Sunday, April 14, 2013

How To Make Vintage Color Photographs Using Paint.NET

Train Wreck - Tehachapi, California
I was asked two questions after posting yesterday some images of a train derailment. First, why did I make the color photographs look old or vintage? Second, how did I do it?

There are two reasons that I decided to give the photographs a vintage look: the subject (in this case, railroad cars) looks good in vintage, and (more importantly) the majority of train cars were yellow, and in order to create color contrast with yellow the photographs needed some blue (these images have a blue hue in the shadows).
At - Tehachapi, California
The software I used to give these images a vintage look was Paint.NET, a free alternative to (the expensive) Photoshop. With a little tweaking this could be done with GIMP or Photoshop, too.

Open the image in Paint.NET. Make sure you have the Tools, Layers and Colors windows open (click on "Windows" at the top and select the appropriate window to open).
Yellow Freight Cars - Tehachapi, California
Duplicate the layer (click "Layers" at the top and select Duplicate Layer or click the duplicate layer icon in the Layers window or CTRL+SHIFT+D). Change the new layer, which should be the top layer, to Sepia (click "Adjustments" at the top and then Sepia or CTRL+SHIFT+E). Open the Layer Properties for this layer (click "Layers" at the top then Layer Properties or click the Layer Properties icon in the Layers window or simply push F4). Change the Opacity to about 120 (it can be a little different for each image, "season to taste").

Select the original layer, which should be the bottom layer. Add contrast (click "Adjustments" at the top then Brightness/Contrast or CTRL+SHIFT+C) by increasing the contrast slider to 10 to 20 ("season to taste"). Add color saturation (click "Adjustments" at the top then Hue/Saturation or CTRL+SHIFT+U) by increasing the saturation slider to about 125 (again, "season to taste"). You could adjust the Hue a couple spots right or left while you are here but that is optional and will depend on each image.

While still on the original layer, open the curves adjustment window (click "Adjustments" at the top then click Curves or CTRL+SHIFT+M). Click right underneath where it says "Transfer Map" and select RGB. By "unchecking" and "checking" the boxes at the bottom and moving the lines, adjust the Red, Green and Blue curves to something similar to what you see below (it doesn't have to be exact, and each image may need to be slightly different).
Now return to the top layer (the Sepia layer) and add a new layer (click "Layers" at the top and then Add New Layer or click the Add New Layer icon in the Layers window or CTRL+SHIFT+N). This new (blank) layer should now be the top layer.

Select a magenta color in the Color window (click More in the color window and select a magenta color on the color wheel or use FF00DC or something close to that). Select the Paint Bucket from the Tools window and click anywhere on the blank layer to color it. Go to the Layer Properties for this layer and set Opacity to about 10 (once again, "season to taste").
Southern - Tehachapi, California
The final step is to combine or flatten the layers (click "Image" at the top and then Flatten or CTRL+SHIFT+F). You can now make any additional adjustments to color, brightness, contrast, etc., that may be necessary (hopefully, you won't need to tweak anything at this point, but you might find something isn't perfect). Don't forget to save the image!

And that's it. Pretty simple, huh? Using the layers feature of Paint.NET you can do all sorts of interesting post-processing. I use it to replicate "split filtering" my black-and-white photographs. But that's a post for another day.

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