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The Movie 300 – Photoshop Talk

Posted on Mar 13, 2007 by in Photoshop How To's | 7 comments

While I’m waiting in the hospital lobby, I wanted to see if anyone out there had seen any good techniques for recreating the effects in the movie “300.”

The directors talked about the post-processing of the film as “The Crush,” where they crushed the blacks down to increase contrast, then enhanced the saturation. But it’s clearly more than that … they’ve also color-graded the film, lit it specially, etc. Here’s a good sample:

hi res0088.jpg

I was inspired to create something similar. So I played around in photoshop … combined an image I took (Madrid, the girl) with about 4 or 5 other stock elements. I spent a little time balancing the brightness of the images (darken background, lighten model) to come up with my final “base” composite image:


To that I applied the filter by Nik called Monday Morning (Sepia) … this was a big help:


Of course, that’s not the “300 effect” quite yet … so I took the base image, made a copy of the layer and put it right back on top, turned the mode to “multiply” and turned opacity back to 50%. This gets us to that black “crush” mode that the director talked about, and puts some of the color back:


Now it’s relatively close. My lighting wasn’t like theirs, and (since I was pulling an old shot), I didn’t shoot her all oiled up like in the orig. So the last part was to add a lighting effect. This is a lesson for another day, but I basically motion-blurred the background layer like 60 pixels down-right, then threw it back on top in “lighten” mode and made a layer mask to reveal where the light would be. Yes, that sounds like gibberish if you’re not a photoshop person, but it was actually pretty simple. So this is the final image:


It could use some cool movie poster style type, and her body should’ve been lit less evenly, but this was mostly exploratory. So now I have two requests:
1) I would love to hear/see how YOU created the color effects from the movie 300, and
2) I’d like to know if you’re interested in seeing more posts like this one, and if so what experience level you want (easy? advanced?)

[Edit 1: The Monday Morning filter comes from Nik Efex Pro. It seems to do several things, including a “crush-like” color effect, and blurring the background … but I haven’t researched it.]

[Edit 2: This wasn’t the best photoshop writeup, and I haven’t made time to go and clarify the process … but I HAVE started to write other photoshop How To’s … and they are now listed under a new category. If you click the category at right, you’ll see all the articles (all 2 as of now).]

[Edit 3: See this new post on the same topic: New 300 Effect Post]


  1. One more thing… this isn’t actually the final pic. The final was cropped to 8 x 10 and rotated so the horizon was level … gives it a bit better composition and feels better that way.

  2. Hey Jason – thanks for sharing the tip. I also tried to achieve the same effects using Lightroom. I posted some of my shots in my blog. As for your instructions in Photoshop, I find them very simple to understand. :)

    Great work on capturing the effects!

  3. Hey Jason – thanks for visiting my site! Let me know how it goes when you try it out in Aperture! Will try to do the same one of these days! :)

  4. is it possible to get the effect of monday morning without it? i try to use photo filter in photoshop but in veer comes out right

  5. *never

  6. I’m not sure the best method to handle it without the “Monday Morning” filter … that filter seems to colorize and blur, and I’m not sure what else. If anyone know what it does, more specifically, please post so we can recreate the effect without it. Thanks!

  7. okay well im getting close to recreating the look without it, i found a pretty good way to get that “crush” look. in photoshop i go to Filter>Texture>Grain. by raising the contrast, while doing the grain filter, it sort of gives that “crush” look, plus it helps if you add just a little bit of grain.

    Anyways, how did you get the ‘monday morning’ filter?


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