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How to Make New Photos Look Vintage

Updated on July 24, 2013

New to Old

In this tutorial I am going to turn a modern photo of a cat in a garden into an old Polaroid circa late 1960’s.

Open Original Photo

Open your image in Photoshop. I always make a background copy which can be renamed if you wish.

Adjustment Layer

You need to create a sepia version of the image so click on the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of your Layers palette. It looks like an Oreo cookie dipped in cream. Choose Hue/Saturation and the dialog box appears.

Adjustment Layer icon
Adjustment Layer icon

Hue Saturation

Click Colorize. Slide the Hue bar to 40 then click OK.

Hue Saturation
Hue Saturation

Merge Visible Layers

Now that you have a nice sepia layer you need to merge it with the color layer. While holding down the Alt key (Windows) or Option key (Mac) go to your Layers palette (top right) and choose Merge Visible. Holding down the Alt/Option key is what keeps the Adjustment Layer separate and in fact creates a third visible layer.

Gaussian Blur

Rename the merged layer "Blur".

With the Blur layer selected in the Layers palette, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. The Gaussian Blur window comes up. Pull the slider to 6. You may have to eyeball this depending on the resolution of your photo. You are trying to remove some of the detail from the image but you don't want it to be a completely unrecognizable blob.

Then go to Blend Mode (upper left of Layers palette) and change it from Normal to Overlay for your Blur layer.


The image may seem too intense for you in which case you need to lower the opacity. Opacity is located in the upper right of the Layers palette. I choose 85 here but you can adjust it to fit your image.

New Layer

Old photos usually have a slight grain in them. Next to the Trash can in the lower right of the Layers palette is the icon for New Layer. Click it while holding Alt/Option. This brings up the New Layer dialog box. Click OK.

Now go to Edit > Fill and under Contents choose Black. Click OK.

  • You will notice that I lowered the opacity for the Hue Saturation layer. I decided that I preferred that tinted look. I dropped it to 75%.


Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Drag the slider for the Amount to 115 - 130%. You can adjust it if you want but you need decent amount of noise. Make sure Gaussian and Monochromatic are chosen. Click OK.

Blending Mode

With the Noise layer selected, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and lower the Opacity to 30. You can now see your image as it is blended with the noise. How far you lower the opacity depends on the amount of noise you've added and how grainy you want your image. The higher the percentage of noise, the lower the opacity generally works best.


Add a New Layer and fill it with black. Name it "Grain" and click OK.

Now go to Filter > Texture > Grain. Grain isn't quite the same as Noise. You'll see when you begin to work with it that it allows for a more varied texture than Noise.

The Grain dialog appears. Set the Intensity to 70 and the Contrast to around 80 - 90. Change the Grain Type to Vertical. You will need to experiment with this one. You want it to create some broken vertical lines to signify dust and scratches.

Change the Blend Mode for the Grain layer to Screen. Normally if you apply the Screen blending mode to an image, it will lighten it. Since we are using a black image with some white lines, Screen will let the white lines show through but not the black so that it looks like the image is scratched. The idea here is to use subtle effects that add up to create an aged and worn look.

Isn't it supposed to be a Polaroid?

Here's how to make your image into a Polaroid.

Go to Image > Canvas Size. When the dialog box appears change Pixels to Inches in both Height and Width then enter .5 in each. Make sure that the Canvas Extension Color is White. Click OK.

The image will appear with a white border. But a Polaroid had more white space on the bottom so go back into Canvas Size and again change Pixels to Inches but this time put .25 in Height AND poke the top middle Anchor arrow in the box. ClicK OK.

Now you have that nice Polaroid border.

Blue Eyed Beauty

Snowball has gorgeous blue eyes that get lost with the adjustments.

Go to the beginning color layer and using the Lasso tool select the eyes. Press Ctrl-C (copy). Select the top layer and press Ctrl-V (paste). A new layer appears with the cat's eyes. I lowered the opacity and used the Smudge tool (looks like a finger) and gently went over the edges to soften them.

But who is this?

Who will know who this is in years to come?

Add a Text layer to the bottom white border. Click on The Text tool (big T). Make sure it's set for horizontal type.

Then go to Window > Character and the Character dialog box appears. You have several choices to make here and I suggest you take the time to experiment with them.

Type the name where you wish it to appear, in this case the bottom. You can change fonts and other aspects of the letters by first selecting the type (left-click and highlight the letters) and then changing the settings in the Character dialog box.

In this case I wanted something approximating handwriting so I choose Brush Script Std for my font and increased the Vertical Scale to 156%.

Vintage Photo

So now we have a vintage photo created from a photo that may have been taken this morning.

By the way, the little beauty that I have been calling "Snowball" is actually named B-Puss and can be found at


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Very nice step-by-step! Beautiful effect for scrapbooking, Facebooking, or anything else.

    • Attani profile image

      Attani 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      Thanks, Ceres!

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 4 years ago

      Good tutorial on how to make new photos look vintage using Photoshop. The images coupled with the instructions really help to show readers exactly what they need to do and how their own images would look like once they transform it from new to old.