Some of our greatest inspiration can come from learning about the past.
How to Create a Vintage Portrait Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a realistic vintage portrait in the old Victorian style. We’ll fabricate the entire scene from scratch by using a few stocks to establish depth of field as well as an authentic old-world mood.
The following assets were used in the production of this tutorial:
You can find a lot of inspiration in vintage photography. From the style to the lighting and general setup, artists have always made the most out of their limited resources.
So today, I’ll show you how to create a realistic vintage portrait using just a few stocks. Let’s take a look at a before and after result.
See the difference?
To get to the final result, we must study authentic vintage portraiture. Find inspiration on Google, Tumblr, and Pinterest by typing in keywords like “Vintage Victorian Portraits”.
Here are a few key details to keep in mind:
- Victorian portraiture is usually darkly lit, with one major light source.
- The old-school style of developing photos led to brightly blown-out areas reminiscent of high exposure in photography.
- The style included elaborate Victorian/Edwardian fabrics that usually showed a person’s class or occupation.
- Models rarely smiled and held more dignified poses.
- With old photos, there’s usually some damage, wrinkling, or other aging effects present.
I’ve always loved this style! You may have seen me repeat it in other tutorials like this dapper Victorian cat.
Now that we have the essentials in mind, we can move on to the manipulation.
1. How to Build the Victorian Scene
Open a New Document in Photoshop at 1074 x 1280 pixels.
Let’s start with the frame.
Open the Picture Frame image in a separate document. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection of the white area in the center of the frame. Hit the Delete key to remove this area.
Since the edges of the photo are white too, you’ll need to use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to remove them as well. Follow the same process to select and remove these areas.
Return to the previous document.
- Create a New Layer and use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill it with green
- Next, Copy and Paste the frame onto the new document. Resize it to fit the document with the Free Transform Tool (Control-T).
Add the model.
Copy and Paste the Victorian Woman stock onto a New Layer beneath the frame layer.
Generally speaking, the model’s picture is exactly what we need for this Victorian-inspired composition.
However, we need to separate her from the dark background so we can add a few more elements behind her. This will create depth of field and an interesting story.
So temporarily Hide the Visibility of the frame layer. Do this by hitting the Eye button on the side of the layer.
Now make a rough selection of the model to make a copy of her.
- Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (M) to create a selection around her; it doesn’t have to be perfect.
- With the model selected, hold Control-J to copy the selection onto a New Layer. Feel free to change the layer name to ‘Model 2.’
- Here is how the copy looks with the original model layer hidden. Don’t delete the original.
Refine the edges of the model’s image. Temporarily Hide the Visibility of the first model layer.
Then select Model 2 and add a Layer Mask. Paint black onto the mask with a Hard Round Brush (100% Hardness/100% Opacity) to help mask away the harsh edges.
Do this until you get a result like the one below, where the edges are much cleaner and the background is no longer visible.
Now open the Painting image in a separate document.
Unhide the Visibility of the picture frame and model layers.
Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the painting image. Then Copy and Paste it onto a New Layer beneath the Model 2 layer.
Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to resize the painting and place it behind her as shown above. She should now appear in front of it to help build the scene.
For more depth, let’s blur the painting.
Select the painting layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
Add a Radius of 5 pixels and hit OK.
Looking great so far!
Now let’s add the violin.
- Create a rough extraction of the violin with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L). Copy and Paste it onto a New Layer.
- Position this layer beneath the model 2 layer but above the painting layer. Add a Layer Mask to the violin and follow the same step as before to mask out the background using a Hard Round Brush (100% Hardness/100% Opacity).
Let’s blur the violin.
With the violin layer selected, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
Add a Radius of 2 pixels and hit OK.
2. How to Add Shadow and Vintage Coloring
The next part of this tutorial will focus on aging the photo and creating dramatic lighting. Then we’ll finish by adding more shadow and texture to the entire scene.
Here is what we have so far for this composition.
Let’s take a look!
Create a New Layer beneath the model 2 layer.
Let’s add some dramatic shadow that affects only the background elements.
- Select the Gradient Tool (G). Set it to Foreground Color to Transparent using a light gray tone as the color (
- Now create a Linear Gradient moving upwards at 100% Opacity. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Subtract for a nice shadow effect.
You may notice the gradient starts to peek out beyond the golden picture frame. Just use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select these areas and Delete them for a clean finish.
Now let’s fade and recolor the picture.
- Create a New Layer above the model 2 layer. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection as large as the picture frame.
- Fill the selection with another soft Linear Gradient, this time at a slight angle, using the same gray
#878787as before. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Difference and lower the Opacity to 15%. This will help fade the picture.
Create another New Layer above the fade.
Again, create a selection as large as the picture frame. Fill it with gray
#878787 using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Then set the Layer Blend Mode to Color for a nice black and white effect.
Let’s add a nice sepia tone.
Create a New Layer above the solid gray. Follow the same steps as before to Fill a selection with a solid brown color
#6a4c31, using the Paint Bucket Tool (G).
Then set the Layer Blend Mode to Color and lower the Opacity to 37%.
3. How to Age the Photo
These next steps will help us create an authentic-looking vintage photo, complete with subtle blurs and blown-out details.
Let’s begin with the blur.
Select the Model 2 layer and hold Control-J to Duplicate it.
Early camera lenses from the Victorian era always had a way of distorting photos. Sometimes, the photo development process later on also resulted in blurred edges.
We’ll recreate this look with just a subtle blur.
Select the model copy and go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur.
Position the blur towards the model’s face. Then set the Field Blur to 3 pixels and the Light Bokeh to 18%. Diffuse any areas you’d like on the face and body using the Layer Mask and a Soft Round Brush (0% Hardness/50-80% Opacity).
Now add some more light to the photo.
Create a New Layer and set it as a Clipping Mask to the blurred model copy.
Use a Soft Round Brush (10-30% Opacity) to paint tan
#d3b899 onto the model’s hair to diffuse the edges with light. Then follow up with a little white painted towards the bottom of her arms and dress.
Lower the Opacity of the layer as desired.
Now create a New Layer above the blurred model copy. Don’t clip this layer.
Use a Soft Round Brush and hold the Alt key to pick up the hair color as a Foreground Color
#2d2218. Use this color to diffuse the harsh edges of the hair for a more natural look.
Create a New Layer underneath the fade layer.
Set the Layer Blend Mode to Linear Light and use a Soft Round Brush (0% Hardness/10-30% Opacity) to paint a tan color
#c2a686 onto the photo to blow out the center with more light. Adjust the Opacity of the layer as needed.
Now for the texture and scratches.
Old photos age usually due to chemical reactions over time and general wear and tear.
Copy and Paste the Paper Texture image onto a New Layer underneath the picture frame layer.
- Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate the image so that it’s at a portrait orientation. Add a Layer Mask to the paper and use a Soft Round Brush to mask out her face.
- Then lower the Opacity to 48% and set the Layer Blend Mode to Divide.
Now for the scratches.
Open the Scratch Texture image. Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue and Saturation, and lower the Saturation to -100 to turn the image black and white.
Copy and Paste the scratch image onto a New Layer above the paper layer.
Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate the image counter-clockwise. Then add a Layer Mask to mask out areas where you don’t want the scratches to appear. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Lighten and lower the Opacity to 92%.
Duplicate this layer and repeat this step, this time rotating the image to place the scratches in another section of the photo. Diffuse the areas you don’t want showing.
Let’s finish up by blowing out the light a little more.
Set a New Layer to Overlay. Use a Soft Round Brush and a pale yellow color
#cfcfc2 to paint bright spots of light onto the photo. I chose to add some light to her shoulder and the background landscape.
Now set the Layer Blend Mode to Overlay.
4. How to Create a Vignette Effect
For this last section, all we need is to correct some of the colors with Adjustment Layers before adding a dramatic vignette effect.
Here is our composition so far. Great work!
Add a New Adjustment Layer of Color Lookup underneath the picture frame layer.
Set the 3D LUT File to Candlelight.CUBE and the Layer Blend Mode to Darken, and lower the Opacity to 86%.
Now it’s looking super vintage!
Create another New Adjustment Layer of Color Lookup above the picture frame layer.
Set the 3D LUT File to Fuji F125 Kodak 2395. Lower the Opacity to 45%.
Before we add the vignette, let’s create a shadow for the picture frame.
Right-click the picture frame layer and go to Blending Options. Create a Drop Shadow with the following settings.
Let’s finish with a vignette effect for more drama. This will help blend the overall picture frame with the original green background.
Create a New Layer above all the others.
Select the Gradient Tool (G) and set it to the Foreground Color to Transparent option. Now create a Reflected Linear Gradient using a dark gray color
#282828. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 88%.
Feel free to add even more shadow on another New Layer. Use a Soft Round Brush (0% Hardness/10-30% Opacity) to paint more dark shadow along the edges for a rounder appearance.
I’ve also used this layer to paint subtle white scratches onto the picture for even more aging.
Be sure to check out the final result below!
All Done! Great Job!
Creatives young and old always make do with what they have. And in this tutorial, we learned how to create authentic-looking vintage manipulations using modern stocks and weathered elements.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial! How’d you do? Share your comments and results below.
For more photo manipulation tutorials like this one, check out these links:
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