Photoshop tutorial: vintage effect for digital photos

Recreate the retro antique look for your digital photos with this simple Photoshop Elements tutorial

Want to find out how to recreate an analogue film look for your digital photography? Follow the 6 easy steps of this Photoshop Elements tutorial that will show you how to distress your digital photo for a vintage antique look. Learn how to creatively alter an image’s colours and tones to make them stand out from the crowd. Before colour film was invented, many monochrome shots were hand-coloured. Find out how to use the Convert to Black and White command along with layer blends to mimic that distinctive retro technique and add a delicate wash of colour to your image. You can download the start image for this tutorial by clicking the link below.

1. Duplicate layer

Open AntiqueColour_Before.jpg (see download link above). Go to Window>Layers to open the Layers Palette. Double click the Background layer’s thumbnail. A New layer box will appear. Click OK to unlock the layer. Now drag Layer 0 onto the Create new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette to duplicate it.


2. Convert to monochrome

Select the top layer (Layer 0 copy) by clicking its thumbnail. Go to Enhance > Convert to Black and White. Click the Urban/Snapshots style. Drag Contrast right to a value of +5. This creates a slightly solarised monochrome effect, which will help emphasise the image’s hand-painted look. Click OK.


3. Refine the colours

Drag the black and white Layer 0 copy layer bwlow Layer 0. Set Layer 0’s blending mode to Soft Light. Reduct its opacity to 67%. The combination of the layer blending mode and the opacity change creates a more delicate range of colours that mimics the retro hand-painted technique.


4. Go with the grain

Click the Layer Palette’s Create a new layer icon. Go to Edit>Fill Layer. Choose the 50% Gray option and click OK. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Set Distribution to Gaussian and set Amount to 300%. Click OK. For organic looking clumps of grain, go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the Radius to 1.8


5. Add a sepia tint

Set Layer 1’s blending mode to Multiply and reduce its opacity to 42%. Click the Create new fill layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette and choose Solid Color. Pick a vintage sepia colour (R: 188, G: 147, B:88). Set the Color Fill layer’s blending mode to Soft Light. Set the opacity to 74%.


6. Create a vignette

Choose Layer>Merge Visible. This creates a flattened version of the shot. Select the Burn tool from the Tools Palette. In the Options bar set Range to Shadows and set Exposure to 9%. Spray around the edge of the frame to gently darken the sepia tones, creating a soft and organic-looking vignette.