Lightroom effects: how to make a Cyanotype for an on-trend, retro look

Lightroom effects: how to make a Cyanotype for an on-trend, retro look

In our latest Adobe Lightroom tutorial we show you how to make a Cyanotype complete with a beautiful, brushed border. Below we show you step-by-step how to make one of the most popular Lightroom effects.

Lightroom effects: how to make a Cyanotype for an on-trend, retro look

Today’s cameras offer us picture clarity never before achievable, but there’s a certain charm that goes with imperfections and flaws. Perhaps this explains why making new images look old is all the rage at the moment.

As the rise of photo apps like Instagram shows, adding retro filters and effects to photos has never been more popular.

If you want more control than that offered by smartphone apps, there are lots of ways to make retro effects in Lightroom.

Not only does it offer a whole range of tools to add creative colour and tonal shifts, it also lets you quickly create and apply presets, so your custom-made retro effects can be used on any image at the click of a button. There are even a few handy pre-made retro effects.

SEE MORE: Adobe Lightroom – what every photographer should know about the ‘alternative Photoshop’

Into the blue
The Cyanotype preset here will only get us so far, so we’ll make a couple of tonal tweaks and add a Tone Curve adjustment to create deeper, richer blue tones.

We’ll also use the Radial Filter to soften the edges of the image. (If you don’t have Lightroom 5, you can get the same effect by painting with the Adjustment brush.)

Then we’ll top it off with a beautiful brushed border, which involves a neat little trick with the Print module’s Identity Plate settings. But first…

What is a Cyanotype?

Cyanotype printing was discovered in 1842, just three years after the invention of photography. The process has many aficionados, and is well worth a go if you can get hold of the right chemicals.

Prints are made in sunlight using a UV-light-sensitive solution, either by exposing negatives the same size as the paper, or by making photograms using interestingly shaped objects. The result is a gorgeous, rich blue print, often with wonderful messy borders.

SEE MORE: How to use Lightroom to reclaim lost shadow and highlight detail

How to make a Cyanotype effect in Lightroom

How to make a Cyanotype effect in Lightroom: step 1

01 Use the Cyanotype preset
Go to the Library module and drag in cyanotype_before.dng, then click Import. Head to the Develop module. Go to the Preset panel on the left side and find the Cyanotype preset within the Lightroom B&W Toned Presets set. Head over to the Basic panel on the right and adjust Exposure to +1.20 and Contrast to +45.


How to make a Cyanotype effect in Lightroom: step 2

02 Intensify the blues
Go to the Tone Curve panel and toggle the Point Curve option on. Click the Channel drop-down and select Blue. On the blue diagonal curve line, make a point near the bottom and drag it up to add blue, then make a second point near the middle and drag down to pin back the line.

 SEE MORE: Lightroom vs Photoshop – why Lightroom has all the tools you need

How to make a Cyanotype effect in Lightroom: step 3

03 Crop in tighter
Grab the Crop tool from the Toolbar. Hold Shift and drag in from the top-right corner to crop in tighter to the face. Next, grab the Radial Filter tool from the Toolbar, then drag a circle over the face in the centre. In the tool settings on the right, set Clarity to -73 and Sharpness to -100.


How to make a Cyanotype effect in Lightroom: step 4

04 Set up the paper
Go to the Print module. Click the Page Setup button in the bottom-right, then set the paper size to A4 and tick Landscape. Next, go to the Layout Style panel on the right and tick Zoom to Fill, then drag the four Margins sliders to the left, and the two Cell Size sliders to the right.

 SEE MORE: Adobe Lightroom 5 Review – is this the game-changer you’ve been waiting for?

How to make a Cyanotype effect in Lightroom: step 5

05 Add an Identity template
Scroll down to the Page panel on the right and tick Identity Plate. Click the little arrow icon at the corner of the Identity Plate preview and choose Edit. In the Identity Plate Editor, tick Use a Graphical Identity Plate, then click Locate File. Load the brushed_border.png file. Tick Use Anyway and click OK.


How to make a Cyanotype effect in Lightroom: step 6

06 Resize the template
Drag the template box to resize it over the image. Adjust the Cell Size sliders in the Layout panel if you need to change the image size. When you’re happy, scroll down to the Print Job panel and set Print To to JPEG File, then click the Print to File button and save the image.

Final Tip
It’s easy to make your own retro borders to use in Lightroom, as long as you also have Photoshop or Elements. Simply make a layer filled with white, then use the Eraser or a Layer Mask to make the centre part transparent.

Experiment with different brush tips for lots of creative effects. (We used the Wet Media brush set.) When done, hide all other layers and save the file as a PNG, a file type that preserves the transparency.


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