How to Turn a Modern Photo Vintage Using Photoshop

Introduction: How to Turn a Modern Photo Vintage Using Photoshop

In this tutorial I will be teaching you how to use Photoshop to edit a modern photo to have a more vintage look.  We will be using a stock photo from for you to follow along with if you'd like:

I will be using Photoshop CS3; for those of you with newer versions, this tutorial should work fine.  With older versions, you might have a harder time following along with this tutorial.

This tutorial assumes you have a small amount of knowledge about Photoshop.

Important Information
I will be referencing specific photos I have uploaded in each step in order from left to right.  So image 1 is the first image, image 2 will be the 2nd image from the left, image 3 will be the 3rd from the left, and so on.  It will always be numerical, left to right, top to bottom.

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Step 1: How to Get the Full-size Stock From DeviantArt

Copy and paste the following link into your web browser:

The page will look something like above; on the right side you will see the words "download image" next to a green arrow.  Click that and a new window or tab, depending on your browser preferences, will open with the full sized version of this image.

Step 2: Getting Our Image Into Photoshop

After you have downloaded the full sized image, open that new window or tab, right click on the image after it has finished downloading and select "copy".

Open your version of Photoshop.

Click on "File ---> new" or use the hot key CTRL + N for windows computers.  Your Photoshop should detect that you have something copied to the clipboard (the virtual space your computer stores things that you have right clicked and selected copy to).  If you look in the image provided above, you will see it says "Preset: Clipboard" which is what we want, with the dimensions of Width: 2136 and Height: 2848 below that.

Press "OK".

Next, you can either go to "Edit ---> paste" located in the top left of the Photoshop, or use the hot key CTRL + V.

Step 3: Changing the Color

The next step will be adding a hue/saturation layer.

To do this, go to "Layer --> New Adjustment Layer --> Hue/Saturation"  (see image 1)

When a new window opens up, make sure you check the box that says "Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask"; I have placed a red arrow next to this so you know what I am talking about. (see image 2)

Next, check the box that says "colorize".  Then set Hue to "+51", Saturation to "+25" and Lightness leave at 0.  (see image 3)

Press "OK".

We want to lower the opacity of this so it isn't so colorless.  In the layers area on the right, you will see the word Opacity; click next to it and lower it to 50%.

Extra Info:

Now, before we get too far into this, I want to explain why we will be selecting in most of the following steps the option that says "Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask".  What this does is allow us to edit the image with out working directly on the original image.  In this way, in case you make a mistake or totally hate the end result, you can just delete the layers added on the image that "adjusted" it.

Step 4: Adding a Curves Layer

Next we will add a curves layer.

Go to "Layer --> New Adjustment Layer --> Curves"  (see image 1)

Again, when the new window opens, make sure "Use previous layer to create clipping mask" is selected.

When the curves dialog box opens up, we will be changing to a different channel (see image 2)

Where it says "Channel:" click the drop down menu arrow and select the Red channel first.

For the next 3 steps, you will be copying the colored lines in the images provided. In my image of the red channel, there is a diagonal line that is grey, and a red line with a few squares on it.  Yours will only show the red line until you move it to be roughly the same shape as mine.  This is mostly trial and error to get the shape to look similar to mine; it does not have to be perfect, just close.  You might even find that shaping this line differently than what I have makes your overall image look better.  (see image 3)

Do this same step for the Green Channel (see image 4)

Repeat for the Blue Channel (see image 5)

Image 6 shows what it should closely resemble at this point.

Extra Info:

I can't stress enough, SAVE OFTEN in Photoshop!  Especially if you have a less powerful computer, Photoshop can crash fairly often.  Save your work to avoid having to redo all of it.  My rule of thumb is save every ~10 minutes or so.  Just use the hot key CTRL + S.  Just remember to change the file name BEFORE you use this hot key, otherwise you might write over the original file.You might notice a difference from the diptych of the before/after image to the very end result in step 10.  This is because I forgot to save my work, started over from scratch and had some slightly different numbers from step to step.

Step 5: Brightness and Contrast

Next, we will adjust the brightness and contrast of the image.

Go to "Layer --> New Adjustment Layer --> Brightness/Contrast".  Check the box that says "use previous layer to create clipping mask."  (see image 1)

Put the brightness around -8 and the contrast around +24.  Again, you can fiddle around with these numbers and come up with something you find works better with your image.

Step 6: Converting for Smart Filters

Next, we need to convert our original image for smart layers so we can add some filters to it without affecting the original image.

So far, your image should have layers on it that look something like what mine does (see image 1)

To convert our original layer for smart filters, we need to make sure it is selected.  To do this, simply click on the layer with the photo in it; unless you changed the name of it, it should still be called "Layer 1".  When the layer is selected, it will turn blue.  (again, see image 1)

Next, go to "Filter --> Convert for Smart Filters".  When a window pops up, press OK.  Your layer with the photo on it should have a new little symbol in the bottom right, showing that it was successful.  (see image 2)

Step 7: Adding a Light Effect

Next, we are going to add a lighting effect.

Make sure that Layer 1 (your layer with the photo on it) is still selected.  Go to "Filter --> Render --> Lighting Effects..."  (see image 1)

After the dialog box that says "Lighting Effects" opens, from the drop menu next to the word "Style: select the option 2 O'clock Spotlight (see image 2)

Now, in the preview window you will see what this is doing to our image.  Make your lighting look like the example provided (image 2).  To do this, you need to manipulate how this effect is working on the photo. The direction the light is coming is indicated by the line acting as a radius; on image 2 I placed a lighting bolt next to it.  The very small white circle shows us the center of the effect.  Make sure your white circle (there is a red arrow point to it) in the center of our image. 

To manipulate the size of the circle, click and drag on the square that is connected to the line that shows the lighting directing (the top right red arrow is pointing to this one).  Pull out until the edges of the circle just pass through the corners of the picture.  Your circle might be oval-ish, so keep pulling and shrinking the points on the circle until it looks like image 2.

If your image has a strong light source, line up the line (the one with the lighting bolt) that represents the lighting direction with that light source.  While there isn't a strong light source in this image, I have mine coming from the right, but yours might be coming from the left.

When you have done this, press OK.

Image 3 is what it should look like at this point.

Step 8: Vignette Affect

We are going to now add a vignette effect, to give the photo an especially old feel.  A vignette will basically darken the edges of the photo.

With layer 1 still selected, go to "Filter --> Distort --> Lens Correction..." (image 1)

Next, where it says "Vignette" drag the slider all the way to the left until it says -100, or just type it in the box above the slider.  (see image 2).  Leave everything else as it is; press OK.

Next, we need to lower the opacity of the vignette.  To do this, you will be double clicking on an icon next to where it says "Lens Correction"; it looks like 2 small horizontal lines with 2 small triangles..  In image 3 I have the area to double click circled.  You have to click this little symbol, or else the vignette editing window will just pop back up again.

Image 4 demonstrates what it will look like when you have double clicked on the correct area.  Change the "Opacity:" to 50% and press OK.

Image 5 depicts what the photo should look like after the vignette step is completed.

Step 9: Adding a Solid Color Fill Layer

Now we are going to create a solid fill layer.  Go to "Layer --> New Fill Layer --> Solid Color...", again remembering to check use previous layer in the dialog box that pops up.  (see image 1)

We are going to select a pinkish color for our solid fill color.  The HEX code for it is #ff00ba.  Or you can select your own pink tone to use in this image.  (see image 2)

We want to lower the opacity of the image, since right now we can only see a solid pink color.  We are going to lower it to 5%.  Make sure the "Color Fill 1" layer is selected (remember, it will be blue if it is; see image 3).  To find where to change the opacity of this layer, look first at image 3.  It's in the top right corner of the "layers" palette.

Again, you can fiddle with the opacity to come up with something that better suits your image.

Step 10: Done!

I hope you have enjoyed following this tutorial, and that you can now create vintage looking photos.  Remember one of the best ways to learn how to use Photoshop is to experiment and try different settings when working with tutorials.

Thanks for reading!

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    5 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, have you guys heard of this Instagram thing?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like this weathered vintage look. Do you know how to turn pictures in different shades of sepia?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, it's not too tricky. If you are familiar with Photoshop, you can just mess around with either Photo Filters, Hue/Saturation (check the "colorize" box) and you can get some sepia colored photos in different shades.