Create a Retro Photo and Background

In this tutorial we are going to take a regular, boring photo and liven it up using with some effects to give it more of a retro feel to it. We are then going to take the photo and create a background for it to lie on.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 1

Grab the photo we are going to use, and open it up in Photoshop. Now we are going to do some quick retouching on the photo, so first we are going to straighten it the horizon line. Click and hold down the eyedropper tool in the tool bar and click on the ruler tool. Click and drag a line following the lines in the water, then go to image>rotate canvas>arbitrary. Crop out the white edges.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 2

Now do control + L to bring up the levels and adjust them to something like what I have, keeping in mind that you don’t want to lose the details in the house.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 3

We want to get our photo to have a color balance that is off, like how older photos are. So we are going to make our photo overly red. To do this we are going to go into the color balance with control + b. Change your settings to something like I have below.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 4

Now open up your hue/saturation with control + u. Change the settings like I have them.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 5

Next we are going to give a gradient to the image, this is going to give us some darker contrast and wash out the photo a little more. So create a new layer with control + shift + n. Click on your gradient tool and choose the orange to blue gradient. Click and drag the gradient from the top of the document to bottom so the orange is on the top and the blue is on the bottom. Change the blend mode to Soft Light, and the opacity to 20%.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 6

Now we are going to darken the edges. Click on the square marquee tool and change the feather to 100px. Click and drag a square across the entire image, then do control + shift + i to get the inverse. Fill the area with black. Change the blend mode to overlay.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 7

Now we are going to give this image a border. Create a new layer and select the square marquee tool again. Change the feather back down to 0px. Now click and drag a square around the entire image. Go to Edit>Stroke, and change the color to an off white and the stroke to 20px.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 8

That is our retro image, but we can take this one step further. Since this is an old photo why not make it look stained too. Download the top left image on this page and bring into our document. Rotate and re size the texture with control + t, so that it fits the entire image. Change the blend mode to linear burn.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 9

Now we want to get rid of the dark part of the texture, so we just have just the stains. Open up the curves with control + m and adjust it so there is no black, something like what I have.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 10

Lets keep going with this image and add a background. Go ahead and download this image and bring it into a new 1680×1050 document.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 11

Go into your levels, control + L and hue/saturation, control + u and change your settings to like what I have below.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 12

Go back to our photo, do control + shift + e to merge all the visible layers, then drag it into the new document and resize and angle it.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 13

Click on the gradient tool, choose the radial gradient, (with the color #F9EECC) click and drag from the top left corner towards the middle of the document. Change the blend mode to overlay. Drag the gradient below the photo layer.

Create a Retro Photo

Step 14

Now we are going to give a shadow and gradient overlay to the photo. Click on the circle with the F at the bottom of the layers palette and change the settings to something like I have.

Create a Retro Photo


There you have it, a retro looking photo, plus a whole lot more.

Create a Retro Photo

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Only comments in English will be approved!


  1. 16/04/2009

    nice tutorial thanks for sharing

  2. 16/04/2009

    Congrats! very cool!

  3. 16/04/2009

    Cool tut!

  4. nice helpful retro bg tutorial, thanks..

  5. mohan


  6. mhaldita

    ala ln mgawuah…

  7. zap

    love it!thx!

  8. 17/04/2009

    Very nice! I think it’s funny how many years ago before technology was advanced, people would try to have their photos look as new as possible, now since we can, we play around with styles and making photos look old. It’s just a bit of irony :)

  9. 20/04/2009

    hey i am quite confuse in step 8.. Could you please help me?

  10. Thanks for the step by step tutorial of image tinkering.This makes the notion “old is still gold” very true. Will look forward to other tutorials as well.

  11. 20/04/2009

    Wow awsome tut thx m8

  12. 20/04/2009

    @salll — sure, what part don’t you get?

  13. 21/04/2009

    Very interesting!!!!

  14. 21/04/2009

    Wow. I’m super excited to try this when I get home tonight! Great post!

  15. 21/04/2009

    wow – this is awesome, nice tutorial!

  16. 21/04/2009

    Wow, I’m very impressed with this tutorial! Clean cut, and very helpful. Bravo!

  17. 23/04/2009

    Thank you, I made this by (almost) following your instructions using Fireworks:

  18. 23/04/2009

    Nice, that came out good. It goes well with the photo too.

  19. Jason

    Wow. I created this only looking at your screenshots and it looks amazing. What do you think? (Resized to half it’s original for internet)

  20. 23/04/2009

    Looks good! I’m glad that the screen shots illustrate the tutorial enough that you can just follow along with those

  21. 24/04/2009

    Nice tutorial thanks

  22. Nice tutorial but too much shadows behind the photo :P

  23. ramarao

    i want to photo backgrounds

  24. 02/05/2009

    A really professional bit of photo retouching

  25. Fann

    nice retouching skill~~
    love it~
    thx 4 sharing

  26. Hi, interesting post. I have been thinking about this issue,so thanks for sharing. I will certainly be coming back to your blog.

  27. 06/05/2009

    good work… thanks for sharing

  28. Kashyap

    Hey Bro !!!!
    That’s was really SuperB!!!!
    It helped me a lot, keep up the good work !!!

  29. Ariella

    I’m having some trouble with step 8.

    How do I open the picture of marble (or any picture) as a new layer in photoshop cs4?

  30. 15/05/2009

    @Ariella You can open it up in Photoshop and drag it into your document. When you bring it in, it will automatically put it on a new layer.

  31. Ariella

    drag it in?
    it won’t let me drag it in…

  32. 15/05/2009

    You can bring layers from document to document by clicking on the layer and then click and drag it into your document.

  33. Paf
  34. 21/05/2009

    thanx for cool tut, I live in a rural bush area so will scan some textures from the wild and give this a go, cheers!

  35. txvoodoo

    Very nice. I didn’t know you could do that w/ the ruler tool!

    Suggestion: in places like Step 4, where you say “Change the settings like I have them.” – it’d help a lot if you say *why* we do that, so we can understand how to use it in future :)

  36. 22/05/2009

    I can explain why I change certain settings, thanks for the input!

  37. Chad

    i have a trouble at step 13, how can i choose the f9eecc color?

  38. 16/06/2009

    If you look in step 7, at the bottom left of the color picker there is F4E9D3. Change that to the F9EECC, and that should give you the color.

  39. Patti

    I love this! I’m a Photoshop beginner, and I depend on talented designers like you to walk me through with tutorials…you do wonderful work!

  40. 14/07/2009

    Awesome tutorial.. :)

  41. 31/07/2009

    fantastic tutorial. thank you

  42. 01/08/2009

    Help! I keep getting hung up on step 8. I successfully pulled this off earlier today, but can’t duplicate the same proceedure now. I’ve downloaded and opened the background and it’s the same size as my photo, but when I drag it over to my photo it appears only half as big. I can’t figure out why it’s doing that now?

  43. 02/08/2009

    You might have used a photo that was bigger than the texture was. If you want to shrink down your original photo to something smaller than 2900x2300px then it will work.

    If you don’t know how to do this, you can go into Image>Image Size. In the top two boxes you can change those numbers to the 2900×2300 (These numbers are probably bigger on your photo.) If you can’t select them, make sure that resample image at the bottom of the window is selected.

  44. Newb

    Im stuck at 8, how do I get the “olde-paper-thing” to “vanish” into the picture ?

  45. 09/08/2009

    Change the blend mode (the drop down menu at the top of the layers palette) to linear burn, then open up the curves with control + m and move the curve up like I have in step 9. This should fix the texture so it vanishes more.

  46. Jessie

    I made this for a U2 fan friend of mine using your very user-friendly tutorial.

  47. 17/08/2009

    Nice, looks good!

  48. 22/10/2009

    Wow, just the tut I was looking for.

  49. 05/11/2009

    More learning completed. Thank you.

  50. 17/11/2009

    excellent design tips and tricks.

  51. great tutorial thank you!

  52. finally found a great tutorial on this!

  53. Don John


    i dont know which paper do you use exactly.
    You wrote: top left.But i am sure its not.
    Could you write the name insted of the instruction

  54. 07/12/2009

    I went on the website that the texture came from and I couldn’t find it anywhere, the website changed a lot of stuff around.

    These two textures will give you similar results though:

  55. 22/01/2010

    !!!nice tutorial thank you! i made this love it

  56. thank you for the tutorial

  57. 26/04/2010

    Great tutorial. Thanks

  58. […] 29. Create a Retro Photo and Background […]

  59. awesome tutorial. will pass along!

  60. Ernst

    Thanks for a well-made tutorial! I followed it as close as I could, although I used GIMP. Here’s what I ended up with:

  61. 02/08/2010

    love it…thanks for sharing…

  62. 22/10/2010

    Excellent design tips and tricks.

  63. 22/10/2010

    I need a retro theme for my college project, thanks

  64. excellent tutorial. thanks!

  65. 07/02/2011

    great tutorial, great post…thanks for share this

  66. impulse

    İ did not understand the step 8. How do you bring that photo you download into the document? How do you change the blend mode ?

  67. 17/02/2011

    excellent…thanks so much

  68. Retro guy

    Sweetness! Great article.
    I’d so love to see photos shot with this one, retouched like this.

  69. 01/04/2011

    Nice tutorial !
    Your step-by-step guides’re quite easy to understand & follow.
    Eager to read other posts on your site.


  70. Charlotte

    I am stuck on step 13. When I do the gradient it comes up solid, rather than looking like light as yours does. I also don’t know what you mean by “drag the gradient below the photo layer”.

  71. 23/06/2011

    Hello. Excellent position. I didn’t anticipate this on a Wednesday. This is a good story. Thanks!

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