Unlock the secret to timeless pictures with this tutorial on how to create a vintage film look in Photoshop. This post-processing technique transcends time and brings a charming nostalgia to your photos.

Why go Vintage?

Before we dive into the step-by-step guide, let’s understand why vintage effects are so coveted in modern day photography. Infusing photos with a vintage film look can evoke emotions and stories that modern filters often fall short of. A photo aged with warm hues, light leaks, and grainy textures becomes a doorway to another era.

Getting Started

With Adobe Photoshop, turning your images into vintage masterpieces has never been easier. Here’s a beginners guide on how you can achieve this effect in just a few steps.

Step 1: Open Your Image

Firstly, open the photo you wish to edit in Photoshop. This technique works best with images that have rich and divided tones to begin with.

Step 2: Add A Gradient Map

On your layer palette, click on the ‘Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer’ icon and select ‘Gradient Map’. This will apply a gradient map to your image. Photoshop has inbuilt presets, but don’t be afraid to experiment with your own color combinations. Opt for warm hues like browns, yellows, and oranges to instantly age your photo.

Step 3: Adjust The Layer Opacity

After applying the gradient map, you will find that the effect is potentially too strong, making your image seem unnatural. To soften this, simply adjust the layer’s opacity. Typically, a range between 15%-35% works best, but feel free to experiment to find what works best for your image.

Step 4: Apply A Photo Filter

Following the gradient map, apply a photo filter to boost the vintage appeal. This can be done by clicking on the ‘Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer’ button again and selecting ‘Photo Filter’. Choosing a sepia or a warming filter can help enhance the overall vintage aesthetic.

Tweaking Light and Contrast

Next, utilize the ‘Curves’ tool in Photoshop to adjust the lighting and contrast of your image. This tool is powerful for adding depth and dimension to your photos. Creating an ‘S curve’ will boost the contrast, further enhancing the vintage film vibe.

Adding Grain

What truly complements the vintage look is the addition of grain. Click on ‘Filter’, then ‘Noise’, and finally ‘Add Noise’. A subtle amount of noise will make your digital photo mimic the feel of a vintage film shot. Start with a value of 3-5% and adjust according to your preference.


To focus the viewer’s attention and add to the vintage aesthetic, add a vignette. Go to ‘Filter’, then ‘Lens Correction’, and finally click on the ‘Custom’ tab. Adjust the ‘Vignette’ to achieve the desired darkness and the ‘Midpoint’ slider to control its reach.

Fine-Tuning and Saving

Don’t be afraid to experiment through trial and error – it’s part of the process of crafting your unique style. Once satisfied with your vintage masterpiece, don’t forget to save it by going to ‘File’ and clicking ‘Save As’.

Final Thoughts

Like elevating landscape photos, creating a vintage film look requires patience, creativity, and an eye for aesthetic details. As you familiarise yourself with this technique, you will start to develop your individual editing style and breathe life into your photos. Keep testing, keep experimenting, and most importantly – keep creating.

We hope this guide proved helpful. Maybe you have your own tips and tricks for achieving a vintage look in Photoshop? Or do you have more tutorial requests? We would love to hear your thoughts.