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How to Create a Vintage Black and White Effect in Photoshop

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Black and white effects have some sort of impact on an image that is hard to describe. They can make photos more serious. More intense and dramatic. Or even simplify the image to show it’s true message.

My favorite kind of black and white effect is one with a slight matte. By lifting the shadows a bit, you can get a really cool vintage style.

Today, I’m going to show you how to create this effect on your own, in Photoshop!

Black and White Photoshop Actions



Quick heads up! If you’re looking to save a bit of time with this effect, I recommend picking up the Black & White Series actions we offer.



Step 1

Start by opening an image of your choice.

For the tutorial, I’ll be using this clean wedding photo from SplitShire.


Make sure you leave the background layer locked and in RGB mode. That way your effect will look consistent to the one I create in this tutorial.

Step 2

Now that we’re set up, we need to add our first adjustment layer.

In the adjustment panel, you’ll find a tiny icon that looks like a fade from black to white.


If you don’t see the Adjustments Panel, go to Window > Adjustments in your Photoshop menu bar.

Once you find it, click this icon to create a Gradient Map. Then click the faded gradient box on the left that looks like this.


After that a box will pop up. This is the Gradient Editor.

In it, you can change the colors of the gradient.

Double click the tiny box on the left and change it’s hex color to #282828.


After you do that, double click the tiny box on the right and change it’s hex color to #f3f3f3.


After that, your photo should look something like this.


Step 3

To make it a bit more realistic let’s add some noise.

Start this process by duplicating the Background layer. Name it something like “Noise Filter”.

Then, click Filter in your Photoshop menu bar and apply these settings.


Then, if we zoom in to 100% on our image, we can see the noise effect.

Here is what it looks like in before and after format.


Step 4

The effect is starting to take shape nicely. To really make it authentic, let’s play with the curves.

This adjustment can also be found in the Adjustments Panel.


Click the icon, and then create a few anchor points.

The key here is to have three anchor points very similar to the image below.

  1. The first is in the bottom of the top right quadrant.
  2. The next is directly on the intersecting lines at the top of the bottom left quadrant.
  3. The final is an anchor point in the middle-left of that same quadrant.

Follow the arrows in the image (from top to bottom) to guide your selections.


If done properly, the matte effect should look something like this.


Step 5

At this point, we are completely done with the effect. However; I always like to add an extra bit of realism to my photos.

To do that, we’ll make some dusty looking scratches.

Click the brush tool and apply these settings.


Then, create a new layer and start drawing little squiggly lines.

The key to making them look like film dust is to draw them very small.

Here is an example.


This looks ok. I’d prefer it to be a little less harsh though.

To do that, use the eraser with the same settings we had for the brush.

Then draw lines through the various dust particles we drew above. It should look like this.


It is almost unnoticeable, but helps make the effects look less fabricated.

Finally, turn the opacity of your dust layer down to 35%.


film effects for photoshop


Want more of those amazing dust brushes we just made? There are 20 of them in FilmStock!

Learn more about FilmStock here.

Step 6

The last step is to add this dust layer to your image.

You can duplicate it, move it around, and even erase particles to make it look right.

Then, our final effect looks like this!


Final Image

Here is what the image looked like before and after.


This vintage black and white effect can be used in all kinds of photography mediums. Wedding photography, portraits, even street photography.

How are you going to use this effect?

Related Items

These sets of actions were used to help make this tutorial.

B&W-Mini     FilmStock-Mini

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6 thoughts on “How to Create a Vintage Black and White Effect in Photoshop

  1. Mike …first of all thanks a lot for this.

    for the curve adjustment layer, i know it all depends of your starting image and the look you wanna give.
    Is it possible for you to create a curve preset with the setting you showed to give us a starting point.
    It tricky to adjust :-)


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