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Old-Fashioned, Hand-Tinted Photo Effect With Photoshop

Written by Steve Patterson.
In this Photoshop Effects tutorial, we’re going to learn how to easily create an old-fashioned, hand-tinted photo effect. All it takes is an adjustment layer, a layer blend mode, some blurring, a slider bar, and a couple of minutes of your time.

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Here’s the photo I’ll be using:

The original image
The original image.

And here’s the "hand-tinted" effect we’re after:

The final result
The final result.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Duplicate The Background Layer

With my image open in Photoshop, I can see in my Layers palette that I currently have just one layer, the Background layer, which contains my original image:

Photoshop's Layers palette showing the Background layer
Photoshop’s Layers palette showing the Background layer.

I need to make a duplicate of my Background layer, so I’ll use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac). I now have two layers in the Layers palette, the original Background layer and the copy above it, which Photoshop names “Layer 1″:

Photoshop's Layers palette
Press “Ctrl+J” (Win) / “Command+J” (Mac) to duplicate the Background layer.

Step 2: Hide The Background Copy Layer For Now

We don’t need to actually see our Background copy layer just yet, so click on the Layer Visibility icon (the eyeball) on the left of “Layer 1″ in the Layers palette to temporarily hide it in the Document Window:

Clicking the layer visibility icon
Click the Layer Visibility (eyeball) icon to temporarily hide “Layer 1″.

Step 3: Add A Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer Above The Background Layer

Click back on the original Background layer to select it, and then click the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette:

Click the New Adjustment Layer icon
Click on the Background layer to select it, then click the “New Adjustment Layer” icon.

Choose Channel Mixer from the list that appears:

Choose the Channel Mixer adjustment layer
Select “Channel Mixer” from the list.

The Channel Mixer adjustment layer should now appear between the Background layer and “Layer 1″:

The Channel Mixer in the Layers palette
The Channel Mixer appears between the two other layers.

Step 4: Use The Channel Mixer To Create A Black And White Version Of The Image

We’re going to use the Channel Mixer to create a nice black and white version of the image. We could simply desaturate the image, but that usually gives us poor quality results. The Channel Mixer allows us to create our own custom black and white version and adjust it until we’re happy with how it looks. Also, by using the adjustment layer version of the Channel Mixer, we’re not touching the original image in any way.

When the Channel Mixer dialog appears, the first thing you want to do is select the Monochrome option in the bottom left corner:

Click the Monochrome option
Select the Monochrome option in the bottom left corner of the Channel Mixer dialog box.

You’ll see the image turn black and white in the Document Window when you select it. Then drag the Red, Green and Blue slider bars left and right to create a custom black and white version of the image. The idea is to keep all three values totaling 100%, which will give you the brightest possible image without “blowing out” any of the details in the highlights. The values you end up choosing for your image will depend entirely on the image itself. Here I’ve chosen 10% for Red, 45% for Green and 45% for Blue, which gives me a black and white version I’m happy with. Again, your numbers will depend on the image you’re working with.

Photoshop's Channel Mixer
Photoshop’s Channel Mixer. Adjust the Red, Green and Blue sliders to create a custom black and white version of the image.

If you want to learn more about what exactly these Red, Green and Blue channels are, check out the RGB And Color Channels Explained section of the site.

Click OK when you’re done to exit out of the Channel Mixer. Here’s my image after converting it to black and white using the Channel Mixer:

The image after converting it to black and white
The image after using the Channel Mixer to convert it to black and white.

Step 5: Make “Layer 1″ Visible Again

Click on “Layer 1″ in the Layers palette to select it, then click on its Layer Visibility icon once again to make it appear in the Document Window:

Click the Layer Visibility icon
Click on “Layer 1″ to select it, then click the Layer Visibility icon to display it in the Document Window.

When you do that, it will temporarily hide the black and white version from view:

The black and white version is temporarily hidden from view
The black and white version is now hidden from view.

Step 6: Change The Layer Blend Mode To "Soft Light"

With "Layer 1" selected, go up to the blend mode options in the top left of the Layers palette. Click on the down-pointing arrow to the right of the word “Normal” and change the blend mode to Soft Light:

Change the blend mode for Layer 1 to Soft Light
Change the blend mode for “Layer 1″ to “Soft Light”.

This gives us the start of our hand-tinting effect:

The image after changing the blend mode to Soft Light
The image after changing the blend mode to “Soft Light”.

Step 7: Apply The Gaussian Blur Filter

Still with "Layer 1" selected, go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Blur, and then choose Gaussian Blur. We’re going to apply some blurring to the tinting so it looks more like it was done by hand and not by a computer. When the Gaussian Blur dialog box appears, enter in a Radius value of about 10 pixels:

Photoshop's Gaussian Blur dialog box
Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur dialog box. Enter a Radius value of 10 pixels.

Here’s the image after applying the Gaussian Blur filter:

The image after applying Gaussian Blur
The image after applying the Gaussian Blur filter.

Step 8: Bring Back Some Of The Shadow Detail With The "Blend If" Sliders

Things are looking good, except that I’ve lost some of the detail in the shadow areas of the image. I need to bring it back, and I’m going to do that by hiding the darkest parts of the image on "Layer 1" and letting the black and white version show through. How am I going to do that? By using Photoshop’s Blend If sliders.

Click on the Add Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers palette:

Click the Add Layer Style icon
Click the “Add Layer Style” icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.

Choose Blending Options… from the top of the list that appears:

Choose Blending Options from the list
Choose “Blending Options…” from the list.

This will bring up the Layer Style dialog box. The "Blend If" sliders are at the very bottom:

Photoshop's Layer Style dialog box
Photoshop’s Layer Style dialog box. The “Blend If” sliders are circled in red.

Step 8: Drag The Upper Left Slider Towards The Right To Bring Back The Shadow Detail

Drag the top left black slider to the right to bring back the shadow detail. As you drag more and more towards the right, you’ll see more and more of the detail in the shadows re-appearing. That’s because "Layer 1" is blocking the details in the shadows, so what we’re doing by dragging this black slider towards the right is telling Photoshop to hide the darkest areas in "Layer 1" and allow the black and white image beneath it to show through in those areas instead. Continue dragging towards the right until you’ve brought back all the detail in the dark parts of the image. Here I’ve dragged mine to 50:

Drag the top left black slider towards the right
Drag the top left black slider towards the right to bring back the shadow detail.

The only problem now is that there’s harsh lines along the areas where “Layer 1″ and the black and white image beneath it meet. We need to soften those areas and create a nice transition between them, and we can do that by holding down Alt (Win) / Option (Mac), clicking on that same black slider and dragging it back towards the left. Holding Alt/Option will split the slider in two, and you’ll be dragging the left half of it towards the left. As you drag the left half further towards the left, you’ll be increasing the distance between the left and right halves, and that space in between creates the soft transition area we’re looking for in the image. I’ve dragged my left half of the slider back to a value of 10:

Dragging the left half of the black slider
Drag the left half of the black slider back towards the left to create a soft transition area in the image.

When you’re done, click OK to exit out of the Layer Style dialog box, and you’ve completed the effect!

Here’s my original image once again:

The original image once again
The original image.

And here’s my finished “old-fashioned, hand-tinted” effect:

The final result
The final-result.

As I mentioned, you can use this tinting effect on all sorts of images. Here’s a different photo:

Another photo
Using a different photo for the effect.

And here it is after applying the same effect:

Another example
The final result.

In the case of the second image, I fine-tuned the effect by lowering the opacity of “Layer 1″ to 50% to reduce the amount of color in the image:

Lower the opacity of the top layer to reduce the amount of color
Lower the opacity of the top layer to reduce the amount of color in the image if needed.

If you need to add more color to the image, simply lower the opacity of the Channel Mixer adjustment layer. Not only is this effect easy to create, it’s also easy to adjust and fine-tune as needed.

And there we have it! For more old fashioned photo effects, check out our Turn A New Photo Into An Old Photo and Old Paper Background Texture tutorials!

Download our tutorials as print-ready PDFs! Learning Photoshop has never been easier!

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