Discover how to make stylish retro pictures with this simple Photoshop Elements workflow. In this tutorial we show you step-by-step how to age photos in your photo editing software to create on-trend images that recreate analogue effects.
Retro effects are very much in vogue at the moment. It seems that, with modern cameras offering us crystal-clear picture quality, the appeal of analogue imperfections have gone through the roof. Those little errors can make retro pictures seem so much more individual.
There are lots of ways to age photos in Photoshop, and while it’ll take a little longer than instant smartphone apps, the results of your retro pictures will be far more unique.
In this retro pictures tutorial we’ll show you how to rough up a brand new image by adding a grubby border and dirty texture.
We’ll also mimic the effects of a light leak by adding orange colouring, giving the impression that light has seeped through the gaps in a cheap camera body to fog the edges of the film. Along the way we’ll encounter fundamental Photoshop skills like blend modes, selections, filters and masks.
Each stage in our retro pictures workflow remains editable at any point, and once you’ve done it once, you can try the effect out on any image simply by duplicating the layers. Here’s how…
How to age photos to create stylish retro pictures
How to make retro pictures: 01 Blend the border
Download our start files and follow along! Open the three retro JPEGs supplied. Go to retro_frame, then right-click the layer in the Layers Panel (Window> Layers) and choose Duplicate Layer. Set Destination Document: retro_before and hit OK. Next go to retro_before. Click the Blend Mode dropdown at the top of the Layers Panel and choose Screen to blend the border.
How to make retro pictures: 02 Tidy the edges
Double-click the lower layer. Rename it and hit OK. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T, then drag the bounding box to resize the image so it fits the frame. Hit Enter to apply. Grab the Polygonal Lasso tool and set Feather 2px in the options. Click around the edges of the frame to select it, then click the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers Panel.
How to make retro pictures: 03 Paint white edges
Set brush opacity to 30%, then paint with a large soft-edged brush around the edges to fade it out to white. In the Layers panel, create a new Brightness Contrast adjustment layer and set Brightness 24, Contrast 21. Then add a Photo Filter adjustment layer – Cooling Filter (82).
How to make retro pictures: 04 Soften the corners
Grab the Elliptical Marquee tool. Hold Alt+Shift and drag from the centre to the edge of the frame. Right-click and pick Feather, then set 250px and hit OK. Highlight the layer mask thumbnail on the Blur layer, go to Edit>Fill Selection, choose Use: Black and hit OK.
How to make retro pictures: 05 Shift colour channels
Click the Create Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers Panel. Choose Levels. On Channel: Red, drag the lower left Output Level slider to 220, on Channel: Green drag it to 50 and on Channel: Blue drag the lower right Output slider to 180. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the layer mask.
How to make retro pictures: 06 Mask the colours
Grab the Brush tool, set colour to white and hit 3 for 30% opacity. Paint around the edges. Select the top layer, then add a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer. Pick Warming Filter (LBA). Add a Levels layer. Set the midpoint slider to 1.23. Choose Channel: Red. Set black point 61, midpoint 1.18.
Try other images
By keeping each stage of the effect on a separate layer, we’re free to vary the strength of each element. If you think the texture or light leak is too strong, simply lower the layer opacity to tone it down.
Adjustment Layers also play an invaluable part in our non-destructive workflow, as any tonal changes can be edited at any time.
You’re also free to try out the effect on different images, simply by copying them into the document, and dragging the layer below all the effects.
If you’re shooting images specifically to create retro pictures on the computer, try taking a picture with a shallow depth of field as the blur behind and in front of your subject will enhance the retro effect. This does mean you’ll have to pay attention to your focusing, however.
Long exposure cloud movement: how to give a sharp sky a slow shutter speed effect
How to replace a sky: Photoshop effects to make your landscapes more attractive
Rim lighting: simple Photoshop effects to enhance your landscapes
Holga Effect: Photoshop techniques for cool, retro images
Fantasy landscape tutorial: how to seamlessly blend images into a dramatic montage