Scan lines add a futuristic look and feel to photos, graphics and logos. What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s a really easy effect to create in Photoshop, and it’s a great way for graphic design beginners to experiment with a few different Photoshop tools.

There are two steps to creating a scan line effect. First you have to create a pattern of the scan lines, and then you have to apply that pattern to your properly sized image.

Let’s add some scan lines to this Halo 3 screenshot. I’m using Photoshop CS2, so there may be slight variations in different versions.

Halo 3 before scanlines

Step one: Create a Photoshop pattern

Create a new image that’s 1px wide by 3px high with a transparent background. Unless your computer monitor is a black and white television from the 80s, you’ll have to zoom in a bunch to see what you’re doing.

Using the pencil tool, set it to 1px and click the middle of the new image so that the top and bottom are blank.

Click “Edit –> Define Pattern”

Name your new pattern “Scan Lines” and save it. It will stay in your patterns forever, so you only have to do this once.

Step two: Add the pattern to your image

Open the image you want to edit. If it’s a flat image like a JPEG or GIF without layers, right click the “background” in the layers tab and select “Duplicate Layer.” With the new layer active, click “Layer –> Layer Style –> Background Options.”

Click “Pattern Overlay” and select your newly created pattern.

Halo 3 after scanlines

And there you have it. Easy scan lines in Photoshop.

Now, this looks good, but not perfect. There’s more you can do with this effect. Let’s see what happens when i size down the lines to 50 percent:

It will come down to personal preference, but this looks a little cleaner. You can also play with the opacity until you get a design you want to use.

Another thing you can do with this pattern is pump the pattern size to 1000 percent and create an easy “looking through blinds” effect:

Halo 3 blinds effect

Got a Photoshop tip? Want to know how to do something? Let me know!

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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