Tutorial: Turning a Picture Vintage

So today what we will be doing is turning a nice picture into a vintage style photograph. This is a great trick because it adds the ‘rough’ and ‘old’ effect. I will be using the Photoshop help file a bit to explain some things just so I don’t tell you the wrong information! The best thing about this tutorial is that it can be done in minutes and is completely adjustable to your own images. The tools I will mainly be using are Adjustment Layers. They are VERY useful at changing the mood of an image. I will explain a bit more about them when I get into the tutorial!


Step 1. Find a nice picture


There are heaps of great stock photography websites around, however, today I will be using a free one. I’m sure you all know of stock.xchng – it’s a free stock photography website and well worth the sign up. After searching for a while I found this fantastic picture of the Australian outback.

Tutorial: Turning a Picture Vintage


Step 2. Resize [OPTIONAL]


This step is completely option and depends on your image. I have re-sized the image to 1000×670 pixel because of my small screen size – I find it easier to work with. However if you want to create a wallpaper I strongly suggest you keep it at a large size.

To change the size: Go to Image in the top bar. Then Select “Image Size…”. Once the dialogue box pops up you can change the width or height of the image. Always make sure you have “Constrain Proportions” ticked as this will keep the image the right shape and won’t distort it.

Image Size


Step 3. Curves


We will now be playing with the Adjustment Layers. These work just like normal layers (everything under it in palette is affected, above isn’t). The order of these layers does matter! Adjustment layers are very useful for photo effects like we are about to do. The Photoshop’s help file explains, “An adjustment layer applies color and tonal adjustments to your image without permanently changing pixel values”. To access adjustment layers simply go to “Layer” at the top menu bar and then into “New Adjustment Layer” then select “Curves”.

What I tend to always do first is a Curves adjustment layer. Curves adjusts the entire tonal range of an image.

Here are the curves settings I have selected for my image. Again, there is no set way to do this, play around with the dialogue box until you get what suits you. Depending on where you put the dots on the line changes the tone. The bottom left changes dark parts and top right changes light parts. Then there is everything in between.



Step 4. Levels


Photoshop help file explains, “You use the Levels dialog box to correct the tonal range and color balance of an image by adjusting intensity levels of image shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.” To access adjustment layers simply go to “Layer” at the top menu bar and then into “New Adjustment Layer” then select “Levels”.

These were the settings I used for levels. I also put the levels layer UNDER my curves layer. But again, depends what looks best to you.



Step 5. Photo Filter


Now, this is the one that really sets the tone right. The other adjustment layers made the colours more accentuated; however, this adjustment layer gives the photo a certain warmth. The Photoshop help file explains, “The Photo Filter command mimics the technique of putting a colored filter in front of the camera lens to adjust the color balance and color temperature of the light transmitted through the lens and exposing the film.” To access adjustment layers simply go to “Layer” at the top menu bar and then into “New Adjustment Layer” then select “Photo Filter”.

So, I just used the default settings (a warming filter) and changed the “Density” to 39% whilst keeping “Preserve Luminosity” ticked. As you can see this has changed the colour of the sky to a bit more vintage (a lot more obvious on a larger version). This layer went under the levels layer.

Photo Filter


Step 6. Texture


Adding textures to your document is a great technique to create a strong subtle effect [Oxymoron!]. For this creation I searched again on my favorite free stock site (sxc.hu) and found the PERFECT texture to add the desired effect we’re aiming for. Old sheet of paper is a great texture because its clean and has just the right amount of ‘subtleness’ we are looking for.

Import the picture into your document. Re-size it with the ‘Transform Tool’ as you see fit. Obviously squashing it together or spreading it apart will affect how the texture looks. I changed the opacity (available in layers palette) to 27%. So like all the other steps, it’s whatever looks appropriate for your image. This layer goes under all layers except the base image.

trashed.psd @ 100% (RGB/8)


Step 7. Text


The final step! This one is simple. While creating this I decided there was a nice space in top left corner for some text. I thought a grunge style would suit best so I went on the hunt and found the best free typeface. It turned out to be quite awesome. Trashed is available from dafont.com. I just typed it in white and played around with the opacity to what I felt was right. I ended up choosing 81%, which gave me a nice brown colour that suited the picture. From there I also put my name in the bottom right hand corner. [Click to view full size!]


The layers palette should look like this by the end of it all.


Now you’re done! =D

You’ve just successfully turned a photo vintage! The effect takes only minutes and looks great. I’d love to see how yours have turned out, please post a link to them in comments.

Well that concludes my first tutorial for Elite By Design. I’m still refining my tutorial writing skills! Thanks all for reading, I hope to do some more in the future. If you want to contact me directly please visit my portfolio and I will be happy to respond.

Good Luck,
Matt Hamilton

For more Photoshop tutorials like this one, check out The Tutorialist.

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