How to emboss an image in Photoshop

This tutorial will explain how to emboss an image in Photoshop. It also explains what embossing is, as well as what kind of photos are best to use for embossing and how to use embossed images as background tiles.

What is embossing?

An image is embossed when highlighted parts of the image are raised and shadows are lowered and transfered into grayscale at the same time.

What kind of images can be embossed?

The image you want to emboss needs to have some texture, highlights and shadows or depth to it. A simple graphic won't emboss as well as a photo. However, some photos may have too much detail which needs to be removed so choose a simple uncomplicated image such as the petunia below.

Embossed image of a petunia

purple petunia

Remove the background

The first step is to remove the background and the other partial blooms before embossing the image. Take the magic wand tool and adjust the tolerance until it picks up most of the background. Hold down the shift key and it will let you pick up another section. On the petunia image I used 97% tolerance because the background is so varied.

purple petunia with most of background removed

Once you get a large portion of the background hilighted hit the delete key. Keep doing this until nothing is left but the portion you want to emboss. You may have to manually erase portions of the background with the eraser or Polygon Lasso Tools. Be careful you don't erase part of the image you want to emboss. Increase the magnification if needed. Save the image.

purple petunia with background removed

Background Removed

The petunia image is rough around the edges and needs to have the edges smoothed out. Reduce the tolerance to 1 and highlight it again with the magic wand but this time go to select/feather and input 3 pixels in the dialog box and then hit delete. Your image should now have a smoth edge (undo and try a different setting if it doesn't look right). Save the image.

purple petunia with edges softened

Once the background is removed save the image as a png file so it can go on a transparent background and crop the image if needed. I added a border to the one on this page so you can see the edges.

embossed petunia

Emboss the image

Open the image in RBG mode. Go to the Filter menu and choose Stylize/Emboss. This will change the image to an ugly gray color. Adust the sliders for height and angle then save the image (we'll change the color in the next step). This one was saved at 3 pixels height with 62% opacity so it can be used as a background image (for more detail increase the opacity). Save the image.

embossed petunia in light blue

Adjust the Color

To change the gray to a more pleasing color go to Enhance/Adjust Color then choose Adjust Hue/Saturation. Click on the Colorize option. Move the Hue slider to chose the color (pink, blue, etc) and Saturation slider for grayed variations and to lighten or darken the image move the lightness slider. Make it real light if you want to us it as a background title. Save the image.

Embossed Background Tiles

embossed book
Embossed Book

This background tile was made from an image of an open book, so a subtle image of a bible would underlay the contents of the page. This type of background tile needs to have very faint relief or it will be hard to read the text on the page.

embossed koi
Embossed Koi
embossed image of praying hands
Embossed Praying Hands

Embossed Logos:

embossed logo

This logo was produced in Fireworks by taking a photo of a motorcycle, making it all one color, removing non-essential details, embossing it and placing the name on top in an arc drawn as a path and attaching the letters to the path.

Lori Eldridge
Copyright © November 12, 2006 - Updated 1-13-19
All Rights Reserved.

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