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. 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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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  • ShaSpleen

    Nice work!

  • Timmermann

    Very nice tutorial. Thank you!

  • admin

    Thank you for the encouraging words! I love getting good feedback!

  • alikz

    really good work there! great atmosphere !

  • AJ

    polaroids are is this tutorial.

  • Linda

    Wow! what a great tutorial…I am a beginner photoshopper and this tutorial was detailed enough for me to achieve your look! I love the look! Thanks!

  • Hugh

    Thanks for this very informative tutorial. How do you convert text into smart object and complete the last typing part. Thanks

  • Andrew Houle

    Hi Hugh,

    I’m glad you liked the tutorial. To complete the last step, right click on the text layer you created, choose ‘convert to smart object’ from the list of options. Click on the add layer mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Change your foreground color to black. Grab a grunge brush or something with rough and random edges. Lower the opacity of the brush a bit and paint over the letters on the layer mask you created.

  • Lizzie

    Great tutorial! I’m not a beginner, but I’ve still learnt a lot from it. Thanks!

  • Lily

    I owe you such a big Thank You! I lost my motivation for Photoshop a while ago and I’ve been trying to get it back somehow… and then I stumbled upon this tutorial. It’s reallllly well detailed and made and I just love it. Again, thank you sooo much and hope to see more tutorials by you in the future! :]

  • Jim Gaudet

    Very nice tutorial. Very easy to follow.

  • Tharaka

    cool !!!!

  • Max | Design Shard

    cool effect, nice choice of photo for the summer sun

  • Jessa

    very nice, i like it. thank you for posting this!

  • Matt

    Very nice, this could be pretty handy for something different in albums for weddings and things along those lines.

    Matt’s last post was… Big Cartel, all your art and cool merch

  • Chris


    Well written tut. great detail and a very solid and GREAT project.


  • Sophia

    nice tutorial and end product, but there’s an easier way… it’s called “sepia.”

  • Andrew Houle

    @Sophia Certainly, using the sepia option is another way to go, although I’m not sure it’s any easier :) Photoshop is awesome for having so many different ways to achieve the same thing. If you want to try that, instead of changing the Hue/Saturation, just go Image->Adjustments->Photo Filter->Sepia. I like using this filter, but I think you have more flexibility using Hue/Saturation.

  • andy

    i love the tutorials.. this is my first week learning adobe photoshop and i cant believe that i made such an artwork like this..

    you rock dude! \m/

  • ev9lve

    Very Clean… Nice Work!

  • Tim

    Nice tutorial – will be having a go at this myself…



  • renz


  • John Murko

    I like…very nice !

    John Murko´s last post was… Silence, on censure chez Blogger !!!

  • Darren Hester

    Great tutorial Andrew!

    Thanks for linking to I appreciate you mentioning my site and I’m glad you found the cardboard texture helpful. I’ve posted a linkback to this tutorial on my blog. Keep up the good work ;-)

    Darren Hester´s last post was… Stone Wall Pattern

  • Andrew Houle

    @Darren Thanks so much! I really appreciate the link back and the awesome textures your site provides :)

  • Berni

    Great! I love tutorials like that. Thanks for this great work!
    By the way, in my opinion the polaroid is the finest camera at all. I buyed a 600 model now and I don’t know whether $16 is too much for a 600 film single pack. I’ve seen it on …can someone tell me?

  • Shyllon

    Very nice tutorial. I am a beginner photoshopper && this was very detailed for me. Thanks.


  • dave’s photo to canvas

    Hi there!!!
    I do phot to canvas prints and many times i am asked to do photo montages
    This will be a great adition to my catalogue of effects, many thanks and great tut!!!!

  • Roshnee

    This was an amazing tutorial this is what i came out with Here
    I wanna say thank you

  • Andrew Houle

    @Roshnee Awesome result, thanks so much for sharing!

  • Cigdem

    That was a really detailed tutorial; thanks so much.

    Cigdem´s last post was… Lighten up!

  • Noah.

    Amazing brother, thank you.

  • http://gmail irfanali

    very nice

  • Maria

    Thank you!

  • Michelle

    Thanks! This is great!

  • Jen

    Great tutorial!! I’m a novice and had no trouble following this. I love the look – it was exactly what I wanted to achieve! I greatly appreciate the links you provided for free stock photos and the zip file of the exact resources you used. Too many tutorials tell you to find the files on a certain site but they’ve since disappeared or the tutorial doesn’t provide the right file name, etc. It’s a huge relief to find this tutorial and your site! I used this tutorial to create a family photo montage for a family event and everyone loved it – thanks so much!

  • Eduard Shakirov

    Hi! I’m from Russia. I would like to thank you for this tutorial. Great!!! Thats really good staff. My respect!

  • kookimebux

    Hello. And Bye. :)

  • Denzil Jr.

    Thanks a lot Author, it added knowledge.

    Keep up!

    Denzil Jr.´s last post was… Cute

  • Joel

    I can’t get the rough edges. When i put the stroke and pattern on all it show is the pattern not the rough edges. ????????????????????

  • Andrew Houle
  • Angel

    Great Tutorial! I love it… Thank you.

  • themisfit

    I have been looking for a good way to do this, thanks so much.

  • rahul P

    if u wanna to make such effect simple and instantly try doing it online. I found one such tool at

  • omar o’s

    thanks for that m8!

  • Robyn

    Wow, easy instructions to follow! Great Job!!

  • CgBaran Tuts

    Great effect thanks

  • Olga

    That’s great! I am not good at all these things but this tutorial was easy to follow. I love to do something with my pics and this was very helpful indeed!

    Thanks a lot!!!

  • ChaCha

    oh gosh. awesome!! thx thx thx >.<

    ChaCha´s last post was… Best Looks From Milan – Fall 09

  • gyokusai

    The effect is amazing, your tutorial’s awesome, and so is your love for details. Plus, no convenient short cuts, so one can try & tweak every step of the way. Even a photoshop rookie like me can do it! Thanks a lot, Andrew. Great work.

    gyokusai´s last post was… gyokusai: Japanese Bandai Magic 8-Ball God-Jesus Toy Robot from the ’80s. ROFL! You can’t make this up. (thx BB)

  • tracey

    I have CS2 Photoshop

    I tried to do this, followed you to the letter but some of the steps wouldn’t “take”… I couldn’t get the bevelled edges and the saturation/hue wouldnt take…

  • tracey

    sorted most of it out BUT couldnt link the layers using click shift click… is it my version CS2 or something else I am doing wrong?

  • Andrew Houle

    @tracey – Are both the layers highlighted? Make sure they both are, then click ‘Layers->Link Layers’

  • Cate

    stock.xchg isn’t free

  • Andrew Houle

    @Cate When you do a search at stock.xchg the first row are premium results, but all the rows after that are free.

  • http://none nol

    Really nice tutorial ! But this -> 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′.

    Doesnt work for me, the texture opens in another window, it doesnt drop on the top layer. Hope you can help me out !

  • letícia

    Hello, i realy enjoy this tutorial, but when i tried to do it i had a problem. I hope you understand everything i’am saying, ’cause i’am brazilian!

    When you told us to create a rectangle und paint that white und #bbbbbb, I didn’t know HOW to do it. I tried and it became always transparent!

    Help if u can. Thanks

  • Andrew Houle

    @leticia – Which step are you referring to?

  • photo retouching

    A bit long but well worth the wait!

  • Zeroy

    Thanks a bunch man, excellent tutorial!

  • John Swaringen

    Thanks this made it so easy to follow. Very cool effect!

  • Old Tractors for Sale

    Did you design this template?

  • Andrew Houle

    @Old Tractors for Sale – Not sure if this is what you are asking, but I designed the tutorial from scratch using Photoshop.

  • Petra

    Very good tutorial! Thanks!

  • Jitendra

    Thanks for the great Help, i got new ideas about photo shop designing…

    Thanks a lot !!!!!

  • Harper

    This was so fun and really made PS a lot less unapproachable to me. Thank you!

  • shollz

    Reallyy thankks alot..:)

  • fumassa

    I’m just begginer, and i founded very useful. It’s nice that you spend a bit of your time helping others to learn.
    thanks alot!
    grettings from Spain.

  • daevin

    Very nice!

    However, I am stuck.

    On the “layer style > stroke” step, I am missing the pattern you used.

    Is there any way to fix that so that I can continue working?

  • slabster


  • Jessica

    Hi. I haven’t even started the tutorial, I’m trying to download your textures and can’t seem to open them. Is there something special I need to do?

    Thank you!
    I can’t wait to try this!

  • Jessica

    Nevermind I got it! I found them on grunge textures and downloaded them..


    This is fun!

  • Andrew Houle

    Download the files, then you’ll have to uncompress them using software like winrar

  • Melba

    Very good!
    Thanks…would be nice to have the entire tutorial in a downloadable format…..!
    Thank you

  • MariottiDesign

    Good work! thank u!…and interesting blog ;)
    .-= MariottiDesign´s last blog ..…This is M-BOOP! =-.

  • Miss Jocelyn

    Thank you – I loved this. I used it for this design: I was just thrilled to be able to create something like this “on my own”. The tutorial was really easy to understand, so thank you. It is hard to find tutorials like this online, and I know I’m only scratching the surface with photoshop!
    .-= Miss Jocelyn´s last blog ..Because… =-.

  • wawut

    This so cool, its actually my first time to do real photoshop, your tutorial rocks! yeppy, thanks a lot!… :)

  • Thomas

    Very nice tutorial, thanks!

  • joanne

    thanks soo much!!!
    i done my own vintage Polaroid now :D
    your instructions are soo clear !

  • Damian Web

    wow, really like this effect! i’ve used the old style polaroid effects before but the extra dimensions you have added look great! thanks
    .-= Damian Web´s last blog ..The Importance Of Connecting With Other Bloggers For SEO Purposes =-.

  • http://simonepwhoto/om/blog SWP

    thanks you so much! great final product.

  • web design orange county

    this is a very nice effect. I’ll have to figure out where I would like to use this. Thanks for the info

  • Ozelle

    Nice tutorial ^^

  • miKe

    Or try
    The results are close to original polaroid images!!!

  • Indus Excursion

    Thanks a lot for the information. It is very useful, we are looking exactly for this information. I will try it and expect some amazing results.

  • kacey

    All I can say is WOW and thanks a lot!

  • Rave

    Thanks soo much!Nice tutorial

  • AnaCess

    Great Tutorial!! Thanks

  • shopper

    Flaming good tutorial – thank you !!

  • http://NA GMC

    Hi .
    Good tutorial. Getting stuck at the black fill and then tractor image insert step. I get the pic copied over but the black rectangle seems to be linked to the image. I am a novice user of photoshop ….is there something I am missing ?

  • Andrew Houle

    @GMC – Quite honestly, looking back on this tutorial (it’s been a while), I’m not sure why on earth I used a black fill on that step. It doesn’t seem to come into play at all. I would just skip the black fill and place the image on the polaroid background.

  • The Wedding Hire Company

    Really usefull link, might be handy to display wedding photos.

  • Timmy

    Thanks for the awesome tutorial… Mucho gracias!

  • Justine

    I managed to get through this tutorial and created an awesome invitation to my 21st, thanks so much!

  • web design suffolk

    I never knew you could add a pattern fill to a stroke for the tattered edges. Cheers!

  • graphiste freelance

    Very nice tutorial, I very like this effect.Many Thanks :)

  • Mimi

    Wow, thanks so much for sharing! I learned so many things from this tutorial.

  • Selene

    very good tutorial,,,,,, keep making tutorials like this,,,, its really helpful for school projects,,,,,, thanks,,,,,,

  • lulu

    Really enjoyed this but it was a steep learning curve as I’ve only had a few hours tuition! I got stuck with filter>render> clouds it would make a very slight change to the image but not the clouds as shown in the tutorial. I saved and came back later and then it worked but somehow the saving had merged all my layers so it was hard to continue as I needed the layers to continue. Still I enjoyed the lesson and I learnt a whole heap of new things so will try a few more soon :-)

  • 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!!!