How to Create a Vintage Black and White Photo Effect

Here’s a simple and effective Vintage Black and White Photograph effect recreated in Photoshop. This is tutorial relies on a few basic settings in Photoshop and textured layers, I’m using the dated CS3 version, but the method is the same for all versions. As a note, my style tends to be quite “dark” so you’ll have to adjust some settings to suit your own personal style. The texture image i’m using is provided here.

Download the Source Files Here

We can use any image for this but I have provided one of my own to get us started. This effect is great for wedding shots, portraits and landscapes (generally images with the main subject to the center of the frame). Ok, enough of this prattle, lets get started!

Before and After

1. Firstly we’re going to prepare the image for a black and white effect, there are many other ways of doing this (might be better or worse), but this is my way. Open Curves by choosing, Image > Adjustments > Curves, and off-balance the highlights with the shadows so it looks slightly “Solorised”, then click OK.

Step 1

Note: This adds a grater tonal range in your image, if we didn’t do this, then when we turn it black and white the picture will look flat. This is because there is little graduation in the colours’ separate the detail… next!)

2. Next we need rip away the colour by using Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation, slide the Saturation all the way to “-100”.

Step 2

3. Next punch the levels up a little bit by shortening the histograms highlights and shadows, making the image a little more “contrasty”. Image > Adjustments > Levels and move the highlights and shadows in towards the center a few notches so you don’t loose too much detail in the brighter and darker areas of your image.

Step 3

4. Next duplicate this layer by dragging it to the New Layer icon on the Layers palette or using the menu Layer > Duplicate Layer…

Step 4

5. Now we’re going to add a Blurred Vignette effect to this duplicated layer (Background copy), I’m using a Gaussian Blur with a pixel radius of 8. Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (make sure preview is checked) Do the same or use your own pixel radius its up to you, then click OK.

A Blurred Vignette effect is used to simulate the effect caused by bellows used on Medium and Large format cameras (old handheld 120mm too), it’s naturally an effect used to direct the viewers focus but, for this it’s also adding a flare of authenticity to our aged photo effect.

6. Next add a layer mask to the layer, by clicking the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers palette or by choosing Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All.

Step 6

7. Using the Gradient Tool from The Tool Palette, make sure the Gradient is set to Reflected, Black to Transparent Gradient with a Normal Blend mode and Black and White are the only colours in the colour palette. Draw a gradient somewhere at the bottom of the photo so the horizon that becomes out of focus.

Step 7

8. Flatten those layers together… perfect!

9. This looks good huh!? Well we’re not done yet, now we need some texture in this beauty, choose Filter > Texture > Grain, choose a Grain Intensity of about 46 and a Contrast of 52, with a “Regular” Grain Type and click OK.

Step 9

10. The grain filter will naturally add some colour to the texture so lets take that out by using Hue/ Saturation again. Choose Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation, slide the Saturation all the way to “-100”… Nice!

Step 10

11. Looking good! Right, now open the texture.jpg file from the tutorial folder or one of your own if you have one. Copy and Paste it on to the Background layer so it covers the whole image. Make this layer black and white also (see part 2 or 10).

12. Next we need to make the texture a high contrast (Image > Adjustments > Levels), by narrowing the histogram like so, don’t do this too much, keep some mid-tones in your texture but mostly intensify the back and white areas… Then click OK.

Step 12

13. Now we need to blend this texture with the image underneath. From the drop down menu in the Layers Palette, choose the Overlay blend and be amazed at what happens… sick eh…? Ok, lets move on we’re almost done!

Step 13.1


Step 13.2

14. Add a layer mask to the layer, by clicking the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers palette or by choosing Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. With the Paint Brush from the Tool Palette, I’ll be using an Opacity of 50% and a Flow of 80%. Start to paint in the center of the photo to reveal the details; don’t go to far we want to keep some of the texture. Lastly just knock back the Layer Opacity to 80%.

Step 14

15. Flatten the layers together (Layer > Flatten Image)… save it, print it, post it… job done!

Step 15

Question: Some of you may ask why I just didn’t convert the whole image to grayscale, “that’ll make it black and white”. Well this is because of a “workflow” decision, at some point you may decide to add a colour tone to the image or add some text with colour elements. In my experience it’s far easier to keep the colour information in the image instead of having to reconvert it back to RGB every time. Also when it comes to printing you can choose to set your printer to print in grayscale instead of converting the whole file.

EXTRA: Colour Wash your Images

Choose Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation, and check “Colorize”, now refine your colour by moving the “Hue” slider left or right to get the desired colour… easy! 🙂

Colour Wash