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Creating a Matte Effect in Lightroom (LR3 & Up)

In this tutorial, I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of creating a matte effect in Lightroom. This tutorial will show you how to use the Tone Curve to achieve a matte effect, which works in Lightroom version 3 and up.

Let’s begin

After importing your image into Lightroom and ensuring you are in the ‘Develop’ section of the program, you will see various adjustments along the right side of your screen. For this tutorial, we will be using the Tone Curve section.


By default, the Tone Curve adjustment doesn’t actually look like a curve at all. It starts out as just a simple-looking diagonal line with a small pin at the bottom and at the top. We will be dragging these pins and adding some additional ones to the line to change the effect. Remember that you can go back and adjust these points at any time to tweak or change them to your liking.

Step 1.


Grab the pin at the bottom of the diagonal line and drag it straight up the diagonal. You will notice that this removes the shadow detail from your image and fills it with a haze/matte. The farther you drag the point up the line, the more of your image will be affected by this haze.

Step 2.


For a lighter or hazier matte, you can lift this point above the diagonal dotted line. You will notice that the higher you lift this point, the hazier and lighter the matte effect becomes.

Step 3.


For a darker or richer matte, you can pull the point below the diagonal dotted line. You will notice that the further you pull this point below the line, the deeper and more contrasted the matte effect becomes.

Step 4.


Since my image has a lots of shadows to begin with, I only needed to bring my shadow point up a tiny bit to achieve the effect I wanted. I also wanted to lighten the haze a bit so you will notice I lifted the point above the diagonal dotted line.

If you’d like your matte effect to also affect the highlights of your image, you can drag the topmost point straight down. You will notice after doing this that you image appears to lose a bit of contrast and looks a little ‘flat’. We’ll fix that in the next step.

Step 5.


Lastly, to add a little life back into your image, you can add a point to the center of the line (simply by clicking there and dragging up). This additional point is telling the curve that you would like to boost and brighten the midtones of your image. By doing this, you’re adding a bit of contrast so that the highlight matte is not overwhelming.

Again, feel free to go back at any time and adjust these points until you’re satisfied with the effect. Each photo is different and your points may not be placed in exactly the same place every time. You can go crazy and experiment with adding as many points as you wish. To remove a point/pin, simply drag it off of the tone curve and release your mouse. It should disappear.

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and that you have fun experimenting with new fun matte effects!

(This same technique can be used to add a matte effect in Photoshop CS/CC using the ‘Curves’ adjustment.)

Thanks for reading!

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Showing 3 comments
  • Debora Suterko

    I was trying to follow the tutorial, but it looks like your curves panel shows something that says “custom”. I am not sure, as it is hard to see on my screen. I don’t have that option. Also, when I try to drag the pin at the left, it doesn’t really move straight up like yours appears to? Wondering what I am doing wrong?

    • Morgan

      Hi Debora! Which version of Lightroom are you working on? If you are working on a version earlier than LR3, the curves panel is much different. If it’s a newer version of Lightroom, you can email me a screenshot and I’d be happy to see if I can help you further! My email address is

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