Deke’s Techniques 205: Creating an Antique Photo Effect

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke imagines himself the king of the Irish castle we dramafied last week. And he imagines his reign took place in Ye Olde Sepia-Toned Tymes. Which is sort of hard to reconcile, given this Dunguaire Castle was built around 1520, long before the 1980s when Photoshop came along to make photos look like they came from the early 1930s. And yet, his method for antiquing a photo is useful in any age, long past the Imaginary Sepia Age of King Deke the Creative of County Clare.

Here’s a before (left side) and after (right) view of Deke’s halluncinatory ancestral home, replete with delightful grain and decay in the after photo:

before and after antique castle photo

So even if your goal is not to make a photo of a 600-year-old castle look roughly like it was taken 100 years ago, this Camera Raw-based process will be useful for oldifying your own photos, giving them a carefully crafted antique look that goes way beyond your standard Instagram filter.

Read on for the simple steps in this process:

1) Open last week’s smart object, return to the Camera Raw defaults, and then set the Contrast to 35.

If you followed last week’s project, you already have a version of this project in which the “dramatic castle” is set as a smart object inside a white frame. So Deke begins by simply double-clicking the layer that contains the smart object photo we processed in ACR last week.

To get rid of those old settings (or, in your own photo, anything you might have adjusted in ACR before.) From the Basic tab, click on icon that opens the flyout menu and choose Camera Raw Defaults (see below). Then set the Contrast to 35.

2) Create a black & white effect in the HSL/Grayscale tab.

Switch to the HSL tab (as shown below) and turn on the Convert to Grayscale checkbox. The Grayscale Mix sliders allow you to adjust the luminance of all the formerly colored pixels in your image. So you can brighten anything that had been (and actually still is since we’re working non-destructively) in the Reds, Oranges, or Yellows range. Then you can darken the sky and landscape by reducing the Blues and Greens to negative values. Here are the settings Deke used for his image.

3) Use the Split Toning tab to create a sepia tone.

I admit, I had previously only seen Split Toning used to change photos to bizarre color combinations that are more reminiscent of the 196s than the 192s. But Deke uses his feature of ACR to set the Highlights and Shadows to the two colors that will combine to make up his overall sepia tone.

As you can see here, the Highlights are set to a Saturation of 2 with a yellowish Hue of 5. The Shadows are set to a Saturation of 5 with a redder Hue of 45. The Balance slider tells ACR how much of each (Shadows or Highlights) you want contributing to the colorizing tone.

4) Add some grain.

Deke then makes a quick stop in the Lens Correction tab to turn on both the Enable Lens Profile Corrections (in the Profile sub-tab) and the Remove Chromatic Aberration (in the Color sub-panel) check boxes. If you like, you can learn more about this in last week’s technique.

But the fun oldifying happens over in the Effects (fx) panel, where Deke applies some serious grain (an Amount of 75, Size of 5, and a Roughness of 75).

5) Add some vignetting.

Everyone knows that old photos get dark around the edges, so on that same fx tab, Deke increases the Vignetting. (Don’t be thrown by the Post Crop description; this just means had we cropped the image previously in ACR, the vignette would start a the image’s new edges.)  He sets the Style to Color Priority and the Amount to -25, leaving the rest of the settings at their defaults.

6) Sharpen that Noise in Photoshop.

Once you’re done with your ACR adjustments, you can click Open Image to open the image in Photoshop proper. With the image (smart object) layer selected, chose Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. Deke decided on an Amount of 2 percent, a Radius of 2 pixels and a Remove setting of Lens Blur. When you click OK, Photoshop will create a smart filter adjustment on your smart object. (This means it’s editable, which will shortly come in handy.)

7) Back off the sharpness.

Since it was applied as a smart filter, you can click on the icon with the tiny sliders (shown below) next to the filter in order to adjust it after the fact. When the Blending Options dialog box opens, Deke reduces the Opacity (of the sharpness effect) to 66 percent. Then click OK.

8, option A) OK, I cheated and made the border look old, too.

That is the end of Deke’s effect as described in the movie. But when I saw the final effect, I decided that in my story, the photo was in fact old, and that therefore the border would have gone from white to a cream color as well. So I used the eyedropper tool to select a nice bisque-y color from the image and then colored the border appropriately (which in this case required changing the background and the border layer to this color). A suitable frame for our study in antiquing:

8, Option B) Watch the exclusive video to see Deke’s distressed effect.

OK, in Deke’s defense, he didn’t worry about the border because his member-exclusive video this week shows you how to create this distressed look:

If you’re not a member of and you’d like to check this out, you can get a free week trial at A free week will give you plenty of time to watch the exclusive video and still have time left over to peruse the awesome library of awesome.

Next entry:Magically Inverting Text in Photoshop

Previous entry:Making Your Own Luck: My Hunt for a Suitable Four-Leaf Clover


Share your feedback, work, homages, questions, wisecracks, advice, critiques, riffs, derision (within reason), frustrations, and love of all things graphical. Log in (or register) to lend your voice.