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3 Ways You Can Use a Useless Photo


We all have digital photos that are horrible in quality and small in size. Most of the time, we just end up putting these photos in our recycle bin. Here’s an idea. Why not turn these useless photos into something useful? Here are three quick tutorials that will help you put these useless photos to use.

Useless Photograph

Here is an example of a useless photo. Let’s go ahead and put it to use.

Use the Photo as a Color Scheme Link

Apply this to the image: Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic

Depending on how many colors you want, you can mess around with the settings. The bigger the cell size, the less colors. The smaller the cell size, you get more colors.


Here is a sample business card that I made using these color schemes.

Business Card

Turn the Photo Into a Cool Stripe Background Link

Apply this to the image: Filter > Stylize > Glowing Edges (Use the default settings.)


Now, use another filter. Filter > Blur > Motion Blur (Angle: 0; Distance: 999px)


Let’s make the lines a little clearer. Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen (Do this a few times until you get some clean lines, but don’t do it too much or you will start to see some weird colors pop-out.)

Sharp Lines

Now, you can use this as a pattern, background for a website, etc. The use for these lines are endless. You can see that I used this pattern as the background of the post image.

Create a Stylized, Black & White Pattern Link

Go to Image > Adjustment > Levels

Drag the left and right sliders towards the middle until the photo gets a nice contrast.


Apply this to the image: Filter > Artistic > Cutout (Levels: 8; Simplicity: 0; Fidelity:3)


Go to Image > Adjustment > Threshold (Drag the sliders until you get enough details on the image.)


Shrink this photo, then press CTRL+A or CMD+A, then go to Edit > Define Pattern

Name your pattern. Now, create a new layer, and fill it with the pattern. Here is the final piece that I came up with. You can do this and use it for a post image, as a Desktop or Twitter wallpaper.


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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

  1. 1

    Love the color scheme idea – never thought of that! Gonna do some playing over the next few days now! TKS!

  2. 2

    @Cheryl Binstock – Yes, sometimes, if I just want a random color scheme, I just take a photo and do that to it. Then I get a great color scheme every time.

  3. 3

    Nice! I never thought how useful some of my junk could be! Thanks for sharing!

  4. 4

    @Kai – You’re welcome, and thank you for leaving a comment!

  5. 5

    Clever mind, i enjoyed the 1st & 2nd, although the last one is good! It just kinda kills it for me. Not much or at all a big fan of ‘patterns’ on Photoshop. Will take into thought your article tip the next time i need to round up a quick ‘design’.

    Great post though! was right, you do got a lot of great articles up, your site’s gonna do well within a year & draw attention from your ‘old posts’, in the near future that is, keep it up! :)

    – MexiChriS

  6. 6

    @MexiChris – Thanks! Yes, #1 and #2 is definitely very useful. I use those techniques often. You really can create some interesting effects with these.

  7. 7

    LOL Rat Bun

  8. 9

    Applying a gradient map is another cool way to jazz up a less than desirable photo. I use this method when I get photos with flat or poor lighting or just bad color issues going on. It’s a great way to stylize a photo without looking cheesey and get it to gel well with the rest of your design.

  9. 11

    Ha, I just found this article. It made me smile. Some really nice ideas I wouldn’t have thought of.

  10. 12

    This is great! I’ve been doing similar things with “unusable” audio samples for years when producing music, but never made the leap to think of a photo like a sample.

    I’m glad that I never got around to deleting all those colorful out of focus pictures I’ve taken over the years!

  11. 13

    Magical, I say, magical! ;)
    What an idea to make color combos and textures!

  12. 14

    Enjoyed this one, really cool! :)

  13. 15

    Wow that second suggestion is fantastic. That is such a simple way of getting a cool graphic like that. Can use it for footers and stuff. All you’d need is a photo of the subject matter, like a forest for an environment site, and you’ve instantly got a graphic that will fit perfectly.

    Thanks for that, I’m definitely going to try to use that one.


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