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Colorized image of an old home in Kearney Nebraska 1940

This week I decided to colorize more vintage images using Photoshop’s Neural Filters as I have realized most vintage images need a bit of grain added after colorizing them. This is a very subtle change but it does seem to make a difference. There are so many ways to do this, and I tried several different methods out on these images before creating this blog (i.e, created a film grain layer or downloaded one from the internet to use as a grain overlay and possibly using the Overlay blend mode; applied filters from Topaz Studio, Color Efex Pro, Luminar and others grain settings; or downloaded grain brushes and painted onto a new layer only where the grain should appear). My older blog still seems to have the best method of doing this. It is a workflow by Katrin Eismann. Also, I had created a very simple action for it that still works great.

The image above is of a home in Kearney, Nebraska from 1940 and (click link to see original image – scroll down through the comments to see how different the house now looks!) had it on their site. They have some of the best vintage B&W photos from all over the US that are just perfect for PS’s Neural Filters, especially the Colorize Filter.

NOTE: Wanted to remind everyone when colorizing a downloaded historic photo, especially from this site, the first thing to do is to check its size by going to Image -> Image Size. If it is too large, change the resolution (if needed) to 240 so the image becomes manageable, like somewhere around 10″ X 7″ is what I like – otherwise it is way too large to process. For the other post-processing steps used on the Old House image, check Image 1 info at bottom of blog. The last step involved adding grain using the workflow below:

Film Grain Effect Workflow and Action Steps

This workflow was a tip in an older KelbyOne class by Katrin Eismann (another brilliant PS guru) called Color to Black and White Artistry, but the basic grain technique is still quite current. In this blog’s case, it has been used on colorized Black and White images. Using this method gives a really natural subtle result to the image and adds the effect in the areas you want it, mainly the Blue and Green channels, and leaves the Red Channel alone where the subject usually resides. The film grain is added so that the Blue Channel gets the greatest amount of grain, Green channel less, and Red Channel the lowest amount.

1.Create a stamped layer (CTRL_ALT+SHIFT+E) where the grain will be added.

2. Open the Channels Panel. Note that on the sub-steps below, all Channels used the Add Noise Filter radial button with Gaussian and Monochromatic selected.

  • Highlight Red Channel (no need to duplicate the channels) and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 4%
  • Highlight Green Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 6%
  • Highlight Blue Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 8%

3. Next Highlight each channel again and go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set Radius Amount to 0.3%

4. In the Layers Panel, change the blend mode to Luminosity so any color noise is reduced.

5. Will probably need to adjust the layer opacity as the effect may be is too much. Or a layer mask could be added and the grain added/removed in just local parts of the image.

For the Old House image, the layer opacity was set to 56% which seemed to be just enough to give a nice vintage feel to the whole image. It also made the replacement sky match the house very nicely.

This technique/action works very well on regular black and white images and I am sure it would look good on any regular image that needed a little grain added. Below is a screenshot of my action panel showing the steps so you can reproduce them if you wish:

Image of the steps for the SJ B&W Grain by Channel action


Image of old filling station from 1941 (click link for original B&W image and great comments again) posted this image a few days ago. I remember seeing one of these little Conoco Stations in Annapolis, Maryland, a long time ago (not sure I ever saw another one). Biggest issue here is that the replacement sky needed some grain to match the image original image grain. By creating a stamped layer on top of the Sky Replacement Group (making sure any layers above it are turned off-by clicking off the eyeballs on the layers above), the grain steps were applied. Then the Sky layer mask in the Sky Replacement Group was copied so only the sky had the grain applied (set layer to 89% opacity). See Image 2 info at end of blog for other post processing steps.


Vintage colorized image of a portrait from

The image above is another one (click link to see original) and was taken by Fritz W. Guerin in 1902. I wanted only a very subtle colorization (and not a lot of film grain, but enough to match the model to the background. Wanted to mention Skylum’s new Neo Filter was opened – the Relight section (which IMHO makes it worth buying) and Film Grain section were applied just to the background by masking out the model in the filter. See Portrait Image 3 below for the Neural Filters used and other steps. The last step was adding the overall grain to a stamped layer and setting it to 43% layer opacity. Two other methods were tried (one using a created film grain layer and another where the grain was actually painted on using a downloaded grain brush), but the above workflow gave the best results.

This grain gives a really nice effect on vintage images, but don’t overdo it or it will not look good. Have a great week!….Digital Lady Syd


  1. Old House Image: After resizing the image, the Neural Colorize Filter was added. It really does not matter what order most of the steps are done, just important to do them. Did a Filter -> Neural Filter -> Colorize and used the default settings. Next a PS Edit -> Sky Replacement using a blue sky from their set was done. Did some sharpening using Topaz Sharpen AI, but any sharpening would have been fine for this. On the above, the house lines were not perpendicular, so the Liquify Filter was used to push it all together. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using a Cerulean preset was added at 26% layer opacity along with a Levels Adjustment Layer. Viveza 2 was added. This post processing was definitely just a try this and try that until you get a look you like. The last effect was adding the Film Grain using the Workflow above – it was applied to the whole layer and the opacity was reduced to 56%.
  2. The Filling Station Image: After sizing the image, the image was sharpened. Problem areas were cleaned up – this one had power lines and the kid scratching his face. Created a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) set as a Smart Object, and chose Filters -> Neural Filters -> Colorize. The Adjustments sliders were changed to desaturate it a little to get the overall very sunny effect. (This filter just keeps getting better!) On another stamped layer, the image was taken into Lucis Pro 6 (it appears it is still not available – I keep watching for everyone) to sharpen it just a little more. Then a PS blue sky Replacement Sky was added to add some beautiful clouds. Biggest issue here is that the sky – see blog on image to see how this was handled. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added at 73% opacity using a Cerulean preset. A Photo Filter using Warming Filter (85) with a Density of 56% was added next – it really warmed up the image to make the image look very sunny. A new layer set to Overlay blend mode was created and white color on a brush at a low Flow was used to paint over the gentleman’s shirt, the little boy, and a little on the gas pumps themselves for the focal points. The brush used was just a soft round brush set to 100% Opacity, 9% Flow, and the Airbrush turned on in the Options Bar. The last step added just a slight vignette set to 17% layer opacity.
  3. Portrait Image: Not a lot of steps although I tried a lot of things with this image. After adding Neo, back in PS the Colorize Neural Filter at the default setting was applied (it gave the nice soft colors – I tried the more colorful look but the shadows were too heavy on the face and chin with this filter) and the Smart Portrait Neural Filter – just used the Expression-Surprise set to +16 and Global Light direction set to -14 (gave her a more serious look). Had some clean up layers, and created a stamped layer on top. To get the nice skin tone, a turquoise Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was set to Color Burn blend mode at 29% layer opacity and a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using a free Sparkle Stock’s Choi Hung Estate 01 preset set to 60% layer opacity was added.


Watercolor image of a tower in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This week as I was working on finding some interesting ways to use Photoshop to paint, two people came out with free actions that can really give your images painterly looks. Thought I would do a quick share as I continue on my other quest of finding good brushes for drawing and painting with Photoshop. The above image is from Edinburgh, Scotland – below is a sepia tone effect.

Sepia tone image of a building in Edinburgh, Scotland

Watercolor Artist – Photoshop Action Set

Recently Adobe Create Magazine sent out links to a free action by Nuwan Panditha (also known as Black Null) – it contained an action set (Setup and Watercolor Artist actions), 20 watercolor brushes (all kinds of regular and splatter brushes), 5 patterns to use with your watercolor (or any) images, and a 7-page PDF Guide on how to load and use all the included items. This version is an update from the one I wrote about in my Trying Out the Free Watercolor Action from Adobe – Pretty Nice! a couple years ago. The information and steps in my older blog still apply to this newer version. Use the nice PDF guide supplied which has good advice on how to make the action work smoothly.

There were a few issues with the action that need to be addressed. Make sure you stay within the image size parameters or your document will be huge. My file still came out to over 1.8 gigabytes – that is too much for my computer to give really good response time for detail work so I ended up having to delete layers that I did not use – the finished file was almost 1 gig. Also, it took several minutes to run – like up to 5 minutes. The author says he ran the action with a 5,000 pixels for Width and Height, but he recommends using 3,000 to 3,500 pixels. Make sure your image has some detail in it and is not all black or white. The Brush and Art History Brush parameters are listed in his very helpful PDF file. My files were set to 2493 width by 3256 Height and 300 ppi resolution.

Several layers were added after running the action to add in more of the watercolor feel. The furnished Watercolor Artist Wet and Wash brushes were used to supplement the color in the top image – these brushes are all pretty nice watercolor brushes. A Color Lookup Table was selected, a border effect was painted in, and a few flowers were added in with a Pattern Stamp Brush from Jessica Johnson using a pattern created from part of the flowers already in the image. (I can’t believe how often I use these flower brushes for filler areas.) You can do anything you want to your image after the original strokes are laid down. A pretty easy way to practice your painting!

Color Vector Photoshop Action

Pixabay image of a guitar player

This is another action that creates a really huge file so be ready for that. The image is from ISO Republic and is one of my favorites to try new techniques on. It was created by Justin Haider and can be downloaded for free from Deeezy. It is very similar to the above action in the way it is set up and has a Word file to explain how to load all the components. However there are a couple differences between the actions.

  1. The website says this about the size: Check the resolution of your photo. If its a low-resolution photo (1000 px), take the shortest length of your photo and increase it to around 2000 px or more. He recommends using photos that are 72 ppi resolution and at least 2500 px width. The image above was 300 ppi resolution, 3300 px wide X 2200 px high and it was almost 1 gig after removing a few layers that were not needed.
  2. Photo must be in 8-bit and the bottom layer must be a “Background Layer” – cannot use the Layer -> New -> Background from Layer. I got around this on one of my images by saving a copy as a JPG and which then had a natural Background Layer.
  3. THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT AND EASY TO OVERLOOK: Before running the action, create a New Layer and select the Brush Tool – I used the first one, Illustration-br-0, to paint over the subject with a black color on the layer. If you want a really sharp selection and not a real loose look, need to make a really good selection of your subject and fill with color on New Layer. In the above, it was painted in somewhat close to the subject – I did have to run the action twice to get the look I wanted.

There are 9 Brushes (these are also rather interesting and I think I will try them in some other images for painting), 8 Patterns, the Action and a Background texture which was used above, although any texture could be used. I deleted a lot of unused layers in this image also. The colors I got were created from the different adjustment layers provided in the various sections of the action. I did put a Lookup Table on top set to a Cerulean Blue at 65% layer opacity. The texture provided was flipped a couple ways to get this effect. Overall very easy and fun to do.

Hope everyone is easing into Spring. These actions were not hard to do, just a little labor intensive on your computer while they are running. Hope you enjoy trying them…..Digital Lady Syd


Cartoon Effect of image of Old Ford
Just a quick blog this week – wanted to share this really free fun Photoshop action downloaded from Adobe Create. Nuwan Panditha (Black Null) made this wonderful action and the results are give a nice cartoon-like effect. The image above was processed as a regular photo before, but the cartoon look worked out well for this close up of the front of an old Ford.

First, here is the download link. The download folder contains the action, a PDF guide, and a .pat file of 20 patterns. I would suggest looking at the PDF guide giving relevant information on the different layer groups before running the action. I will also caution you that the files can get pretty big – the Jaguar image was over a gig after running the action.

There are a few things you need to do before running the action: 1) set the image to 8-bit and RGB modes; 2) make sure the document does not exceed 5000 px on a side and 3000 px is best; 3) make sure Open CL is active in PS preferences; 4) if image is cropped, be sure to “Delete Cropped Pixels” is checked in the Options Bar; and 5) load the patterns (info on how to do this is in the PDF). The other thing that must be done is to create a brush that has a Hardness set to 100 and Spacing 10% – use it to paint in white on the new layer where you want the action to place cartoon effect before actually running the action.

Nuwan says that close up images work very well with this action – image should be sharp and well lit. So do not use images that are all white or black and use Levels Adjustment to balance the brightness of the image before running image.

To run the action, two layers are required, the bottom image layer and a New Layer on top – this is where you use the brush noted above is used to paint with white over the part of image to be emphasized. The action can take 3 to 4 minutes to run.

Once the actin is run, a Toon Artist folder is created that contains all the subgroups which allow you to get the different effects. Just turn on and off the eyeballs to see what each section does to the image – and open them up to tweak each. Several have layer styles attached so check out those. In the Screenshot below the 2nd layer up shows just the white painted front part of the car that was detailed with the cartoon lines. The painted background effect was created by turning on in the BG FX folder the Original BG layer and adjusting the BG Color (Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer that shows a brownish icon color) located at the bottom of the Toon Artist folder (3rd layer up in screenshot). In the Screenshot it can be seen that the BG Pattern subfolder was not used in for this image.
Screenshot of Toon Artist Photoshop Action

Here is a Jaguar image taken at the Jacksonville Zoo that shows some of the other cartoon features that can be added to an image with this action. To keep the image size under a gig, I had to resize it making the long side 6 inches, and remove all the hidden layers that were not being used.

Cartoon image of a Jaguar from the Jacksonville Zoo
Bottom Line: It is a bit complicated to use, but once you try it a few times, it is really fun to create different effects. I enjoyed having something different to try out. Nuwan also did another action I wrote about a while back that you might download. The blog is called Trying Out the Free Watercolor Action from Adobe – Pretty Nice! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

Getting that High-Fashion Desaturated Look

The technique involved in the three images of Aliona followed a blog entry called “Pure White Portrait Retouch” which was quite easy to follow and created a beautiful result – of course it helps to have a beautiful model too! This is a look that you will see in almost any fashion magazine. Basically the workflow involves creating several adjustment layers – a Photo Filter, Hue/Saturation and one or two Curves, depending on your image. I do not do people photography very often, but it is nice to try every now and then. This is a very simple but effective technique to use on portrait images.

I created SJ-Light Desat Portrait action that can be downloaded – it will take you through the workflow pretty quick. You will have to make your own brushes but they are nothing special – just low opacity and a 10% hardness in most cases. The action tells you what brush you need to use where for each step. Hit Stop and do the the step and then click the Play button on the Action Panel to continue the action.

This is a sculpture by an unknown artist at the Lightner Museum in the old historic Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. I applied this action to the image but set the Saturation to -59 in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Otherwise the default settings were used to get this look. I was surprised how nice it turned out.

The St. Augustine Greeting Center has just a bare hint of color except in the palm tree fronds. The action was run on this image and then in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, the Master Saturation was set to -47, Greens Saturation set to +50, Blues Saturation set to -100 and Cyan Saturation -100. That was it – a very clean desaturated look with a selected color only showing.

Definitely try this look. I was surprised by the versatility of the action – not just for portraits! I will keep this one in my arsenal of Photoshop tricks! Enjoy the Action!…..Digital Lady Syd