Today we’re going to have some fun mimicking the distortion effect of VHS tapes in Adobe Photoshop. This is quite an unusual topic, but hopefully it will come in handy for those rare projects where you might need to replicate such a style. We’ll take a photograph and distort it with a variety of techniques to simulate the warping associated with old analog film footage, then we’ll apply some OSD text as a finishing touch to give it the appearance of a home movie being played on a VCR.

How To Create a Distorted VHS Effect in Photoshop

The result of this tutorial is a realistic VCR effect that simulates the various warping and distortion associated with VHS tapes, especially under pause or rewind. Photoshop’s collection of Distort filters will help us destroy our digital image, then we’ll add some finishing touches which capture the authentic characteristics of analog TV footage.

See the final distorted VHS effect

Open up your chosen image in Adobe Photoshop. I’m using this free image from unsplash. We’ll begin by warping the image with the Liquify tool, which can be found under Photoshop’s Filter menu.

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  1. Shouldn’t the “play” and time stamp be distorted too since those would be “recorded” alongside the video?

  2. Awesome work Chris!!! I’ve recently become an animator and was wondering if there was anyway to animate this effect in flash or animator. Cheers

  3. I’ve recently become an animator and was wondering if there was anyway to animate this effect in flash or animator.

  4. Interesting method. I would grab a VHS/glitch screen and use it as displace map do distort the image, thou.

    Also: A E S T H E T I C S

  5. Ah, we’re all exploring this effect these days ;-) I wrapped up a thing that has a slightly different approach than yours. It should be live within a week.

  6. This is the first time using the Liquify Tool, so right at the beginning I have an issue. “With the Forward Warp tool selected reduce the pressure to around 30, then begin dragging the tool from left to right across the image. Alter the brush size to vary between large and small distortions.” I have selected the Forward Warp tool, changed the pressure to 30 and the size to 189. Nothing happens when I pan the brush across the photo. Please assist. Thank you.

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