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How To Make An Old Photo Effect In Photoshop

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You can create an old look on your photos using various adjustment layers and filters. However, I have an easier way of creating this effect using the Camera Raw filter! This allows you to do non-destructive editing, where you add all your changes to one smart filter layer.

Here is my way of making an old photo effect in Photoshop.


Lesson Summary
Step 1: Convert Your Image To A Smart Object By Right-Clicking On The Image Layer
Step 2: Filter > Camera Raw Filter To Open The Camera Raw Filter Workspace
Step 3: Use The Basics Tab To Adjust The Highlights, Shadows, Texture, Clarity, And Dehaze Sliders. The Goal Is To Reduce The Contrast.
Step 4: Press The B&W Icon To Convert The Image To Black And White, Then Use The Color Grading Panel To Slide The Midtones Into An Orange To Add Sepia
Step 5: Add A Vignette Using The Vignette Slider

Step 6: Add A Grain Texture In A New Layer And Set The Layer Blend Mode To Overlay

Step 1: Convert Your Image To A Smart Object By Right-Clicking On The Image Layer
Step 2: Filter > Camera Raw Filter To Open The Camera Raw Filter Workspace
Step 3: Use The Basics Tab To Adjust The Highlights, Shadows, Texture, Clarity, And Dehaze Sliders. The Goal Is To Reduce The Contrast.
Step 4: Press The B&W Icon To Convert The Image To Black And White, Then Use The Color Grading Panel To Slide The Midtones Into An Orange To Add Sepia
Step 5: Add A Vignette Using The Vignette Slider

Step 6: Add A Grain Texture In A New Layer And Set The Layer Blend Mode To Overlay


How To Create A Vintage Effect In Photoshop

Step 1: Right-click On The Layer To Convert Your Image To A Smart Object

Firstly, you need to convert your image to a Smart Object to edit the photo non-destructively using a smart filter. Once your image is open, right-click on the layer in the Layers panel and select Convert to Smart Object This conversion will unlock the background layer and add a Smart Object icon in the layer’s thumbnail to indicate that the layer is now a Smart Object.

Step 2: Filter > Camera Raw Filter To Open The Camera Raw Filter Workspace

Ensure the layer is still selected and open the Camera Raw Filter by navigating to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. You can also press Shift + Control + A (Win) or Shift + Command + A (Mac).

Step 3: Adjust The Contrast And Clarity In The Basics Tab

Photos taken with older film cameras that faded over time don’t have as much contrast as recent pictures. To recreate this, open the Basic tab by clicking the arrow to the left of the tab’s name. Once the tab is open, several sliders will appear.

Within these adjustment sliders:

  • Move the Highlights slider to the right to increase the intensity of the highlights and slightly blow out the highlights in the image. I set the slider at +11.
  • Move the Shadows slider to the right to lighten and flatten the shadows in the image. I set the slider at +34.
  • Move the Texture slider to the left to decrease the texture in the image and soften it. I set the slider at -30.
  • Slide the Clarity slider to the left again to decrease the structure and contrast of the mid-tones. I set the slider at -13.
  • Adjust the Dehaze slider by dragging it to the left. I want to add a hazy look to achieve the old-school effect. I set the slider at -20.

Step 4: Convert The Photo To Black And White

Click the B&W icon at the top of the panel to convert the photo to black and white. Then, open the B&W Mixer tab — which was initially the Color Mixer tab when the image was in full-color mode.

Each slider represents a color in your photo. These colors were visible in your original image before converting to black and white, but the color channels remain in your photo. Move the sliders to adjust the lightness or darkness of those black-and-white areas. The aim here is to reduce the contrast and slightly blow out the lighter areas on the image.

Step 5: Add A Sepia Tone Using The Color Grading Tab

To produce the sepia tone effect, I will use the Color Grading tab directly below the B&W Mixer. When you open the Color Grading tab, you will notice three color wheels that make up the Midtones, Shadows, and Highlights.

For my image, I will move the circle in the center of the mid-tones wheel and drag it toward the brighter orange color. Then I will slightly move the highlights circle into orange to slightly tweak the brighter areas of the image. I will leave the shadows wheel because I want the dark tones to remain as they are.

After adjusting the Color Grading settings, here is how my image looks:

Step 6: Add A Vignetting Effect Around The Image

Now it’s time to add a vignette. Staying in Camera Raw, you can easily add this effect under the Effects tab. Start by opening the tab in the right-hand panel. Then, slide the Vignette slider to the right to fade the image around the edges. I have set mine at +50.

Step 7: Add A Grain Overlay And Set The Blend Mode To Overlay

The final step adds a grainy and scratched effect to the image, which makes it look old and weathered. To complete this step, you can find any free texture online for your picture. I have chosen this Grunge Wall Texture from Freepik.com. Once you have downloaded a texture image, open it in a new tab in Photoshop. Then, click on the background layer, drag it across to your image tab, and place it on the canvas. The texture will be placed over the image, and a new layer will be added to the Layers panel.

Now resize and move the texture so that it covers the whole image. Press Control + T (Win) or Command + T (Mac). Handles will appear around the texture layer. Right-click on the layer and select Rotate 90° Clockwise to change the layer’s orientation. Then click and drag the anchor points to ensure the layer hides the image completely. Press Enter to confirm the changes.

Next, change the Blend Mode of the texture layer by clicking on the mode drop-down menu. For the proper effect, choose either Screen or Overlay. In my case, the Overlay option produces the effect I’m going after. If the effect is too harsh, adjust the Opacity using the slider at the top of the Layers panel.





Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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