Lightroom Presets

Presets – The Surreal Edgy Look

It’s funny how things happen sometimes. Just when I was trying to decide which preset I would share this week I got a email from some one asking how I accomplished that gritty/HDR-looking/surreal/dramatic effect. If you recall from a while ago I had made a video on this technique and it became wildly popular. Well, I went to point them to this website to download the preset and realized I never did a preset for this technique (insert light bulb above head sound and graphic here). So that’s what you’ve got this week.

Here’s the low-down on the specifics of the presets in this bundle. There’s 4 of them in total ranging from light to really dark. Because of the nature of this preset I had to adjust the Exposure and Blacks settings but feel free to adjust them after you apply if needed (try watching the video link above for some ideas). You’ll find most of your changes will revolve in those two settings to either lighten the photo or enhance the blacks more. Personally, I find myself going for the dark or really dark versions but every once in a while the light one works great too.

As usual, please let everyone know in the comments what you think and if you have any other suggestions for this one, or if you find another setting that works well. Thanks everybody!

Click here to see a sample of the preset.
Click here to download Matt’s Surreal Edgy Effect presets
Click here to see a video on how to install presets.



  1. Anis Khair 12 June, 2009 at 11:39 Reply

    Dear Matt Klokowski
    The video on how to install the presets provided is not working. Any chance you could provide installation of the presets in text . Learn’t lots from your tutorials Thanks

  2. Linda 5 June, 2009 at 15:22 Reply

    Hi Matt!
    I tried to watch the video about installing the presets, but it doesn’t come up. All I get is a black screen. Any suggestions?

  3. shane 14 May, 2008 at 08:59 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I also had the same issue as Dan above, with the edges becoming really noticeable with a double line. Has anyone figured out how to fix this?

    I really love this present too, thanks

  4. Dan 22 April, 2008 at 20:52 Reply

    Matt: What component of the preset causes the harsh edges. Is that set by the curve? I’m getting double edges in cases where the contrast was already high and I’d love to turn the edginess a bit. Otherwise this is one of my favorite presets yet! 🙂

  5. Peter Myers 21 April, 2008 at 19:08 Reply

    keep up the good work…..
    just a question to pose to you. We all know the limitations of lightrooms noise reduction… I was wondering if a program like DeFine 2.0 could be incorporated into lightroom.
    It’s a software program that is supposed to be an add-on to Adobe photoshop…. why not an add-on in Adobe Lightroom

    Can that be accompolished…

    Please advise.

  6. Eli 18 April, 2008 at 11:12 Reply

    Matt, Love the presets but have a question. I have looked in the posts and have not found the answer to this. When applying the presets, does the current preset sit on top of the previous selected preset or does it cancel them out? What if you are applying multiple ones and decide you do not like one of them? Do you have to restart from the original image? Not much of a difference on ones like todays posts but can make a difference when applying contrast style ones. Just thought a post on how to apply multiple presets could be useful.

    Thanks again for all that you offer and just so you know your page is the start-up page for my browser and has been for over a year. Look forward to what’s comes up each time I open a new page.


  7. Tony 17 April, 2008 at 20:01 Reply

    I agree with you in everything except for the noise reduction. I find it useful for the gritty effect when I need to make something look surreal. I crank up the noise reduction to give the skin tones or whatever tones a more painted look to make it even more surreal. I never printed it to compare though. Never used the Camera ACR stuff as well. Did play with it but it feels like playing with split tone.

    Anyways, I love everything your doing and the photoshopuser crew. I watch the episodes every week. I also purchased your book layers, and Scott’s 7-point system. These 2 books have been a great help in terms of my post process work. I 200% faster and more efficient than before. So thanks.

  8. Lloyd Eldredge 17 April, 2008 at 12:26 Reply

    These are fantastic. Just the ticket for a couple of images I’ve been working one. Great stuff!!!

  9. M Viracca 17 April, 2008 at 11:30 Reply

    Hi Gavin,

    You know, it was your presets I was thinking of when I wrote my comment! I’ve bought your Power Workflow set and really appreciate having a set for RAW files and a set for JPEGs. I just got to remember to use the right ones!

    Excellent work from both you guys, Matt and Gavin.
    Kind regards,

  10. Matt 17 April, 2008 at 06:55 Reply

    Hi Matt, this is the preset I use the most.

    – I made a SurealSepia Preset. I can send it to anybody if asked.
    – could you do the surealEdgy effect in Photoshop ?

  11. Jim 17 April, 2008 at 00:01 Reply

    Sawweeeeet. This is sureal. Thanks a lot Matt. I’ve been looking for one of these for a long time now, you have done it again.

  12. Seim Effects 16 April, 2008 at 22:11 Reply

    Hey Matt thanks for keeping the goodies coming.

    On the RAW presets note however there is a big difference.

    I dealt with this in the preset collections I make,. I never paid much attention either until I had customers asking. There semmed to be little talk about it which encouraged me to write an article about it.

    Anyways The bottom line is that most the time presets effect RAW & JPEG TOTALLY differently, and a preset made for one may work horrible on another.

    I did a lot of side by side testing to try and avoid having to make double versions of my presets I do but it was a no go. To get the same results I had to have a different preset for RAW & for JPEG

    Don’t get me wrong. As you already know you can apply a preset made on a RAW file to a JPEG, and depending on what effect you need it could be cool, but it won’t look the way you originally planned.

    Try the same image in RAW and JPEG side by side and apply a few. In general I have found that the JPEGS come out far brighter, and with higher contrast with a RAW preset than the RAW file did.

    Gavin Seim

  13. mattk 16 April, 2008 at 21:36 Reply

    I’m not sure that I’ve done this one before. I don’t have them in my preset list but hey, I have so many darn presets anymore who knows 🙂

    As for RAW vs. JPEG when it comes to presets, I didn’t really think it mattered. I’ve applied them to both raw and JPEG and, for the most part, the results should be the same. At least from my tests. If you find something different though let us know.


  14. M Viracca 16 April, 2008 at 18:36 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for even more of your great presets, I always enjoy trying them out. Just one request though – I usually shoot RAW (Nikon) but had accidentally left a second body on JPEG when I shot a few pics. When trying out your presets on these I then remembered that presets don’t produce the same effects when applied to RAW images as they do to JPEGS. I assume all your presets are for RAW images but I don’t remember you specifically stating so. Am I correct in assuming so? In any case, I got some interesting effects and it’s a good place to start!

    Kind regards,
    M Viracca
    (Derby, UK)

  15. JulieM 16 April, 2008 at 16:21 Reply

    John B – I already have a preset called Matt K’s Surreal Edgy Effect and felt slightly nuts when Matt mentioned he hadn’t done one before. Can’t imagine where I got it if not from here! Anyway, the new set is slightly different still. The more Matt presets, the better!

  16. Mike 16 April, 2008 at 16:09 Reply

    I have one or two similar presets… Is that last picture shot in Bruges? I seem to remember that “Spanooghe” from my childhood…

  17. Bill Allsopp 16 April, 2008 at 15:48 Reply

    Great presets, I have applied to a couple of images I have been working on without success and got great results with only minor tweaks.

    Thanks for posting these.

  18. John B 16 April, 2008 at 13:45 Reply

    I have two surreal presets on my presets. One is labeled surreal and the other is labeled surreal-vignetting. They are pretty simialr to a couple of these. I thought I got them from you. They are some of the first I downloaded. Do you remember anything about them? I have a lot of “senior moments” these days and can’t recall where they came from. I know it didn’t come from Scott’s lesson. I already had it and seem to remember you going over it.
    ANyhow I use them a lot if I want to experiment with an image. I may start out with them and move to CS3 or vice-versa. I have got a couple of neat results. I just keep plugging away with blending modes , filters, plugins or anything I can think of. Generally it seems best to end up with the surreal since you lose a lot of data with the process. However you can blend the original file in with your surreal file and go with that.
    I can’t wait to get into these new presets. Thanks..

    • Jorden 18 July, 2011 at 17:39 Reply

      To John B and Matt,

      The presets that we now download are not the original ones. You can also see this in the description where Matt describes TWO presets called surreal and surreal with vignetting. The ones we download now are Four with very different description titles.

      I know this because on my old computer which I had stolen I had the original version of the presets and some pictures I had used them on. In comparison with the new presets that I am using on the same pictures, I notice a huge difference.

      Matt. Could you see if the original ones you did could be reproduced?


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