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How to create a grainy film effect in Photoshop

See how to give your digital images a grainy film feel in Photoshop.

|  Adobe Photoshop
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Image taken at the Black Country Museum 
 

Step 1: Black & White

This tutorial works well with Black & White images so if you have a coloured image open it up in Photoshop and go to Image>Adjustment>Black&White to convert your image.
 
Convert to black & white
 

Step 2: Add Gray

Create a new Layer (Layer>New Layer) and rename it 'grain'. Go to Edit>Fill and when the new window opens pick the 50% Gray option. Click OK and your new layer is now filled with Gray.
 
  Fill the layer with gray
 

Step 3: Make some noise

This Gray layer is what we are going to create our grain from so with the 'grain' layer selected go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Make sure the Distribution option is set to 'Gaussian' as this is a much more realistic grain pattern. Also ensure the 'Monochrome' option is checked. Adjust the slider until you're happy with the amount of grain present. This, of course, will change from picture to picture but around 15-25% should be a good starting point.

 

Step 4: Blur the grain

Unlike true film grain our image is a little harsh so a little blur is needed to soften it. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the radius so it softens the grain but doesn't remove it completely. Once you're happy click OK then go into the Layers Palette and change the layer mode from Normal to 'Linear Light'. If we were just stopping with one layer of noise 'Overlay' would work fine but we are going to be adding a second layer of noise. For this reason, make sure the opacity of this layer is reduced to around 80%.
 
Add blur Reduce the opacity
 
 

Step 5: Repeat

Repeat step three but reduce the amount of noise you create this time. Back in the layers palette, try changing the blend mode to 'Lighten' and reduce the opacity of the layer to around 60%.
 
Reduce the opacity

If you want to enhance the darker areas of the image further, brush over your chosen areas with the Burn Tool with an exposure of around 30%.
 
Final Image:
Image with grain added
  
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