Photoshop Tutorial: Add Retro Look to your Images

In this Photoshop tutorial I’ll be showing you how to add a nice, 70’s retro look to your images. It’s a very simple process using either colors or gradients, layer modes and opacities, and also some subtle textures :)

This effect can be extremely helpful when designing retro-themed posters or something of that nature.

Quickly add a Retro Effect to your Images

1. Canvas/Background

Start by creating a new document in Photoshop – something around 800 x 600 pixels with the default resolution will be fine for this tutorial, but if you were working with print you would want to work at a much larger size.

Now get some patterns or something interesting to start off your background. You can find the wavy blue background pattern that I used at everyday icons playground.

Background Pattern Added

Now, the pattern seems a little too strong, so create a new layer then fill it with a solid color from the pattern (#032852). Lower the opacity for this solid color layer to around 80%.

Dark Blue Color Layer Added

Next, on a new layer, brush a few times on your canvas with a simple grunge brush, just to give an eroded kind of effect.

Grunge Brushing Added

Alright, to finish off, create another new layer and fill it with the dark blue color again, this time, change the layer mode to Multiply and lower the opacity to around 45%.

Dark Blue Color Layer Added 2

Alright, I think we’re done for the background. You could also add a slight textured effect to the background now though.

2. Retro Text

Now, this isn’t really an important part, we just want to make something interesting for our retro effect to go with. Start by getting out the Type Tool and writing something down using a retro-style font.

Text Added with Type Tool

For this instance I used a font called Britannic Bold. Use a size of around 200pt and white as the base color. After writing out your text, give it a little bit of effect by applying a simple Inner Shadow and Gradient Overlay layer style.

Now, to make the text look even more interesting, add a solid drop shadow to the overall text using a solid color:

Solid Drop Shadow on Text Layer

You should also lower this layer’s opacity to around 80%, so it’s a little see-through.

3. Textured Effect

For the textured effect we’ll actually be using some textures (unless you want to make your own using Filters, if so, by all means go ahead!) So search the web for some nice paper and other subtle textures.

For some good paper textures, check out Bittbox and Design Reviver.

Copy a subtle paper texture onto your canvas and resize it to fit. Change the layer mode for this paper layer to Multiply and leave the opacity intact unless the effect is too strong.

Subtle Paper Texture on Multiply

Now, get another paper texture, this time a bit more of a grungy type. Put it on top of your document again and set the layer to Multiply and lower the opacity if necessary.

Second Grungy Paper Texture

4. Light + Color Effects

Now we want to add an interesting light effect to our image – to accomplish this we’ll be using a ‘light’ texture that you can download for free from DesignBum.

Select a light image and copy it to your canvas, resize it if you like (I recommend it).

Light Texture Added

Now you have the light texture on the canvas, you may want to brush certain bits out or something, maybe change the color of it using Hue/Saturation settings (ctrl+u), otherwise, just change the layer mode for this layer to Screen and lower the opacity if necessary.

Light Texture - Screen Layer Mode

5. Final Adjustments

To finish off, we want to change the color a little bit. There are a few ways to do this, but I’ll just be using a gradient layer. Start by creating a new layer, then fill the new blank layer with a yellow gradient.

Yellow Gradient Added

Change the layer mode for this layer to Multiply and lower the opacity to around 50%.

Gradient Layer Mode Changed

And to finish up, I added a filter effect to the overall result image. Copy your image to a new document or something like that, then apply Filter > Artistic > Film Grain to the overall image, if the effect is too strong afterward, fade it (Edit > Fade > Film Grain).

Film Grain Filter Effect Added

(Note: the settings used for the Film Grain filter can vary, just use whatever looks good).

This effect also works great for photos, be sure to try it out.

Missy Higgins by victorfrankowski

Well, I’d like to thank you for reading this Photosop tutorial, I hope it was sufficient. If you needed help with any part of the tutorial, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Download source PSD file (7.1 MB, .rar)

Find retro products at an online General Store

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  1. Rob said at 3:50 am on January 16, 2009

    Hi. was wondering what grunge brushes you used for this tutorial. i’m trying to create a vintage record album effect and the grunge look you have here is perfect. But i’m finding many of the ones out there to be overkill. Can you let me know what you used? Thanks.

  2. Eli said at 6:35 am on January 16, 2009

    Rob: I’ve just looked at brushing and checked all of my brushes, but I can’t find a match. I reckon it looks like some brushes I put together just by using color range on some random stone textures.

  3. Butch Decossas said at 1:56 pm on April 27, 2009

    This is a nice effect. Thank you.

  4. Web hosting review said at 9:53 pm on July 14, 2009

    It’s amazing what a few filters can do.

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