STEP 2-Select Your Object
To isolate your subject make a selection around it. Zoom in and use the Selection tool of your choice. I used the Quick Select tool and then cleaned it up with the Polygonal Lasso tool. You might prefer a different tool or you could even use the Magic Extractor as seen on the Video Tutorials page.

photoshop elements tutorials-ghost trail

STEP 3-Put Object On New Layer And Transform
While your subject is still selected put it on its own Layer. Go up to the Layer menu and choose New>Layer via Copy.

Notice I circled the keyboard shortcut in red. I'm on a Mac so it's Command-J. If your on a PC it will be Control-J. Try to get used to the keyboard shortcuts. It will help you work more efficiently in Photoshop Elements.

photoshop elements tutorials-ghost trail

This will create a new Layer in the Layers panel called Layer 1. Layer 1 will consist of just the object you selected on a transparent background as indicated by the checkerboard pattern. In your workspace it will appear as if nothing happened. This is because the duplicate object is in the same exact position as the original. You will see a change when we adjust it.

Make sure Layer 1 is active by clicking on it in the Layers palette. Go up to the Image menu and choose Transform>Free Transform. I put a red circle around the keyboard shortcut.

photoshop elements tutorials-ghost trail

A Bounding Box will appear around your subject indicating you can Transform it. Place your cursor inside the Bounding Box, click and drag to offset your subject. For this example I moved it to the left and slightly up.

Go up to the Options bar and make sure the Constrain Proportions box is checked. Double-click in the Width field to highlight the 100. Change it to 80. The Height box will also change to 80% because you have Constrain Proportions checked.

Click on the Green Checkmark under the Bounding Box or press Enter to accept the changes.

photoshop elements tutorials-ghost trail

Now repeat everything you just did in this step except begin by duplicating Layer 1 instead of the Background layer. And you don't need to make a selection of the subject this time:

  1. Click on Layer 1 in the Layers palette to make it active.
  2. Press Control/Command-J to make a new duplicate Layer.
  3. Press Control/Command-T to transform the new Layer.
  4. Move it up and to the left.
  5. Change the size to 80%.
  6. Click the Green Checkmark to accept changes.
Your Ghost Trail image should now have your subject showing three times and look something like this:

photoshop elements tutorials-ghost trail

Continue duplicating the last layer and transforming it until you have as many "Ghosts" as you want. I'm going to stop at three "Ghosts" plus the original.

STEP 4-Lower The Opacity
In the Layers Panel click on the first duplicate Layer that you made and go up to the Opacity field and enter a lower number. I'm going to choose 70% since I only have three "Ghosts" for my Ghost Trail.

If you have more Layers you should start with a higher number so you can make a more gradual transition.

Go to the next biggest "Ghost" Layer and make it active by clicking on it.

Lower the Opacity for this Layer by the same amount as you did for the last Layer. But don't forget that the last Layer was at 70%. Since I chose 70% (a reduction of 30%) I will choose 40% (30% less than 70). And for my last Layer I will set the Opacity at 10% (30% less than 40%).

Just experiment with different Opacity settings for each Layer to suit your taste.

Here's a look at the final result:

photoshop elements tutorials-ghost trail

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

Until next time,

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