I’ve been distracted and unfocused this past week, bouncing from one project to another… but I did manage to sneak in a photo shoot using my awesome new thrift store finds!

soft dreamy vintage photoshop filter tutorial

Gossip Girls 8x10 Archival print, shown in frame.

It happened to be an overcast day, when the children finally decided to behave themselves, so my lighting situation wasn’t perfect… but nothing a little Photoshop couldn’t solve, right? 😉

I’ve also been excited to experiment with some vintage filter techniques, so I fired up Google and set off to find a great Photoshop tutorial.

This “breathtaking, dreamy, vintage” tutorial seemed to fit the bill at first glance, but after reading through it, I found myself disappointed by its rigid structure.

Use these (x,y,z) settings… download this (abc.jpg) texture… and this (etc.jpg) one… and this (blah.abr) brush…

I know.. I know… What the heck was I expecting with a tutorial?!
I dunno, perhaps a little wiggle room… the chance to stretch my own creative muscles.

Because you see, I don’t play by the rules.

I don’t follow recipes to the teaspoon, or sew using patterns…

I quit piano lessons at the age of six, after only two months, because I was frustrated with my teacher’s strict and seemingly limited Suzuki method.
Impatient to play any piece by sight, I begged my grandmother to “just teach me to read the treble and bass clefs, pulleeze?”

With that in mind, after getting the basic gist of this photoshop tutorial, I threw it out the window. My childish foot stomping: “Don’t tell me what to do! Let me do it myself!”

But I’d like to show you step-by-step what I did instead, using PS Elements 6 (as the original tutorial had different settings)… and encourage you to explore these steps on your own as well.
Just remember as we get started, no decision is right or wrong, as long as you enjoy how it looks!

Another Vintage Dreamy Photoshop Tutorial

I started with a few shots taken of my “Gossip Girls” Regency Cat art, framed and hanging on the wall.
You can see here that I had some issues with lighting contrast – bright sunny spots and deep shadows.
Hey, that’s okay – *deep breath* – we can fix that problem.

three photographs of TaraFly's art studio

Three photos of my framed artwork, taken from different angles...

I chose the photo on the left, because I liked the angle, and all the key elements (props, etc.) are relatively centered.

The reason why this matters?
Well, I want to upload the finished piece to my Etsy shop, where pics are recommended to be 1000×1000 square.
When I set up my photo shoots, I try to keep a cropped “square” in mind.

In this screenshot, I’m using Levels to fix the lighting problem, which can be done by sliding the arrows (left or right) to accentuate the light, shadows, or midtones.
In this case, I slid the right arrow over towards the center (where the wavy lines begin), causing the entire image to grow brighter.

adjusting light with photoshop levels

Brightening my photo with Levels

**Quick note – normally, you wouldn’t want to saturate a photo this much.
See how washed out my poor porcelain pitcher is? For a nice “realistic” photo, I might create a mask to ignore the basin, and lighten just the chair and wall.

Next, I cropped my image into a rough square for Etsy… it was actually 1000×960 but close enough.
Obviously, you can crop your picture however you please, or not at all.

Okay… here is where the real fun begins.

1. We’re going to create duplicate copies of this image: I made 2 copies (plus the original).
We will be adding a different color effect to each copy, and then blending them together.

creating duplicate layers in photoshop

Right click, and select duplicate background/layer

2. Make two of the copies invisible, by clicking the eyeball next to each thumbnail. That way, we can work with one layer at a time, and see the results. (Otherwise, the layers above would block our view)

3. Go under “Enhance > Adjust Color” …. we have multiple options here, and you’re free to try them all.
Our goal is to shift the color balance of each layer… making the photo appear redder, or greener, etc.

Adjusting Color Variations in Photoshop

Selecting Increase Red for this photo's midtone colors

I personally chose “Color Variations”, which allows me to alter the color values of the image’s shadows, midtones, and highlights.

4. I selected “Midtones”, set the sliding arrow about mid-way, then clicked on “Increase Red”.
And… Voila!

TaraFly's tutorial, increasing red with Color Variations in PS

Yes, that is definitely an increase in red!

I did the same thing for both of my duplicate layers, by making each one visible again, and increasing the blues and greens.

5. I chose to increase the blue shadows on one layer, and the green highlights on the other.
Resulting in this:

Altering the highlights and shadow colors in Photoshop

Looking at my green and blue layers, side by side

6. Now we blend the layers all together, using the Blending mode (located next to the Opacity level).
The two duplicate layers get blended, and you can experiment with different blending styles of course.

I chose Soft Light.

Adding soft light filter to blend layer in Photoshop

Selecting Soft Light from the list of blending options...

7. I also set the Opacity level of the Blue shadowed layer at 100% and the Green highlighted layer at 45%, which toned down the green somewhat.
If a particular color looks too strong for you, try a different blending mode (Overlay, Lighten, etc…) or even adjust the Opacity to a lower setting.
Everything is negotiable.

After you’ve finished blending and playing with the transparency, you’ll have a better idea of how your image is coming along…
Mine looks like this:

creating a soft dreamy vintage style image in Photoshop

It looks very warm, soft, and inviting, doesn't it?

8. At this point, I merged all the layers into one by selecting “Layer > Flatten Image” from the top menu.

This isn’t necessary, but neither is having a bunch of loose layers hanging around, since we’re basically done editing them… it just keeps things tidy. 😉

Okay, now we’re ready to add some aged effects!

You know those spots and splotches of UV and acid damage commonly found on vintage photographs? We can re-create that appearance digitally using a photograph of clouds. Seriously!

You probably have pictures of clouds somewhere on your computer or photo albums; the shot doesn’t have to be award-winning, so don’t worry, but it helps if the clouds have a nice shape and strong outline.

If you don’t have any on hand, let me direct you to a great stock photographer for your fluffy cloud needs – Hatestock on Deviantart.com.
She’s an artist who also provides free-for-any-use stock photographs.

9. I took this cloud photo from her gallery and cropped it, resizing it to match my photo dimensions.

dark clouds with patch of sunlight, photo by Hatestock on Deviantart

Photograph courtesy of hatestock.deviantart.com

10. Next, I added a new transparent layer above the cloud image, to experiment with gradients.

Yes, you can add gradients directly onto the photo, but I also like to play with blending modes.
I’m just a layer junkie, okay?! 😛

11. Choose two colors that you would like to create a hazy effect with… (I picked a pinkish violet and gold) and add a gradient over the transparent layer.

Create one by selecting the Gradient Tool, and click/drag your mouse over the transparent layer, to establish the direction with which one color will fade into the other.
Mine was a diamond-shaped gradient, beginning in one corner and expanding outward.

12. Then we can blend it into the clouds on the layer beneath, using various settings (Overlay, Vivid Light, Dodge, etc…)
until you find something interesting that you like.

I chose Color Dodge, and set the Opacity to 85%… creating a large burst of whitish yellow light and fluffy pink/purple clouds.

Using Photoshop gradients to add special effects to clouds and sky

My gradient in the corner, and my new pink cloud layer underneath

13. Merge the layer onto your clouds, then copy and paste this new creation onto your original image.
Again, adjust the blending mode to suit your tastes.

I used Vivid Light at 50% Opacity this time.

Creating a vintage style photo in photoshop, adding cloud texture

Clouds create a gorgeous deteriorated effect, don't they?

*Keep in mind, you DO want these colored clouds to be visible, even if the image looks really weird at this point. LOL

I also wanted to add another texture to age it even further, add a bit of graininess and a few tiny scratches… like this poor photo has been kicked around in a dresser for fifty-odd years.
The perfect thing to get a texture from, is a bit of rusty, scuffed up metal…. like an old, grimy cookie sheet.

an old rusty cookie sheet, used for a metal texture in Photoshop

Well, not truly grimy... it does get washed after every use.

Please don’t tell me that your cookie sheets look nothing like this, or I’ll accuse you of sounding like my mother. 😛
Hey, I line them with aluminum foil.
And…. they’ve been scrubbed a million times.
They’re clean, I swear!!

But I digress.

You can snap a picture of some old, dirty metal object in your home… or scan it…
OR …for those of you with pristine, immaculate homes … *cough* yeahright *cough* …you can surf the web (i.e. Deviantart) for “rusty metal textures”.

14. One way or another, grab an image of a rusty, nasty looking scrap of metal… preferably scratched or dented… then crop and resize it to fit your project.

15. Copy and paste the metal image over your cloud layer, and set the blending mode to Overlay, with 100% Opacity.

A photo with two textures applied for vintage look in Photoshop

Now THIS looks like a beaten-up, weathered photograph.

Using Overlay eliminates the majority of its color, and leaves you with just the texture of scratches and scuff marks.
You could’ve also converted it to black and white scale first, but it isn’t necessary.
If a bit of the metal color comes through, it just adds to the effect, right?

So, by now you’re probably thinking “What the frak have you done to this picture?!”
It does look pretty rough! LOL

But wait! Here’s the best part:

16. Take your bottom layer (with your color-altered image on it) and duplicate it.

17. Drag this new copy up to the top of your layer heap, above all the textured stuff….

Now of course, all the textures are hidden under this new layer, which matches the bottom layer, like a rainbow sandwich.
But not for long.

18. Set the blending mode on the duplicate layer for Multiply, and leave the Opacity at 100% by default.

The result is that your duplicate image now softens the effects of the cloud and metal texture, while still allowing them to bleed through.

dreamy, soft, vintage aged photoshop tutorial by TaraFly

At last, a soft and romantic vintage inspired photo.

At this point, I’m calling it quits! LOL I like my picture just the way it is.

19. When you’re finished, click “Layer > Flatten Image” and save it as a .jpg file.

However, you might want to continue making small adjustments…
Perhaps it’s still a bit dark, and you want to brighten it? Go ahead.
Add a sepia filter? Sure, why not!

One thing I’ve noticed with my product photos:
** The clouds or metal texture sometimes will encroach on key elements that you want undisturbed. **

I could’ve easily wound up with my framed artwork of “Gossip Girls” covered in purple clouds or rusty black spots.
Not exactly flattering when I’m trying to sell reproduction prints, eh?

In that case, I would need to take the Eraser Tool, and erase the cloud or metal texture layer just inside the framed area, or whatever object needs to remain free from clutter… like the faces of people, for example.

Experimenting with Photoshop is an ongoing process, and as I said, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to use it.
If someone tells you otherwise, bite them. Not too hard, though. 😉

You should feel free to take this tutorial as a starting point, and make improvements, or completely throw it out and start fresh…. but I’d love to see what you create!

If you did this project, please show me your results!
If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. 🙂