Create a Vintage Polaroid Effect

By   |  Stashed in Photo Manipulation

Vintage Polaroid Effect Photoshop Tutorial

I love anything graphic design that has that vintage grunge kind of look. In this tutorial you’ll see how to create a stunning vintage Polaroid effect in Photoshop. It’s fairly simple to make and can be used in many different types of projects.

What You’ll Need

This tutorial will be completed using mostly filters and fills, but we will need three photos to complete the look. The first is the tractor image we’ll fill in the Polaroid with, if you have an image you’d like to substitute, by all means use that. Also in the zipped file are two grunge textures. Download them all here. Note that the photo was one I found at stock.xchg, an awesome free stock photography site, that is nearly as good as IStock (but it’s FREE!) I found the textures at, another useful and free site.

Onwards, to the Polaroid Effect Tutorial

  • Start by creating a new document in Photoshop to the specs you like, I used 500px by 500px.
  • Grab the gradient tool (shortcut ‘g’ on the keyboard), set gradient type to radial gradient. Double click the edit gradient thumbnail to bring up the gradient editor.
  • Gradient Tools

  • Within the gradient editor set the first color stop to a nice brown (I used #6e5f3a) and set the second color stop to a darker brown (I used #171613). Click OK.
  • Gradient Editor

  • With the gradient tool still selected click somewhere in the middle and drag out to a corner, until you have a nice brown radial gradient.
  • Brown Gradient

  • We are going to add more texture and interest to our background. Click filter->texture->texturizer. Choose canvas for the texture, 61% for the scaling, 2 for the relief, and top left for the light.
  • Texturizer

  • Open up the cardboard texture you downloaded earlier. Grab the move tool (shortcut ‘v’ on the keyboard). Click and drag the cardboard texture onto your vintage Polaroid document. When you release the mouse button it will drop the cardboard texture on the top layer. Rename that layer ‘Grunge 1′.
  • Hit ‘ctrl, t’ to bring up the free transform tool and resize your grunge1 layer to something smaller that just covers your document, hit ‘enter’.
  • Grunge 1

  • Change the layer mode to multiply and the opacity to 65%.
  • Layer Properties 1

  • Place the paper grunge texture on the top layer, just like the steps above, name this layer ‘Grunge 2′. Hit ‘ctrl, t’ and resize it. Change the layer mode to multiply and the opacity to 50%. That should do it for our background, it should look something like the image below.
  • Polaroid Effect Background

  • Create a new layer, name in ‘Polaroid Border’
  • Grab the rectangle marquee tool (shortcut ‘m’ on the keyboard) and drag out a rectangle in the center of the document at the size you want your Polaroid to be.
  • Rectangle Marquee

  • Set the foreground color to white (#ffffff) and the background color to #bbbbbb.
  • Click filter->render->clouds. This will fill our selection with grayish clouds.
  • Clouds

  • Add some noise. Click filter->noise->add noise. Change the amount to 1.3%, the distribution to gaussian and make sure monocromatic is checked. Click OK.
  • Noise

  • One last filter to help with the look. Click filter->brush strokes->crosshatch. Change the sliders to as follows: stroke length 9, sharpness 6, strength 1. Click OK
  • Crosshatch

  • Let’s add some of that vintage brown color back into the Polaroid. Click image->adjustments->hue/saturation. Change the settings to: Hue 33, Saturation 30, Brightness +32.
  • Hue Saturation

  • Double click to the right of the layer name (‘Polaroid Border’) to bring up the layer styles window. Click to add a drop shadow and change the distance to 4 and the size to 4. Keep everything else the same.
  • Drop Shadow

  • Within the same layer styles window click to add a stroke. Change the width to 1px, and the fill type to pattern and choose the pattern shown below. This will give is a nice tattered edge.
  • Stroke

  • Create a new layer at the top and name it ‘Polaroid BG’.
  • Grab the marquee tool and select a rectangle within the Polaroid border like below.
  • Fill Marquee

  • Set your background color to black and hit ‘ctrl, backspace’ on the keyboard to fill your selection with black.
  • Open up the tractor photo you downloaded in the beginning of this tutorial and drag it onto the top layer of your vintage Polaroid document. Call this layer ‘Tractor’.
  • Hit ‘ctrl, t’ to bring up the free transform tool again and resize the tractor photo to about the same size as the black fill, leave a little overlap on each side. Like below.
  • Tractor Place

  • Now select the ‘Polaroid BG’ layer by holding down ‘ctrl’ and clicking on the image thumbnail on the layer.
  • Layer Select

  • Click shift, ctrl, i to select the inverse. Click back to the ‘Tractor’ layer and click ctrl, x to cut out the pixels that are past the border.
  • Double click to the right of the ‘Tractor’ layer name to bring up the layer styles box once again. Click to add an inner shadow. Change the opacity to 57%, the distance to 2px, the size to 3px and the noise to 10%.
  • Inner Shadow

  • Within the layer style window also add a stroke just like the one on the ‘Polaroid Border’ layer. 1px, and the same pattern.
  • Tractor Stroke

  • OK, we are getting there, now we need to desaturate our photo a little bit to keep with our vintage theme. Click image->adjustments->hue/saturation. Change the hue to 32, the saturation to 30 and the brightness to -7.
  • Tractor Hue Saturation

  • Highlight the three Polaroid layers by clicking on ‘Tractor’ holding down shift and clicking on ‘Polaroid Border’. Now right click anywhere along the three highlighted layer and choose Link Layers.
  • Bring up the free transform tool (ctrl, t) and rotate the image to the right a little. To rotate the image hover your curser over the top right corner until you get the double arrow with the arch then click and drag.
  • Tractor Transform

  • That effect looks awesome already, I just added a couple more finishing touches. First let’s add two more pictures behind that one. Click and drag your three highlighted layers to the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette.
  • Copy Layers

  • Click and drag the copied three Polaroid layers below the originals. Right click anywhere along the three copied and highlighted layers. In the options that appear, click Merge Layers.
  • Merge Layers

  • ‘Hit ‘ctrl, t’ on the ‘Tractor copy’ layer and rotate it to the left.
  • Click image->adjustments->levels and drag the black slider and the midtone slider to the right to darken the background Polaroid slightly to give it some depth.
  • Repeat the above steps to add a third Polaroid at the bottom. Until you have something that looks like this.
  • Polaroid Effect without Text

  • If you’d like to add some text to the bottom, that’s a nice touch as well. I used a font called brisa alternates, but any sort of handwritten font should do the trick. I also converted the text to a smart object. Added a layer mask, and used a grunge brush to brush out some of the text to have it fit in with the rest of the image. Here’s my final image.
  • Polaroid Effect Finished

    I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as I did creating it! Let me know what you think, if you have any suggestions, or come up with an interesting variation. Drop me a comment below.

About the Author

Andrew is a primary contributer for MyInkBlog. He is a full time web developer for Niagara University. When he's not working there, he's a blogger, twitter'er, wordpress'er, silverstripe advocate, blessed father and husband.

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  • puspo

    Very nice tutorial. Thank you!

  • Very Nice

    Gotta say, this was a very nice tutorial. Love the attention to detail so that even a novice could follow along. Currently developing a logo that has a polaroid element, so thank you.

  • Will

    Great tutorial. I wonder if this is similar to what Hipstamatic use on their iPhone app. They add different effects to photos that you take, a little like a polaroid, different flashes and lenses etc, it looks really good and retro.

  • Anna

    Thanks for this!!!