Photoshop tutorial: Create the Polaroid effect for images

Ryan Boudreaux demonstrates how to achieve the Polaroid effect with images in Photoshop CS5. This tutorial will help beginners understand how to work with layers in Photoshop.

In this tutorial, I'll review creating the popular Polaroid effect for images used in web design with Photoshop CS5. There are many techniques for creating this effect, but I believe that the method I will demonstrate today is probably the quickest and easiest way to transform an image to make it look like it was taken using the Polaroid film and camera technology.( You can download the PSD file for this tutorial to help you follow along.)

#1 First, you will want to find a portrait image, since most Polaroid cameras were used for snapshots of people in a portrait setting, in this case I found this clip art stock photo of a playful family in a park setting as shown in Figure A below.

Figure A

#2 Next, I went to stock.xchng and pulled down this stock photo: Polaroid-harbour-nuRetro 1, as shown in Figure B .

Figure B

#3 Now, we have our two base images. Let's begin in Photoshop CS5 and start working on the stock Polaroid image first, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

#4 Next we will unlock the layer by double-clicking on it in the Layers panel to create a new layer, and name it Polaroid Frame as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

#5 In this step, resize the image to a width of 600px with Scale Styles and Constrain Proportions both checked, which results in an image 600px by 731px as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

#6 Now, we need to cut out the original image portion of the Polaroid, so we will use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and surround the harbor section as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

This results in the transparency within the frame of the Polaroid Frame layer as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

#7 The next step will be to add in the family portrait image using the menu steps File > Place... as displayed in Figure H.

Figure H

#8 Next, browse out to the family image family.jpg and select it from the file list, then click Place.

Figure I

#9 Now, we have the family portrait image placed as a layer over the Polaroid Frame layer (see Figure J); before we move it below the frame layer, we need to resize it to fit.

Figure J

Using the guides, resize the family image to fit nicely within the Polaroid Frame layer, once you are happy with the resizing, click the Enter key to accept the setting, as shown in Figure K.

Figure K

#10 Now, we are almost done! In the Layers panel, move the Family Layer under the Polaroid Layer. You may need to use the Nudge Tool to center the Family Layer within the Polaroid Frame Layer, as seen in Figure L.

Figure L

#11 Now add in some Polaroid coloring effects by creating several layers; the first will be a copy of the Family layer. Right-click over the Family layer and select Duplicate Layer..., then the "Family copy" layer is created. Set the mode for the "Family copy" layer to Soft Light.

Figure M

#12 Now, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. Choose a dark blue color; in this case, I selected #3327cd. Set this Fill Layer to Exclusion with Opacity of 40%.

Figure N

#13 Next, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels, and slide the black slider (left side) to the right a little bit (53) to increase the intensity of the coloring, with the mode set to Soft Light, and Opacity set to 70%.

Figure O

#14 Add another Color Fill layer; select Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. Choose a light orange color, in this case I picked out #cd9883, then set this Color Fill Layer to Soft Light with opacity of 75%.

Figure P

#15 If you are happy with the Polaroid effect of the image you can stop here, but if you want, you can add in another Color Fill layer. In this case, I went one more time to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color, and I selected a light pink color — #f3d0e4. Then, set this Fill Layer to Soft Light with 45% opacity.

Figure Q

#16 Again, check your image, and if you are happy with the Polaroid effect of the image, you can stop here with the layers; however, if you wish, you can add in one more New Fill Solid Color Layer with a dark blue color set to "Exclusion" mode and Opacity of 100%.

Figure R

#17 In the last step, we will create one more duplicate layer of the Family layer, which names it "Family copy 2", and drag this duplicate to the top of all the layers, but just below the Polaroid Frame layer. Your layers should now be in the same order as displayed in Figure S.

Figure S

This is our finished Polaroid Effect Image:

Figure T

Download the PSD file for this tutorial here.

About Ryan Boudreaux

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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