Home Portrait Photography How to Create a Vintage Portrait Effect in Photoshop

How to Create a Vintage Portrait Effect in Photoshop

7 min read

Creating a vintage effect for your photos in Photoshop can be a fun and worthwhile exercise.

There are a lot of different approaches that you can take, and plenty of different types of vintage effects that you can go after.

In this tutorial we’ll go through the process of creating a vintage effect using some non-destructive adjustment layers in Photoshop, as well as a noisy texture that adds some grit.


Vintage Photo Effect in Photoshop


For the tutorial I’ll be using this photo from Daniele Zedda.

Here is a before and after preview.







Let’s Begin!

The process that we’ll use for creating this vintage effect will involve using several different adjustment layers. The use of adjustment layers is a great practice because they are non-destructive to your original photo layer, so you can easily get rid of them if you don’t like the result and it won’t damage your photo. To add an adjustment layer you just need to click on the icon at the bottom of the layers palette.

Create Adjustment Layer

Ok, the first step we’ll take is to create a selective color adjustment layer. After clicking on the icon, click on “Selective Color” and the adjustment layer will be created. Enter the following settings for whites, neutrals, and blacks.

Selective Color

Selective Color

Selective Color

Next, create a gradient map adjustment layer and set the gradient to go from black to white.

Gradient Map

Then set the blend of of this adjustment layer to “soft light” and the opacity to 70%.

Blend mode

At this point our work in progress looks like this.


Next, we’ll add a curves adjustment layer that will be one of the more significant parts of creating this vintage effect. In this case we’re only adjusting the RGB curve, so make your curve look something like this.


Overall, this will darken the image a bit.

Now, add a levels adjustment layer and change the shadow input setting to 5.


After making that change, select “blue” from the dropdown and change the shadow output to 10. This will add a very subtle blue tint to the photo. If you were to increase that number to a much higher number you would see the effect much stronger.


Next, add a photo filter adjustment layer. Select “underwater” and change the density to 40%.

Photo Filter

Here is a look at our current work in progress.


That completes the adjustment layers that we’ll use. Now, to add some grit and texture we’ll add an overlay. I’m using one of the free noise texture overlays that can be downloaded. Open one of those noise texture overlays, copy it to your clipboard, and paste it above all of the adjustment layers. Depending on the size of your photo you may want to re-size the texture layer using the free transform tool.

Texture layer

The last step is to change the blend mode of the texture layer to “screen”.

Blend mode

If you’re using a different photo you may want to experiment with some other blend modes. Screen tends to work well with these noise texture overlays, but sometimes overlay or soft light will create a better look. You can also lower the opacity below 100% to decrease the strength of the texture. In this case, I’ll leave it at screen and 100% opacity. Here is our end result.


If you want to save some time, the process of creating these adjustment layers can also be accomplished with this free Photoshop action for CS4 and newer versions. The action does not add the texture, that was an extra step taken at the end, so you will still need to do that step manually to add the grit and texture.

Author Bio: Marc is the editor of PhotographyPla.net, a website that offers downloadable products like Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, photo overlays, textures, and print templates. PhotographyPla.net also includes a blog with articles, tips, and resources for photographers.

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