How to Use Filters to Enhance Your Website’s Impact

Cameron Chapman By Cameron Chapman  |  May. 22, 2014

We can blame apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram for the prevalence of filtered photos. Anyone with a smartphone can take a photo, slap a few filters on it, and publish it to the web in seconds.

Which explains why there are a ton of filtered photos out there that aren’t particularly attractive, and also why filtering has gotten a bad rap in some cases.

And yet, filtered photos remain popular, and for good reason. Proper filtering can hide a multitude of sins and make even a mediocre photo look like a work of art.

They can also be incredibly useful for making a bunch of photos from different sources look unified and like they belong together. That can be invaluable when crafting a design, whether it be for print or web.

Here we’ll take a look at how sites are using filtered photos to elevate their designs, and then share some more professional tools for creating your own filtered pics, sans-smartphone.


Websites using filters

There are tons of sites out there that use vintage-style and other filtered images. Some make them the focus of the design, using them as backgrounds or feature images, while others filter things like product photos.

The Prince Ink Company

The Prince Ink Company


Sleep Op

sleep op


Locals Apparel

locals apparel


Everlovin’ Press

everlovin press





Knuckles Industries

knuckles industries


Lois Jeans

lois jeans


Soyuz Coffee Roasting

soyuz coffee roasting





Crop the Block

crop the block











Oyster Books

oyster books


Thisispaper Shop



Matthew Carleton

matthew carleton


We Are Mammoth



Brave People

brave people


Seattle Cider Co

seattle cider


Creative Brook

creative brook





Grand & Mortar

grain and mortar


Colonia Verde

colonia verde


M Power Yoga

m power yoga





Salt Surf

salt surf





Joe’s Garage

joe's garage





The Garden Edit

the garden edit





The First Time

the first time


Ditto Residential



Walked & Worn

walked and worn





Protest Boardwear

protest boardwear


Ian Coyle

ian coyle


Eva Black Design

eva black design


To filter or not to filter

You’ve seen plenty of sites now that use filtered photos effectively. You may have a good idea of when you should or shouldn’t use these kinds of images. But here are a few guidelines to decide whether you want to filter your photos or not:

  • You want to appeal to hipsters
  • You have a bunch of photos from different sources that need to look cohesive
  • Your site should have a retro or vintage feel
  • You want to add some extra visual interest to a site that’s otherwise very minimalist.
  • You want to tone down the images that you have to use because they’re competing with other design elements.

Granted, those aren’t the only reasons you might opt to filter your images, but they’re a good starting point to figure out if it’s appropriate or not.


Photoshop Action filters

While smartphone apps are most often used by amateurs looking to filter their photos, many pros who don’t want to create new looks entirely from scratch turn to premade Photoshop actions.

There are literally tens of thousands of actions available, both free and paid, with more being released all the time. Here are some great actions to get you started.

Set 28

set 28 includes 4 different actions, including a black and white filter.

set 28


PS Action 12

PS Action 12 offers up a number of stylized photo actions.

ps action 12


Action 01

Action 01 creates a faded effect on photos.

action 01


Vintage Effect – Ps Actions

Vintage Effect Ps Actions is a set of actions that emulate a number of vintage styles.

vintage effect


Old Photo Action

This Old Photo Action creates a warm vintage look for your photos.

old photo action


Wedding Theme Action

While this is called Wedding Theme Action, the nine actions it includes are really appropriate for much more than just wedding photos.

wedding theme action


HDR Tools

HDR Tools is a set of three different levels of HDR look, from light to heavy.

hdr tools


Photo Coloring II

Photo Coloring II gives a warm vintage look to your photos.

photo coloring ii


Colors Actions

Colors Actions is a set of six different colored filter actions.

colors actions


Photoshop Action 23

Photoshop Action 23 adds a yellow filter to your images.

photoshop action 23


Hard Lomo Action

This Hard Lomo Action quickly gives your images a lomography look.

hard lomo action


Retro Filters

Retro Filters is a set of ten free vintage filters.

retro filters


Purple Contrast

Purple Contrast does exactly as the name implies: adds a purple contrast to your photos.

purple contrast


Bella Action

Bella Action adds a warm feeling to photos.

bella action


Amatorka Action 2

Amatorka Action 2 adds a dynamic look to images.

amatorka action 2


Dramatic Sepia

Dramatic Sepia adds a very strong sepia filter.

dramatic sepia



Holgarizer is an Action that emulates the style of Holga camera photos.



HipstaRev Actions Pack 1

HipstaRev Actions Pack 1 is a set of three actions reminiscent of Hipstamatic filters.



StarDeviant Action 1.08

StarDeviant Action 1.08 is

stardeviant action 1.08


LT’s Retro Lightleak Action

LT’s Retro Lightleak Action creates a great vintage lightleak effect.

lts retro lightleak action


Cherry Haze

Cherry Haze is a warm pinkish filter.

cherry haze


Buttercream Vintage

The Buttercream Vintage action creates a warm, very slightly faded effect on photos.

buttercream vintage


Lomo Photoshop Actions

These Lomo Photoshop Actions create lomography-like effects on your photos. It includes both “Soft Lomo” and “Pure Lomo” actions.

lomo photoshop actions


Retro Pink Action

This Retro Pink Action adds a distinct pink hue to your photos.

retro pink action


Apps for filtering your photos

While Photoshop Actions can be a powerful way to filter your photos, there are also standalone apps that can do similar things.


The Pixlr-o-matic app lets you use photos from your computer or take them with a webcam. It offers a ton of different filters, most of which are pretty extreme.




Rollip offers a bunch of filters, effects, borders, and text. And it gives you a live preview of each filter before you select it.




Fotor offers free online photo filters for your photos, including lomo, vintage, and more.

Fotor offers up a handful of filters, including Lomo, Diana, and Chrome.



VintageJS lets you make stunning photos with vintage effects. Just choose your image, apply the effect, and save it. There are four effects offered: vintage, sepia, greenish, and reddish, or you can create a custom effect (something most of the other online apps don’t offer).