Posted by Claire Wade

Photo by Gerald Bates

Cropped version of the original image

This tutorial is done in photoshop, however, most photo editing software has similar capabilities and you should be able to get an idea how to do this in other programs.

The desired effect is to make the photo appear as though it was taken around 100 years ago, when photography was less advanced and the photo has aged.

To start with I have borrowed a photo from Gerald Bates (thanks Gerald!) taken at the club during our Victorian/40’s night. I have cropped it down just for the sake of space in this tutorial, but it wasn’t necessary.

Surface-blurFirst I went to  Filter – Blur – Surface Blur. In the dialogue box I entered a Radius of 10 pixels and Threshold of 3 pixels, but this is a guide only and it depends on personal preference and the size of your image. I am working on quite a small image that is only 600 pixels wide, if your images is print size and a lot larger, you may want to have a larger radius.

The point of the Surface Blur is to soften the image as lenses were not so crisp in the past as they are now. I chose Surface Blur because it only blurs areas of similar colour (such as skin and sky) but keeps features such as eyes, lace and other fine detail still sharp.

If your photo software does not have Surface Blur, I suggest you use a normal blur (or Gaussian Blur), but only use it a little.


Next go to Image – Adjustments – Hue/Saturation. This is where to change the colour of the image to Sepia. Photoshop does have it’s own version of Sepia. If you click in the Preset box, where it says Custom, a list of options will appear and you can choose Sepia.

Alternatively, you can make up your own colour. Make sure you tick Colorize which is in the bottom right hand corner of the dialogue box. Then move the Hue and Saturation sliders.  I suggest setting Hue to 45 and Saturation to 20, but do have a go at moving the sliders about and see what happens.

Levels-GBNext I wanted to darken the mid tones of the image and lighten the light tones. to do this, I went to Image – Adjustments – Levels. When the box pops up, you will see a histogram with sliders underneath and  three boxes in which you can type. I kept the left box at 0, the middle at 0.8 and the right at 238.

You can also move the sliders that are under the histogram. The left adjusts the dark tones, the middle mid tones and the right light tones. Try moving them about to see what happens.

photo-filter-1-GBNext you need your Layers Palette. If you cannot see this, click on Window – Layers. At the bottom of this palette are 7 icons. The middle one is a circle with half of it filled. Click on it and a drop-down menu will appear. Click on Photo Filter.

photo-filter-yellowNow the Photo Filter Properties box appears. It defaults at a Warming Filter, we don’t want this so click on the color box and the Color Picker (Photo Filter Color) box will appear.

I’d like a bright yellow, you can click in the colour area of the box to choose your colour or you can type the following colour code at the bottom of the box: fff22d. Then click OK.

You can close the Properties box and then flatten the image by going to Layer – Flatten Image.

Add-Noise-GBOld photographs often had noise (that speckled effect you can get when you use a high ISO and appears grainy).

So go to Filter – Noise – Add Noise. I chose an Amount of 3%, but you may require more if you have a larger image than I’m using. It is best to do it by eye –  make sure you have Preview ticked, it is under OK and Cancel. At the very bottom tick Monochromatic to make sure your noise isn’t coloured.

Then click on OK.

Dup-layer-GBNext a duplicate layer is required. Go to Layer – Duplicate Layer.

Within the Layers palette, you will see the new layer appear (named Background copy in the image on the left), You can tell which layer is currently active as it becomes blue within the palette whilst other layers in the palette remain grey. There is also a little white frame around the thumbnail of the image within the layer palette which indicates which layer you are currently working on.

GRain-GBNow I’m going to add a little grain to the image.

Go to Filter – Filter Gallery and a massive box will appear with an array of amazing things you can do in Photoshop to get all fancy. I recommend you click on the various options just to see what they do!

For this tutorial, I have clicked on the lowest in the middle list, Texture. Some thumbnails appear and I’ve clicked on Grain. On the right I have Intensity at 4 and Contrast at 32 with Grain Type set to Sprinkles.

Again, I suggest doing this by eye as the size of your image affects how much of the effect you need to add.

Overlay-GBTo complete the effect I have gone back to the Layers Palette. With the Background copy layer still active, go to the top of the palette and click where it says Normal. A drop-down menu will appear and I chose Overlay.

NB: this area of the Layers Palette is known as color blending. It lets the colours of your active layer blend with the layer below it. Try some of the other blending modes to see what happens.

To the right of the Colour Blending box it says Opacity. I suggest typing in 30 to make it 30%, but this can vary according to your preference.

Then go to Layer – Flatten Image. The two layers will become one.

texture-BGIt is common for old photos to get scratched, so I am going to add scratches to the photo.There are ways to make your own bespoke scratches within Photoshop, but it is long winded, boring and quite unnecessary when there are plenty of free scratch texture available online. I just did a Google Image Search, specifying that I want a large image. click here to see the results.

I found a suitable scratch texture, saved it on my PC and opened it in Photoshop too. I darkened it using  levels (Image – Adjustments- Levels) by moving the slider to the right. I then clicked OK.

Next I went to Select – All. And then to Edit – Copy, then closed the image.

TRansform-GBGo back to your original image and go to Edit – Paste. A new layer will appear (layer 1) that contains your scratched texture.

If it does not fit your main image correctly, go to Edit – Free Transform. A thin lined box will appear around the Scratches Texture layer and there are ‘handles’ at each corner (I have drawn red arrows pointing to three of them). Put your mouse on one of these handles, left click and hold, then move the mouse. You will see the box change in shape.

If you also hold down your Shift key whilst doing this, the shape will stay uniform. Make sure the Scratches texture becomes large enough to cover the main background image by pulling out the box. When you are done, let go of the left click and press Enter on your keyboard.

soft-light-GBGo back to the blending mode in your layers palette and in the drop-down menu, choose soft light. This will make sure that the image layer shows through the scratches texture, but you will still see the scratches. If it is too dark, reduce opacity. I chose to knock it back to 70%, but this will vary according to the darkness of the original image.

Then go to layer – flatten image.

dup-fillThere’s just a couple more things to do and a duplicate layer is required. Go to Layer – Duplicate layer – OK. Make sure you have clicked on the Background layer within the layers palette (it will turn blueish) then go to Edit – Fill. The Fill box will appear. Click on the top drop-down menu and choose color.

The Color picker box will appear. There’s many ways to choose your colour from this box, but I’m going to type in the ‘hex’ code. At the bottom of the color picker box is an area to type this code in, it is recognisable by having a hashtag (#) next to it. A hex code is a 6 digit/letter code that signifies a colour. Type in f2e7c1. This is a cream colour. Then click Ok.

You will see that the background layer is filled with cream. transform-again-GBWithin the Layers palette, click back on the top layer (it will turn blueish) and then go to Edit – Free Transform. The thin border with handles at the corners will appear. Make sure you hold down the Shift key AND the Alt key. Then hold the left-click on your mouse on one of the corners and  drag it towards the centre of the image slightly – until there is a border around your image. When you have done this, let go of the left-click and press Enter.

Nb: holding Shift whilst transforming the size of the image makes it keep a uniform shape. Holding Alt makes it stay at the centre.

resizedimage500361-stroke-gbA final few extras:

For the border, stay clicked on the top layer, then click on the little fx button at the bottom of the layers palette. A drop-down menu will appear. Click on Stroke.

A Layer style box appears. I typed in 5 px and I clicked on the color box to make the color picker appear. This time I type ffffff into the hex code box. This makes a white border.


To the left of the Layer Style is a variety of other options. you can click on each one and the box will change on the right hand side.

I clicked on Inner Glow next, the reason for this is to make the photo seem faded at the edges. I kept the default settings the same,  apart from Structure – opacity which I changed to 58 % and Elements – size which I changed to 54 pixels.

Finally I clicked on Drop Shadow which is listed at the bottom left of the Layer Style box. Again I kept the default settings apart from: Angle – 153° and size – 18 pixels. Click OK.


In your Layers palette, underneath the layer, you can see the effects you have used listed. If you click on the little eye next to each one, you can make it disappear.

If you double-click where it says Effects, the Layer Style box will re-appear and you can adjust any of the settings, remove them (by un-ticking next to where they are listed on the left) or add any new ones.

When you are happy with you image, go to Layer – Flatten image.Your image should now be complete!