Deke’s Techniques: Creating a Star Wars–style hologram effect in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

In this week’s free technique, Deke uses a variety of Photoshop effects to turn a couple of unsuspecting rental car agents from this world into rental car agents from a galaxy far, far away. The eerie Star Wars hologram effect made famous by Princess Leia can work nicely on everyday substantive earthlings with the right combination of a custom pattern, a Displacement Map, and some choice layer effects. Imagine if your next rental car included the two regular people (on left) waiting virtually (on right) to acclimate you to the cool, but unfamiliar, controls of your strange vehicle.

People with Star Wars hologram effect applied in Photoshop.

The effect starts by saturating an ordinary pair of humans with some old-school, horizontal TV static via the application of a simple custom pattern (Deke shows you how to make the pattern in the free video). Then the shadows of the humans are given faux-holographic substance via the application of a Displacement Map. To finish the effect, Deke applies a few layer effects and shows you how to customize your holograph based on whether it’ll appear digitally or in print.

On the note of cool but unfamiliar controls, you may notice that in this week’s Deke’s Techniques movie Deke is using the new dark user-interface brought to you by Photoshop CS6. While Deke’s technique will work just fine in CS5, if you’d like to try Photoshop CS6 and experience the dark interface for yourself, you can download the free Photoshop CS6 public beta for a limited time from Adobe Labs. After you have the CS6 beta, if you’d like to hear more about how it works, has made Deke’s Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview course free to everyone for a limited time as well.


Now that you have the power to hologram yourself into any setting with Photoshop, where will you go first?


Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on
• Courses by Deke McClelland on
• All Photoshop courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
• Photoshop for Designers: Layer Effects
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals
Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview

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5 Responses to “Deke’s Techniques: Creating a Star Wars–style hologram effect in Photoshop”

  1. Pete says:

    Great tutorial. I have just one question :
    When applying the Displace filter for the person, program asks to rasterize object, then when filter aplied im not able to see it under layer effects. Meaning that im not able to set oppacity down as in the video. Im using CS2

    Is there any way to do so?

  2. Hi @Pete,

    Although Smart Objects were available in CS2, Smart Filters (and their ability to use filters non-destructively and revisit the settings) weren’t available in your version of Photoshop. If my CS2 memory serves, you could try duplicating the image one more time before applying the uneditable Displacement Map, then setting the Opacity of that new layer.

  3. Amy says:

    Awesome tutorial! I’m getting all of the correct effects, except that I can’t see the lines at all. I’m using a high-rez photo of the earth, but am losing the holographic look somewhere along the way. Can you recommend any setting changes that I might try to beef up the look of the lines?

  4. Brody Blue says:

    Yes. It would be very helpful if we could actually see the YouTube video. It is a private link.

    • Hi, Brody- sorry about that, our YouTube links changed recently, breaking a few old embedded movies (like this one). The post has now been updated with the correct, working movie. Enjoy the effect!

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