How to do datamoshing in Photoshop

Datamoshing is “the practice of intentionally using compression artifacts in digital video and animated GIFs to create glitch art”.

It’s an effect popularized by Kanye West in his video Welcome To Heartbreak, but it’s mostly been an effect exclusive to video. There are a few crazy ways to get this effect on images by editing them with text or audio editors instead of image editors, but it’s hard to find a straightforward way to just do it in Photoshop. But, there is a fairly simple way to emulate it with a few filters. Here’s how:

1. Choose the image you want to mosh, something with a bunch of contrast and detail in it. For the purpose of this demo I’m using one of my own illustrations.
2. In Photoshop, duplicate the layer, then run Filters – Texture – Patchwork on it to create a kind of pixelation. The values 0,0 should be fine, but here I’m using 9,3 to get a bit more size and definition on the grid.
3. Use the Marquee tool to select and move a few random sections of the image around, creating small ‘glitched-out’ gaps. It works best if you move them all a short distance in the same direction.
4. Save this file as a PSD, then run Filters – Distort – Displace. It will open a file dialog without any explanation, but just select the PSD you just saved and click OK. Getting the values right depends on the type of image you’re moshing, but generally something like -100, 60 works well for a high-res image like this.
5. Duplicate the moshed layer and run the filter again with different values until the effect is intense enough for your liking. I usually reverse the direction of the numbers (so in this case 80, -120 or something like that).
6. I like to put the top layer on blending mode Multiply to get maximum glitches while still retaining a bit of the detail of the original image.
7. If you’re going for the hacker look, desaturate the image, then crunch the blacks a bit more with the Levels or Contrast adjustments.
8. To top it off, I pulled the original image through an ASCII art generator and pasted the result over the image.
9. Fade the ASCII text into the image by adding a layer mask to it and painting black in the spots you want to erase (or just use the eraser tool).

Congrats, you just datamoshed!

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