top of page

Learn How To Style A Black & White Vintage Portrait

In this tutorial I will be showing you how to create a vintage-styled black and white portrait. You can use this technique on any poster, invite, or even a book cover! You can also opt not to use a moon as the background and just style the core subject in your image.

Software: Photoshop CS6

Time: 30min

Level: Advanced

Images Used:


Stock Photo – Full moon in the night sky. Image ID : 10754167

Stock Photo - Retro Styled Makeup With Pearls Beautiful Young Woman Portrait

Stock Photo – Retro styled makeup with pearls. Beautiful woman portrait. Image ID: 14193293

Step One – Moon

Create a Color Fill adjustment layer and set it to black. Now, extract a large image of a full moon (photo id: 10754167) from its background and position it accordingly.

We are going to add two layer effects to the moon. First, an “Inner Glow” with a Blend Mode set to “Soft Light”, Opacity set to 100%, the color set to white, and size set to 27px. The size will depend on the size of your image, the larger the image the larger the size.

Now add an “Outer Glow” layer effect. Set the Blend Mode to “Screen”, the  Opacity to 16%, the color to white, and the size to 18%. Again, size will vary.

Next, clip a Brightness and Contrast layer to the moon. Set Brightness to 74 and Contrast to -50. Clip a Color Adjustment layer above that layer and set it to Red -5, and Blue 11.

To add more glow to the moon, create a new layer under the moon and set it to “Screen”. With a large, round, soft brush set to a light pale blue color (#c5e1ff) paint a glow behind the moon.

Now, above the moon layer create a new layer and do the same exact thing you just did so that the glow is on top of the moon as well.

Finally, merge all these layers together and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Blur it until you have something similar to what you see below.

Step Two – Black and White

Before we do anything else we are going to create two adjustment layers that will make our image black and white. All other layers will be set under these layers.

The first layer is a black to white Gradient Map adjustment layer.  The second is a Color Balance adjustment layer set to -8 red and 17 Blue, and with an opacity of 81%.

Group these two layers together and name it “Black and White”. Remember, keep this group above all other layers.

Step Three – Model

Extract and position your model (photo id: 14193293) in the middle of your canvas:


Clip a Curves layer into your model and set it to what you see below:

With a large, soft round brush paint black on the Curve’s layer mask, masking out the outer edges of the face. When you are satisfied with the mask, set the layer to 60% opacity.


Next, clip a Brightness and Contrast layer above your curves layer and set it to -150 brightness and 100 contrast. Copy the layer mask from the Curves layer to the Brightness and Contrast layer by clicking on the layer mask, holding alt, and then dropping it on the Brightness and Contrast layer. Name both of these layers “shadow”


Step Four – Model Glow

Before we continue with the lighting in our model we are going to create a glow around her.

First, create a new layer under your model, and which a medium soft round brush paint white around the edges of your model.

Now, create new layer below that layer and set it to “Soft Light”. With a large soft round brush set to 40% flow paint a bigger glow around your model. Try and be gradual.

Duplicate that layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and blur it out a significant amount.

Now duplicate the layer you just blurred and again apply another Gaussian blur to it. This will create a very gradual glow. Group all these layers together and name it “Glow”.

Step Four – Model Lighting

Now we will be working in our model layer again.

Above your shadow layers, create and clip a new layer. With a medium soft round brush paint white on the edges of the model. Name this layer “Lighting”

To create highlights, clip a new layer above your lighting layer and either paint with a medium small hard round brush, or use the Pen Tool “Stroke Path” function to paint hard lines on the edges of the models face. Including her nose, lips, and neck.  Name this layer “Highlight”.

Clip a new layer above your highlight layer and set it to “Overlay”. We are going to use this layer to enhance out models makeup and hair. With a soft round medium brush paint white on light areas and black on dark areas. The best way to do this is by setting your brush’s flow to 10-20% and gradually build up the shadows and lights. If you want the effect to be even more intense you can duplicate the layer and set that layer to around 40% opacity.

And to tone down the contrast a bit create a Brightness and Contrast layer and clip it above your makeup layer(s). Set Brightness to -12 and Contrast to -35 and set the layer opacity to 46% opacity.

Step Five – Noise

Finally, we are going to add a bit of texture by adding some noise.

To add noise without flattening your layers, above all other layer create a new layer and fill it with black. Set the layer to “Screen”. Now go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and set the Amount to somewhere between 2-5, set it to “Uniform”, and make sure “Monochromatic” is checked.  This is a very subtle affect, but it’s good for adding slight grain and for fixing banding.

And you’re done! Your very own vintage portrait! Try it out with other shots and styles!

bottom of page