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Photoshop CS3 - Back to the 40s

Photoshop CS3 - Back to the 40s - Duncan Evans explains how to tone your images to get that retro feel using Photoshop CS3.

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Adobe Photoshop

It should go without saying that shooting a photo in the style of the 40s in the first place will make the end result look far more authentic. If you want to see how to do that then check out our article here.

There are some signature effects that we're looking to create here. One is that because of the film emulsion, skin tones should come out slightly darker than normal and that lips should be rendered very dark. The other thing is that because tungsten lighting was normally used, the overall light level wasn't that high, so there a shallow depth-of-field. This wasn't always the case, but it's worth including here. The picture should be softer than a modern digital image, and the picture should be retouched. Yes, because the old studio photos were shot on large plates, they were big enough for retouchers to manually clean up images. The classic Hollywood portraits of the 30s and 40s were extensively retouched.


Adobe PS3 - step 11. The first step is to convert to black and white so go to Image > Adjustments > Black and White. If you aren't using PS3, then the Channel Mixer should be used instead. Enter values of 0% for Red, 60% for Yellow, -200% for Magenta and 50% for the others. The Red component sets the skin brightness, the Yellow stops it from being to freckly, while the Magenta makes the lips darker. The other colours have little effect in this image.





Adobe PS3 - step 22. The next step is to clean up blemishes. Select the Clone stamp brush and set the Opacity to 100% and the Blend mode to Lighten. Use this to clone from the side of any blemishes, over the top. Then change the Blend mode to Normal and reduce the Opacity to 20% and soften lines under the eyes. You can do as much face sculpting as you like. I've gone a little mad here and overdone it so you can see the effect possible.





Adobe PS3 - step 33. Next, let's soften the picture slightly. Create a duplicate layer and run a 2 pixel Gaussian Blur on it. Add a layer mask from the Layers palette and select the Paintbrush with black as foreground colour. Set the Opacity of the brush to 33% and paint over the eyes and lips to bring back some detail into them.




Adobe PS3 - step 44. Merge the layers and then create another duplicate layer. Apply a 6 pixel Gaussian blue to this and add a Layer mask as before. Now mask off the face so that it isn't any softer, edging back up into the hair. Make this a smooth progression so the focus falls off. Use the Paintbrush at 33% and bring a little detail back into the very front of the blouse and arm on the right.



Adobe PS3 - step 55. Digital images are far too clean. Add some grain and texture by going to Filter > Distort > Diffuse Glow. Set the Graininess to 4, the Glow Amount to 0 and the Clear Amount to 20.





Adobe PS3 - finishedAnd here's the final image.

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Sorry to say it but you've made her look like a freak

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MickS 13 23 14 England
Watcha Duncan,
sorry mate, as good as this pic is, I fail to see the point of taking a digital image and making it look like film. If you want something to look like film, use film. Sorry, perhaps I'm stupid, slap my head, if we all used film we wouldn't fall into the trap set by manufacturers and retailers.
Hi Mick, it's not just about making it look like film... In any case, the film in question here was large format plate film which you won't be stuffing in your SLR. The point was that it was shot with large tungsten lights, big field cameras, large format film - all technology from 60-70 years ago. If you have access to that, then great, go ahead and shoot it. OTherwise, this is how to get the same kind of results using digital cameras, which is what most people are using these days.


MickS 13 23 14 England
Watcha Duncan,
actually, I use a large format cameraSmile
I saw an article in, August? PP, it was about making digital look as 'Great' as film, I'm not anti digital, thats like an oil painter and watercolourist argueing, I just think you want film effect, use film.
For years we tried not show the grain now we trying too show the grain, it's a funny old world we live in!!!
good.... i hope i can make like this
yeah it is pretty funny, with how we want to go back to the old days with the quality. You have to admit though, older photographs just have that purity to them, that essence you can't capture anymore, but thanks to software that can be changed Smile Look at the booming popularity of 80's and 90's polaroids. Too bad for polaroid going out of business now that everyone seems to want them.

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