How to Make a Photo Look Vintage | Tutorial

The question of how to make a photo look vintage is rather popular nowadays, so I decided to study the topic in more detail. Vintage editing is again in trend because of a special romantic and somehow nostalgic mood it adds to images.

If you want to get such photos, you don’t need to resort to film cameras. Knowing these 3 Photoshop image editing techniques is enough to make photographs look old.

Method 1 – Matte Effect

how to make a photo look vintage fixthephoto editing how to make a photo look vintage fixthephoto editing
Order Color Correction $0.20 per photo

First, we’ll learn how to achieve the most popular vintage look - matte effect.

Step 1. Duplicate the Background

how to make a photo look vintage duplicate the background

We’ll start with duplicating the background layer. Drag the background layer to the “Create a new layer” button at the bottom of the Layers panel. You can also use a shortcut: Cmd + J (for Mac)/Ctrl + J (for Windows).

Step 2. Color Correct the Photo in Camera Raw

how to make a photo look vintage camera raw filter

You can easily distinguish prints from the vintage period because of washed out, dull colors. That’s why the first thing you have to do while making pictures look old is to perform color correction: reduce saturation, lower contrast etc. Open Filter – Camera Raw. Move the sliders of the basic settings, make the photo a little discolored. Go to the Split Toning menu, make Shadows cool and Highlights warm.

Step 3. Add a Matte Effect

how to make a photo look vintage curves

Finally, we’ll add a matte effect, that is so prominent in old photos. Open Curves, raise the black point in the RGB curve. Use Curves to create a more visible effect. Go to Red and Blue Curves, make Shadows cool and Highlights warm.

Method 2 – Vignette Effect

how to make a photo look vintage before after how to make a photo look vintage before after

Vignette is a popular effect from the old days. Learn how to achieve this effect in 8 simple steps.

Step 1. Create a Warm Tint

how to make a photo look vintage solid color fill

Over time, old photographs acquire a yellow tint because photo paper and chemical deteriorate change their properties. When you make photo look old, you need to mimic this effect. The easiest way to do it is to create an Adjustment layer and select Solid Color. Pick a warm tint and set the Pin Light blending mode.

Step 2. Darken the Photo

how to make a photo look vintage add vignette

Now, you’ll have to open Curves in the RGB curve. Drag the curve down to darken the photo.

Step 3. Create a Selection for Vignette

how to make a photo look vintage marquee tool vignette

Next, we’ll create a vignette. Vignetting is the result of the poor lens focusing, characteristic for vintage photos, when the entire photo looks sharp while the edges are underexposed. Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool with Feather 120px to select the area without vignette.

Step 4. Invert the Selection

how to make a photo look vintage invert vignette

To add the vignette and make photo look old, you need to invert the selection. In order to do it go to Image - Adjustments – Invert.

Step 5. Deselect

how to make a photo look vintage deselect

To finish creating a vignette you need to go to Select – Deselect, or use the Ctrl+D shortcut.

Step 6. Fill an Empty Layer with Gray

how to make a photo look vintage add grain

Since the cameras and lenses of that time couldn’t boast remarkable technical characteristics, old images always have a high level of noise. To imitate this peculiar defect and make photos look vintage, first, create an empty layer, open Edit - Fill, choose 50% Gray.

Step 7. Add Noise

how to make a photo look vintage add noise

Next, go to Filter - Noise - Add Noise. You will see the “Amount” slider in the dialog box that opens. Move it rightwards to boost the amount of noise. Decide on the proper level of noise based on your image, your photography style and the result you want to achieve. When you like what you see, click “OK”.

Step 8. Change the Blend Mode to “Overlay”

how to make a photo look vintage overlay blend mode

Finally, change the blend mode from “Normal” to the “Overlay”.

Method 3 – Through Overlays

how to make a photo look vintage before after how to make a photo look vintage before after

This method lets you achieve the retro look by using overlays and gradient map. It is the quickest and the simplest technique.

Step 1. Create a Warm Effect

how to make a photo look vintage warm effect curves

First, let’s create the warm effect to add nostalgic feeling to your photo. Do it by opening Curves and adjusting all the curves - RGB, Red, Green, Blue.

Step 2. Use a Gradient Map

how to make a photo look vintage gradient

Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to add a new Gradient Map adjustment layer. Change the Blend Mode to Darken. Experiment with the Opacity.

Step 3. Add a Vintage Overlay

how to make a photo look vintage overlay

Finally, try different overlays to create a completed vintage look.

Best Vintage Photo Editors on Your Phone

If you don’t have Adobe Photoshop, lack skills to use this powerful software to make photos look vintage or simply don’t have enough time to age each picture in such a way, you can achieve the same result using your phone. I have selected 5 best apps for vintage photo editing and described them below.


how to make a photo look vintage vsco
Rank (4.4/5)
iOS, Android
  • Amazing vintage photo filters
  • Eye-pleasing, simple design
  • Lots of image editing tools
  • You must be a premium user to get access to most filters

This app is highly popular among users, and the first reason for that is a huge variety of vintage VSCO filters free and paid. You can use the application for free and take advantage of its multiple features – white balance, exposure, saturation, contrast and more. In addition to a great collection of pre-installed VSCO filters, VSCO allows adjusting them in accordance to your needs. You can also use this application as a so-called social network, creating a profile and posting vintage VSCO pictures there. Those following you can like and share your posts. Besides, it possesses some tools typically available in a photo restoration app, so you can fix damages in your old shots.

2. Huji Cam

huji cam vintage photo editor
Rank (4.2/5)
iOS, Android
  • Has a time stamp
  • Lots of light leaks and filters
  • Retro UI
  • You get access to image editing features only after buying a paid version

Many celebrities and famous photographers praise this app for a cool set of filters and other nice features, so it definitely deserves the place on this list. Huji Cam is designed to imitate the effect of film cameras from the 1990s by dint of numerous old photo filters and light leaks. Another handy feature is the time stamp, which can be adjusted for a certain purpose. While working in this application, mind that the “developing” process takes several seconds, but the result is undoubtedly worth waiting.

3. Neptune Camera

neptune camera vintage photo editor
Rank (4.8/5)
  • Fully customizable
  • Lots of filters
  • User-oriented interface
  • Average camera app quality

The capabilities of this app are frequently underestimated by users interested in vintage photo editing. In fact, Neptune Camera boasts many helpful features, which turn the process of making picture look old a breeze.

Personally I value the possibility to customize the application the way I need and this is another argument in favor of this tool. You can also use Neptune Camera to take photos, but don’t expect much from the results. Anyway, not all vintage editing apps free can offer such a function.

4. InstaLab

instalab vintage photo editor
Rank (4.7/5)
  • Diverse Border Styles
  • Realistic Colorful, Gradient and Old Photo Textures
  • Expired and Aged Effects
  • Instant Collage feature
  • In-app purchases

If you admire polaroid-style photos, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a Polaroid camera. You can just download InstaLab, an app that makes photos look like polaroids, and give your images that recognizable look. Snap a new shot or upload the one you have on your phone or tablet, choose the suitable analog type, apply old photo effects and voila!

The process is simple, enjoyable and quick. Here you can also choose diverse borders for your images, change the size and resolution of the pictures.

5. 1998 Cam

1998 cam vintage photo editor
Rank (4.8/5)
iOS, Android
  • Has a date stamp 
  • Over 100 filters
  • Fast preview
  • In-app purchases

1998 Cam is a disposable camera with a date stamp that you can use to add a gentle retro vibe to your images and footage. It is a vintage camera that was at its peak in the 1990s. This is a handy app to make photos look grainy, add light leaks, scratch and glitches effects, apply different overlays and more.

If you want to be in full control over the photo editing process instead of observing the changes automatically generated by the app, you should definitely try 1998 Cam.

Freebies to Make Photos Look Vintage

Though the manual procedure of making pictures look old in Photoshop is simple and fast, you can still cope with the task even quicker by using these actions and overlays. Below, I have bundled the best vintage tools that will help you achieve that particular look free of charge.

Dusty Beauty

vignette photoshop overlay vignette photoshop overlay

This Ps vintage overlay excels at adding a gentle pastel colors to your images in order to make them atmospheric and eye-catching.

VSCO Filter

vintage photoshop action vintage photoshop action

This warm vintage VSCO filter can make the scene livelier and more vibrant, by adding a soft glow to the shot. The result looks realistic and beautiful.

Warm Weather

vsco photoshop action vsco photoshop action

If you see that your images can benefit from a bit of warmth, make use of this overlay. It also fixes lighting issues, which is important for portrait and outdoor photos. The abundant sunlight creates a natural glow, casting soft, flattering shadows that enhance the subjects. The colors come alive, with lush greens, vibrant flowers, and clear blue skies adding a captivating backdrop.

Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more