[Tutorial] Simulate analogue images with Photoshop

03/15/2011

Like fresh from the Polaroid cam

When you hear Polaroid you quite likely think about instant cameras and their typical sheet films. Photographic processing took up to 4 minutes. We rather invest this time in a little bit of creative work.
Polaroid style pictures have their very own appeal. The form and slightly yellowed colours are the most essential factors. It takes only a few steps in Photoshop to get amazing results.

Creating the basic form

Create a new file with a size of 800×800 pixels. Fill the background with colour #f2f2f2. The aspect ratio of Polaroid films varies between producers. For our example we asume a size of 600×630 pixels.


Polaroid

You can use View > Rulers to get some help with gauging the correct size. Right click the ruler and set the measure to pixels. Now click the left ruler and drag out a vertical guide, which you set at 200 pixels. Another you place at 800. Now do the same with the top ruler and drag one horizontal guide to 200 pixels and the second to 830. Click View > Snap to > Guides.

Polaroid

On a new layer we draw the form of the Polaroid with the Rounded Rectangle tool. Corner radius should be around 2 pixels with colour white. Start at the top left crossing of the guides and drag it until it snaps to the bottom right corner.

Polaroid

We now enhance this with a few layer styles. First we apply Layer Style > Drop Shadow with opacity: 35%, distance: 3px and size: 5px to separate it from the background.

Polaroid

The Layer Style > Inner Shadow with opacity: 25%, distance: 0px and size: 70px makes the surface appear more plastic.

Adding a picture

Polaroid

We now use a little trick to add the picture. At first we need a form to define the area in which we place the image. For that we double click the icon of the basic form layer in the layers palette with Ctrl pressed. This creates a selection of the basic form which can now be scaled down 10 pixels via Select > Modify > Contract. Subtract 100 pixels height (guide at 730 pixels) from the lower part of the selection with the Rectangular Marquee tool while keeping Alt pressed.

Polaroid

Via Layer > New > Layer we create an empty layer. The selection we fill with white as background colour. Unselect with Ctrl+D and activate Layer Style > Inner Shadow with opacity: 35%, distance: 0px and size: around 45px.

Polaroid

On top of this layer we add the image in a separate layer. You might have to resize it for best results. Keep it a bit bigger than the rectangle of the layer below.

Polaroid

Fitting is fairly easy with a clipping mask. To create one Alt+click the line between the form and the image layer in the layers palette. You can now move the image layer to place the desired part of the photo within the cut frame.

In detail

Polaroid

To add the light gloss effect of photographic paper, create another layer on which we paint with the Brush tool in white colour. A few strokes with a large brush are sufficient. You should try around with size and hardness until you’re satisfied. I used size 70 at 70% hardness.

Polaroid

The layer opacity should now be reduced to around 20% with blending mode set to overlay.

Trimmed to old

Polaroid

To make this “new” Polaroid seem old you only need to go through a few steps in Photoshop. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and switch to the red channel. Set handles by clicking the diagonal line and drag them to create a slight inverted S-curve.

Polaroid

We also do the same for the green channel.

Polaroid

In the blue channel we set two handles in the corners and drag them a little bit inwards. The combination of all three channel manipulations creates the familiar retro look of old, yellowed images.

Polaroid

Now create a new layer. Activate the Gradient tool from the tools palette and change the gradient settings in the options bar on top. Select the orange-yellow-and orange preset. Apply this as radial gradient. Reduce layer opacity to around 30-50% depending on your image and use Soft Light as blending mode.

Polaroid

On another layer we use the brush to colour some areas on the edges with red. This layer’s opacity you reduce to 30% with blending mode Screen.

Polaroid

Noise and bleech

Polaroid

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and reduce saturation to -20. This already gives the image quite a bleeched look. Now create a new layer and fill it with white. On this layer you apply Filter > Noise > Add Noise with Amount: 35%, distribution: uniform and check set for monochromatic. Reduce opacity to 10-15%.

Polaroid

Done!
Such images can also be combined to create nice looking stacks of Polaroid images or a pin board with Polaroids.

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